This year marks the fifth time the Teaching Excellence Academy (TEA) has run at the University of Waterloo. Fifteen faculty members at a variety of career stages were nominated to attend this four-day course redesign workshop, culminating in an event to which their Chairs, Directors and Deans are invited to see the results, displayed as posters showing “before and after” course outlines.
Beginning each day with a piece or two of the course design process (concepts and context, intended learning outcomes, assessments and activities, and alignment), the afternoons are spent presenting to each other in groups of five to get feedback, leading to individual revisions and regrouping at the end of the day.
One of the central features of the process as we run it (based on the book Rethinking Teaching in Higher Education) is the course concept map. Taking it as given that each discipline structures and defines knowledge in particular ways, we ask faculty to take the concepts from their courses and arrange them in a way that makes intellectual sense to them. Often people will pick a metaphor after arranging and rearranging their concepts, and sometimes that metaphor is very closely linked to their own research processes or knowledge structures in their disciplines (though it need not be in order to be effective). The result is a kind of visual syllabus that we all find ourselves drawn to on the final poster day, and that some will use throughout their courses to help “signpost” the learning path for the students. Perhaps we’ll write more about these concept maps in a future post. Meanwhile, thanks to Mario Coniglio for offering his course concept map.
Anyone interested in the April 2010 Teaching Excellence Academy should contact his or her Chair/Director, who then nominates by contacting Donna Ellis firstname.lastname@example.org at the CTE.