Teaching teaching to (future) teachers – Joseph Buscemi


Having an opportunity to reflect on my brief time with CTE is a most welcomed development. Not only for those interested in CTE, but for myself, this chance to pause and consider all that has transpired within my introductory entry into the world of CTE has been, quite frankly, remarkable. I’ve only just wrapped up my first term as a GID (Graduate Instructional Developer), though the wealth of experiences makes it feel as though I’ve been here much longer (and I mean that in the best way possible). Firstly, I suppose a bit of preamble is in order before we get ahead of ourselves… Continue reading Teaching teaching to (future) teachers – Joseph Buscemi

Learning from Challenge and Failure – Julie Timmermans


This year’s University of Waterloo Teaching and Learning Conference theme, Leaning from Challenge and Failure, is an opportunity to open up discussions with our colleagues, our students, and ourselves around the beliefs we hold about challenges, setbacks, and failure in the context of teaching and learning at the University.

How do these beliefs shape the ways in which we teach, learn, and lead? How do we work to cultivate a culture that encourages risk-taking, growth through experimentation, and learning from our earnest attempts that lead to failure? What measures can we put in place to ensure that the members of our community have the opportunity to flounder, perhaps fail, and flourish?

During the Conference, we will explore not only challenges and failures, but the work of learning from these challenges and failures. The difficult cognitive and emotional work of learning from these experiences does not happen automatically or autonomously. It takes time and must be guided by people who care deeply about our development.

Airing our experiences of challenge and failure publically may certainly feel vulnerable and risky. But what might be the risks of not sharing these stories? Engineers Without Borders Canada (EWB) publishes annual ‘Failure Reports’ in which they highlight a dozen or so stories of failure – and learning from failure – in their international development efforts. This is risky in many ways – financially, for an organization that depends on contributions from donors; emotionally, for the people in the field sharing their stories. But EWB has determined that the benefits of disclosing these failures outweigh the costs of hiding them. Because hiding them does not help them, or other organizations, solve the problems which they are hoping to solve – poverty, access to clean water, food security, etc. This approach recognizes that we are involved in a collective endeavour to improve our communities.

As we began to introduce and discuss the Conference theme with others on campus, we discovered that conversations about failure, challenge, and resilience are already going on in residence rooms and in meetings rooms. Often, however, these rooms are behind closed doors. Through the Conference, we hope to bring these conversations out into the public spaces of our University – a learning organization – so that when we share our stories of innovation, experimentation, and publication, they integrate the stories of uncertainty, failed attempts, and rejections. Because the whole story of our successes often include failure. We hope that the Conference will be one space of many in which we can collectively explore our potential to learn and grow from challenge and failure.

For links to resources on learning from challenge and failure, including an excellent blog series from the Faculty of Arts Teaching Fellows and CTE’s Kyle Scholz, please visit the “Resources“section of the Conference website.

Register for the Conference

What do you need to know about the Flipped Classroom? – Jane Holbrook

flipped class
Flipped Class? (courtesy of uWaterloo)

The concept of flipping a classroom has been causing a stir in the world of educators over the last year or so. Seems you can’t open an educational blog or newsletter without finding an article or someone’s thoughts on what a flipped classroom is (and isn’t). The simplest explanation of the term is that active learning is achieved face-to-face in the classroom through discussion, problem solving, and group work or other activities, and what we think of as the lecturing, or “content transfer”, part of a class is done elsewhere (not during classtime) independently.

Discussions of flipped classrooms often include the comment that this isn’t a new concept and that courses in the humanities have been using this learning sequence for eons; in these disciplines instructors are the “guide on the side” rather than the “sage on the stage” and are in the role of facilitators, guiding discussion of concepts or texts that students have ingested on their own through traditional textbooks or online sources.  Also much of what is written about flipped classrooms implies that online media consumption of some sort is part of the independent work. However putting lectures online or giving students access to videos through a course website doesn’t make for a flipped class, the key is that students are active in the classroom; the out of class activity could be reading the text book. As learning management systems and a plethora of online screen casting and lecture capture tools make online components to courses easier to provide and create, many instructors are using online lectures, websites, online videos, or online documents  to prepare students to come in and be active learners during class time. An excellent summary of thoughts around flipping or inverting the classrooms can be found in Derek Bruff’s blog called “Agile Learning” http://derekbruff.org/?p=2108.

[As an aside Derek Bruff’s posting was written as a response to another blog posting by Steve Wheeler about a Wired article and I picked up the whole thread through Twitter.  You just have to love social media for the layers and connections – check out @CTELiaisons ***).

My colleague, Mark Morton, and I offered a workshop during the fall 2012 CTE Focus on Teaching week and put together this list of reasons why someone might consider flipping at least some classes:

  • Allows you to spend class time having your students engage in active learning activities such as debates, discussions, Q and A, demonstrations, peer tutoring and feedback, role playing, and so on. This is the “constructivist” aspect of the learning theory known as Social Constructivism.
  • Allows you to spend class time having your students learn with and through each other. This is the “social” aspect of the learning theory known as Social Constructivism.
  • During class time, you don’t “lose” your students: in a lecture, the attention of most students starts to flag after ten or fifteen minutes.
  • Students have time to process and reflect on content before coming to class to apply and work with that content.
  • Students can control the time, place and pace of learning of the “lecture”.
  • Allows you to re-use your video content in multiple courses or across multiple years.
  • Lets you  vary the pace and structure of the classes throughout the term which can  impact student engagement.

Also we compiled this list of “things to consider”:

  • You need to devise strategies to ensure that students actually ingest the content outside of class. For example, start each class with a brief quiz that assesses their knowledge of the content. The quiz could be done via clickers or via LEARN (our LMS), both of which can automatically grade the responses and add them to the grade book in the LMS.
  • Convey to the students that the videos, or other components, are not supplemental to the course but rather are essential. Remind them that if they don’t watch the videos, they won’t be able to participate in the classroom activities.
  • Spend some time at the beginning of the course explaining to your students the pedagogy behind the flipped classroom model.
  • Don’t re-lecture. If students come to class without having ingested the content, move forward with the learning activities anyway. If you resort to lecturing in class to bring them up to speed, you’ll only reinforce their decision to not ingest the content prior to class.
  • Make sure the video includes  some questions or reflective activities that you want the students to think about in preparation for the next class. These can appear at the end of the video or can be inserted at appropriate times throughout the video.
  • Determine what format will work best for your students (and for you). For example, you might videotape yourself talking in front of a flip chart. Or you might create a screencast that focuses only (or primarily) on the the content that appears on your computer screen. Or, depending on your discipline, you might be able to create an audio podcast rather than a video.
  • Accept the fact that you might need to decrease the amount of content that you cover in your course as a whole. However, students will experience deeper engagement with the content that they do cover.

Please feel free to add to this list through the comments!

Also see some examples of flipped classes in higher ed, http://www.emergingedtech.com/2013/01/flipped-classroom-successes-in-higher-education/.

***Follow the @CTELiaisons on Twitter – we’re following some interesting folks and retweeting from many sources.

So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, adieu . . . – Sheila Hannon

Sound of MusicAs that well known song from the Sound of Music suggests, there is a time and a place and many ways to say good bye. For me, So Long Farewell seems appropriate as I near the end of my role as a TA Developer at the Centre for Teaching Excellence. (I will admit that the inspiration came from a recent outing to the musical in Toronto. And just in case you’re a bit concerned, let me assure you that I won’t use this blog to paraphrase the song, nor is there a YouTube video of me performing it.) Continue reading So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, adieu . . . – Sheila Hannon