Welcome new (and returning) TATP staff


The Teaching Assistants’ Training Program welcomes the 2015-2016 staff – some are new to the TATP and others are returning. Everyone is ready to start a year of training, workshops and new teaching and learning initiatives.

Learn more about the TATP and training options on the TATP website.

Coordinator: Robin Sutherland-Harris, Centre for Medieval Studies

Sandy Carpenter, Department of History
Sasha Kovacs, Centre for Drama, Theatre & Performance Studies
Joel Rodgers, Department of English
Kathleen Osgoode, Department of English

Coordinator: Elliot Storm, Department of Political Science

Michael Dick, Faculty of Information Studies
Salina Abji, Department of Sociology
Lia Frederiksen, Department of Geography
Ahmed Kandil, OISE
Alex Motut, Department of Linguistics

Coordinator: Leanne Desouza, Institute for Medical Sciences

David Chan, Department of Psychology
Nick Eaves, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering
Lauren Norman, Department of Anthropology
Ghazal Fazli, Institute for Health Policy, Management & Evaluation
Darius Rackus, Department of Chemistry
Alexander Stewart, Department of Chemistry

Coordinator: Michael Dick, Faculty of Information Studies

Coordinator: Sandy Carpenter, Department of Histor

Ghazal Fazil, Institute for Health Policy, Management & Evaluation

If you would like to reach any of the TATP staff, call 416-946-3799 or email services.ta@utoronto.ca.



Back To School Teaching Events for Faculty

IMG_1112By Erin Macnab, Programs Coordinator, CTSI

For instructors here at U of T, the end of the summer means the beginning of many things – among them new courses, new students, and new appointments. We at CTSI are here to support instructors through this busy time of changes through an annual series of teaching-related workshops for faculty, taking place this year at the beginning of September.

Open to all new and returning faculty and librarians, these sessions provide an opportunity for all instructors to refresh your teaching or learn new, broadly applicable techniques to deal with frequent issues and support your students. With sessions on active learning, teaching with technology, assessment and first day strategies, we aim to highlight a wide spectrum of best practices and provide a forum for instructors to ask questions, meet people and get geared up for the 2015-2016 academic year.

Below you’ll find the schedule for this year’s Back to School Workshop Series:

Tuesday, September 1st
10am – 12pm
To Be Confirmed

1pm – 4 pm
Strategies to Support Active Learning
Carol Rolheiser, Professor and Director, CTSI

Looking for ways to spark student interest and stimulate active learning? “Classic studies over the last five decades have repeatedly shown that, in discussion, students pay attention and think more actively” (McKeachie, 2011, p.37). Discussion techniques can be applied in classes of all sizes and allow students opportunities to more deeply process new knowledge through explaining, summarizing, elaborating and questioning. As well, through discussion immediate feedback on student understanding is generated to guide future instruction and motivate learning. In this session participants will experience and debrief a number of discussion techniques and consider applications of these techniques to their own teaching contexts (both undergraduate and graduate teaching).

Wednesday, September 2nd
10am – 12pm
Setting the Tone for Success: The First Day and Beyond
Megan Burnett, Acting Associate Director, CTSI/TATP
Cherie Werhun, Teaching Assessment and Course Evaluation Coordinator, CTSI

This session will provide strategies for getting your course off to a great start, including what to do in the first few classes, how to present the course objectives and syllabus to your students, how to initiate and sustain excitement about your discipline, and how to motivate and prepare your students for the requirements and responsibilities of the course. Participants will have the opportunity to generate a plan for their first class.

2pm – 4 pm
Teaching with Academic & Collaborative Technologies at U of T
Saira Mall, Manager, Academic & Collaborative Technology Support, CTSI
Avi Hyman, Director of Academic & Collaborative Technology, ITS and Institutional Strategist for Academic Technology, CTSI
Mike Kasprzak, Curriculum Developer, TATP

When planning a course we often think of a technology we would like to incorporate in our teaching, then determine the activities and assessments the technologies can support. This can result in “technology for the sake of technology” with little or no positive effects on teaching and learning ourcomes (Deal, 2007). This session will discuss how to effectively integrate technology into courses to align with course outcomes. We will also explore student engagement techniques, emerging teaching with technology trends in higher education and university guidelines.

