Invited Speaker Program

Each year, the Teaching Consultants have an opportunity to invite a guest speaker to Brown. This annual professional development event is coordinated by graduate students in line with their interests. Sheridan Teaching Consultants also have the opportunity to participate in a master class with the invited guest.

Invited Speakers, 2011 – present


Derek Bruff, Director of the Vanderbilt Center for Teaching and a senior lecturer in the Department of Mathematics

"See What I Mean: Visual Thinking Tools for Deep Learning"
Dr. Bruff held a master class for graduate students: Our brains are wired to rapidly make sense of and remember visual input. How might we tap into our students' ability to think visually when teaching? In this session, the group explored ways that visual thinking tools such as concept maps, coordinate axes, timelines, and sketchnotes can help students refine, share, and receive feedback on their understanding of relationships among ideas. These tools can thus help students build more robust mental models useful for solving problems, thinking critically, and learning deeply.

"More Than Just Shiny Objects: Using Technology to Support Student Learning"
Dr. Bruff held a presentation for all members of the Brown teaching community: An understanding of how learning works can help us make teaching choices that more effectively foster student learning. When new technologies enter the scene, however, it's not always clear how they fit into this process. Educational technology can facilitate new avenues for student learning, but if we're not careful to use that technology in ways consistent with principles of learning, the technology can become just a distracting shiny object. In this talk, the group explored a few of those principles of learning and how they can help us be more intentional and effective as we integrate technology in our teaching. This was a BYOD talk—bring your own device. Audience participation with mobile devices (phones, tablets, laptops) was encouraged.


Amy Vollmer, Professor and Chair of Microbiology at Swarthmore College and the President of the Waksman Foundation for Microbiology

“Teaching enjoyably: liberating yourself from unnecessary constraints”
Amy Cheng Vollmer has been teaching Biology in a small liberal arts college setting for 30 years. She shared three major pieces of advice applicable to all disciplines: put the focus on the audience, don't be a slave to the syllabus, and know that giving up control can be liberating and allow you to play to your strengths.


Daniel Barbezat, Professor of Economics at Amherst College & Executive Director of the Center for Contemplative Mind in the Society

"Contemplative Pedagogy & the Transformation of Education"
Prof. Barbezat delivered a lecture exploring how contemplative pedagogy can be a powerful way in which we can work together to reclaim the transformative nature of education. He described the ways in which first-person critical inquiry can cultivate better discernment and attention in students, provide the means for deepening their understanding of the material they are studying, and foster environments to inquire about and live meaningfully.


Steven Volk, Professor of History & Director of the Center for Teaching Innovation and Excellence, Oberlin College, and 2011 US Professor of the Year

“Building an Imagined Future: Teaching as Architecture”
Using architecture and construction as an extended metaphor for teaching, Prof. Volk probed the challenges of teaching, which is a creative and imaginative act rooted in the present but directed to the future. In his talk Prof. Volk suggested a few approaches that have proven to be highly productive in his own teaching; he engaged in a larger discussion on how to make the most of on-site learning.


José Feito, Professor of Psychology, Saint Mary’s College of California

“How Class Discussions Help Students Learn”
This workshop explored Prof. Feito’s insights from his ongoing research investigating the development of intellectual community and collaborative discourse within seminar classes. Potential conceptual models for understanding students’ cognitive and social work within classroom discussions were explored. These models were intended to offer new ways to parse the complex flurry of student discussion and arrive at a deeper understanding of the kinds of learning that we hope to facilitate through this type of pedagogy.