Five approaches to guide the planning, design, and use of active learning classroom spaces

Image Credit: Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning, University of Calgary
Source: https://taylorinstitute.ucalgary.ca/about/the-building

By Natasha Kenny and Gavan Watson

Post 2 of 2

In our first post, we explored what active learning classrooms were, concluding that they are fundamental to supporting student-centred approaches to learning, provide a visible artifact of an institution’s philosophy of learning, and must be seen as a critical component of our teaching and learning community.  So how do we move forward with supporting the intentional planning, design and use of active learning spaces in the context of our academic communities?  How might our experiences during the global pandemic further influence how we incorporate these spaces into our academic communities? 

Expanding upon the principles proposed by Finkelstein et al. (2016) and Finkelstein and Winer (2020), research related to the impact and influence of active learning classroom, and our own lived experience, we propose five approaches for guide guiding the planning, design, and use of learning spaces in postsecondary education: 1) Collaboration 2) Community 3) Flexibility 4) Transparency 5) Access.

1. Collaboration

One of the most often cited impacts of active learning classrooms spaces is that they fundamentally shift the social context in which teaching and learning occurs (Baepler and Walker, 2014). ALCs can create a sense of psychological and emotional intimacy, where learners and instructors are further encouraged to actively contribute, ask questions, share opinions and collaborate with each other to co-create knowledge in a learning community (Holec and Marynowski, 2020; Baepler and Walker, 2014; Kariippanon et al., 2018). Features of these spaces that best support collaboration and engagement, and foster the development of relationships include features such as: 

  • flat floors to support movement and collaboration and reduce power dynamics in order to create a shared space of learning between students and instructors; 
  • the inclusion of multiple whiteboards and writable surfaces; 
  • tables for group seating or, in larger spaces tiered seating on wheels which allows for collaboration and small group activities between rows; and, 
  • multiple screens to ensure sight lines are maintained around the room (Kenny and Chick, 2016; Finkelstein and Winer, 2020), and (if applicable) for remote learners to see and be seen by all participants in the learning community.

In technology-enhanced spaces, this may also include hardware and software capabilities to create and share knowledge within and amongst a broader community of instructors and learners (Baepler, Walker and Driessen, 2014).  These technology enhanced capabilities have become even more important as we strive to increase access to students and instructors who may be required to engage remotely in course teaching and learning activities (either temporarily or for a sustained period of time). ALCs  help strengthen relationships between all members of the classroom learning community (Kenny and Chick, 2016). They can be seen as providing critical opportunities for instructors to engage themselves in meaning-making and sustained reflection on their positionality (and power) in learning processes (Ignelzi, 2000; Savin-Baden, McFarland, and Savin-Baden, 2008) where – in ALCs – instructors are seen as collaborators and co-creators in the learning process, rather than passive knowledge transmitters.

2. Community 

Building upon Shulman’s (1993) call to see teaching as community property, this principle speaks to the importance of ensuring that the processes we use to govern, inform and communicate the planning, design, use, and impact of ALCs engage diverse members of the academic community. Community engagement is critical to establishing a shared sense of belonging, helping the academic community and individuals within that community fulfill its needs/goals, and to creating a sense of connection based on shared history and experiences (McMillan and Chavis, 1986). Fundamentally, these community processes must include collaborative conversations, decisions, work and research from all groups connected to active learning classrooms including: students, instructors, teaching assistants, architects, space planners, facilities management and maintenance staff, educational developers, learning and information technology specialists, the Registrar’s Office, student services staff, external community members and stakeholders, and senior administrators. A community-based approach to the planning, design and use of ALCs is also advocated by Jamieson (2003) who states that educational developers and teaching and learning centres can play a key role in facilitating dialogue across multiple groups in order to ensure that educational visions and goals inform the design of learning spaces. These conversations can also help to strengthen teaching and learning cultures as individuals from across academic and non-academic units come together to engage in meaningful conversations and strategic decision-making about teaching and learning (Roxå, Mårtensson & Alveteg, 2011; Finkelstein et al., 2016).

A community-based approach to pedagogical support for instructors that use active learning classrooms is also seen as critical to their success, as instructors need support in shifting their approaches to teaching and learning in these spaces (Hyun, Ediger and Lee, 2017). This support often includes intentionally designed and facilitated professional learning programs for instructors teaching in these spaces, in the form of consultations, workshops and/or communities of practice (Finkelstein and Winer, 2020). It may also include bringing together and connecting instructors who teach in these spaces, so that they can engage in informal, but significant conversations about their learnings within and across disciplines (Roxå & Mårtensson, 2009).  Finally, it should also include developing working groups with representation from across the academic community to inform policy development and processes for the continued planning, design and use of active learning classrooms.

3. Flexibility

Flexibility can be seen as the ability of ALCs to adapt to the ongoing needs of the academic community across five areas: fluidity, versatility, convertibility, scalability and modifiability (Monahan, 2002). Flexibility may include ensuring that furniture within the active learning classroom is usable and mobile, most often including mobile and height-adjustable podiums, and large work surfaces (i.e., tables) to accommodate multiple teaching and learning devices and group work of various sizes, as well as tables and chairs with wheels in order to accommodate various classroom configurations for learning across disciplines (e.g., small group work, individual seating during assessments, learning in a circle). ALCs designed with fixed furniture, often intended to support the installation of conduit to hard-wire technology and power-drops are now limited in terms of their versatility, convertibility and modifiability (Monahan, 2002). Wireless technology and screen sharing/projection has allowed for learners and instructors to share and co-create information using almost any wireless device and application. This has become more important now more than ever, as the global pandemic has encouraged us to consider how we can create spaces of shared learning and creation for in-class and remote learners and educators. From an institutional-perspective, flexibility can also be seen as critically important in terms of the versatility, convertibility, scalability and modifiability of ALCs. For example, ALCs may be designed with retractable walls and seating to convert to various sizes and uses. Simple is often best when it comes to thinking about flexibility in ALCs.

“The most useful flexible (and cost-effective) technologies in active learning classrooms continue to be movable tables and chairs, and shared whiteboards/writable surfaces that are close at hand (Baepler, Walker and Driessen, 2014; Finkelstein and Winer, 2020). “

4. Transparency

Transparency as a principle asks us to make teaching and learning processes more explicit and visible across our academic communities, and to put an end to the isolation and solitude many instructors feel when approaching their teaching practice (Winkelmes, 2019; Shulman 1993). This principle advocates for a more explicit, collaborative and open approach to the planning, design and use of active learning classrooms. From a physical design perspective this could mean incorporating glass walls in active learning classrooms to ensure the teaching and learning activities within are made visible to members of the academic community across disciplines. From a planning perspective, the principle of transparency involves making strategic conversations and decision-making processes related to planning, design, use and allocation of active learning classrooms more visible. For example, Finkelstien et al. (2016) reflect on the importance of including principles for the design of learning spaces in institutional strategic documentation, and how that has more broadly communicated the institution’s educational goals as it relates to the design and redesign of learning spaces. This could also mean managing the booking of  active learning spaces centrally to ensure that instructors and students across all academic disciplines have access to these spaces. This principle is also intricately linked to the principle of community as we more intentionally make the teaching and learning practices we use in active learning classrooms more visible, and promote knowledge sharing across disciplines. As previously mentioned, this may include bringing instructors that use active learning classrooms together to formally and informally engage in professional learning related to their use of these spaces, and ensuring these instructors are appropriately rewarded and recognized for their commitment to supporting student learning. This may also include engaging in systematic research, scholarship and dissemination related to the impact and influence of active learning spaces in postsecondary education so that we are learning from and sharing with each other across various academic contexts and networks.

