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Anchors Away: Building Community, Mindfulness, Equity, and Reflection

Updated: Jun 13

Alesia Jennings, Western Carolina University

April Tallant, Western Carolina University


Key Statement: A six-anchor model to boost new faculty teaching self-efficacy was developed, providing practical applications for faculty development programs and individual course design.

Keywords: Engagement, Faculty Development, Course Design




Institutional and social support are important to promote success and retention among faculty (Sun & Simon-Roberts, 2020). One way to provide support at the institutional level is to offer regular teaching workshops to help build faculty confidence and skills. A one-year teaching and learning workshop series, Faculty Forward, was developed to help new faculty apply the engaged teaching model within a supportive community and to increase their own teaching self-efficacy. The workshop series follows a six-anchor approach that can be used for faculty development programs as well as a guideline for new faculty to structure their lectures.


Anchor Model


Self-efficacy theory was used as a framework to develop Faculty Forward, emphasizing Bandura’s (1977) expectations of personal efficacy based on performance accomplishments, vicarious experiences, verbal persuasion, and physiological states. Barkley and Major’s (2022) engaged teaching model was another critical foundation for the design and implementation of the series. With these foundational components in place, a six-anchor approach was developed (see Figure 1):


  1. Big questions

  2. Starter questions (Community building)

  3. Mindfulness moments

  4. Equitable teaching strategies

  5. Content

  6. Reflection

Figure 1. Six anchor model of Faculty Forward.


Barkley & Major (2022) emphasize that “engaged teachers work to deepen their knowledge of the what, why, and how of effective teaching” (p. 8). Using their areas of emphases, the following discussion outlines the six anchors (what), the rationale behind them (why), and examples (how) for both faculty development programs and lectures.


Big Questions


What and Why: Big questions frame the topic of discussion and are intended to evoke curiosity about important questions related to the subject. These questions may not be easily answered by the participants initially but should be answerable by the end.


How (Faculty Development): Big questions were shared on the workshop series calendar and introduced at the beginning of each session. For example, the first Faculty Forward meeting started with the big question of "What is engaged teaching and why does it matter?" Another big question was “How do I build supportive and inclusive communities in my courses?"


How (Lecture): Big questions can be shared on a daily, weekly, or unit of content basis. For example, in a chemistry course, a weekly big question is, “What is stoichiometry and how do I know when to use it?”


Starter Questions (Community Building)


What and Why: Starter questions were utilized to create a sense of belonging and a trusting space for sharing. Starter questions are asked at the beginning to allow participants to reflect upon the previous sessions and/or allow for thoughts about content about to be presented. Participants are asked to discuss these questions with a partner or with the group.


How (Faculty Development): As examples, in workshop six, the content topic was “facilitating discussion.” In workshop seven, the starter questions were, “Have you had any discussions in your classroom since our last meeting? If yes, what went well during the discussion?” In addition, the topic for workshop seven was about dynamic lecturing, so another starter question was “There are many lecture formats. Can you name one?”


How (Lecture): Starter questions are projected via a PowerPoint slide in the “down-time” before class begins. The goal is to help students feel prepared at the beginning of class to learn, similar to how athletes stretch before a match. An example for an English class could be, “Based upon the passage, what is Hamlet’s opinion regarding theater?”


Mindfulness Moments


What and Why: Mindfulness, an attention to the present moment that can provide one with opportunities for self-regulation and well-being (Brown et al., 2007), was incorporated to emphasize the importance of prioritizing self-care.


How (Faculty Development): The facilitators led several of the mindfulness moments including waving ribbons, blowing bubbles, and storytelling. ChatGPT was used to generate scripts read by facilitators. Additionally, experts from various university offices were invited to lead these moments, in hopes that new faculty could connect with campus resources. For example, the health services medical director led the participants through breathing exercises.


How (Lecture): Brief mindfulness moments can be used at the beginning of classes to center the students (and instructors), setting the stage for engaged teaching and learning. Additionally, mindfulness can be used to help students with relaxation techniques and improving positive self-talk, assisting with test anxiety.


