Generations – Trevor Holmes

I find myself in the rather awkward position of being the father of a teen whose friends — some of them — are now in their first week of classes in their first year of postsecondary studies. As of this week, I can no longer pretend to be that younger, cool guy on my students’ side of “geezer.”

Waterloo Photos of Students
Class of 2014 mindset?

Kidding aside, this is the week during which professors’ well-meaning colleagues, friends, family, and teaching developers Continue reading Generations – Trevor Holmes

The Process of Metamorphosis: From Our Little University Dream to Reality – Michael Chan, CTE Co-op Student

There is nothing more fundamental in the progress of life than the people you care about. Originally, my plan for the future was to study hard in school, get my degree, probably go on to get a masters, work for a company for 4-5 years, and then start my own business. A typical plan previous generations followed which has worked out pretty well for them. Continue reading The Process of Metamorphosis: From Our Little University Dream to Reality – Michael Chan, CTE Co-op Student

Research Informing Teaching in the Classroom – Brad Mannell

One of the premises of good teaching at the University of Waterloo is that professors who are good researchers as well as good teachers can provide a richer learning experience in the university classroom.  What are the strategies that professors can use to translate their experience of being a researcher into enriched learning experiences for their students? Continue reading Research Informing Teaching in the Classroom – Brad Mannell

Educational Fads and Jargon 1 – Trevor the Curmudgeon


It’s Holiday Season. I really should be feeling generous. Everything is going well. However, I’ve been so involved lately in running meetings or workshops that my immersion in educational theories may just have reached the point where I’m gasping for air. Here’s why: “incentivize” — yup, one word. I can’t really see that it is a word, an allowable word, but if it is, it may indeed be one of the ugliest in the English language. Other than “impactful” I guess. I’m not even going to grace the offending word with a citation, as I wouldn’t want to endorse the company that offers it. The context in which I saw it: browsing around for energizers to use with smart grown-ups (rather than off-putting ones that are meant really for elementary kids), I saw a link to a site for a rewards and sanctions system that uses plastic credit cards to “incentivize” students between the ages of 11 and 18. I think it’s a sign of the end of the world. But seriously, the deeper point for me is that humans do not need a newfangled business-speak word to be curious, to be civil, or to be engaged (even if the latest wisdom seems to suggest that millennials need something vastly different than X’ers and boomers did). We just need the right conditions for the people and the topic, and learning itself will be incentive enough to jump in head first.

Students vote! – Trevor Holmes


As a teaching developer, a good deal of my time is spent thinking about faculty members’ needs in the teaching/learning equation. I consult with them individually, help to run a workshop program, go into Department meetings on curriculum design… but I also think about students in the overall picture. My own teaching philosophy used to include an emphatic claim about students knowing best what they need; since my idealistic early days, I’ve tempered that a bit, while maintaining that some, in fact, really do have a solid sense of themselves and their learning. This frames the difficulty I have reconciling two views I hold about the recent voting by students in general and students on Senate. Continue reading Students vote! – Trevor Holmes

How *I* chose my undergraduate university — Trevor Holmes


Okay so here’s the thing. Saturday I found myself at work for a short while. My own fault — I was late on something so took an hour to come in and fix things up so I wouldn’t look like a complete loser on Monday morning. I saw thousands of parents with scared-looking, uncommunicative kids being almost dragged along behind them. It was the parents who looked around with the sense of wonder, curiosity, and eagerness that once upon a time would have been the preserve of the young people seeking the right school. Continue reading How *I* chose my undergraduate university — Trevor Holmes

Failures, mistakes, stupidity – foundations of success in academia

oops2Earlier this term I read a one page article, The Importance of Stupidity in Scientific Research. The article proclaims the importance of – nay – the imperative of learning from mistakes as a valuable education path. The author describes his astonishment that a very bright fellow PhD student gave up a career path because it made her feel stupid. Continue reading Failures, mistakes, stupidity – foundations of success in academia