Exploratory Teaching Groups

Exploratory Teaching Groups (ETGs) provide faculty and instructors a collaborative framework to explore and discuss ideas, issues, and challenges in their teaching, with the goal of developing new practices, resources, or other educational interventions. The year-long program is driven by the teaching interests and pedagogical development goals of faculty and instructors, so proposals are welcome on any topic and the format is flexible. Faculty and instructors may use ETGs to investigate new teaching strategies, tools, or approaches; to engage in a collaborative course (re)design project; or to advance any other project related to teaching and learning in their courses or programs. Possible formats include a pedagogical reading group, a series of structured discussions or workshops around a theme, a “working group” that tackles a particular topic or project, and so on. CCTL staff support the ETGs with regular check-ins and, when necessary, consultations and referral to relevant research or additional resources.   

See the full call for proposals for more information. Faculty and instructors are invited to discuss their proposals with the CCTL before submitting. Contact teaching@uchicago.edu with any questions or to make an appointment for discussing your proposal. 

Current Exploratory Teaching Groups

    Addressing Non-Binary Realities in World Language Classes  
    While the use of they/them is a common practice in English-speaking settings, including in informal conversations, introductions, and administrative forms, the recognition of non-binary identities is often less present in world language classrooms. Expressing identities outside the binary in terms of gender can be particularly challenging in lower-level language courses, in which a lot of the language used revolves around oneself, and in languages that are strongly gendered in binary forms. This ETG provides a venue for faculty and instructors to share ideas, doubts, and resources about a pressing topic.  

    Chair:   Bel Olid, Assistant Instructional Professor of Catalan and Spanish, Romance Languages and Literatures  


    The Brain and Language Learning: How Recent Neuroscience Findings Might Enhance Premodern and Ancient Language Pedagogy  
    As part of a larger project of building a community of practice among ancient language teachers, this ETG explores how a better understanding of neurological functioning—in particular, learning and memory—might positively influence premodern and ancient language pedagogy. To that end, the ETG Chairs are organizing a reading group centered around the investigation of recent neuroscience findings as they relate to learning generally and language learning specifically.  

    Chairs:  Laura Skosey, Lecturer in Classical Chinese Language, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, and Christopher Simon, Associate Instructional Professor, Classics  


    Collaborative Learning Methodology and Approach  
    This ETG’s focus is improving and enhancing students’ learning experiences via a collaborative learning approach across several science and mathematics disciplines. Collaborative learning is a type of active learning where students engage in learning activities together, take on asymmetric roles, and depend on each other’s resources and skills to support their learning process. To this end, ETG members are defining and planning collaborative learning approaches for various STEM disciplines, implementing the proposed methodology into their teaching practices, and designing assessment plans to evaluate the impact of the collaborative learning on students. 

    Chairs:  Fei Liu, Assistant Instructional Professor, Statistics and the College, and Britni Ratliff Associate Master, Physical Sciences Collegiate Division, Director of STEM Pedagogy and Senior Instructional Professor, Physical Sciences Division  


    French Textbook Search  
    Because the French department collectively identified the need for a new textbook, this ETG is examining current language teaching materials to determine what best fits the curriculum now. This ETG is identifying materials that 1) better reflect the diversity of French language learners; 2) represent the entire Francophone world; 3) include more cultural content; and 4) are easily usable and modifiable by instructors.   

    Chairs:   Alice McLean, Director of the French Language Program and Senior Lecturer, and Rebecca Petrush, Associate Instructional Professor of French, Romance Languages and Literatures  


    Implementation of Alternative Assessments  
    The last few years have seen a growing movement within many educational communities regarding the need to reassess the way we grade students. Specifications grading is one prominent alternative assessment method that promises to reflect students’ mastery of the material and reduce undue stress. Members of this ETG come from a range of disciplines and are interested in rethinking their assessment practices to adapt aspects of specifications grading for their courses.  

    Chairs:   Borja Sotomayor, Senior Instructional Professor, Computer Science; Kendra Burbank, Assistant Senior Instructional Professor, Computational and Applied Mathematics; and Valerie Levan, Assistant Senior Instructional Professor, Humanities Core Teaching Coordinator, Humanities Collegiate Division  


    Inclusive Teaching Practices in the Physics Curriculum Reading Group  
    Over the last several years, there has been a growing interest in innovative teaching techniques within the Department of Physics, including on topics of diversity and inclusion. This ETG explores the clear and practical advice on supporting inclusive practices in the classroom found in Hogan and Sathy’s book Inclusive Teaching: Strategies for Promoting Equity in the College Classroom. Members discuss the applicability of its recommendations in the context of the undergraduate and graduate physics curriculum and within the specific challenges and opportunities of the physics classroom.  