Thursday, September 3rd
9:30am – 12:30pm
How To Keep Teaching & Learning On Track
Carol Rolheiser, Professor & Director, CTSI
Saira Mall, Manager, Academic & Collaborative Technology Support, CTSI

The main purpose of formative assessment (assessment for learning) is to determine the next steps in learning. This session will focus on two ways that formative assessment can keep learning and teaching on track: 1) by providing feedback to students prior to completion of final graded assignments and, 2) by providing feedback to the instructor early in the course. Take-away tools and strategies for monitoring student learning will be shared and explored with workshop participants. Technology-enhanced suggestions for applying some of these strategies online will also be discussed.

2pm – 4pm
Myths and Realities About Grading
Megan Burnett, Acting Associate Director, CTSI/TATP
Cora McCloy, Faculty Liaison & Research Officer, CTSI

In this session, we will discuss a range of myths and misconceptions about institutional grading procedures. Participants will be encouraged to ask questions through a facilitated dialogue on grading policies that will inform teaching practice. Topics include distribution of grades and assignments, managing grading with Teaching Assistants and posting student progress in UofT’s Learning Portal.

Registration is required to participate in the Back to School workshop series, and will be opened in the upcoming weeks. Watch this space for updates.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact Erin Macnab, Programs Coordinator, CTSI at 416-946-3325 or erin.macnab@utoronto.ca. We look forward to meeting you!

Syllabus Service: What is it? (and how can it help save you time and your students money?)

Submitted by Scholarly Communications & Copyright Office, U of T Libraries

There have been many changes in Canadian copyright law lately, which has influenced how faculty and students operate in the physical and online classroom. In the U of T Libraries’ Scholarly Communications and Copyright Office, we understand that there is still uncertainty about these changes. To address these changes, our office has developed services to help faculty and instructors navigate this new landscape and remain compliant with Canadian copyright law. One example is the Syllabus Service, (previously known as Course Reserves services) developed in collaboration with units across the University of Toronto Libraries.

What is the Syllabus Service?

The Syllabus Service ensures that course materials distributed electronically to students comply with Canadian copyright law. Library staff will:

  1. Review your course reading list and provide materials that fall under the “fair dealing” provisions.
  2. Purchase copyright clearance, when necessary and at no cost to you, through U of T Libraries’ Scholarly Communications and Copyright Office.
  3. Place print items on reserve, when required.
  4. Scan materials for interested faculty so assigned readings can be made available online to enrolled students.

Submit your syllabus by August 7, 2015 to ensure your course material is ready for September. After this date, this service is still available on a first come first serve basis.

Since the launch of the Syllabus Service, staff in the Scholarly Communications and Copyright Office have become very aware of the rising cost of course material for students. Lowering student costs, when possible, is something we are committed to helping with. When your course outline is reviewed, staff look for the most efficient and affordable way to deliver course materials to your students. If you are interested in how we can help your students, please feel free to ask!

Visit the Course Reserves website for more information and submission instructions.

If you have questions or require additional information about this service, please contact the Library’s Scholarly Communications and Copyright Office at copyright@library.utoronto.ca



Highlights from STLHE 2015

SoTL CTSIFrom June 16-19, many U of T faculty and staff, including members of the CTSI team, participated in #STLHE2015. The Society for Teaching & Learning in Higher Education’s annual conference – this year’s theme was “Achieving Harmony: Tuning into Practice” – was co-hosted by the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University. There were two keynote presenters:

  • Dr Marsha Lovett, Carnegie Mellon, Applying Principles of Learning to Teaching – With or Without Technology 
  • Dr. Dee Fink, 5 High Impact Teaching Practices

Dr. Marsha Lovett, Director, Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence and Educational Innovation, Carnegie Mellon University

A highlight to the event is the presentation of 3M Teaching & Student Fellowships. This year, Steve Joordens, Psychology, UTSC, was awarded a Teaching Fellowship and two students – Karen Young, Psychology and Health Studies, UTSC, and Wali Shah, Sociology – won Student Fellowships.

