Congratulations to Alexander Howse, 2016 CUT Award Recipient – Svitlana Taraban-Gordon

alex

As a way to recognize and celebrate teaching development efforts of Waterloo graduate students, the Centre for Teaching Excellence (CTE) and the Graduate Studies Office (GSO) offer the Certificate in University Teaching (CUT) Award. This annual award is given to a graduate student who demonstrates a strong commitment to teaching development and the highest achievement upon the completion of the CUT program. We are pleased to announce that Alexander Howse, PhD candidate in the Department of Applied Mathematics and a recent graduate of the CUT program, was selected as the recipient of the 2016 CUT Award.

With a little more than a year left in his PhD program, Alex Howse’s CV already boasts an impressive record of teaching accomplishments: three teaching certificates from two Canadian institutions and a course instructorship in MATH117: Calculus for Engineering. Alex became interested in learning about university teaching while pursuing his master’s degree at Memorial University where he completed a teaching development program for graduate students offered through the teaching and learning centre. The program piqued his interest in learning about university teaching and helped him to successfully manage his teaching responsibilities when he taught his first undergraduate course at Memorial as a master’s student.

Upon starting the PhD program at Waterloo, Alex heard about teaching certificate programs for graduate students offered by CTE and decided to continue learning about university teaching while working on his doctorate. After he successfully completed CTE’s Fundamentals of University Teaching program, he enrolled in the Certificate in University Teaching (CUT), a comprehensive teaching development program for PhD students who are interested in academic careers.  Although some of the topics discussed in the program, such as learning-centred teaching approaches, were not new to Alex, he believes that the learning activities that participants are asked to undertake as part of the CUT, such as creating a teaching dossier, are helpful not only for immediate teaching responsibilities at Waterloo but also as a preparation for the academic job market.

When asked to reflect on his recent teaching experience as an instructor, Alex credits the improvements that he made in his teaching to the feedback that he received from two sources: CTE staff members who observed his classroom teaching as part of the CUT program and a faculty member in his department who observed his class as part of a departmental lecturing requirement for math PhD students. The feedback that Alex received from his observers and the discussions that took place after the classroom visits addressed different aspects of his teaching approach and gave him ideas for the upcoming classes, such as ways for effective presentation of material and increasing student participation during lectures in his class with more than 100 students. “Often you think that as an instructor, you are doing what you intend to do but then you get caught up in the flow of the lecture and lose sight of student learning. It’s nice to have someone come in, observe your class and discuss it with you,” says Alex.

Using the feedback from his observers, Alex worked hard to improve his lectures and to help his students do well in the course. He fine-tuned his questioning strategies, resisted the urge to give out answers and experimented with the use of a think-pair-share technique which offered his students opportunities to solve problems on their own before discussing them with pairs and eventually as a large class. He looked for ways to explain the material in a way that would allow him to reach students with different levels of knowledge. When he heard about the muddiest point technique at one of the CUT teaching workshops, he implemented it in his class to identify areas of material that students found difficult. Based on student feedback about the material that was not clear to them, he created summary sheets as a supplementary study tool for his students.

For the CUT research project which is intended to familiarize graduate students with the research on teaching and learning in higher education, Alex decided to examine the higher education literature on math anxiety. He felt that this is an important topic for math instructors and something he encountered frequently when working with undergraduate students who were comfortable with math as high school students but were struggling with the subject at the university level. According to Alex, reading the research on math anxiety helped him to understand the issue more effectively and prepared him for conversations with students on learning strategies and ways to cope with math anxiety.

Looking back at his experience in the CUT, Alex is convinced that the time that he devoted to developing his teaching knowledge and skills by completing the program was well worth it. “I took the program seriously and put a lot of effort into it. It helped me to improve my teaching skills and put me in a good position for future academic job applications. I would strongly recommend the program to PhD students, especially if they plan to teach at the university.”

Congratulations on the CUT Award, Alex!

Svitlana Taraban-Gordon

Svitlana Taraban-Gordon

As a Senior Instructional Developer, Svitlana Taraban Gordon oversees all aspects of the Certificate in University Teaching (CUT) program and works with graduate students who are interested in developing their instructional skills and expanding their teaching horizons. She is also developing new programming related to the internationalization and university teaching. Prior to joining the Centre for Teaching Excellence, Svitlana worked with the international education office at York's Faculty of Education, taught several courses at York's teacher preparation program and coordinated Microsoft-funded project on youth and technology through her work with Toronto-based NGO TakingITGlobal. She received her PhD in Education (Language, Culture and Teaching) in 2006 from York University. In her free time, Svitlana enjoys traveling with her husband and young son.

