Changing Colours – Shirley Hall

Lately I have been thinking about the weather a lot. Well, a lot more than usual. (Isn’t it the number one topic of choice of casual conversations among Canadians?). The weather changes so frequently around this part of the country that sometimes I take change for granted. So much so that I may not notice changes. Except for lately, because lately I have daily reminders of the change that is going on all around me. The changing of the leaves is one of the most visually striking reminders to me that change is happening. It makes the change much more explicit. It’s ‘in your face’ so to speak.

All this reflection about change started me thinking about the changes that happen to our students (and ourselves) as we go through the learning process. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could actually see our students change colour like the leaves – as they grow in knowledge and understanding? For instance, what colour would deep learning be? Perhaps crimson or purple? How about critical thinking? A rich orange perhaps? And what about teachers? Would we glow a warm yellow if our teaching was engaging? How different life would be for both student and instructor alike if we could actually see the effects of teaching and learning in a rainbow of colours, so we could know for certain a change was occurring…

But…that is not the way it is.

So, I do my best to try and incorporate the principles of good teaching into my courses, in hopes that change will happen – even if I cannot see it. I read some literature related to teaching and learning and try to make some adjustments – albeit minor ones – in the way I teach. I try new things. I watch and see if a change occurs. Perhaps my efforts do result in a little deeper learning and a little more critical thought and reflection in my students, perhaps not. I may not notice a big change in my students – I only see them for a short time – and then they move on. But perhaps I can trust the process somewhat. The same way I trust the changing of the seasons. I may not be able to see change happen in my students in the same way as I see the changing of the leaves, but I like to believe my efforts have been worthwhile, and that the colours are there, underneath.


The Centre for Teaching Excellence welcomes contributions to its blog. If you are a faculty member, staff member, or student at the University of Waterloo (or beyond!) and would like contribute a posting about some aspect of teaching or learning, please contact Mark Morton or Trevor Holmes.

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Shirley Hall is a research associate at the Centre for Teaching Excellence at the University of Waterloo. When not learning about learning, she spends time with her teenage son and with her dog, learning about life.

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