5. Access

This last principle represents a call to consider how and who is accessing (or not accessing) the planning, design and use of active learning spaces and why? Higher education continues to be dominated by Western epistemologies and processes which contribute to exclusion and marginalization (Louie et al., 2017; Tamik and Guenter, 2019), and our teaching and learning spaces are no exception.  This principle asks us to ensure our active learning classrooms demonstrate, recognize and value difference, and support the ability to participate equitably (Tamtik and Guenter, 2019) in their planning, design and use. It also asks us to consider how we are aligning the planning, design and use of our active learning spaces with other institutional priorities and commitments such as Indigenous Engagement, Sustainability, Internationalization, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, and Mental Health and Well-Being. For example, how are equity-deserving groups represented in the planning, design, strategic decision-making and governance related to active learning classrooms?  How do we support access and engagement of learners who do not have access to technology, such as laptops? What physical, procedural, and institutional barriers must be removed to ensure that all instructors and students, from across disciplines have access to teach and learn in these spaces? How can these spaces be designed to validate Indigenous perspectives, methodologies, epistemologies, protocols, approaches and pedagogies (Louie et al, 2017)? How can these spaces further reflect and communicate our commitments to truth, reconciliation, decolonization and transformation? Conversations related to access have become more prevalent as interest in technology-enabled ALCs has expanded over the course of the global pandemic, with more educators seeking flexibility in the way they engage learners in their courses. Our thoughts related to this principle are emerging. We acknowledge openly that more needs to be done to expand upon, contribute to and meaningfully explore this principle. 

Summary

We recognize that it is not realistic for all spaces to be designed as an intensive, technology-enabled active learning classroom. Like Finkelstein and Winer (2020), we advocate for conceptualizing a continuum of formal learning spaces from intensively designed, technology-enabled active learning classrooms, through to flexible and collaboratively designed laboratories and seminar rooms, as well as lecture theatres that enhance opportunities for active learning. In their broadest sense, we believe that these principles can be used as a guide to inform discussions related to any learning space on postsecondary campuses.

How might you further consider, adapt and build upon these approaches to think more intentionally about ALCs based on your institutional context?

References

Baepler, P., Walker, J. D., & Driessen, M. (2014). It’s not about seat time: Blending, flipping, and efficiency in active learning classrooms. Computers & Education, 78, 227-236.

Baepler, P., & Walker, J. D. (2014). Active Learning Classrooms and Educational Alliances: Changing Relationships to Improve Learning. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 137, 27–40. https://doi.org/10.1002/tl.20083

Holec, V., & Marynowski, R. (2020). Does it Matter Where You Teach? Insights from a Quasi-Experimental Study on Student Engagement in an Active Learning Classroom. Teaching & Learning Inquiry, 8(2), 140–164. https://doi.org/10.20343/teachlearninqu.8.2.10

Kenny, N.A. and Chick, N. 2017.  Learning spaces, connections and community.  TI Connections Blog. http://connections.ucalgaryblogs.ca/2017/02/03/learning-spaces-connection-and-community/

Finkelstein, A., Ferris, J., Weston, C., & Winer, L. (2016). Informed principles for (re) designing teaching and learning spaces. Journal of Learning Spaces, 5(1).

Finkelstein, A., & Winer, L. (2020). Active learning anywhere: A principled-based approach to designing learning spaces. In S. Hoidn & M. Klemenčič (Eds.), The Routledge International Handbook of Student-Centered Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (pp. 327–344). https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429259371-24

Hyun, J., Ediger, R., & Lee, D. (2017). Students’ Satisfaction on Their Learning Process in Active Learning and Traditional Classrooms. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 29(1), 108–118.

Ignelzi, M. (2000). Meaning‐Making in the Learning and Teaching Process. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2000(82), 5–14. https://doi.org/10.1002/tl.8201

Kariippanon, K. E., Cliff, D. P., Lancaster, S. L., Okely, A. D., & Parrish, A. M. (2018). Perceived interplay between flexible learning spaces and teaching, learning and student wellbeing. Learning Environments Research, 21(3), 301-320.

Louie, D. W., Poitras-Pratt, Y., Hanson, A. J., & Ottmann, J. (2017). Applying Indigenizing principles of decolonizing methodologies in university classrooms. Canadian Journal of Higher Education/Revue canadienne d’enseignement supérieur, 47(3), 16-33.

Monahan, T. (2002). Flexible Space & Built Pedagogy: Emerging IT Embodiments. Inventio, 4(1), 1–19.

Roxå, T., & Mårtensson, K. (2009). Significant conversations and significant networks–exploring the backstage of the teaching arena. Studies in Higher Education, 34(5), 547-559.

Roxå, T., Mårtensson, K., & Alveteg, M. (2011). Understanding and influencing teaching and learning cultures at university: A network approach. Higher Education, 62(1), 99-111.

Savin-Baden, M., McFarland, L., & Savin-Baden, J. (2008). Learning spaces, agency and notions of improvement: what influences thinking and practices about teaching and learning in higher education? An interpretive meta-ethnography. London Review of Education, 6(3), 211–227. https://doi.org/10.1080/14748460802489355

Shulman, L.S. (1993). Teaching as community property: putting an end to pedagogical solitude. Change, 25(6). 6-7.

Tamtik, M., & Gunter, M. (2019). Policy analysis of equity, diversity and inclusion strategies in Canadian universities-how far have we come? Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 49(3), 41-56

Winkelmes, M. A. (2019). Introduction: The Story of TILT and Its Emerging Uses in Higher Education. Transparent Design in Higher Education Teaching and Leadership, 1-14.

Decision-Making through the Lens of Conscious Leadership

“Blow Your Mind” by kozumel is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

One of my favourite grounding statements is “We are human beings not human doings.” A quick search on the internet reveals that this statement has been attributed to many, including the Dalai Lama. For me, this statement speaks to the importance of our inherent humanness, including the fact that we feel and experience thoughts and emotions in the workplace, which give rise to actions and responses that are deeply connected to and have impact on ourselves and those around us. Each action and response creates ripples across our organizations.

This year has brought rise to constant change and challenge in our workplaces. We have adapted to situations that most of us could not have imagined. Technology has both connected and distanced us. The global pandemic has impacted people and organizations differently. For many, it has drastically shifted workplace and personal practices. It has increased feelings of uncertainty, emotional exhaustion, isolation and stress. We have witnessed disproportional impacts of the pandemic on vulnerable populations and equity-deserving groups, and many of us have struggled from poorer mental health and well-being (Aristovnik et al, 2020; Brazeau et al., 2020; Giorgi et al., 2020).

As a leader, the global pandemic has challenged my decision-making abilities, with the sheer load of required resources, responses and actions often exceeding my cognitive capacity. I have found some relief in grounding my practice through a lens of conscious leadership.

What is conscious leadership?

Being conscious or mindful is about, “observing and attending to the changing field of thoughts, feelings and sensations from moment to moment” through self-regulated attention, and non-judgmental acceptance of experience (Bishop et al., 2004, p.232). It is often described as a being in the present moment, or “present-moment awareness” (Goldstein, 2013, p. 13).  Mindfulness helps us intentionally respond (as opposed to habitually react) to our thoughts, emotions, and surroundings as we reflect upon and broadened our perspective on experience (Bishop et al., 2004; Goldstein, 2013).  