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What We Can Only Learn from Others — Donna Ellis, CTE Director

eurekaYou know when you have an “a-ha” moment and two ideas from completely different contexts suddenly merge in your mind?  I had this happen to me when I attended a recent faculty panel discussion in Math about the use of clickers.  The panelists shared a variety of experiences and gave excellent advice to their colleagues.  My “a-ha” moment arose when the panel facilitator declared how much she had learned about her students when she started to use clickers:  “I thought I knew what they were thinking.  Boy, was I wrong!”  Her statement cemented for me the extreme value of asking others about their thinking rather than making assumptions and then devising plans based on those assumptions.

You may have heard that CTE is going to have an external review in 2017.  It’s time and it’s part of our institutional strategic plan for outstanding academic programming.  Our Centre was launched in 2007, a merger of three existing units that supported teaching excellence.  Many things have changed since then, including the structure of our leadership, our staffing, the breadth of services that we provide, and our location.  Organic, evolutionary change is positive, but there’s value in stepping back to see where we’ve been, what’s on the horizon, and how to get there.  And this is where the “a-ha” moment comes in:  my small CTE team working on this review cannot know what others think about where we are and where we could go.  I’ve always known this, but it’s one thing to know it and another to do something about it.

And so we’ll be asking, both as we prepare for our self-study and during the external reviewers’ visit.  We have already started to ask some different questions on our feedback instruments about our services, focusing on ways that working with us have helped to enhance your capacity and your community as teachers.  These changes are part of launching a comprehensive assessment plan that connects to our Centre’s overall aims.  But we have also begun to work on sets of questions for our external review about areas that we might be too close to see clearly or cannot know because the responses needed are others’ perceptions.  These questions involve topics ranging from our mission statement and organizational structure to our relationships with others and the quality of our work.  We also need input on the possibilities for “CTE 2.0”:  where could we be in another 10 years?

We’ll be starting this data collection with our own staff members, doing a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) this spring term.  But we will be seeking input far beyond our own walls, including beyond UWaterloo.  When we come knocking (literally or by email or by online survey), I trust you’ll answer and provide your honest feedback and insights.  We believe we are a responsive organization that helps those who work with us to achieve their goals, and we have some data to support these claims, but we want more.  We want your input.  We want to be able to say: “We didn’t know that. We’re so glad we asked!”

If you have thoughts or insights into our external review plans, please let me know.  You can reach me at donnae@uwaterloo.ca or at extension 35713.  We want to make this external review activity as generative and useful as possible.  I am optimistic that with your help we can achieve just that.

Photo courtesy of David McKelvey
Mark Morton

Mark Morton

As Senior Instructional Developer, Mark Morton helps instructors implement new educational technologies such as clickers, wikis, concept mapping tools, question facilitation tools, screencasting, and more. Prior to joining the Centre for Teaching Excellence, Mark taught for twelve years in the English Department at the University of Winnipeg. He received his PhD in 1992 from the University of Toronto, and is the author of four books: Cupboard Love; The End; The Lover's Tongue; and Cooking with Shakespeare.

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Program Outcomes – Join our new learning community – Veronica Brown

Goals. Aims. Objectives. Outcomes. Metrics. Performance Indicators. Ideal Graduate Attributes.

Last week, I spent some time with colleagues debating the meaning of these various terms. They are often used interchangeably but, depending who you ask, they don’t mean the same thing. I tend to lump goals, aims and objectives together because they represent our intentions – what we will work towards during a given learning experience. I see outcomes and attributes as what students are actually able to do by the end of that experience (specific behaviours, knowledge, skills, attitudes they have developed). Finally, I place metrics and performance indicators into a category of measurements of those outcomes. Our discussion last week verified that while we use these terms in the similar ways, it’s worth taking the time to clarify our shared understanding of these key terms.

Now, it’s time to expand that conversation across campus. I’m excited to announce a new learning community at CTE – program outcomes assessment. Many departments across campus are engaged in program assessment through academic program review, accreditation, and curriculum design and renewal. Bob Sproule (a member of the School of Accounting and Finance’s Learning Outcomes Committee) and I will be leading this group as we explore various aspects of program outcomes assessment.

