Teaching + Learning News 2.01

  • 2014-08-25
  • Quasi-regular reports on higher-education teaching and learning, as seen from the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Arts. By Michael Ullyot, Associate Dean (Teaching + Learning): saving your inbox from overload since 2014. Follow me on Twitter, if you do that sort of thing.
  • Feedback and submissions are always welcome. Leave a comment below, or drop me a line.

This edition of Teaching + Learning News has a new format to inaugurate the 2014-15 academic year.

  • Instead of “Around Campus” events and “Around the World” news, I’m introducing three initiatives for the coming year: concrete workshops, abstract salons, and collegial consultations.
  • These are the Teaching + Learning Workshop Series; the Teaching + Learning Salon Series; and the new “Consult your Colleagues” feature of this newsletter. (Details below.) Each focuses on current problems in your teaching, like: How do our lectures compete for multitasking students’ attention? What’s a rubric, and why would I use one? And can anyone help me prevent academic misconduct before it happens?

Teaching + Learning Workshop Series

  • These are cross-disciplinary workshops that will directly affect your course designs and delivery. Each has a topic you and your colleagues have chosen (see below), and each will have an immediate and concrete impact: you’ll draft a rubric or set up a D2L module to use right away, in every department and discipline in the Faculty of Arts.
  • Last spring, the Teaching + Learning Committee prepared a list of ~20 workshop topics, and asked you to vote on the best ones. As a result, we’ll have nine workshops this year, every few weeks, on topics like Digital Distractions, Preventing Plagiarism, and Turning your Class into a Community.
  • Dates and times will vary to accommodate most teaching schedules; I’ll have these details for you before long.
  • Another new feature is formal recognition of those who attend three or more workshops in an academic year, or who present in any workshop. A letter from the Faculty of Arts will testify to your professional development in merit, promotion and tenure applications.
  • (Thanks to the 2013-14 Teaching + Learning Committee for designing the workshops’ format, particularly Nicholas Žekulin, Harry Vandervlist, Ken MacMillan, and Ronald Glasberg.)

Teaching + Learning Salon Series

  • Salons will be a venue for trenchant presentations and lively debates about new controversies and timeless questions. What’s the future of higher education? Is ‘the flipped classroom’ just a fancy term for homework? Is Powerpoint our salvation, or an instrument of the devil?
  • The series will also explore the wider impacts of a degree from the Faculty of Arts. It will be open to students, and will engage them in questions about learning as much as teaching. What’s the role of creativity or critical thinking in public life? Do our programs fill today’s skills gaps, or do they serve as a kind of School of Life?
  • The best thinking is research-informed, as we know — so I’ve started gathering articles here that pose questions I find interesting. To make this curation more collaborative, send me articles you’re reading. (If there’s enough interest, I’ll upgrade my Scoop.it account for us to build the list together.)

Consult your Colleagues

  • Have you ever struggled with a pedagogical problem, only to discover that someone two offices away resolved it in her class last term? Like how to pose meaningful discussion questions, or how to design Google-proof online quizzes?
  • This year the Teaching + Learning News introduces Consult your Colleagues, an anonymous advice column for issues that arise in your teaching. E-mail me your questions: I promise to keep them in confidence. These won’t be definitive answers, but they’ll be better than suffering in silence.
  • This isn’t just wise, experienced teachers advising their junior colleagues — though that will certainly happen. Sometimes, senior colleagues will have questions (say, about smartphone polls or other technology) that an Assistant Professor in another department can answer.
  • Today’s question comes from a colleague struggling with students working on their computers during class, evidently preoccupied, multitasking and ‘tuned out’ during lectures and class discussion. The question: Should I ban laptops, or adopt some other strategy for students who seem distracted by them? 
  • E-mail me your answers and they’ll appear in the next edition of the Teaching + Learning News. Normally I’ll credit you, but if you’d like your answer to be anonymous, just say so.


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