Conscious leadership can be understood through three key processes: 1) awareness, 2) transformation, and 3) intentionality (Hofman, 2008; Jones, 2015).  Conscious leaders are aware of these processes across multiple levels.  First and foremost, from the perspective of oneself, then of others through to their organizations and community.  Conscious leaders are aware that everything across an organization is connected and impermanent (in constant flux), and that these interconnections influence continuous change. They act from a space of acceptance, curiosity, and reciprocity, recognizing that every organization is bound by human relationships and emotions (Bishop et. al, 2004; Hoffman, 2008; Jones, 2015).  They act through a lens of empathy, compassion, and shared leadership, and are oriented towards observation, openness, acceptance, reflection and ongoing learning.

Essential questions to guide a conscious approach to decision making

Awareness

  • What is my understanding of the challenge (or opportunity)?
  • Who is involved or connected to this challenge?
  • How does this understanding change if I view it from the perspective of those around me, and/or the organization as a whole?
  • What is happening for me, others and the organization right now?
  • What interconnections, emotions and/or patterns are associated with this issue for me, others and/or the organization?

Transformation

  • What possibilities for change exist for myself, others and/or the organization?
  • How could I involve others in exploring these possibilities?
  • What actions could result in change and transformation for myself, others and the organization?
  • What influence might these actions have on myself, others and the organization?

Intentionality

  • What is most important right now for myself, others and the organization?
  • What is the most appropriate response? How should others be involved in responding?
  • What emotions and reactions may be associated with this response for myself, others and the organization?
  • What actions could I take to demonstrate empathy and compassion to myself, others and the organization in light of these emotions and reactions?

Like all leaders (and humans), the joy, happiness and success I experience in the workplace is balanced by challenge, defeat, failure and pain. Never has that been more apparent than over this past year. The above questions have brought mindful grounding to these peaks and valleys. I’d love to hear how/if this approach resonates for you!

References:

Aristovnik, A., Keržič, D., Ravšelj, D., Tomaževič, N., & Umek, L. (2020). Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on life of higher education students: A global perspective. Sustainability12(20), 8438.

Brazeau, G. A., Frenzel, J. E., & Prescott, W. A. (2020). Facilitating wellbeing in a turbulent time. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education84(6).

Bishop, S. R., Lau, M., Shapiro, S., Carlson, L., Anderson, N. D., Carmody, J., … & Devins, G. (2004). Mindfulness: A proposed operational definition. Clinical psychology: Science and practice, 11(3), 230-241.

Hofman, R. E. (2008). A conscious‐authentic leadership approach in the workplace: Leading from within. Journal of Leadership Studies2(1), 18-31.

Goldstein, J. (2013). Mindfulness: A practical guide to awakening. Sounds True.

Giorgi, G., Lecca, L. I., Alessio, F., Finstad, G. L., Bondanini, G., Lulli, L. G., … & Mucci, N. (2020). COVID-19-related mental health effects in the workplace: a narrative review. International journal of environmental research and public health17(21), 7857.

Jones, V., & Brazdau, O. (2015). Conscious leadership, a reciprocal connected practice. A qualitative study on postsecondary education. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences203, 251-256.

Xiong, J., Lipsitz, O., Nasri, F., Lui, L. M., Gill, H., Phan, L., … & McIntyre, R. S. (2020). Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on mental health in the general population: A systematic review. Journal of affective disorders.

Department Chairs and Leadership During the Global Pandemic

The global pandemic has been difficult for many in higher education.  

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the key assumptions and beliefs that serve as the foundation of higher education” (Brazeau, 2020, p.688).

Recognizing that the pandemic has impacted people very differently, Dr. Klodiana Kolomitro and I highlighted a few of the challenges the pandemic has created at a session earlier this year with the educational development community in Canada (Kolomitro and Kenny, 2021). We summarized that the pandemic has:

1) increased workload for students, administrators, educators and teaching and learning centres;

2) disproportionately impacted equity-deserving groups including Indigenous and racialized peoples, women, persons with disabilities and 2SLGBTQI+ communities;

3) increased feelings of uncertainty and emotional exhaustion;

4) caused physical, social and self-isolation and loneliness; and,

5) resulted in overall poorer mental health, wellbeing and quality of life (Aristonvnik et al., 2020; Brazeau et al., 2020; Naffi et al., 2020; Xiong et al., 2020).

Although hopeful for healing as we approach the 2021/22 academic year, the uncertainty of the fall semester continues to exacerbate many of these same issues.

The Department Chair and the Pandemic

In a recent article published in Innovative Higher Education, Gigliotti (2021) explored the impact of the pandemic on department chairs. This article highlights the critical role that department chairs hold at institutions, described as, “…agents of influence in leading the reinvention of policies, practices and patterns of behavior at the departmental level and throughout their academic discipline” (p. 430). Christensen-Hughes and Mighty (2010) further emphasized the role that these local leaders can play in either helping or hindering the decisions, cultures, behaviors, norms and practices we most aspire to see.

It won’t come as any surprise that Gigliotti (2021) found that the COVID19 global pandemic intensified leadership challenges, added complexity, and contributed to continuous emerging issues for department chairs. 

“The findings of this study underscore the important work of academic leadership, particularly the role of department chairs, in triaging immediate concerns, advocating on behalf of one’s colleagues and students, providing frequent and timely updates to facilitate an institution’s crisis response, ensuring the safety and well-being of others, and helping to restore hope when others experience a breakdown in collective sensemaking” (p.442).

Throughout this study, chairs acknowledged challenges related to pivoting to remote teaching, navigating remote meetings, and exploring methods to ensure some degree of research continuity throughout their department. They struggled with maintaining consistent and clear communication channels with senior administration, maintaining meaningful relationships and connections with colleagues, acknowledging and coping with emerging mental health issues experienced by themselves and departmental colleagues, balancing personal and professional commitments, ensuring the health and safety of students and staff, planning under constant uncertainty, ongoing budget constraints, and concerns related to ongoing pressures for renewal and reinvention.

The authors highlight the crucial role of relationships, connection and communication as departments negotiated and responded to the COVID19 pandemic:

“What we learn from the insights of the responding department chairs is a desire to connect with others— connections that are made more challenging in light of the global pandemic—and to care for others in navigating the uncertainty of the current moment. By shaping and interpreting how others react and respond to a crisis of widespread magnitude, leadership is made possible; and by recognizing both the personal and professional worries, fears, and goals of one’s faculty, staff, and student colleagues, department chairs can provide bridges of trust and goodwill.” (p. 442)

Leadership Approaches for Healing and Rebuilding Teaching and Learning

In their article, Gigliotti (2021) called explicitly for more opportunities to support departmental chairs, including providing additional support for their development as academic leaders. As we embark on healing and rebuilding our teaching and learning practices into the future, the following leadership approaches adapted from Gibbs and Knapper (2008) may provide a helpful guide and starting point for reflection for academic chairs:

  1. Establish credibility and trust: foster open communication; listen carefully and solicit ideas actively from the departmental community, especially from individuals and groups that have historically been marginalized; identify, seek and advocate for additional institutional support and resources for change; establish a network of mentors and colleagues to support on-going reflection, growth and development.
  2. Identify and address departmental strengths and challenges: actively identify departmental strengths and challenges; represent the department honestly; leverage strengths; lean into and address challenges; speak up to actions and behaviours that are harmful; focus on building and moving forward through incremental change.
  3. Articulate a clear vision and rationale for change: learn about what others internal and external to the institution are doing; seek guidance from evidence-based and culturally relevant practices; collaboratively identify and articulate a clear narrative for the future; gather evidence and feedback on change initiatives; admit mistakes, apologize and change direction as necessary.
  4. Distribute leadership: build and support a collaborative team of departmental leaders; create leadership pathways for those in formal and informal roles; surround yourself by a team that helps you address your leadership blind spots and areas for growth; ask for help; thank and give credit to others for their influence and impact.
  5. Build communities of dialogue and practice: foster debate, discussion and reflection around issues that matter; use multiple forms of engagement to involve the entire departmental community; actively create opportunities to make teaching and learning practices public.
  6. Visibly reward and recognize teaching and learning: provide leadership pathways for strong and committed educators; evaluate contributions to teaching and learning using multiple methods, lenses, and perspectives; actively identify and support individuals to be recognized for their contributions to teaching beyond the department.
  7. Involve students as partners in change: actively seek student input; involve students meaningfully in initiatives, innovations, and decision-making processes; intentionally provide space for and amplify student voices; create leadership pathways for students.