    Chairs:  Zosia Krusberg, Director of Graduate Studies and Associate Senior Instructional Professor, Physics, and Savan Kharel, Assistant Instructional Professor, Physics  


    MAPH Critical Pedagogy Reading Group 
    This ETG builds upon the work of a previous MAPH ETG to focus on critical pedagogy, a theory of education that is invested in the relationship of teaching and learning to issues of social justice, democracy, freedom, and relations of power. Having used last year’s ETG to help further build inclusive classrooms, this ETG will allow MAPH instructional faculty to step back and think together about higher-level theoretical models for how best to support an interactive, problem-posing, and democratic model of education. Given MAPH’s ongoing commitment to the public humanities (and in the practice of humanistic inquiry outside the academy, more generally), we are eager to strengthen our foundational belief that education has a role in the broader social and political contexts that constitute our world. 

    Chairs:  Tristan Schweiger, Assistant Instructional Professor, Master of Arts Program in the Humanities, and Agnes Malinowska, Assistant Instructional Professor, Master of Arts Program in the Humanities  


    Pedagogy as Social Work Practice  
    Case consultation is a collaborative approach to social work that allows for focused analysis and discussion. Although it is commonly used in clinical settings, it is rarely employed by social work faculty in pedagogical discussions. This ETG aims to do just this by hosting regular pedagogy-focused case-based discussions among social work instructors. Applying this model to pedagogical discussions provides individual instructors with the opportunity to actively implement anti-racist and anti-oppressive practices in the classroom, cultivates a values-driven approach to social work education and contributes to a mutually-supportive and equity-focused community among instructors and students. 

    Chairs:  Jessica Darrow, Associate Instructional Professor, Crown School of Social Work, and Shipra Parikh, Associate Instructional Professor, Crown School of Social Work  


    Portuguese for Spanish Speakers  
    The goal for this ETG is to revise, refresh, and redesign the materials for “Portuguese for Spanish Speakers,” an intensive course that targets the needs of Spanish speakers who would like to quickly learn basic Portuguese. This course focuses on the development of listening comprehension and speaking skills, the areas with which Spanish speakers need the most help. This ETG is reviewing instructional materials and identifying areas for redesign in order to better address the needs of a changing student body and to be more easily implemented by other instructors. 

    Chair:  Ana Maria Lima, Director of the Portuguese Language Program and Senior Instructional Professor, Romance Languages and Literatures  


    Reimagining Social Science Pedagogy  
    This ETG critically examines pedagogical theory and practice with an eye to facilitating new and strengthened research mentoring within the MA Program in the Social Sciences. MAPSS is an interdisciplinary program with scholars from around the world; this ETG is designed to carve out space and time for the instructors in the program to consider their approaches to MA thesis advising and to reflect upon their individual pedagogical and mentoring practices.   

    Chairs:  Tori Gross, Senior Instructional Professor, Master of Arts Program in Social Sciences, Ella Wilhoit, Associate Instructional Professor, Master of Arts Program in Social Sciences, and John McCallum, Assistant Instructional Professor, Master of Arts Program in Social Sciences  


    Teaching with AI  
    This ETG aims to reflect on ongoing developments in AI and strategize about how to exploit the pedagogical opportunities offered by these emerging tools. Toward this end, the ETG is convening a group of faculty and instructors to discuss, experiment with, and reflect on incorporating AI into their teaching as a positive asset, exploring how AI tools might be framed and approached as a means of supporting student learning.  

    Chairs:  Lisa Rosen, Associate Senior Instructional Professor and Associate Director of the Committee on Education, and Emily Coit, Assistant Instructional Professor of English

Past Exploratory Teaching Groups

    Active Learning Pedagogies for the Undergraduate Physics Curriculum 
    This ETG aimed at fostering discussions and spearheading pedagogical innovation within the Department of Physics. Participants explored and discussed active learning and evidence-based teaching methods, drawing inspiration from Handelsman et al.'s influential book, Scientific Teaching. The group also launched a seminar series entitled Physics Teaching Reimagined, featuring three distinguished speakers from the fields of physics and other discipline-based education research who shared practical tools for evidence-based and inclusive teaching practices.   

