I’m proud to work at a teaching centre that strives not only to serve instructors at our own university, but is also happy to share its resources and expertise with staff and instructors from other institutions. A case in point is the meeting that CTE’s Director — Donna Ellis — and I had on November 22 with a delegation from King Saud University. The members of that delegation — Dr. Abdullah Al-Salman (Vice President for Academic Affairs), Dr Einas Al-Eisa (Assistant Vice- Chancellor for Academic Affairs), and Dr Naif Al-Ajlan (Director of KSU’s Innovation Center) — asked many excellent questions as they sought to benchmark best practices for possible implementation in programs at KSU.
Of course the benefit of engaging in dialogue with colleagues from other teaching centres or other universities is mutual: we learn as much from them as they from us. I know that on many occasions, after meeting with a visiting delegation, I have returned to my office eager to explore an idea or new strategy that surfaced during our discussions.
Sometimes, too, the mere task of preparing a presentation for a visiting delegation can be a welcome opportunity to step back and reflect on our work. In any busy teaching centre, the day-to-day responsibility of assisting instructors, delivering programs, and developing resources can make us myopic: we focus so much on what we do that we almost lose sight of why we do it. In my erstwhile career as a professor of English (at the University of Winnipeg), the same danger lurked. Near the end of a term, I could start seeing the texts I was teaching — Shakespeare’s plays — as widgets on a production line: get through Hamlet and move on to Twelfth Night, get through Twelfth Night and move on to As You Like It, and so on. Fortunately, it was around those times that I would often get a visit from a student — a different one every term — who was thinking about pursuing an academic career and who wanted to know why I had made that choice. Chatting with such students always had the salutary effect of “re-minding” me: teaching, I remembered, isn’t about barreling through one chunk of content after another, but rather is about guiding others as they develop an understanding of the self and the world through the lens of a specific discipline.
Whether it’s with one undergraduate student, or with an entire delegation from another university, taking time to reflect on one’s work is an opportunity not to be missed.
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.