There are likely other leadership approaches you would recommend for departmental chairs as we embark on an ever-evolving and somewhat uncertain pathway for teaching and learning in higher education.

What do you think are key considerations, challenges, and recommended leadership approaches for department chairs as we begin to approach teaching and learning during the 2021/22 academic year?

References:

Aristovnik, A., Keržič, D., Ravšelj, D., Tomaževič, N., & Umek, L. (2020). Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on life of higher education students: A global perspective. Sustainability12(20), 8438.

Brazeau, G. A., Frenzel, J. E., & Prescott, W. A. (2020). Facilitating wellbeing in a turbulent time. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education84(6).

Christensen Hughes, J., & Mighty, J. (2010). A call to action: Barriers to pedagogical innovation and how to overcome them. In J. Christensen Hughes & J. Mighty (Eds).Taking stock: Research on Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (pp. 261-277). Queens School of Policy Studies.

Gibbs, G., Knapper, C., & Piccinin, S. (2008). Disciplinary and contextually appropriate approaches to leadership of teaching in research‐intensive academic departments in higher education. Higher Education Quarterly, 62(4), 416-436.

Gigliotti, R. A. (2021). The impact of COVID-19 on academic department chairs: Heightened complexity, accentuated liminality, and competing perceptions of reinvention. Innovative Higher Education, 1-16.

Kolomitro, K. and Kenny, N. (2021). Caring for our community: when will well-being be a priority.  Keynote Presentation.  Educational Developers Caucus of Canada Online Conference. https://edc.stlhe.ca/conference-2021/keynote/

Naffi et al. (2020) Disruption in and by Centres for Teaching and Learning During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Leading the Future of Higher Ed. White Paper ISBN: 978-2-9818996-5-1

Xiong, J., Lipsitz, O., Nasri, F., Lui, L. M., Gill, H., Phan, L., … & McIntyre, R. S. (2020). Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on mental health in the general population: A systematic review. Journal of affective disorders.

A framework for influencing change in teaching and learning cultures, communities, and practices.

As a leader of a teaching and learning institute at a large-research intensive institution, I reflect a lot on how change and learning happens in organizations.  

How do teaching and learning centres work to influence teaching and learning cultures, communities and practices?

A couple of years ago, I presented at the Educational Developers of Caucus of Canada Conference, and tried, in one slide to communicate all that I have learned about the complex work of teaching and learning centres.  Below is a version of that slide.  

This framework builds upon the work of others (see for example: Brew & Ginns, 2008; Finkelstein, et al., 2016; Fields et al., 2019; Hannah & Lester, 2009; Jarvis, 2010; Mårtensson & Roxå, 2016; Roxå & Mårtensson, 2009;  Simmons, 2016; Trigwell, 2013; Webster-Wright, 2009; Wright et al., 2018).  I also highlight it in a forthcoming paper with Dr. Sarah Eaton (Kenny & Eaton, in press). 

Most people would point to teaching and learning centres for the workshops and courses they offer individual educators.  These formal, planned events are a visible part of the work of educational developers.  But, as one of my favorite colleagues, mentors and leaders Dr. Leslie Reid shares,

“Change happens one conversation at a time.”  

The seminal work of Roxå & Mårtensson (2009) and Roxå et al. (2011) suggests that teaching and learning cultures, communities and practices are strongly influenced by the small, but significant conversations we have and networks we create with colleagues we trust.  A recognition that teaching and learning in higher education is influenced by FORMAL processes (i.e., policies, programs, structures, resources and committees) and INFORMAL activities (i.e., significant networks, relationships, conversations, and communities) is fundamental to the work of teaching and learning centres, and this framework.

Take a moment to reflect on where and how these formal processes and informal activities occur across your institution. How and where is your teaching and learning centre influencing these formal processes and informal networks, conversations and communities?

The centre of the framework highlights four key components to influencing teaching and learning cultures: 1) High-impact professional learning for individuals and groups, 2) Local-level leadership and microcultures, 3) Scholarship, research and inquiry, 4) Learning spaces, pedagogies and technologies.

High-impact professional learning activities can be informal or formal, but are intentionally designed to be contextual, embedded in practice, and to facilitate on-going reflection and action (Webster-Wright, 2009).

How is your centre providing initiatives to support meaningful and sustained professional learning and growth for educators across higher education?

The influence of local-leadership and microcultures are often overlooked in higher education (Mårtensson & Roxå, 2016; Kenny et al., 2016). Formal leaders (who hold roles such as Dean, Department Head/Chair, Associate Dean) and informal leaders (who may not hold a formal title) are catalysts for action and change.  They have an incredible influence on the development of microcultures (behaviours, norms, values, actions) that either support or hinder the development of the teaching and learning cultures, communities and practices we most aspire to see (Christensen Hughes & Mighty, 2010).  We need only to look at the complexities, sheer exhaustion and pressures that Department Heads/Chairs faced related to teaching and learning during the global pandemic – Gigliotti (2021) calls for more training, support and development for those who hold these roles.

What does your teaching and learning centre do to support informal and formal teaching and learning leaders?

Scholarship, research and inquiry provide a means for investigating, sharing and disseminating knowledge about teaching and learning in postsecondary education.  This work includes inquiry in individual classrooms, as well as how teaching and learning are more broadly supported across multiple organizational levels within higher education. Knowledge sharing and dissemination about teaching and learning are important, and we are also coming to understand that the very process of intentionally engaging in scholarship and inquiry related to teaching and learning, helps us become better educators, as we focus on the student learning experience and develop stronger abilities as critically reflective practitioners (Brew and Ginns, 2009; Trigwell, 2013).

How does your teaching and learning centre encourage and support engagement in scholarship, research and inquiry in teaching and learning?  

I have also been thinking a lot lately about how these supports are (or aren’t) inclusive of multiple ways of knowing, being and understanding?

Learning spaces, pedagogies and technologies have an incredible impact on teaching and learning communities, cultures and practices in higher education.  Learning spaces can be designed intentionally to foster engagement, collaboration and to create a shared learning community between students and instructors (Finkelstein and Winer, 2020).  Never has the power of learning technologies become more prevalent as during the COVID19 pandemic when millions of learners across the globe accessed their higher education from remote locations. When thoughtfully integrated, learning technologies can strengthen connection, collaboration, flexibility and innovation. Pedagogical approaches that are intentionally structured, promote active engagement, encourage meta-cognition and self-regulation, foster deep learning, and establish relevance improve student learning outcomes (Freeman et al., 2014, Deslauriers et al., 2011; Kember, Ho & Hong, 2008; Pintrich, 2002).

