A Culture That Constantly Strives to Improve – Magdalena Bentia

While sitting in an 8:30 morning class of over 100 students with caffeine as the sole driving force for consciousness it is easy to overlook the dynamics at play. It is easy to miss the carefully structured slides made with purpose to be as accessible as possible. As you pull your iClicker out it is easy to miss how each question was designed according to Bloom’s Taxonomy so that concepts are tested at different levels of comprehension. Designing a lecture that keeps everyone’s abilities in mind is not a simple task.

Upon starting to work at Centre for Teaching Excellence (CTE) I had no idea how many resources and mechanisms are in place to allow the teaching community at the University of Waterloo to continually improve. There is undoubtedly a necessary push to keep up with the ever-changing technology in the classroom but the aspect of being inclusive is not always as clear cut. It amazed me to see how many faculty and staff members at the university took time out of their day to participate in workshops at the CTE such as “CTE779: Accessibility in Teaching”. Teaching staff do not just settle and do their required job but rather look for ways to learn and improve their teaching methods so that their students get the most out of each lecture.

From an undergraduate student perspective it is comforting to know that there is genuinely a concern for creating the best learning environment where lessons learned will be fundamental in any future academic endeavors. It is through constant self-assessment and passion for teaching others that our community excels as a world-leading university.


Photo taken at the 2016 Teaching and Learning Conference by CTE Staff

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)


On the topic of music education – Anastasiya Mihaylova

Bassoon reeds in cupI could write this blog post about all the ways music is beneficial to us as learners and teachers – the positive effects it has on our standardized test performance, memory, motor, communication and analytical skills. I could continue that conversation and provide the dismal array of stats on the decline of public school funding for art programs across multiple countries and how this is a really bad idea.

Or I could talk about the real reason music is important – it is profoundly human, universal and magical and should not be defended solely because it is good for something other than simply. being. music. Continue reading On the topic of music education – Anastasiya Mihaylova

Another Good Way to Learn: Debates — Justin He, Co-op Student

Learning, in many university students’ minds, is reading textbooks and attending lectures. Yes, this is one way to learn, but it should not be the only way for students to learn. It is true that students can learn knowledge by this way, but is this the best way for students to learn? Also, other than knowledge, what can they learn from just reading textbooks and attending lectures?

As we all have known in today’s society, students who only have “book” knowledge are not good enough. They require more realistic skills. The question is, how can they develop more skills? I am sure there are many ways to do that, but I suggest students to develop their skills by engaging in debates. You can develop many different useful skills for being a debater.

In general, debate helps you effectively to develop four skills:

  1. Communication
  2. Presentation
  3. Teamwork
  4. Critical thinking

A typical debate match has judges, a motion, which is a topic to debate, and at least six or more debaters. There must be two sides in a match, and debaters are evenly distributed on both sides. Each side is either in favour of or opposed to the motion. Therefore, it has a thesis statement and points to support its position.

Debaters need to figure out the most effective way to deliver all of this information to the judges. Otherwise, they will lose the match if no one can understand their speech. This is the time for people to improve their communication skill. It helps people to find a better way to deliver information and communicate with their audiences in their normal lives. Also, debaters need to clearly present their thesis and points during a debate match; therefore, this is an effective way to develop presentation skills too.

Debate is not an individual activity because a typical debate match involves more than one debater on one side. Debaters need to cooperate with teammates and debate with the other side. As we can see here, teamwork is extremely important. It is a great opportunity for debaters to build up the teamwork skill.

Furthermore, debaters should not only focus on their thesis and points. They have to think of the thesis and points of other side and find out a way to retort them. At this stage, debaters can improve or develop their critical thinking skill.

I suggest that professors consider having an in-class debate as one of the assignments for students. It will surely consume some of their lecture time for teaching; however, this assignment provides an opportunity for students to develop some important skills for their future. Therefore, it is worth to give up some teaching time to let students undertake an in-class debate.

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