Congratulations to Marzieh Riahinezhad, 2015 CUT Award Winner – Svitlana Taraban-Gordon

Every year, CTE recognizes an outstanding graduate student who demonstrates the highest achievement upon the completion of the Certificate in University teaching (CUT) program. This annual award, funded by an anonymous donor, is now in its tenth year. We are delighted to announce that this year’s award goes to Marzieh Riahinezhad, a doctoral student in Chemical Engineering and a recent graduate of the CUT program. Last week, Marzieh shared some of her experiences in the CUT and what she learned from it with the CTE staff.

Can you tell us wMarzieh Riahinezhadhat motivated you to pursue the Certificate in University Teaching?

Prior to coming to Canada to pursue my doctoral degree at Waterloo, I was teaching science for two years at a high school in Iran. I also worked as a teaching assistant at the university in my home country during my master’s degree. So, teaching was certainly of interest to me and something I was hoping to continue at Waterloo. During one of my early meetings with my supervisor, Prof. Alex Penlidis, he asked me about my future career plans and what I was hoping to do after I complete my Ph.D. I mentioned that I was interested in staying in academia and that teaching was important to me. He encouraged me to participate in the CUT program as a way to develop my teaching skills. In addition to the recommendation from my supervisor, I also had a chance to discuss the CUT program with a fellow grad student in my department who had just completed the CUT and found it very useful. After that, I signed for the Fundamentals of University Teaching program which is a pre-requisite for the CUT. I was able to complete the required workshops and microteaching sessions within one term and started the CUT program in January 2014.

Which aspects of the CUT program did you enjoy the most?

I really enjoyed working on the CUT project which asks the participants to select a topic on teaching in higher education and prepare a paper or a workshop. I had heard about the idea of a flipped classroom and decided to do my CUT project on this topic. I enjoyed reading the educational literature on flipped classroom and learning about different ways to implement it in university courses. Although it’s not required for a CUT project, I decided to also talk to instructors who use the flipped classroom model in their courses to hear about their experiences. I learned a great deal about the topic by speaking to three faculty members, two from Waterloo and another one from George Brown college. Once my presentation was ready, I delivered it as a workshop for grad students who are doing the Fundamentals of University Teaching program. I had never facilitated an interactive session on a teaching topic before, so it was a great experience for me and the feedback from participants was very positive.

Did you have an opportunity to try any ideas or techniques that you learned in the CUT in your own teaching?

I learned quite a few useful teaching techniques through workshops and observational feedback. One technique that I found particularly useful is the idea of a mid-term student feedback which, unlike the end-of-term course evaluations, is collected around the mid-semester mark. I think this is very important, particularly for grad students who are new to teaching. When I taught my first course in Winter 2015, I collected mid-term feedback from the students to get their perspective on how the course was going. Like many other new instructors, I was nervous about teaching my first course and wanted to know what the students thought about my teaching. The student feedback was positive and it helped me with feeling more confident about my teaching approach. In addition to the mid-term student feedback, I also had a chance to experiment with another technique that I leaned through the CUT program. During one of the workshops, I learned about the IF-AT cards which refer to the Immediate Feedback Assessment Technique using pre-designed cards. I got the cards and used them for group activities throughout the term where students were asked to discuss questions in groups and select a correct answer from several options. Students really enjoyed it and the discussions of their answers helped them to understand important course concepts. We also reviewed the wrong answers collectively and discussed why the answers were incorrect. Both students and I felt that this teaching method helped their learning in the course.  

Congratulations, Marzieh!

CTE Note: The full version of this interview will appear in the Spring 2015 issue of the CTE newsletter, Teaching Matters. More information about the CUT award and the list of past winners are available on the CTE grad student award page  

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Svitlana Taraban-Gordon

As a Senior Instructional Developer, Svitlana Taraban Gordon oversees all aspects of the Certificate in University Teaching (CUT) program and works with graduate students who are interested in developing their instructional skills and expanding their teaching horizons. She is also developing new programming related to the internationalization and university teaching. Prior to joining the Centre for Teaching Excellence, Svitlana worked with the international education office at York's Faculty of Education, taught several courses at York's teacher preparation program and coordinated Microsoft-funded project on youth and technology through her work with Toronto-based NGO TakingITGlobal. She received her PhD in Education (Language, Culture and Teaching) in 2006 from York University. In her free time, Svitlana enjoys traveling with her husband and young son.

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