How does your teaching and learning centre support learning spaces, pedagogies and technologies that improve student success and promote deep learning?

How are we ensuring our learning spaces, pedagogies and technologies support our commitments to equity, diversity and inclusion, and Indigenous Ways of Knowing?

The framework is grounded by the recognition that these four core elements (i.e., high impact professional learning, local-level leadership and microcultures, scholarship, research and inquiry, and learning spaces, pedagogies and technologies) are influenced across multiple organizational levels (Hannah & Lester, 2009; Kenny et al., 2016; Simmons, 2016; Roxå & Mårtensson, 2009).  At the institutional (macro-level) senior leaders, policies, and committees can establish a clear vision, resources, governance processes and structures for teaching and learning.  At the faculty and departmental level (meso-level) integrated networks of knowledge sharing can be established, and local leaders can be provided with appropriate support to help influence change and decision-making related to teaching and learning.  And finally, at the individual level (micro-level) individuals must be supported, recognized and rewarded for their work to advance teaching and learning.

How is your teaching and learning centre influencing change in teaching and learning cultures, communities and practices across the micro, meso and macro levels?

As always, I’d love to hear how this framework resonates for you.  It’s difficult to articulate what I have come to understand about the work of educational development and teaching and learning centres in one slide, and I am certain my thoughts will continue to evolve over time!


References

Brew, A., & Ginns, P. (2008). The relationship between engagement in the scholarship of teaching and learning and students’ course experiences. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education33(5), 535-545.

Christensen Hughes, J., & Mighty, J. (2010). A call to action: Barriers to pedagogical innovation and how to overcome them. In J. Christensen Hughes & J. Mighty (Eds).Taking stock: Research on teaching and learning in higher education (pp. 261-277). Queens School of Policy Studies.

Deslauriers, L., Schelew, E., & Wieman, C. (2011). Improved learning in a large-enrollment physics class. Science, 332(6031), 862-864.

Finkelstein, A., & Winer, L. (2020). Active learning anywhere: A principled-based approach to designing learning spaces. In S. Hoidn & M. Klemenčič (Eds.), The Routledge International Handbook of Student-Centered Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (pp. 327–344). 

Fields, J., Kenny, N. A., & Mueller, R. A. (2019). Conceptualizing educational leadership in an academic development program. International Journal for Academic Development24(3), 218-231.

Freeman, S., Eddy, S. L., McDonough, M., Smith, M. K., Okoroafor, N., Jordt, H., & Wenderoth, M. P. (2014). Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(23), 8410-8415.

Gigliotti, R. A. (2021). The impact of COVID-19 on academic department chairs: Heightened complexity, accentuated liminality, and competing perceptions of reinvention. Innovative Higher Education, 1-16.

Hannah, S. T., & Lester, P. B. (2009). A multilevel approach to building and leading learning organizations. The Leadership Quarterly20(1), 34-48.

Jarvis, Peter. (2010). Adult Education and Lifelong Learning. Fourth Edition. Routledge, NY. pp.338.

Kember, D., Ho, A., & Hong, C. (2008). The importance of establishing relevance in motivating student learning. Active learning in higher education, 9(3), 249-263.

Kenny, N., Watson, G. P. L., & Desmarais, S. (2016). Building sustained action: Supporting an institutional practice of SoTL at the University of Guelph. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2016(146), 87-94. doi:10.1002/tl.20191

Kenny, N., & Eaton, S. E. (2021, in press) Academic integrity through a SoTL lens and 4M framework: An institutional self-study. In S. E. Eaton & J. Christensen Hughes (Eds.), Academic integrity in Canada: An enduring and essential challenge: Springer.

Mårtensson, K., & Roxå, T. (2016). Leadership at a local level–Enhancing educational development. Educational Management Administration & Leadership44(2), 247-262.

Pintrich, P. R. (2002). The role of metacognitive knowledge in learning, teaching, and assessing. Theory into practice41(4), 219-225.

Roxå, T., & Mårtensson, K. (2009). Significant conversations and significant networks–exploring the backstage of the teaching arena. Studies in Higher Education34(5), 547-559.

Roxå, T., Mårtensson, K., & Alveteg, M. (2011). Understanding and influencing teaching and learning cultures at university: A network approach. Higher Education, 62(1), 99-111. DOI 10.1007/s10734-010-9368-9

Simmons, N. (2016). Synthesizing SoTL institutional initiatives toward national impact. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2016(146), 95-102. https://doi.org/10.1002/tl.20192

Trigwell, K. (2013). Evidence of the impact of scholarship of teaching and learning purposes. Teaching and Learning Inquiry1(1), 95-105.

Webster-Wright, A. (2009). Reframing professional development through understanding authentic professional learning. Review of educational research79(2), 702-739.

Wright, M., Horii, C. V., Felten, P., Sorcinelli, M. D., & Kaplan, M. (2018). Faculty development improves teaching and learning. POD Speaks2, 1-5.

Fostering Meaningful Postdoctoral Scholar Professional Learning and Development Opportunities in Higher Ed

Postdoctoral Professional Learning and Development Framework (Source: Nowell et al. 2021)

With leadership from University of Calgary’s Dr. Lorelli Nowell (https://twitter.com/lorelli_nowell), I recently collaborated with a fabulous group of scholars to publish a framework for postdoctoral scholar professional learning and development. The framework presents a holistic view of how we can better support postdoctoral scholars as they move forward in their academic and professional careers – recognizing that the vast majority of postdoctoral scholars do not enter permanent academic positions. With ever changing job markets and demands, higher education must better prepare postdocs for a range of careers, whether that be in higher ed, government, not-for-profit or private sectors (see Ålund et al., 2020).

Moving beyond academe’s traditional focus on research skill development, the Professional Learning and Development (PLD) framework consists of four major domains:

  1. Professional Socialization (mentorship, community engagement, inclusivity & diversity, networking)
  2. Professional Skills (leadership skills, interpersonal skills, communication skills, careering planning)
  3. Academic Development (academic writing, academic service, critical thinking, teaching & learning)
  4. Personal Effectiveness (time management, work-life balance, health & wellness, project management)

The framework builds upon results from our previous research, which included literature reviews, document analysis, surveys, interviews, and consultations with key stakeholders (see Nowell et al., 2018, 2019; 2020). Through this research, postdoctoral scholars consistently communicated the need for professional learning and development that extended beyond research skill development. For example, areas of particular interest included teaching and learning, mentorship, academic service and well-being. I will note that COVID-19 has escalated the stress-related challenges that postdocs face, including burnout, work-life conflict, and social isolation.

Our research certainly has practical implications, including serving as a framework for institutions as they create, design and implement robust supports and a learning culture for postdoctoral scholars. We imagine postdoctoral supervisors and postdocs using the framework as a guide for mentorship conversations, developing learning plans, and fostering critical reflection and career growth. Teaching and learning centres, academic units, and postdoc offices could use it as a reference to develop robust professional learning programs. More broadly regional, national and international postdoc organizations can use this framework to amplify discussions to strengthen how we conceptualize and design meaningful postdoctoral scholar communities, cultures and practices in higher ed.

We’d love to hear how you imagine using this framework in your particular context, and successful examples of initiatives to meaningfully integrate postdoctoral scholars in the academic community, and to strengthen professional learning and development for postdocs across a variety of career contexts!