Equitable Teaching Strategies


What and Why: During every session, an equitable teaching strategy was highlighted to provide faculty with practical methods to integrate these approaches into their classes. Most of the strategies were taken from the University of Michigan’s Center for Research on Learning and Teaching Equitable-Focused Teaching website (n.d.), which explains that

Equity-focused Teaching is a corrective tool that allows instructors to acknowledge and disrupt historical and contemporary patterns of educational disenfranchisement that often negatively impact marginalized and minoritized students. (para. 2)


How (Faculty Development): One example includes an equitable teaching strategy aimed at recognizing students' diverse backgrounds. Using a photo from The New York Times and their concept of what's going on in this picture, facilitators projected a photo and asked, "What's going on?" Faculty members shared their interpretations, illustrating the varied approaches they took to analyze the photo. This discussion demonstrated how students might understand concepts from different perspectives.


How (Lecture): Students could be asked to share a story based on their perspectives of the course content being taught. As an example, in a criminal justice course, students could be asked to find crime stories in the news that interested them to share with the class.



What and Why: The book used to guide our teaching and learning workshops was the evidence-based Engaged Teaching: A Handbook for College Faculty (Barkley & Major, 2022).


How (Faculty Development): We expanded on book topics by bringing in guest speakers and incorporating workshop activities to provide interactive experiences. For example, an award-winning retired professor gave a talk about pedagogical content knowledge (chapter 2) and what he learned in his teaching career about engaging students (chapter 7). Two second-year tenure-track faculty from the Philosophy and Religion Department spoke about class discussions (chapter 11) and how they manage controversial subjects within class discussions.


How (Lecture): When thinking through the content of a course, focus on ways to increase interactivity. There are dozens of engagement techniques from the K. Patricia Cross Academy (n.d.) including “update your classmate,” where students recall, by briefly writing on notecards, previous class material and the potential relationship to upcoming material. Use the notecards to launch material review and clarify concepts before presenting new material.




What and Why: Brookfield (2002) writes that critical reflective teaching involves examining assumptions that shape teaching practices and Barkley and Major (2022) contend that effective teachers constantly reflect to improve their understanding of their teaching practices.


How (Faculty Forward): Reflection involved asking questions or implementing activities to encourage members to think about the program content and how they might apply it. For example, participants were asked at the end of workshop one to do a teaching observation of a colleague, making note of engaged teaching moments. Another example is creating teaching journals as a reflection tool for teaching improvement.


How (Lecture): It is recommended that each lecture should end with an opportunity for students to reflect on the course content. Examples include asking students to create news headlines that summarize what they learned during class or asking students to share one word that stands out from the day’s lesson (Edutopia, 2023).




This article outlined six anchors of the Faculty Forward Program designed for new faculty to become confident, engaged teachers. Anecdotal evidence shows that participants enjoyed Faculty Forward. Research is currently in process to measure the degree of increased teaching self-efficacy. Thus, it is recommended that other CTLs experiment with the six-anchor model within the context of their own institutions for success in engaging new faculty. Additionally, both authors have incorporated select anchors into their classes with undergraduate students and have received positive verbal feedback from students.



Discussion Questions


  1. Educational developers: What is a starter question you could ask during a faculty program? Instructors: What is a starter question you could use on the first day of class to build community in your classroom?

  2. Educational developers: How could you use mindfulness moments when hosting a faculty orientation program? Instructors: What benefits do you see for students if mindfulness is used in the classroom?

  3. Do you end a workshop or class with a moment of reflection? If yes, what are reflection practices do you use? If no, what are some of the reflection practices you may want to try in the future?





Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological Review, 84(2), 191–215.

Barkley, E. F., & Major, C.H. (2022). Engaged teaching: A handbook for college faculty. K. Patricia Cross Academy.

Brookfield, S. D. (2002). Using the lenses of critically reflective teaching in the community college classroom. New Directions for Community Colleges, 118, 31–38.

Brown, K. W., Ryan, R. M., & Creswell, J. D. (2007). Addressing fundamental questions about mindfulness. Psychological Inquiry, 18(4), 272–281.

Edutopia (2023). 10 powerful ways to end your lessons. 

K. Patricia Cross Academy (n.d.). Techniques video library: Update your classmate. 

Sun, W., & Simon-Roberts, S. (2020). New faculty preparation, adaptation, and retention. The Journal of Faculty Development, 34(2), 81–87. 

University of Michigan’s Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (n.d.). Equity-focused teaching.

About the Authors

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