Teaching + Learning News 2.07

2015-04-23: The End-of-Term Edition
Semi-regular reports on higher-education teaching and learning 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.

There’s an end-of-term atmosphere in the Faculty of Arts. Our students are pacing outside exam rooms, poring over review notes, and forming study groups in the Arts Lounge. Our colleagues have barricaded themselves in “grading jail” until they comment on every paper, mark every exam. And all of us are anticipating the conference papers and summer courses and research trips and writing goals and childrens’ camps that will mark out our summers.

In the short term, I’m thinking about a workshop my RAs and I are offering in early May on digital badges in my Shakespeare course at the Conference on Postsecondary Learning and Teaching here on campus. This summer I’m also finishing some writing and editing (for this series) projects and applying for grants (for this project) — and, wearing my Associate Dean hat, compiling the next draft of the Faculty’s graduate attributes, or the list of skills and knowledge we impart to every student in the Faculty of Arts. And finally, I’ll make time for some Books I Own but Have not Read.

Book with glassesReadings

But I’m reading some things right now that are worth sharing. In this new section for the Teaching + Learning News, I’ll introduce an article or two that provoked some new thinking about teaching and learning, and might do the same for you. Likewise, when you read interesting articles from which your colleagues might benefit, let me know: I’d welcome guest submissions to this regular feature. We could share a library of articles, like this — but first, we need to share ways to find good material. Two places to start, haphazardly chosen: the Hybrid Pedagogy journal and Tony Bates‘s blog.

Speaking of graduate attributes, some of the most interesting work in the field is coming from those who write about K-12 education. Our students are the products of that system, and university faculties like ours tend not to concern themselves with building our students’ characters. Which is well and good: we’re teaching adults, not children. But implicitly, most of our expectations when we assess those adults rely on a model of students’ characters: their abilities to think creatively and analytically, to respond to arguments and make new ones, to follow the rules that uphold academic integrity.

A theme in a few place is resilience: it’s just for emergency management anymore. Angela Lee Duckworth has delivered a TED Talk about students’ resilience or “grit” as a predictor of their success. Duckworth’s 12-question survey to measure cadets’ “self-regulation” at West Point is the best known index of their future success. The New York Times Magazine has published this profile of a Bronx principal who’s worked with her to instil values like “optimism and persistence and social intelligence.”

Meanwhile, the Times Higher Education Supplement has published this compilation of advice and observations from a third-year biology student. There’s much to disagree with here, particularly the way it promotes a ‘consumer’ model of learning (“Remember that students are your employers”), but there are impassioned observations here that made me think differently about lectures. “We are entrusting you with our most valuable asset: our youth,” s/he writes; it’s our duty to spend it well.

-BREAKING-NEWS-with-vintage-radio-microphone-T-ShirtsNews + Announcements

There’s a lot happening on campus, particularly in the busy weeks before many of us retreat. (Personally I love working on campus in the summer months; you can always get an elevator, and the libraries are quiet.) Don’t forget about two social events: the Faculty of Arts Spring Party on Thursday April 30th, 2:30-4:30 in the Rozsa Centre; and the Faculty of Arts Awards Ceremony on Monday May 4th, 2-5 in the Mac Hall Ballroom.

Speaking of awards, congratulations to this year’s recipients of Faculty of Arts Awards for teaching:

Teaching – New: Michael Adorjan (Sociology)

Teaching – Established: Reid Buchanan (Philosophy)

Teaching – Established: G. Brian Smith (SCPA – Drama)

Teaching – Established: Rod Squance (SCPA – Music)

For a complete list of award recipients, see here. And RSVP for the award ceremony on May 4th.

Those aren’t the only teaching awards for our colleagues. It’s been a very good year.

Just last night (April 22nd), the Students’ Union Teaching Excellence Awards recognized David Dick, Annette Tézli, Brian Kooyman, Raymond Gunter, Dean Curran, Mark Baron, and Jess Nicol.

And last month the University of Calgary Teaching Awards went to Ken MacMillan, Susanne Cote, and the intrepid Staff of the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology.

According to the University of Calgary Bookstore, our expensive textbook choices are fuelling digital piracy in the classroom. (Okay, so they don’t put it that bluntly.) Some 34% of undergraduate students illegally downloaded textbooks in 2013. That’s up from 20% in 2010.

But we can make a difference. Faculty members need to consider how to find inexpensive Learning Resources like open-source textbooks (where appropriate).

The good news is, there’s a memo for that! This was prepared by the GFC Teaching and Learning Committee co-chairs Lynn Taylor and Ebba Kurz. It’s a sign that this is an area of concern for the university, just as it is for our resource-strapped students.

Download (PDF, 125KB)


Teaching + Learning Workshops

These are cross-disciplinary workshops that will directly affect your course designs and delivery. Each has a topic chosen by you and your colleagues, and has an immediate and concrete impact: you’ll draft a rubric or a laptop policy to use right away.

They are also expressly designed for teaching faculty in the Faculty of Arts. The Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning offers a broader array of workshops open to you. Registration for our series is required, so I can recognize your participation. (Remember, you get formal recognition if you attend three or more workshops in an academic year, or if you present in any workshop. This will testify to your professional development in merit, promotion and tenure applications.)

The final T+L workshop for the 2014-15 academic year is:

Your Teaching Dossier: May 20, 11:30-1:30, SS 1339

Presented by Mike Adorjan (Department of Sociology), Carol Ann Berenson (Taylor Institute), and Michael Ullyot (Associate Dean, Teaching + Learning)

Student feedback forms — which many of us are circulating to students these days — are valuable enough as a measure of teaching quality. But are they really enough? Are you satisfied letting them testify to your teaching quality, like the professor in this classic Onion article? Learn how to assemble an effective teaching dossier to capture the habits and principles you put into your teaching.

Note: This workshop is the second offering on the same topic, and will cover the same material as in the fall.

Please register for the session.

Dates and times are varied to accommodate different teaching schedules. If you can’t attend, each workshop will post online materials.

Finally, would you please take 3 minutes to fill out this survey on next year’s workshops? It provides a list of potential topics from the T+L Committee and we simply want to know which ones you are interested in attending. (No obligation, of course: the survey is anonymous.) There’s also space to provide suggestions on other topics you may wish to see offered.


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?

Consult your Colleagues is an anonymous advice column for issues that arise in your teachingLast time, I asked about office hours: what they’re for; and how to encourage students to use them. John Ellard from Psychology responded:

On the office hours matter I absolutely agree that it is surprising that students don’t make better use of them. In every class at the beginning of term I always talk to them about how I think students are really making a mistake not seeking out their professors outside of class. For what it’s worth, the problem isn’t new. I’ve been here for 28+ years and can tell you the pattern you’re seeing has been around for a long time.

One thing that I thought might help but doesn’t seem to is getting to know students by name. In any class I teach up to an enrolment of 40, I work to learn all of their names as quickly as possible and address them by name in the classroom. I know they appreciate the effort but it doesn’t increase the likelihood they’ll drop by.

[Another] thing that does work is a practice I insist on with email. I’m happy to respond to emails that I can answer in a short paragraph. Anything more than that and I ask that they come to see me. Students like email because it is convenient for them but they are easily persuaded that face-to-face discussion is much more efficient to handle anything at all complex. So, one way to get them into your office is to ask them! I’ve noticed that once they’ve been by once, they’re much more likely to come again.

Thanks for that, John.For the next newsletter, please e-mail me your questions: I promise to keep them in confidence. I’ll do the same for responses, but only if you ask me to.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading. Bye-bye, so long, farewell; see you in September.


Leave a Reply