References:

Ålund, M., Emery, N., Jarrett, B.J.M. et al. Academic ecosystems must evolve to support a sustainable postdoc workforce. Nat Ecol Evol 4, 777–781 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-020-1178-6

Nowell, L., Ovie, G., Berenson, C., Kenny, N. and Hayden, K.A. (2018), “Professional learning and development of postdoctoral scholars: a systematic review of the literature”, Education Research International, Vol. 2018, p. 5950739.

Nowell, L., Ovie, G., Kenny, N., Hayden, K.A. and Jacobsen, M. (2019), “Professional learning and development initiatives for postdoctoral scholars”, Studies in Graduate and Postdoctoral Education, Vol. 11 No. 1, pp. 35-55.

Nowell, L., Ovie, G., Kenny, N. and Jacobsen, M. (2020), “Postdoctoral scholar’s perspectives about professional learning and development: a concurrent mixed-methods study”, Palgrave Communications, Vol. 6 No. 1.

Nowell, L., Dhingra, S., Kenny, N., Jacobsen, M. and Pexman, P. (2021), “Professional learning and development framework for postdoctoral scholars”, Studies in Graduate and Postdoctoral Education, ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/SGPE-10-2020-0067

Essential questions to inspire engagement during curriculum review

I am currently planning for an upcoming session at the University of Guelph’s annual Teaching and Learning Innovations Conference (TLI). Described by Associate Vice-President Academic, Dr. Serge Desmarais, as our annual “group hug”, this conference provides the academic community with an incredible opportunity to celebrate our collective commitment to teaching and learning.   This year’s conference will focus on celebrating the University of Guelph’s progress related to implementing and assessing learning outcomes.

This year’s theme had me reflecting on the many opportunities and successes I have witnessed in supporting the dozens of curriculum review initiatives across various departments over the last few years. The educational development unit provides consultative expertise and facilitative leadership to many departments on campus as they work to continually enhance the programs that they offer. Our curriculum development practice is fundamentally guided by the following principles, which recommend that successful curriculum review processes should be:

  • Instructor-driven;
  • Evidence-based;
  • Student-centred;
  • Continuous;
  • Collaborative; and
  • Solution-focused.

Like Banta and Blaich (2011), I have come to learn that although data is important, successful curriculum initiatives are less about collecting the perfect data set, and more about the department’s ability to use the data to inform meaningful, collaborative discussion and a clear action plan for moving forward. In short, data does not directly inform decision, rather data informs discussion, which then leads to meaningful and collaborative decision-making.  After attending this year’s Educational Developer’s Caucus Conference at the University of Calgary, a statement from Joan McArthur-Blair’s Appreciative Inquiry workshop continues to resonate and ground my daily curriculum development approaches:

Don’t do anything about me, without me.

Through my curriculum development experiences, I have also come to learn that it is really easy to get wrapped up in deficit thinking when it comes to curriculum review. That is, to focus on, and to become all-consumed by what isn’t working in the program. I have come to a fundamental realization that it is much more productive to take a solution-focused view, and to place emphasis on what is working, building on and leveraging the program’s many strengths and successes.

As a curriculum developer one of the most important areas of expertise that I can bring is not only my knowledge of best practices in curriculum design, but also an ability to ask effective, forward-thinking questions that inspire meaningful dialogue, collaboration and action.   It is not surprising, that my curriculum development practice has been deeply grounded in the principles and practice of Appreciative Inquiry (Cockell & McArthur-Blair, 2012).

Through my own process of self-reflection, my upcoming conference session will focus on some of the essential questions that we have used to help guide curriculum committees through a cycle of program review. I have presented some of these questions below.

Developing a curriculum review and assessment plan

  • What questions would like to answer during this curriculum review process?
  • What data will best help you answer those questions?
  • Whom will you involve?
  • What resources will be required?
  • What are your timelines?
  • What assessment methods are most appropriate?

Developing a Program Purpose

  • Why should students choose this program?
  • How will it be of benefit to them?
  • What is the purpose of the program?
  • What unique areas of focus or strengths does the program offer?
  • What learning experiences are core to the program?
  • Imagine three years from now, that the Globe and Mail has written an article about this program being the best in North America. What does the article highlight? What are students, faculty, alumni and employers highlighting about the program?

Developing Program Learning Outcomes

  • If you were asked to provide a reference for a graduate of this program, what would you like to be able to say about that graduate?
  • What strengths should students who complete this program possess?
  • What should successful students know, value and be able to do by the end of their learning experiences in this program?

Reviewing Program Learning Outcomes

  • Do the learning outcomes align with those defined by the institution and/or other related programs?
  • Could multiple audiences (e.g. students, instructors, employers, administrators, across institutions) understand the learning outcomes? If not, how could the clarity of the learning outcome be improved?
  • Would the discipline be clear if the statement were read in isolation? If not, what additional detail could be added to provide additional disciplinary context?
  • Could you appropriately assess each outcome? If not, how should they be revised? What additional detail/context is required?

Solution-focused Questions to Guide a Student Focus Group

  • Why did you choose the program?
  • What were you expecting of the program?
  • How did you hope it would prepare you for your future?
  • What is one thing you like about the program?
  • What is a key strength of the program?
  • What current strengths should the program build upon?
  • What key improvement could be made to the program?
  • Why do you feel that this is an area that requires improvement? What two key changes would you suggest if you were to redesign the program?
  • What is the most important thing you would like to tell the curriculum committee as they work to enhance the program?

Conducting a Program SOAR Analysis (adapted from: Stavros, Cooperrider, & Kelley (2003); Stavros & Hinrichs, 2011)

  • Strengths: What are we doing well? What are we known for? What are our areas of expertise?
  • Opportunities: What are our best future opportunities? What are our areas of untapped potential? How can we distinguish ourselves?
  • Aspirations: What are we passionate about? What difference do we hope to make? What does our preferred future look like?
  • Results: What results do we want to see? What 3-5 goals do we want to accomplish?

Evaluating Curriculum Data

Based on the curriculum data gathered:

  • What questions do we have about our curriculum and the data presented?
  • What trends do we see?
  • What 3-5 key areas would we like to discuss further with our colleagues?
  • What data supports these areas for discussion?
  • How should we communicate these data and areas for discussion to our colleagues?

Developing an Action Plan

  • What can we do to strengthen this program? What three key improvements will we implement?
  • What are the key milestones?  When will they be accomplished?
  • Who will help support these improvements? What additional resources are required?
  • How will we know we have been successful? How will we monitor our progress?
  • How will we celebrate and disseminate our success?

Reviewing the Curriculum Review Process

  • What happened?
  • What did we learn?
  • What went well?
  • What could have been better?
  • What will we do differently next time?

Curriculum development is inherently complex.  It is a relief to most curriculum committees to realize that it is more important to ask questions to inspire further inquiry, reflection and dialogue, than it is to have all of the answers.

References:

 

Banta, Trudy W, & Blaich, Charles. (2011). Closing the assessment loop. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 43(1), 22-27.

Cockell, Jeanie, & McArthur-Blair, Joan. (2012). Appreciative Inquiry in higher education: A transformative force: John Wiley & Sons.

Stavros, Jacqueline M, Cooperrider, D L, & Kelley, D Lynn. (2003). Strategic inquiry appreciative intent: inspiration to SOAR, a new framework for strategic planning. AI Practitioner. November, 10-17.

Stavros, Jacqueline M, & Hinrichs, Gina. (2011). The Thin Book Of SOAR: Building Strengths-Based Strategy. Bend, OR: Thin Book Publishing.