    Chairs: Savan Kharel (Assistant Instructional Professor, Physical Sciences Division and the College) and Zosia Krusberg (Senior Assistant Instructional Professor, Physical Sciences Division and the College)  


    Collaborative French Curriculum Redesign 
    This ETG aimed to redesign the French curriculum with four ambitious goals: 1) being more inclusive of the current realities of the Francophone world by integrating more culturally rich resources into the program in accordance with ACTFL’s World Readiness Standards; 2) better preparing students for the type of exercises they will encounter in proficiency-based assessments; 3) enhancing students’ French skills by incorporating virtual reality across the curriculum; and 4) optimizing the program’s flipped approach.  

    Chairs: Céline Bordeaux (Instructional Professor, Romance Languages & Literatures) and Alice McLean (Senior Lecturer and Director, French Language Program)  


    Democracy and the Classroom 
    This ETG aimed to provide a structured but informal setting for members to engage with questions of democracy and the University classroom and an opportunity to discuss aspects of teaching practice that are otherwise rarely articulated or explored. These include, for example, how pedagogic goals relate to wider politics and how students’ relationship to politics is changing. The ETG was also an opportunity for members to think about the role and authority of instructors in relation to the idea of the inclusive, democratic classroom.  

    Chairs: Jennifer Spruill (Senior Associate Instructional Professor, Collegiate Social Sciences Division) and Anne Henly (Senior Instructional Professor, Psychology and the College)  
    Organizing Members: Daragh Grant (Senior Lecturer, Collegiate Social Sciences Division), Valerie Levan (Senior Assistant Instructional Professor, Collegiate Humanities Division), Ben Laurence (Associate Instructional Professor, Collegiate Humanities Division)   


    Humanities Graduate Pedagogy 
    The aim of this ETG was to develop a collaborative framework in which MAPH instructional faculty could discuss ways to improve student learning outcomes regularly and holistically—in response to specific pedagogical and advising challenges that come up over the course of the year and in a way that addresses the many roles that instructors play in supporting student learning. Participants joined in weekly strategic discussions on the “Foundations of Interpretive Theory” course and in a series of workshops on specialized topics in pedagogy and advising. 

    Chairs: Agnes Malinowska (Assistant Instructional Professor, MAPH), Tristan Schweiger (Assistant Instructional Professor, MAPH), and Chris Carloy (Assistant Instructional Professor, MAPH)   


    MACSS Assessment and Assignment Design 
    This ETG focused on rethinking course structure in MACSS in light of new sequences and new instructional staff hires. The group explored how to best assess student learning through the design of assessments and assignments and worked toward selecting and redesigning assignments in the MACSS core sequences.  

    Chairs: Jean Clipperton (Associate Senior Instructional Professor and Associate Director, MACSS) and Jon Clindaniel (Assistant Senior Instructional Professor, MACSS)  


    PME Journal Club 
    This ETG gathered PME faculty and graduate students for monthly meetings led by a volunteer, who, in collaboration with the chairs, selected papers for discussion on a topic of interest; topics included demotivation, lecturing, and where learning happens.    

    Chairs: Terry Johnson (Senior Instructional Professor, Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering) and Xiaoying Liu (Associate Senior Instructional Professor, Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering).  


    Translation in Premodern and Ancient Language Teaching  
    As part of a larger and continuing project of community building among premodern and ancient languages (PALs) teachers, which includes a series of “brown bag” talks about pedagogical initiatives, this ETG explored the field of translation studies, an area of study has forced instructors to become more conscious of what translation means to them, how it is being applied in their courses, and if there are aspects of translation that are missing or those that are doing more harm than good.  

    Chairs: Colin Shelton (Assistant Instructional Professor, Classics, and Language Program Coordinator for Latin and Ancient Greek) and Laura Skosey (Lecturer, East Asian Languages and Civilizations and Director, Literary Chinese Program)  

    Bootcamp Working Group for the Data Science for Energy and Environmental Research Program 
    This group worked to redesign the DSEER program’s Environmental Data Science bootcamps, to formalize training and advice for graduate student instructors, and to share what they have developed with programs across the University and at other institutions. 

    Chair: Emily Padston, Executive Director, Data Science for Energy and Environmental Research Program 


    Computational Social Science Exploratory Teaching Group 
    This ETG aimed to discuss equitable and inclusive pedagogy for courses in computational social science and develop specific plans to adjust curricula based on these conversations. The group focused on developing a curriculum accessible to students both with and without prior experience in computer science. 