The first session, on May 12, 2016 12:00-1:15pm in EV 241, is a brainstorming session to explore topic ideas for the coming year. Our goal is to meet twice per term, starting in Fall 2016, and we want to ensure the sessions reflect areas of interest for you, our community members. If you are unable to attend the session but are interested in joining the community, please email me, Veronica Brown (veronica.brown@uwaterloo.ca), Sr. Instructional Developer, Curriculum and Quality Enhancement, Centre for Teaching Excellence.

Small portion of a curriculum map

A slice of a curriculum map – a great tool in assessing program outcomes

Veronica Brown

Veronica Brown

As Senior Instructional Developer, Curriculum & Quality Enhancement, Veronica Brown provides oversight and facilitative support for departmental and Faculty-wide curriculum planning initiatives. She also leads the development and implementation of the Centre’s assessment plan for understanding the impact and quality of our work.

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A band-aid for mental health – Maggie Bradley

imagesBefore you read this blog post, let me assure you that I believe every student should have access to a positive learning environment. I am in no way advocating that we should start making students fight to survive in a distressing domain. However, there is a movement spreading wildly through post-secondary campuses to offer students increasing protection from ideas they do not like and words that make them uncomfortable. To date, there is no scientific evidence that coddling students is having a positive impact on society or on their future; the widespread use of trigger warnings could be dangerous for mental health. In an article written for The Atlantic, Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt pose the question: “What exactly are students learning when they spend four or more years in a community that polices unintentional slights, places warning labels on works of classic literature, and in many other ways conveys the sense that words can be forms of violence…?” (1). Using warnings to protect students from potentially harmful ideas is setting them up for larger issues once they leave the “safe space” campuses that have been created for them. Instead, let’s help teach students how to cope with these potentially triggering situations.

Assisting people’s efforts to avoid their fears is misguided. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a non-pharmaceutical treatment of mental illness that would be more beneficial to students than using trigger warnings. CBT involves the patient working with a mental cc7e34fe0b549e5eb409d27207689bdehealth counselor to help him or her “become aware of inaccurate or negative thinking so [he/she] can view challenging situations more clearly and respond to them in a more effective way” (2). The basis of the process is simple: notice that you’re being affected by a stressor, name it, describe the facts of the situation, and consider alternative interpretations. After treatment, people are less likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, and anger. Over time, this process becomes more automatic and also helps enhance critical thinking skills. This method can further be combined with exposure therapy, where a patient’s cognitive distortions are diluted with a gradual increase of exposure to the offending scenario. Over time, using either approach, the triggered reaction would deflated. You can’t always control the situation, but you can control how your thoughts, actions and feelings affect the situation.

Keep in mind that I am not an expert. I am not prescribing treatment, nor am I making false promises for results I cannot guarantee (which in this case – I can’t). I’m also not naïve enough to think that cognitive behavioural therapy or exposure therapy are one-stop solutions that will work for everyone. Every person and situation is different. Furthermore, not every reaction to trauma will require the use of one of these coping mechanisms.

Where is all this coming from? Straight out of high school, I attended college. I earned my diploma, worked in my field for a couple cbt-diagram-1years, and then decided it wasn’t the right fit for me. As someone who has recently made the transition back to academia from the “real world,” I’m rather shocked at how hard it is to say the right thing anymore. It can be very tricky to live in a world where “I’m offended” could be used at any given time as an unbeatable trump card. Constantly having to worry about whether an answer you give in class will elicit an upsetting response while discussing the assigned material is exhausting. As a student, I would prefer to utilize the nonthreatening environment of the classroom to discuss controversial topics instead of feeling limited by uncertain restrictions.

The above methods do not entirely invalidate the need for trigger warnings on certain material. They are an excellent temporary solution. It would be more practical long term to negotiate coping mechanisms in a classroom environment before students are released into the “real world.” Throughout elementary and into high school, students are sheltered to protect them. A safe space is provided to nurture students as they mature. In the infamous life after school people keep talking about, it is likely you will have to engage with people and ideas that make you uncomfortable. Outside of the classroom, there will be significantly less protection from any potential stressors. The long-term benefits of developing proper coping mechanisms should not be diminished.


