“You’re the Inspiration”

I remember the day I fell in love.  With my discipline of educational psychology.

It was my first term of graduate school, and I was taking an elective course in “Gender and Policy Studies in Education”.  The first sign that something special was about to happen came when I did the supplemental reading – a book called “Women’s Ways of Knowing.”  I never did the supplemental readings.  I think that I somehow knew that the moment would be special.  I lit candles, got comfortable, and devoured the book.  Finally, there were words (like epistemology) for the ideas that had been drifting in my mind without an anchor.  There were people doing research the way I one day wanted to do research.  Another sign appeared when it came time to write the final paper.  I had a love/hate relationship with writing.  Writing papers was usually a long and arduous (but ultimately rewarding) task.  Somehow, this 20-page paper just flowed. I wrote in one sitting, hand-writing the first draft, rather than typing it.  Somehow I felt that this connected me more to the ideas.  The first draft was also my final draft.

There have been other such moments throughout my graduate work and my career that have confirmed for me that I chose the right field – moments that revealed how my research and my self and my relationships with others are interconnected. I now realize, however, many years later, that I never told the professor of that elective course how that one reading changed my academic life, opening up an entire field within my discipline that I had not known existed, shaping my future research, and shaping, really, the lens through which I view the world.

We rarely know when we’re designing a course which moments in the classroom, conversations outside the classroom, readings, or assignments might ignite a flame in learners.   But what if we asked learners to share these moments with us, so that we might intentionally integrate them into the courses we design?  As instructors, how can we take students on the journey of discovering their own passions?

Might our own stories of falling in love be important to share with students?  In the midst of concerns about UDLES, GDLES, and accreditation, how might we weave into the courses we teach the stories of how our passion for our discipline evolved – the stories of what continues to inspire our work?

Do you remember when you fell in love with your field?   Please consider posting a brief note about the ideas/encounters/experiences that inspired your passion for your discipline.


Crossing Thresholds in Learning — Julie Timmermans

If you had to name the most important concept in your course – the concept without which learners couldn’t progress, what would it be?  Would it be a “threshold concept”?

First introduced by Meyer and Land in 2003, a threshold concept is defined in the following way:

“A threshold concept can be considered as akin to a portal, opening up a new and previously inaccessible way of thinking about something. It represents a transformed way of understanding, or interpreting, or viewing something without which the learner cannot progress. As a consequence of comprehending a threshold concept there may thus be a transformed internal view of subject matter, subject landscape, or even world view. This transformation may be sudden or it may be protracted over a considerable period of time, with the transition to understanding proving troublesome. Such a transformed view or landscape may represent how people ‘think’ in a particular discipline, or how they perceive, apprehend, or experience particular phenomena within that discipline (or more generally).”  (Meyer & Land, 2003, p. 412). Continue reading Crossing Thresholds in Learning — Julie Timmermans

Opportunities and New Directions (OND) 2012 Conference — Julie Timmermans and Shirley Hall

It takes a village

It turns out that it really takes a village to put on a Conference.  The fourth annual Opportunities and New Directions (OND)Conference took place last Thursday, April 26th, and there are countless people in our village who contributed in ways large and small to the success of this year’s OND.  Their ideas, skills, time, thoughts, (and strength!) enabled the ideas of the Conference to come to fruition.  We’re particularly grateful to Vice-President Academic and Provost, Geoff McBoyle for lending his vision and financial support to the Conference.  And once again, the Faculty Association of the University of Waterloo (FAUW) sponsored a lovely Presidents’ Colloquium refreshment break. Continue reading Opportunities and New Directions (OND) 2012 Conference — Julie Timmermans and Shirley Hall

Learning to lose our balance — Julie Timmermans

We spend much of our lives focusing on achieving balance: balancing our many work and life commitments, balancing our diets, and balancing our cheque books (actually, does anyone do that anymore?).  We are concerned with maintaining balance in the world’s ecosystems and balancing national budgets.  Continue reading Learning to lose our balance — Julie Timmermans