Passion – Veronica Brown

This is Georgian Bay. North of Parry Sound.

Lake and rocky islands

As a long distance swimmer, it is my favourite place in the world to swim. Not only because it is fresh water, has fewer scary creatures than the ocean (no sharks or jelly fish here), is warm (usually a balmy 75F in the summer), and is relatively calm (unlike the English Channel). But it is also where I learned to swim.

But many changes have occurred in the Great Lakes since my Great Uncle and his father bought the island 100 years ago. The ’30s and ’60s were marked by extremely low water levels while the ’80s had some of the highest water on record. The challenge today, among others, is low water. You see, this is where I learned to swim.

Image of rock with pool of water

In the background, you can see a small green bucket. That’s where our dock used to start. It was moored to the rock in the foreground. The one with the chain attached. There was enough water here to park a 14′ aluminum with a 35HP, our canoes, and, depending on the wind that day, a small sailboat.

Where I used to paddle, now there are trees.

Tree growing in rock

And if you look closely at the island below, you can see the high water mark. The line where the rock colour changes from grey to beige.

Feb25blogConsider the size of the Great Lakes and then look at that image. The water is four or five feet lower. What has happened to all the water?

During the past several weeks, I have shared my exploration of the affective domain. Appreciation. Uncertainty. Honesty. Integrity. Ethics. Awareness of Limits. Open-mindedness. Commitment. Compassion. Cooperation. When I work with departments across campus, these themes arise regardless of the discipline or degree-level. These affective elements give our students a shared experience.

Now, why did I share the water story above? Not because I want you to know about dropping Great Lake water levels but because it is an example of an activity (and assessment) that you could try in your own class to encourage expression of ideas in the affective domain. Here are some suggestions.

  • End a class with a picture that relates to key themes in the class. Ask students to find connections between the image and the theme as part of a short assignment that functions as a review of the past few weeks and helps you assess their readiness for the next unit.
  • Create a 3-Minute Thesis contest in your class around a theme that requires a sense of more than just the knowledge and skills components of the course. If I had presented the above water story in class, it could be done in 3 minutes.
  • Encourage creative responses to assignments through flexible formats for submission. If writing is not a specific objective of the assignment, why not encourage video, poster, or presentations. A well-designed rubric could be used to assess all these formats.

And now, the title. Passion. It is yet another element of the affective domain. In all this need for measurement – grades, program evaluation, accountability – I worry that we are squeezing out the affective elements that are, I believe, critical to success, in school, the workplace, and in life.  Several weeks ago I shared that the affective domain is a mystery to me. I think that mystery was tied to a fear of not “measuring it properly”, as if there was a single answer. Ironically, it is not unlike how my students must sometimes feel when faced with a complex problem, one in which there is no one single answer, one that cannot be measured to two significant digits.

Thank you for sharing this journey with me. I do not have a single answer because it does not exist. But I better understand the tools that can be used, it has reaffirmed my idea that we need to provide multiple opportunities to our students to explore these ideas, and that while they might not all fully embrace these affective elements, we can provide the activities, opportunities, and experiences, that can help them move in that direction.





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Veronica Brown

As Senior Instructional Developer, Curriculum & Quality Enhancement, Veronica Brown provides oversight and facilitative support for departmental and Faculty-wide curriculum planning initiatives. She also leads the development and implementation of the Centre’s assessment plan for understanding the impact and quality of our work.