    Chair: Benjamin Soltoff, Assistant Senior Instructional Professor in Computational Social Sciences and Associate Director, MACSS 


    Critical Contingency, Critical Accountability: Unlearning in Practice 
    This group was originally named “Anxious Pedagogies” and aimed to address issues of anxiety in the classroom; the group soon moved to a broader consideration of the norms and expectations for teaching and learning in the Humanities Core, including issues around grading, advising, and student mental and physical health. 

    Chairs: Kimberly Kenny, Senior Instructional Professor, Germanic Studies and Humanities Collegiate Division and Geoffrey Rees, Associate Instructional Professor, Humanities Collegiate Division 


    Data Driven Course Development 
    This ETG focused on the use of using data collected for domain analysis projects in foreign language teaching for designing new coursework or redesigning existing coursework. Domain analysis is a way of systematically assessing what linguistic skills are needed for success in specific real-world language contexts. The ETG brought together instructors with experience in using this kind of data for course design with instructors interested in doing so. 

    Chair: Nicole G. Burgoyne, Assistant Instructional Professor, German 


    Developing an Undergraduate Track in Spanish, Portuguese, and English Translation and Interpreting 
    This ETG aimed to develop Spanish and Portuguese translation tracks for students who have completed two years of language study. Together participants researched similar programs at other institutions, contacted professors and directors at such programs, planned a conference for development of the translation track, and engaged with stakeholders at the Chicago Language Center and the University.   

    Chairs: Diana Palenzuela, Assistant Instructional Professor, Spanish; Celia Bravo, Assistant Instructional Professor, Spanish and Alan Parma, Assistant Instructional Professor, Spanish & Portuguese 


    Facilitating Meaningful Conversations about Race in Social Work Education 
    This ETG focused on increasing instructor self-awareness and improving the ability of instructors to facilitate difficult conversations related to race and racism in the classroom. The group met regularly to discuss bell hooks’ Teaching to Transgress in the context of participants’ goals and experiences in the classroom. 

    Chairs: S Simmons, Assistant Instructional Professor, Crown Family School of Social Work and Jancey Wickstron, Assistant Instructional Professor, Crown Family School of Social Work  


    GIS in the Classroom 
    The goal of this group was to create interactive GIS-based resources that enable students and instructors to explore the intersections of space and social processes. Participants created and disseminated tutorials and assignments both for use as-is as models for other instructors. 

    Chairs: Diana Schwartz Francisco, Assistant Instructional Professor, Center of Latin American Studies and Sara Newman, Assistant Professor, Anthropology 


    Modern Pedagogy and Ancient Languages: An Investigation into Shared Vocabulary 
    This group aimed to build community, discuss and assess practices, and develop a shared pedagogical vocabulary among teachers of premodern and ancient languages. Participants created a reading group (focused on the book Multi-literacies for Collegiate Foreign Language Teaching) with regular discussion sessions and invited a guest speaker on multi-literacies pedagogy. 

    Chairs: Colin Shelton, Assistant Instructional Professor, Classics, and Language Program Coordinator for Latin and Ancient Greek and Laura Skosey, Lecturer, East Asian Languages and Civilizations and Director, Literary Chinese Program 


    Reenvisioning BIOS20170s Sequence: UChicago Pre-Med Sequence for Non-Biology Majors 
    This group sought to continue to evaluate the BIOS 20170s courses by collecting student feedback, to integrate learning goals and outcomes among courses in the BIOS 20170s, to assess the effectiveness of approaches used, and to develop assessment tools to gauge student learning. 

    Chairs: Chris Andrews, Senior Instructional Professor/Senior Adviser, Biological Sciences Collegiate Division and Esmael Haddadian, Instructional Professor, Biological Sciences Collegiate Division 


    Understanding Pedagogical Aims and Methods Across the Social Sciences and Humanities Core 
    This ETG aimed to provide instructors in the Social Sciences and the Humanities Core with a better understanding of the pedagogical aims and methods of the Core sequences and writing programs in each of these Collegiate Divisions. 

    Chairs: Samantha Fenno, Senior Lecturer, Humanities Collegiate Division and Chair, Human Being and Citizen and Anne Henly, Senior Instructional Professor, Psychology and Social Sciences Collegiate Division and Co-Chair, Mind 


    VR Technology in the Language Classroom 
    This group aimed to better understand the state of the art in teaching language with Virtual Reality as supporting media, to put into practice VR enhanced activities in language classes, and to gather feedback on and discuss these practices. 

