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Open to all faculty, semester-long reading groups create opportunities to build community and conversation around a selected title from the scholarship of teaching and learning with the intention of helping faculty discover new insights and innovations for their classroom instruction. Reading groups are led by a UMassD faculty member and the OFD provides a copy of the selected title to all participants.

Recent titles include:

If you would like to suggest a topic for and/or facilitate a future OFD reading group, please email

Current offerings

Late Spring Faculty Reading Group

Michael Shermer, Why People Believe Weird Things

Dates: Thursdays March 24, April 14, April 28, and May 12, all at 3:30-4:30 p.m.

Location: Office of Faculty Development (LIB 213)

Facilitators: Amy Shapiro, Honors College Director and Professor of Psychology; Brian Ayotte, Honors College Associate Director and Associate Professor of Psychology; Douglas Roscoe, Professor of Political Science and Director of General Education


How many of us, somewhere in our syllabi, identify the acquisition and practice of critical thinking skills as a key learning outcome for our courses? And how many of us find such an enterprise difficult for both instructors and students to achieve?

In this faculty reading group, we’ll discuss the practice of teaching and honing critical thinking skills, such as evaluating and judging sources and synthesizing different points of view. We’ll also examine how teaching these skills is challenging, in part, because human beings are prone to so many thinking biases, including confirmation bias, anchoring bias, the halo effect, and the availability heuristic—to name just a few. We’ll anchor our discussion in Michael Shermer’s book Why People Believe Weird Things. Shermer examines why popular superstitions, prejudices, and nonsensical claims hold sway over people, and examines some of the very human reasons people find other-worldly phenomena, conspiracy theories, and cults so appealing.

Our group discussions will focus on applying the book's content to supporting reasoning and critical thinking in our courses. For instance, group identity serves as a filter through which we often judge information, events, and ideas. How do we help our students break through the veil of “groupishness” to evaluate different points of view?  How might we devise practical research- and analysis-based strategies to help our students to consider empirical evidence rather than ubiquity in determining a truth claim? Sessions will be led by an interdisciplinary research team that has recently completed a study on baseless belief funded by the Provost's Internal Seed Grant. They will expand on the book's content to interweave recent research on the topic with pedagogical practices across disciplines.


Spring 2022 Reading Group

Contemplative Practices in Higher Education: Powerful Methods to Transform Teaching and Learningby Daniel Barbezat and Mirabai Bush

Facilitator:       Professor Justine A. Dunlap

UMass Law School, Spring 2022 OFD Faculty Fellow

Many of our students have been taught to the test. We all want their higher education to be more than that. Contemplative Practices in Higher Education: Powerful Methods to Transform Teaching and Learning discusses ways to achieve that deeper learning.

The contemplative pedagogies discussed in the book are “forms of introspection and reflection” that include the objectives of focus and attention building; contemplation and introspection into course content that allows for deeper understanding; and compassion and connection to others. The book is structured in two parts. Part One is the theoretical and practical background of contemplative pedagogy and Part Two delves into the actual practices such as mindfulness, contemplative approaches to reading and writing, contemplative senses (deep listening), and contemplative movement. The Reading Group will discuss chapters in both Parts One and Two.

Dates: The reading group will meet 12:30 – 1:45 pm on the following Tuesdays:

February 15th, March 15th, April 12th, and May 3rd

We will run the reading group in hybrid modality, which means that participants may attend any session either in person, in LIB 213, or via Zoom.  Specific chapter assignments will be sent out in early February.

The reading group is limited to 10 participants.  To reserve a spot, please email Ellen Mandly at  Given the limited space, we ask that only faculty who intend to participate in all meetings register for the group.  The OFD will provide a hard copy of the book, available for pickup at the OFD office (LIB 213), to all registered participants.



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