 

 

Asking Powerful Questions

flickr-2200500024-medium

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/22206521@N03

Appreciative inquiry (AI) is an energizing approach for sparking positive change in people, groups, and organizations. It focuses on what is working well (appreciative) by engaging people in asking questions and telling stories (inquiry). The shift in focus to the positive and what is working well generates energy within the group or organization, allowing it to move more effectively toward its goals. As well as a process for facilitating positive change, AI is a way of being and seeing the world everyday.  (Cockell and McArthur-Blair, 2012, p. 13)

I have been inspired by this year’s Educational Developers Caucus (EDC) conference over many discussions related to asking powerful questions.  In the words of this year’s keynote speaker, Joan McArthur-Blair, “Positive questions inspire positive change.”  One of the things that I have quickly learned in the field of educational development and in my leadership roles is that it is often (if not always) better to ask a thoughtful question than to provide advice.  Although we may not always label it as appreciative inquiry, I have come to a deep understanding that educational developers are great at asking positive, solution-focused questions.  These questions form the basis of our practice.  They are inherent not only to our approaches, but to our sense of being. Through questions we seek to help others (whether it be individuals, programs or institutions) to identify and leverage their full potential, to awaken the passion within, to continuously improve, and, perhaps most importantly, to provide a sense of meaning and purpose to their everyday practices within higher education.  There is little doubt that this is an interesting and transformative time in higher education.  Change is occurring at unprecedented rates, and institutions are increasingly looking to the field of educational development to support the academic community in evidencing and communicating their many successes, identifying future possibilities and opportunities for growth and improvement, and determining key actions for moving forward.  Our most potent call to action may be in asking powerful questions that connect individuals and communities through meaningful dialogue and conversation.

Below are some questions that have been pondered throughout the conference thus far.  What are some of the most powerful questions you ask in your ED practice?

  • What already exists that has value? What is the best of what already is?
  • If that is the issue, what are you yearning for?
  • What is the greatest strength that you have brought to the organization?
  • Where inside the organization do we have high engagement?
  • What does a highly connected, highly engaged academic community look like?
  • What will we be in 2020?
  • What would you be if learners were first?
  • Tell a story about the best experience you had last semester.
  • Tell a story of a moment, however tiny, when you felt excited coming to work.
  • What are you already doing in your organization that matters?
  • What is the most powerful and successful learning experience that you have ever had?
  • What are you yearning for?
  • What are you going to do tomorrow morning at 9am?
  • What is the proudest thing that you did in the last 3 years to help support our strategic plan?
  • What is the best thing that happened to you today?
  • If I imagine myself at work tomorrow, what is one thing that I will do differently?
  • How do you express what matters to you?
  • What has your time in education taught you?
  • Where have you had the most influence?
  • What is the most powerful gift you are giving to your organization right now?
  • How do you lift up the hearts and minds of faculty, staff and students within your institutions, to do their work in a way they never imagined?
  • What will your organization be calling on you to do in the next 10 years?
  • How can educational developers be revolutionary?
  • What are your options? What choices do you have moving forward? What is in your control?
  • What did you learn/discover?
  • What will you do differently next time?
  • What is the most important thing for you moving forward?
  • What key actions will you take based on this feedback?

References:

Cockell, Jeanie, & McArthur-Blair, Joan. (2012). Appreciative Inquiry in higher education: A transformative force: John Wiley & Sons.

Strategic Planning for Prioritization: Developing the Confidence and Clarity to Say “No”

One of the things I continually hear from colleagues in educational development is that we struggle to say “no” to the ever-increasing demands that we face in our roles.  In order to help us establish our key priorities and goals for 2014, our educational development unit recently embarked on a strategic planning process to help us address this very dilemma.  During a one-day retreat, we used the following 4-step process to help us define our key priorities for 2014.

Step 1: What metrics do we use to evaluate our success?

During this first step we defined and prioritized the metrics that we use to evaluate our success.  We first individually brainstormed the qualitative and quantitative methods that we use to evaluate our success as a unit.

Guiding question: What metrics (qualitative & quantitative) should we use to evaluate our success as a unit?

IMG_1230

After clustering and summarizing the key metrics we used a 2 x 2 matrix (Effort: easy/hard vs. Impact: high/low) to rank these metrics in terms of being able to evidence and communicate our impact.

Guiding question:  How would we prioritize these metrics in terms of being able to evidence and communicate our impact?

IMG_1234

Step 2: What key strategic directions should guide our practice?

Our next key step was to discuss how current strategic institutional, unit and educational development approaches align with our practice.  Here, we discussed our current mandate and practices, 2013 integrated planning goals, institutional strategic directions (e.g. as communicated in the University of Guelph’s Strategic Mandate Agreement and Integrated Plan), as well as some broader strategic approaches affecting educational development practices.

Guiding questions: Which strategic institutional, unit and educational development approaches should most inform our ED practices for 2014? Where are the gaps? Where should we focus? What are our top 3-5 strategic areas of focus?

Some example strategic directions that influence our practice are presented below:

Our Mandate:

Using evidence-based approaches, the ED unit supports educators and provides expertise to enhance pedagogical practices at the University of Guelph.

Institutional Strategic Directions:

  • The development and assessment of learning outcomes, including supporting the creation of curriculum maps for all programs
  • Promoting highly effective learning opportunities that foster deep learning and student engagement.
  • Productivity, efficiency and innovation in our academic programs through transformative program innovation (e.g. transformation of large-first year courses to ensure active learning and student engagement, supporting blended/hybrid models of delivery)
  • Embedding internationalism throughout the curricula (e.g. learning outcomes, courses, and programs).
  • Supporting Community Engaged Scholarship and Community Engaged Teaching and Learning.
  • Accessibility and Universal Design for Higher Education

Educational Development Strategic Directions:

(See for example: Dimitrov et al., 2013; Grabrove et al., 2013; Hubball et al., 2013; Felten et al., 2013; Trigwell et al., 2012; Christensen-Hughes and Mighty, 2010; Gibbs and Coffey, 2004)

  • Translating and mobilizing evidence-based, learner-centred practice
  • Engaging in the scholarship of teaching and learning,  scholarship of educational development, and scholarship of curriculum practice
  • Supporting Sustained and Intensive ED Practice (> 20 hours) such as: courses, certificates, communities of practice, multi-day teaching & learning institutes
  • Focus on assessment (e.g. promoting deep and authentic assessment practices; assessing & accounting for the impact of our own practice)
  • Supporting program-level curriculum improvement and assessment
  • Strengthening institutional policy (e.g. advocacy, awards, reward and recognition, integrated planning)
  • Engaging students in educational development approaches and practices (e.g. in SoTL projects, curriculum review processes and broader conversations related to teaching and learning in higher education)

Step 3: What should we start, stop (or do more efficiently), and continue doing?

Our third step in the afternoon involved evaluating and establishing our key priorities and goals for 2014.  To do this, we first reflected back on the outcomes of the previous 2 steps and engaged in a process familiar to educational developers – a start, stop, continue exercise.  Not surprisingly, the most challenging area for discussion was what we should “stop” doing.  However, we found that we could negotiate this challenge by expanding our frame of discussion to what we should stop and/or do more efficiently.  During this step it was extremely important to maintain an open frame of mind to ensure there was a free flow of creative thought amongst team members. This is a key step to the process and it is critical to ensure that all ideas generated are recorded without judgement or censorship.