    Chairs: Juliano Saccomani, Assistant Instructional Professor, Romance Languages and Literatures and Claudia Quevedo-Webb, Assistant Instructional Professor, Romance Languages and Literatures  

    Alternative Assessment Modalities for STEM Courses 
    The aim of this ETG was to take a critical look at how to assess students in science courses and explore alternatives to the traditional lecture-homework-exam format of learning. The participants had lively conversations that were motivated by their reading of two recent texts: Specifications Grading, edited by Linda Nelson and Ungrading edited by Susan Bloom. 

    Chairs: Kendra Burbank, Assistant Instructional Professor, Statistics and Dmitry Kondrashov, Instructional Professor, Biological Sciences Collegiate Division 


    Back to the Classroom: Humanities Collegiate Division 
    This ETG met for a series of structured discussions with the aim of generating practical recommendations for how best to return to the classroom after the pandemic. They focused their work in three different areas: inclusivity, syllabus design, and assessment. Their goal was to evaluate what structures the pandemic had laid bare and to assess what the best plan was for moving forward.  

    Chairs: Kimberly Kenny, Senior Instructional Professor, Germanic Studies and Humanities Collegiate Division and Geoffrey Rees, Associate Instructional Professor, Humanities Collegiate Division 


    Economics Teaching Group 
    The goal of the Economics ETG was to discuss their current online pedagogical techniques and methods and to consider the extent to which these could continue when they return to non-remote courses. Their work consisted of a series of roundtable discussions anchored by a one instructor giving a motivating presentation on a specific topic to ground the conversation. 

    Chair: Gina Pieters, Assistant Instructional Professor, Economics 


    Embodied Practice as Research 
    The goal of the ETG was to explore how bodies can be instruments of research and critical inquiry and how a focus on embodied practice challenges the tacit separation of theoretical and embodied pedagogical styles. The group consisted of peers from Theater and Performance Studies, Creative Writing, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, and English. 

    Chairs: Leslie Buxbaum Danzig, Theater; Julia Rhoads, Dance and Tina Post, Performance Studies 


    Germanic Studies Pedagogy Site 
    The goal of the ETG was to develop a website dedicated to pedagogical reflections and resources for instructors and learners of Germanic languages, as a means of enriching the teaching and learning culture in Germanic Studies. Group work consisted of discussion of website platforms, collecting existing resources, and drafting website content. 

    Chairs: Nicole G. Burgoyne, Assistant Instructional Professor of Germanic Studies and the Humanities Collegiate Division and Maeve Hooper, Assistant Senior Instructional Professor; Director of the German Language Program 


    GIS in the Classroom 
    This ETG is developing approaches and materials, including interfaces for incorporating Geographic Information Science (GIS) methods, in content courses that can be useful for instructors who wish to incorporate spatial thinking and concepts in their teaching and students’ learning, especially for instructors whose research and teaching focus is the Western Hemisphere. The knowledge and resources generated by the ETG will be implemented as concrete assignments for use in courses during the 2021-2022 academic year.  

    Chairs: Diana Schwartz Francisco, Assistant Instructional Professor, Center for Latin American Studies and History, Social Sciences Division and Sarah Newman, Assistant Professor, Anthropology 


    Reenvisioning BIOS 20170s Sequence: UChicago Pre-Med Sequence for Non-Biology Majors 
    This ETG sought to re-evaluate the courses in the BIOS 20170s pre-med sequence, integrating learning goals, developing new assessment tools, and evaluating student learning. The ETG developed surveys to learn about student learning experiences in recent offerings of the sequence. 

    Chairs: Chris Andrews, Senior Lecturer/Senior Adviser, Biological Sciences Collegiate Division and Oscar Pineda-Catalan, Senior Lecturer, Biological Sciences Collegiate Division 


    VR Technology in the Language Classroom 
    The goal of this ETG was to better understand the state of the art when it comes to teaching language with Virtual Reality as supporting media, and to eventually serve as a reference for a larger project aimed at developing Virtual Reality materials for classes in Spanish and Portuguese in the Romance Languages Department. Activities included idea-sharing discussions and invited guest speakers 

    Chairs: Juliano Saccomani, Assistant Instructional Professor in Romance Language and Literatures and Claudia Quevedo-Webb, Romance Language and Literatures