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.

Sharing research and practices

Inspired by the report from the “Task Force on Innovative Teaching Practices to Promote Deep Learning at the University of Waterloo,” the theme of the Conference was “Fostering Deep Approaches to Learning.”  This year, we adopted a new approach and featured both a Research stream and a Sharing Practices stream.  Presenters from across the disciplines explored the idea of deep learning through an exciting array of sessions, including workshops, panel sessions, and presentations on research and practice.  Sessions were thought-provoking and created a unique opportunity for colleagues from different disciplines to exchange and create knowledge about topics of common interest.

Celebrating local talent

The Conference was also an opportunity to celebrate the excellent work being done by our University of Waterloo colleagues and by our colleagues from local universities to enhance teaching and learning. With over 130 participants from uWaterloo and from other institutions around the Province, there was a pleasant hum throughout the day of new ideas blossoming and new connections being made – a chance to think through together what we may often try to struggle through alone.  Drawing on their experience across three Canadian Universities, Presidents’ Colloquium speakers Marcy Slapcoff (McGill University) and Brad Wuetherick (University of Saskatchewan) delivered a talk on the timely topic of integrating research in our disciplines into undergraduate teaching in ways that promote deep learning.  The slides from their presentation, as well as from their Pre-Conference workshop on the same theme will soon be available on CTE’s website.

Live teaching showcase — “Igniting our Practice” 

A highlight of the day was a live teaching showcase during which Serge D’Alessio (Mathematics), Shannon Dea (Arts), and Gordon Stubley (Engineering), three of uWaterloo’s outstanding faculty members, drew us into their disciplines and into the learning spaces they create for their students by teaching us a concept from their own courses.  This gave us all the opportunity to be learners again, and what a privilege it was to have our learning facilitated by such experienced Professors!  This April, one of the teaching showcase speakers, Gord Stubley, was very deservedly selected as the 2012 recipient of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance Award for Excellence in Teaching.  Our sincerest congratulations to Gord and to all of you who work daily to facilitate rich learning experiences for your students.

Our hope for the Conference was that participants would return to their teaching feeling energized and inspired.  When this happens, all members of our learning community thrive.

We hope that you’ll join us for next year’s Conference!

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As the Instructional Developer - Consulting and Research, Julie supports research on teaching and learning. She is Chair of the annual teaching and learning conference at uWaterloo: Opportunities and New Directions and manages the Learning Innovation and Teaching Enhancement (LITE) Grant program. She also collaborates on research projects, regularly reviews journal manuscripts, and works on publications. Most recently, Julie has had the opportunity to facilitate a week-long course design workshop in Japan and see first-hand how the questions, frustrations, and joys related to teaching are both similar and different across cultures.

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