 

This post was inspired by “The Coddling of the American Mind” written by Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff for The Atlantic’s September 2015 issue. You can view their full article here: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/09/the-coddling-of-the-american-mind/399356/
To read more on trigger warnings, check out the Centre for Teaching Excellence’s tip sheet here: https://uwaterloo.ca/centre-for-teaching-excellence/teaching-resources/teaching-tips/creating-positive-learning-environment/trigger-warnings-and-content-notes-inviting-all-students

Sources:
(1) The Atlantic – http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/09/the-coddling-of-the-american-mind/399356/
(2) The Mayo Clinic – http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/cognitive-behavioral-therapy/home/ovc-20186868

Maggie Bradley

Special Projects Assistant, Awards Winter 2016

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Pathways to feminist pedagogies — Charis Enns

femnist pedagogiesMy introduction to feminist pedagogy took place as an undergraduate student in an upper-level geography class at the University of British Columbia. The final assignment for this class involved conducting a community-based research project. Students were assigned small groups, in which they partnered with community organizations to design and carry out research based on the organization’s needs. My small group partnered with a local food bank, which asked us to investigate how the food bank could partner with community gardens in order to contribute to food security in Vancouver.

This learning experience was transformative. Ultimately, it shifted my thinking about social life in Vancouver and motivated me to pursue my interests through research. Importantly, through this class, I was introduced to spaces within the university that were orientated towards building community and social action. This is one explicit intention of feminist pedagogy. In classrooms grounded in feminist values, “there is a need and desire to move learning beyond the walls of the classroom” (Shrewsbury 1993, p. 171). Students are encouraged to extend theory to action, and then action is brought back into the classroom in order to inform theory. 

What is feminist pedagogy?

My initial experience with feminist pedagogy not only shaped my research, it laid the foundations for my approach to teaching and learning. Broadly, feminist pedagogy is a way of thinking about teaching and learning that is grounded in feminist values. It is therefore more appropriate to speak about feminist pedagogies, and then to highlight what these different approaches to teaching and learning have in common. Common principles of feminist pedagogies include:

  • Resisting hierarchy and empowerment: In a traditional university classroom, the instructor holds power over the class and knowledge is passed from instructor to students.  In contrast, feminist pedagogy involves the de-centering of power. Instructor and students exist in a “symbiotic” relationship and knowledge is constructed through discussion, dialogue, and critical inquiry. Importantly, students are also invited to play a role in influencing the design of the class and to participate in the delivery of content.
  • Building community and using personal experience as a resource: Like a traditional university classroom, many classrooms grounded in feminist values continue to rely on traditional sources of information, such as textbooks and academic journals. However, feminist pedagogy also involves drawing on students’ and teachers’ own experiences as learning materials. This promotes critical thinking, as students are challenged to bridge scholarship with “real-life.” Drawing on personal experience in order to deepen and widen understanding of course content also encourages students to value difference and diversity.
  • Transformative learning: This is the principle that was put into action in my first experience with feminist pedagogy as an undergraduate student.  Traditional university classrooms may provide limited space for critical thinking and problem solving. However, in classrooms grounded in feminist values, teaching and learning aim to shift thinking in new directions. Students are asked to examine either their own experiences or social phenomena in new and critical ways. This often involves creating learning experiences that draw attention to real world problems or power differences that contribute to inequality.

Importantly, feminist pedagogy is a way of thinking about teaching and learning that shapes both what we teach and how we teach it. But how can this translate into classrooms that might, at first glance, not appear conducive to such approaches? In other words, are there practical applications of the principles of feminist pedagogy in all university classes? Or, is feminist pedagogy best reserved for certain levels of learning and certain disciplines?

Feminist pedagogies in practice

Research suggests that there is space for feminist pedagogy in all university classrooms and at all levels of learning; however, what this looks like in practice is likely to vary significantly. Here are some examples of feminist pedagogy in practice, along with links to research in support of this practice:

