Listen to Learn

Listen to Learn

Listen to Learn. Enhancing our pedagogy one podcast at a time.

Listen to Learn shares the ethos of a book club (rich discussion and connection with colleagues), the flexibility of a Meetup group (come to 1, 2, or all discussions), and the adaptability needed for everyone’s busy schedules (listen while you cook, commute, garden, or at 2x the speed!). We curate a thematic playlist featuring provocative podcast episodes about teaching; you listen on your own time and join us for a discussion. Interested in a topic but not a fan of podcasts? Not a problem—each episode has a transcript for you to read.


As part of this program, participants will: 

  • Learn how acclaimed teachers in higher education talk about and implement activities that support learning;
  • Deepen knowledge about evidence-based teaching; and
  • Engage in community discussions about our teaching practices.


Listen to Learn is open to part-time and full-time instructors of all experience levels. Have you participated in one of our other communities and want to continue talking about teaching? Are you just beginning at UMass Amherst and want to meet and talk with other instructors across the disciplines? Whatever your situation, we encourage you to attend. 

Spring 2024 Theme:  Attention

We know how important attention is to learning; in fact, it’s the first step in initiating the learning process. How can we shift our approach to move away from preventing distraction and towards cultivating attention? This semester, we’ll explore three podcast episodes that will help us answer that question.

DISTRACTED STUDENTS. It feels like students are more distracted than ever—can we reawaken their attention? Listen to the Tea for Teaching podcast episode “Distracted” with author and professor James Lang, and then join us for a discussion about the major ideas explored in the episode and implications for our teaching, including what we can learn from playwrights and poets to hold attention, and how best to use technology in the classroom. As you listen, take a look at our Distracted Students Listening Guide that highlights the main ideas and key reflection questions to consider while you listen. (An accessible listening guide is also available.)

SUPPORTING ADHD LEARNERS.  If ADHD is like having a “racecar brain with bicycle brakes,” how can we help ADHD learners harness their passion and guide them towards achieving our course outcomes? Listen to the Teaching in Higher Ed "Supporting ADHD Learners” with Karen Costa, and then join us for a discussion about the major ideas explored in the episode and implications for our teaching.
Fri, Feb 23, 10 am. Register here.

DEVELOPING ATTENTIVE READERS. How can we motivate students to pay attention while they read and be able to internalize and recall that information? Listen to the Lecture Breakers Podcast episode "Create More Effective and Engaging Reading Activities” with Jenae Cohn, and then join us for a discussion about the major ideas explored in the episode and implications for how we can develop attentive readers.
Wed, Apr 10, 2 pm. Register here. 

Fall 2023 Theme: Compassionate Challenge 

In her new book, Mind over Monsters, Sarah Rose Cavanagh argues that to support youth mental health, we must create compassionate challenge in our courses. She states that once we cultivate learning environments characterized by compassion, we can then prompt our students to engage in the challenging work of learning that helps them face their fears in encouraging ways. Each episode in our fall 2023 playlist below helps us to understand how to build both compassion and challenge in our courses. 

MIND OVER MONSTERS. On the Teaching in Higher Ed podcast, Sarah Rose Cavanagh asks, “How do we get up every day, and go into this world that is so challenging, with these bodies that are also challenging, and how do we thrive within that world?” Join us for a discussion of this episode, in which Cavanagh explores how educators can support student mental health through the incorporation of “compassionate challenge” in their courses. We encourage you to explore our Mind over Monsters Listening Guide (accessible version available here) to learn more about the main ideas discussed in the episode.

RIGOR. Jordynn Jack comments, “People seem to think that by admitting more students who have a wider range of backgrounds, we’ve somehow lost some standard that used to be there...often [rigor] is coded language for ‘some students don’t belong, and others do.’” Join us for a discussion of this Tea for Teaching episode, in which Jack and her colleague Viji Sathay discuss how to shape a supportive learning environment that still is a challenging course with high standards. Review our Rigor Listening Guide (accessible version available here) to learn more about the main ideas discussed in the episode.

EMBODIED LEARNING. Susan Hrach’s work on embodied learning emphasizes that we are embodied creatures, not just brains on sticks. Join us for this discussion of this Intentional Teaching episode to explore Hrach’s exploration of how the interaction between our bodies and our physical environment impacts the act of learning. Take a look at our Embodied Learning Listening Guide (or view the accessible version) to get a sense of the main ideas discussed in the episode.

SUPER COURSES. Ken Bain explains that “one of the keys to embracing productive failure is to provide students with very dramatic and enchanting learning environments, at the very beginning of their experience, so that students say to themselves, ‘This is going to be different.’” Join us for a discussion of this Tea for Teaching episode that highlights Bain’s research on super courses and how they are shaped around intriguing questions. Our Super Courses Listening Guide highlights the main ideas of the episode (accessible version available here).