A Reflection On The CTE Professional Development Day – Davis Dolan

In early June, I had the pleasure of going to the Waterloo Aboriginal Education Centre (WAEC) at St. Paul’s University College with my colleagues from the Centre for Teaching Excellence (CTE). Our Centre went to WAEC for our annual Professional Development Day where we learned more about each other through various activities. One of the activities that stood out for me was indicating on a map where we live, where we are from, and where our roots originate. This activity allowed us to see that we all come from different places around the world, but we come together to make the CTE team. This activity also showed that we all have unique experiences, and we should use those experiences to help the Centre, and each other grow.

We also learned more about Truth and Reconciliation while at the WAEC. We were taken through a blanket activity (an example of a blanket activity can be seen on the left) that acted as a simulation of the history of what aboriginal people had experienced. Our staff started out standing on some blankets that were spread across the floor (to form one large blanket representing Turtle Island), but as the activity went on, the blankets kept getting folded in and shrinking the space we had to stand on (representing the lands that were taken from the aboriginals). In addition, some people were taken from the main group and told to stand on a separate blanket (representing a residential school). Other members of our group were told that they had to leave the blanket because they had become a lawyer or doctor (aboriginals lost their status if they became certain professions), or because they had gotten a deadly disease that was brought by the settlers. By the end of the activity, there were only 3 out of about 26 people still standing on the blankets that had been significantly reduced in size. The activity opened my eyes to some of the hardships that the aboriginal people have been through.

Overall, I thought the day was a success. I was able to learn more about myself and my colleagues, while also learning a bit more about the history and hardships of aboriginal people.

Photo taken by Bernard Clark at Queen’s University, Creative Commons (found on Flickr)

 

Wrapping to Uncover Learning – Monica Vesely

Many of us have likely heard the term wrapper or cognitive wrapper used when discussing ways to help our students in becoming more independent and self-aware learners. In particular, this term comes up when discussing assessment as a learning opportunity. So what exactly is a cognitive wrapper and how can it be used to aid learning?

In brief, a cognitive wrapper is a tool to guide students before, during or after a teaching and learning event to help them identify their own approaches to the teaching and learning event and what aspects of their behavior are productive and which aspects are not. It encourages students to purposefully examine what they can and should change so as to improve the teaching and learning experience. Wrappers are a structured way to guide students through a reflective process that increases their self-awareness and leads to a modification of behavior through self-regulation.

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The Value of Saying No: An Exercise in Reframing — Donna Ellis

Crossed hands As an academic support unit, we are in the business of helping others.  But it goes beyond simply service – we help instructors to help themselves.  The reach and scope of our services can feel quite large since teaching and learning are so foundational to the university, and we receive numerous requests for our assistance.  Our staff members’ interests and ideas for projects are also quite broad.  However, sometimes we have to say no to requests we receive or ideas we generate.  Is this ever a good idea? Continue reading The Value of Saying No: An Exercise in Reframing — Donna Ellis

A Q & A with Amanda Garcia, 2017’s CUT Award Recipient

Amanda Garcia
Amanda Garcia, PhD Candidate in Systems Design Engineering

Each year, the Centre for Teaching Excellence and the Graduate Studies Office recognize and celebrate the teaching development efforts of Waterloo graduate students with the Certificate in University Teaching (CUT) Award. I sat down with this year’s winner, Amanda Garcia, PhD candidate in Systems Design Engineering and recent graduate of the CUT program, to get her take on teaching and learning. Amanda has taught Problem-Solving for Development, a second-year International Development course (INDEV 212) and Conflict Resolution (SYDE 533), a Systems Design Engineering course; has completed both the Fundamentals of University Teaching (FUT) and CUT programs, and began her teaching career during her undergraduate years, when she was awarded her first Teaching Assistantship.

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Planning for Active Learning in Large Classes

Active learning is “anything course-related that all students in a class session are called upon to do other than simply watching, listening, and taking notes” (Felder & Brent, 2009, p. 2). Examples include team debates, think-pair-share, team-based learning, and using clickers or other technology to provide opportunities for discussion (for more on active learning, see our Active Learning Tip Sheet).

Photo taken at the back of a 200-seat lecture hall looking toward the front white board.
One of Waterloo’s large classrooms

But what happens when there are 300 students in your classroom? Many of these techniques scale to larger settings although they require additional planning. To help with designing and running these activities, I think about four design elements. For each element, I ask myself a set of questions to help plan the activity.

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A Day of Cultivating Curiosity in Teaching and Learning

What drives curiosity in our classrooms? Can curiosity be fostered or taught? These were just a few of the questions on the table at the University of Waterloo Teaching and Learning Conference on April 27. Our ninth annual conference, this year’s event brought together over 320 participants from across all Faculties at Waterloo and neighbouring universities to explore the role curiosity plays in teaching and learning. University of Waterloo’s President and Vice-Chancellor, Feridun Hamdullahpur, opened the conference with a territory acknowledgment and shared personal reflections on teaching and learning that highlighted the connections between this year’s conference theme, Cultivating Curiosity in Teaching and Learning, and last year’s conference, Learning from Challenge and Failure.

Curiosity is at the heart of inquiry and exploration and is a powerful motivator for learning. It speaks to our innate interest in seeking out novel ideas, and applies well to the learning process our students engage in every day. Curiosity also has real-life consequences—psychological research demonstrates that curiosity is linked to greater well-being (e.g., life satisfaction and expressing gratitude) and can also serve as positive motivation—studies show that curiosity can lead people to ask more questions, explore novel stimuli, and persevere when faced with difficult tasks. Continue reading A Day of Cultivating Curiosity in Teaching and Learning

From crisis to crisis: teaching in challenging times

A stressed out figure with head on desk surrounded by books
Bonhomme Stressed

I don’t know if it’s some kind of confirmation bias as I think about all the people around me, but this past term has seemed much more stressful for many staff, faculty, and students on campus. Including me! Burnout among students and instructors seems more prevalent than in prior terms.

I suspect that it may have something to do with uncertainties and the erosion of rights on every front as we all live through the (very real) simulacrum that is the 45th U.S. President right now, coupled with the ways in which media outlets and social media amplify certain kinds of story.

There are things that happen in the world over which we have no control, but that are part of an increasingly invasive news cycle. Even the weather network seems in constant panic mode with “Alerts” and “Special Statements” that, when opened, say little more than that typical seasonal weather is about to happen.

In the face of events that make the news ticker and get amplified by friends and family, it is often difficult to know what and what not to do in the classroom. Faculty have expressed to me a deep sense of care about how they themselves, and how their students, can best handle daily news of crises. One of the most cited web-based resources out there is a Vanderbilt University guide called Teaching in Times of Crisis. Originally written in 2001, after 9-11, it was updated by Nancy Chick in 2013.

The gist of this well-researched piece is that we should say *something* about a crisis event in class, but we should say it while also referring students (and ourselves I think!) to available resources. I strongly encourage people to spend some time reading this piece; it’s helped a lot of us to address things head-on in classes rather than ignoring the “elephant in the room.” These crises may be local or global — everything from bombings to stories about sexual assault, from school shootings to the removal of same-sex marriage rights.

I wonder, too, whether this is something that is mainly a question for people in social science, environmental or health studies, or arts disciplines, or whether colleagues teaching large first year classes in, say, Engineering or Physics or Math also think about this stuff? In my experience, yes, but it’s not as directly relevant to the topic of the week (as it may well be in my Women’s Studies first-year lecture).