  1. Feminist pedagogy can be used to change teaching strategies and deepen learning outcomes in engineering. For example, Cashman and Eschenbach (2004) use labs to teach students how to work in small-groups to design their own approach to solving real-world problems. They ask students to solve problems that are community-based or locally relevant. Cashman and Eschenbach (2004) have found that this empowers students to extend their classroom learning into the community – some students even become involved in community projects or local politics. This approach also encourages students to approach exams and homework assignments using real-life scenarios.
  1. Feminist pedagogy can be used in psychology education to de-centre power in the classroom, contribute to more diverse curriculum, and to guide students in developing their feminist consciousness. For example, Robinson-Keilig et al. (2014) adopted the photovoice research methodology for a classroom project on violence against women. The project encouraged self-disclosure of students’ own lived experiences, as a means of integrating student knowledge into classroom content. The authors of this study found that this particular project facilitated critical consciousness, as students became more aware of the multiple systems of oppression that exist in society and became empowered via new insights and self-reflection to make change.
  1. Feminist pedagogy can be integrated into economic classrooms to include students in the learning process and urge students to grow as critical thinkers. For example, Nelson and Goodwin (2005) argue that economics learning materials often do an inadequate job at integrating feminist concerns into introductory economics courses. Accordingly, they have published alternative learning materials that introduce students to neoclassical economic principles but also make room for ecological and feminist concerns. They argue that this deepens students’ understanding of economics, as they are exposed to less mainstream debates about the interconnection between economics, gender, and the environment.

Ultimately, if we understand feminist pedagogy as a way of teaching and learning that empowers students to be reflective and critical learners and to apply their learning through social action, it is possible to imagine how this approach is relevant across the university and beneficial to students, regardless of discipline. 

References 

Crawley, S. L., Lewis, J. E., & Mayberry, M. (2008). Introduction—feminist pedagogies in action: Teaching beyond disciplines. Feminist Teacher19(1), 1-12.

GEA – Gender and Education Association (n.d.). Feminist Pedagogy.

Shrewsbury, C. M. (1997). What is Feminist Pedagogy? Women’s Studies Quarterly, 25(1/2), 166-173.

Charis Enns is a Graduate Instructional Developer in CTE and a PhD Candidate at the University of Waterloo and the Balsillie School of International Affairs. 

Introverts in the Classroom – Crystal Tse

Picture of birds on telephone line, with a single bird by itself.

Last year I attended a professional development seminar that involved four days of intense group work and meeting new people, and I was completely exhausted by the end of it.  As a graduate student, conferences were a lot of fun, but I would need frequent breaks during the day to muster enough energy to keep going the rest of the time. As a high school student I hardly spoke up during classes and my teachers would tell me what a shame it was that I didn’t share my good ideas. My name is Crystal, and I am an introvert.

What is an introvert? This is a personality trait associated with people who, compared to extroverts, do not derive their energy from social interaction. In fact, sustained social interactions have the opposite effect of draining them of their energy and mental resources. They are not necessarily shy or socially anxious (common misconceptions of what introversion is) – it just means that they are generally more reserved, and enjoy having time alone or with people they know well in intimate settings.

Where did this construct come from? The five-factor model of personality, or more commonly called the “Big Five” was validated by psychologists McCrae and Costa (1987) and includes the dimensions of agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, openness, and most relevant, extroversion (you can take the Big 5 personality inventory to see where you might score lower or higher on along these dimensions). Their research has shown that these five factors can predict behavior, and appears in across different cultures in the world.

In the Atlantic last year an article was published on how introverts’ needs in schools are often neglected, as active learning strategies are encouraged and expected in the classroom. Introverted students benefit from having “quiet” time to reflect or complete individual work, and classrooms where activities such as group work and think-pair-share are the norm may at be odds at what they find are optimal learning environments. I’ve had many conversations with a friend and sessional lecturer, a self-identified introvert herself, about how she struggles with incorporating too many active learning strategies into her classes because she herself would struggle with having to do those exercises all the time.

That is not say to forego active learning strategies – there is good evidence for the benefits of active learning for example, in STEM fields. Active learning strategies can still be used, but they do not always have to involve group work or collaboration. They can include “one minute essay” questions or quizzes, and reflection activities. The flipped classroom can benefit introverted students, as they can complete readings and activities for the upcoming class individually, and have their thoughts and questions prepared beforehand.

Lastly, class participation is often valued, but introverted students may speak up less and to instructors, appear less interested or engaged with the material. This educator has a great perspective on this issue: You don’t want to alienate and punish introverted students by requiring that they speak up all time, but you also want to push students out of their comfort zone and allow them to develop their communication skills. He offers strategies that he has used to get students to speak up, and they’re simple, such as giving students time to think and prepare what they will say or transitioning from smaller to larger group discussions throughout the term.