Guiding Question: Based on these strategic approaches and the metrics we will use to evaluate our success, what should we start, stop (or do more efficiently) and continue doing as an ED Unit?IMG_1238

IMG_1237

IMG_1239

Step 4: What are our key ED unit goals for 2014?

The final step in the process was to define our goals for 2014, while taking into consideration to outcomes of the three previous steps.  This collaborative process flowed naturally from the previous discussions that had occurred during the day.

Guiding Question: What specific and measurable goals would we like to achieve as a unit for 2014?

IMG_1240

During this next step our unit was able to successfully define our key goals and priorities for the 2014. One additional step that will help to provide focus is to now take these goals and further prioritize them using a 2 x 2 matrix (importance vs urgency).  This would help us to define our highest priority tasks (High Importance, High Urgency), and where we should be spending our most time (High Importance, Low Urgency).

SUBSEQUENT POST EDIT:

After a much deserved holiday break, our unit DID come together to prioritize our goals based on the above noted Importance vs Urgency Matrix.  The results helped us to clearly define our high priority goals (high importance, high urgency), as well as where we should be spending most of our time (high importance, low urgency).  We were also able to simplify our goals, removing any that fell into the quadrants of low importance.  In the end, we removed 6 of our 25 previously defined goals, leaving us with 19 annual goals upon which to focus our practices as a team.  As and added benefit, the process of coming back to these goals after 2 weeks provided us with an important opportunity to reflect upon and further clarify and refine each of our goals.

Evernote Snapshot 20140106 140959

As we work to align our individual goals with these priorities they will certainly provide a key frame of reference for focusing our time on areas that are certain to have impact on our individual and collective success for 2014 (a.k.a. on things that really matter)!

References:

Christensen Hughes, J, & Mighty, J. (2010). A call to action: Barriers to pedagogical innovation and how to overcome them. Taking stock: Research on teaching and learning in higher education, 261-277.

Dimitrov, N., Meadows, K., Kustra, E., Ackerson, T., Prada, L., Baker, N., Potter, M.K. (2013). Assessing Graduate Teaching Development Programs for Impact on Future Faculty. Toronto: Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario.

Felten, P., Bagg, J., Bumbry, M., Hill, J., Hornsby, K., Pratt, M., & Weller, S. (2013). A call for expanding inclusive student engagement in SoTL. Teaching and Learning Inquiry: The ISSOTL Journal, 1(2), 63-74.

Hubball, Harry, Pearson, Marion L, & Clarke, Anthony. (2013). SoTL Inquiry in Broader Curricular and Institutional Contexts: Theoretical Underpinnings and Emerging Trends. Teaching and Learning Inquiry: The ISSOTL Journal, 1(1), 41-57.

Gibbs, G., & Coffey, M. (2004). The impact of training of university teachers on their teaching skills, their approach to teaching and the approach to learning of their students. Active learning in higher education, 5(1), 87-100.

Grabove, V., Kustra, E., Lopes, V., Potter, M.K., Wiggers, R., & Woodhouse, R. (2012). Teaching and Learning Centres: Their Evolving Role Within Ontario Colleges and Universities.  Toronto: Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario.

Trigwell, Keith, Caballero Rodriguez, Katia, & Han, Feifei. (2012). Assessing the impact of a university teaching development programme. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 37(4), 499-511.

Learner-Centred Principles for Teaching in Higher Education

In preparing for an upcoming faculty workshop, I was inspired to think about foundational principles for promoting a learner-centred approach to teaching in higher education.  I had an opportunity to reflect back on Chickering and Gamson’s (1987) 7 principles for good practice in undergraduate education,  Ramsden’s (2003) 13 principles for effective university teaching; Maryellen Weimer’s 5 key changes to practice for learner-centred teaching, as well as Lizzio et al.’s (2002) conceptual model for an effective academic environment.  Recognizing the limitations in attempting to represent the inherent complexities and nuances of teaching and learning,  I have presented the outcome of this process in the following set of learner-centred principles for teaching in higher education:

  1. Actively Engage Learners: ensure learning material is stimulating, relevant and interesting; explain material clearly; use a variety of methods that encourage active and deep approaches to learning, as well as adapt to evolving classroom contexts.
  2. Demonstrate Empathy and Respect: show interest in students’ opinions and concerns; seek to understand their diverse talents, needs, prior knowledge, and approaches to learning; encourage interaction between instructor and students; share your love of the discipline.
  3. Communicate Clear Expectations: make clear the intended learning outcomes and standards for performance; provide organization, structure and direction for where the course is going.
  4. Encourage Independence: provide opportunities for students to develop and draw upon personal interests; offer choice in learning processes and modes of assessment; provide timely and developmental feedback on learning; encourage metacognition to promote self-assessment of learning.
  5. Create a Community for Learning: use teaching methods and learning strategies that encourage mutual learning, as well as thoughtful, respectful and collaborative engagement and dialogue.
  6. Use Appropriate Assessment Methods: clearly align assessment methods with intended course outcomes; provide clear criteria for evaluation; emphasize deep learning; scaffold assessments to ensure progressive learning.
  7. Commit to Continuous Improvement: gather formative and summative feedback on your teaching; practice critical self-reflection; consult scholarly literature on teaching & learning; identify clear goals for strengthening your teaching practice.

What would you change, add or remove from these principles?  What would your list of learner-centred principles for teaching in higher education look like?

References:

Chickering, A. W., & Gamson, Z. F. (1987). Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. AAHE Bulletin, 39(7), 3–7.

Lizzio, A., Wilson, K., & Simons, R. (2002). University Students’ Perceptions of the Learning Environment and Academic Outcomes: Implications for theory and practice. Studies in Higher Education, 27(1), 27-52.

Ramsden, P. (2003). Learning to Teach in Higher Education. New York: Routledge.

Weimer, M. (2013). Learner-centered teaching: Five key changes to practice: John Wiley & Sons.

Strategic Directions for Educational Development

As I prepare for the upcoming Faculty Engagement in Educational Development (FEED) Summit to be hosted by the the Council of Ontario Universities, the Council of Ontario Educational Developers and McMaster University, as well as on some recent publications such as Christensen Hughes and Mighty (2010) and Grabrove et al. (2012),  it is incredible to reflect upon the continued evolution of educational development programs across Canada.  I can’t help but reflect on the following “strategic” directions related to our continued evolution:

  1. a shift from just-in-time pedagogical support to evidenced-based classroom practice;
  2. the strengthening of institutional strategy and policy related to teaching/learning;
  3. growing engagement and emphasis on the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL). And, I will add the scholarship of educational development (SoED); and scholarship of curriculum practice (SoCP);
  4. a clear focus on intensive and sustained pedagogical development programming that builds capacity throughout the institution;
  5. a growing emphasis on program-level curriculum assessment and development.

I am curious what others think about the continued evolution of educational development.  What other shifts do you see? Where do you think ED will be in 2025?

References:

Christensen Hughes, Julia, & Mighty, Joy. (2010). Taking Stock: Research on teaching and learning in higher education. McGill-Queen University Press, Kingston, ON.

Grabove, V., Kustra, E., Lopes, V., Potter, M.K., Wiggers, R., & Woodhouse, R. (2012). Teaching and Learning Centres: Their Evolving Role Within Ontario Colleges and Universities.  Toronto: Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario.

Hubball, Harry, Pearson, Marion L, & Clarke, Anthony. (2013). SoTL Inquiry in Broader Curricular and Institutional Contexts: Theoretical Underpinnings and Emerging Trends. Teaching and Learning Inquiry: The ISSOTL Journal, 1(1), 41-57.