It’s all a balance! As instructors and educational developers we can be more mindful of the introverts in the room, and come up with strategies (they don’t have to be extensive or immediately obvious to students) to engage, challenge, and draw out (but not tire out) the introverts in the classroom.

 

Image above provided by Scott Robinson under the Creative Commons “Attribution” license.

Crystal Tse

Crystal Tse

Crystal is the Educational Research Associate at the CTE where she contributes to the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning work and to program evaluation. She received her PhD in social psychology in the Department of Psychology at the University of Waterloo, where her research involved applying psychological theory to inform evidence-based interventions that address different social issues.

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Learning to Leap via Experiential Education — Michelle Gordon

michelle gordonI can’t say enough about experiential learning.  By stepping outside of textbook learning and living the experience, you develop personal connections to the theory. In my experience, this personal connection creates a drive to learn more about a topic, similar to how when you meet a person you like, you want to know more about them. Through experiential learning, I have also found that I develop soft skills that are not replicable in classroom learning, and which stay with me long after the experience is over.

This fall I was fortunate to be one of six student delegates selected from the University of Waterloo to attend the 21st Conference of the Parties under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which was held in Paris, France. Also known as COP21 for short, this conference resulted in the Paris Agreement — an agreement to limit climate change to well below 2C of warming — being adopted with the consensus of 195 states. This was a historic moment to be a part of, where climate change was front and center on the world stage and it was finally agreed upon that quick and drastic action needs to be taken on a global level. Climate change is one of the global challenges of our century, and I hope that COP21 will be written in history as the turning point towards a cleaner and brighter future without fossil fuels.

Through this experience I learned much more about climate change than I could have in an entire semester in the classroom, but I think the most important thing I learned is confidence in my ability to leap. I believe to leap, or to jump into something new and unfamiliar when the opportunity presents itself instead of waiting until you feel “good enough,” is an essential skill to succeed in what you want in life.

Theoretical Knowledge

When I first applied to be a student delegate for COP21, I was hesitant as I thought I was less knowledgeable than many of my peers who were applying. Because I am in the School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability program, I had a working knowledge of climate change but by no means considered myself anywhere close to an expert! I applied anyway, and was thrilled to be selected. I studied climate change negotiations leading up to COP21, and observed them all around me during the experience. From this I gained a deeper knowledge than I had expected, and I am glad to have made the leap to apply and learn as I went, even if I was hesitant about my experience beforehand!

Social Media

Before attending COP21 I used social media such as Facebook, but I was shy about voicing my thoughts about social and environmental causes. Leading up to and during COP21, it was our job as student delegates to involve the wider campus community in awareness of the conference and climate change. It felt very uncomfortable at first, but I began posting on Facebook, joined Twitter, and then decided to make the leap by volunteering to be one of the lead students on the delegation’s communications and social media team. I felt out of my element at first, but through working in a team with two other students we created a successful and engaging campaign.

Networking and Meeting Influential People

At the COP21 conference, you are surrounded by people from all around the world, many of whom are very influential and knowledgeable. At first I felt a bit intimidated and timid in approaching people. However, I gained confidence when professor Ian Rowlands arranged for a few students and me to chat with Marlo Raylonds (the Chief of Staff to Catherine McKenna, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change) as well as David Miller (the President and CEO of World Wildlife Fund Canada and former mayor of Toronto). Chatting with these intelligent people help me build confidence in knowing that influential people are just like anyone else, and I will now feel more comfortable approaching leaders in the future.

Bringing Experiential Learning into the Classroom

I understand that not many teachers can simply take their students abroad on a whim.  However, experiential learning opportunities are out there — they just need to be found and acted upon!

I think that classroom and lecture studies are important, and can serve their purpose as theoretical foundations for experiences. However, I strongly urge students to be always searching for opportunities to experience their passions outside of the classroom, be it conferences, volunteering, or through work experience.  Remember, Google is your friend!  For example, an afternoon spent searching can uncover field courses you can take for credit abroad or in Canada, bursary programs, and much more. Teachers can support students by sharing opportunities that they become aware of, and urging students to leap: to apply, follow through, and have the confidence to make it happen.

Michelle Gordon is a third year undergraduate student in the Environment and Resource Studies co-op program. Michelle was part of the delegation of students from UW that attended COP21. Michelle’s other interests include outdoor education, ecological restoration, and illustration.