“All of us from the University of Toronto felt a tremendous sense of pride when Professor Steve Joordens, Psychology Department, was presented with one of 10 3M National Teaching Fellow awards, and two U of T students received 3M National Student Fellowships: Karen Young, 3rd Year Psychology and Health Studies, U of T Scarborough and Wali Shah, 2nd year BA Sociology, U of T Mississauga. These awards honour the important contributions to teaching, learning and leadership that these award recipients have made.”
Carol Rolheiser, Director, CTSI, and Professor, Curriculum, Teaching & Learning (OISE)

3M Fellowship Recipients

Steve Joordens, Psychology, UTSC, and Karen Young, Psychology and Health Studies, UTSC

For Erin Macnab, CTSI, Programs Coordinator, this was her first opportunity to attend a faculty and educational developers conference of this size and scale:

“Attending STLHE for the first time was an eye-opening experience. It was so valuable to me to see the range of work being done across Canada in teaching and learning. I’ve come away from the conference with a huge number of ideas for programming and resources for CTSI. It was wonderful to also see the hard work of our 3M Student and National Teaching Fellows recognized – a great acknowledgement of the incredible work being done here at U of T!”
Erin Macnab, Programs Coordinator, CTSI

STLHE 2015

Steve Joordens, Psychology, UTSC, and Carol Rolheiser, Director, CTSI

Over the next few weeks we will continue to share photos and insights on the STLHE conference. Please check back in for more information and/or share your stories if you attended.

Working with CTSI: from Work Study to Videographer

By Wes Adams, Videographer, CTSI

It’s been almost a year now since I started working at CTSI. I began this position a little under a year ago as work-study student with the role of video editor and assistant to the department’s talented Communications Coordinator, Kathleen Olmstead. Other than the exciting prospect of getting some hands-on experience in video production and editing and satisfying the lack of practical applications in my cinema studies program, I really had little idea what CTSI was. As a student of film (double major in cinema studies and political science), especially in a strictly theory-based program, I could not wait to sink my teeth into a project that involved actually planning and creating a visual work as cinema and filmmaking have been passions of mine from a very early age. Over the nine months, my duty in this role has evolved into much more than that, especially in terms of my understanding and appreciation for what CTSI does.

Having had experience as a production assistant, as well as filming and editing projects such as PSAs, promotional videos, and personal short films, I felt that this position would allow me to grow in terms of technical skill. On top of the technical experience I’ve gained, I also feel that the experience of collaborating on projects related to pedagogical practices and research has really opened my eyes to what goes on behind the scenes at the university. The amount of research and effort that goes into improving teaching practices within U of T is something that a small amount of undergrads get to experience or even comprehend. The benefit for a student to experience this backstage view is that it takes the impersonal aspects of an undergrad degree, at such a large institution as U of T, and makes tangible the intangible aspects of how courses are designed and why professors and TAs teach the way they do.

In a similar sense, my role of creating video content that highlights the behind-the-scenes aspects of teaching and learning at U of T makes this hidden process of teaching research and course design accessible to undergrads and faculty alike, which creates a more inclusive atmosphere. Apart from the valuable experience I’ve had applying both my passion for and knowledge in film and capabilities in editing, I’ve also gained a greater appreciation for the education I’m receiving.

What I find most appealing about this position is the ability to creatively fuse a practical medium I have great passion for with an academic field. It is the capability to use an artistic yet accessible medium in order to convey what is typically an inaccessible academic area. Of the many videos I’ve collaborated on with CTSI’s Communications Coordinator I have and continue to enjoy working on the TATP Shorts series, which are short videos featuring a TA elaborating on a teaching strategy, or ‘tip’, that they use in their classroom presented in a colourful, fast-paced, and quick-cutting format. I find that these videos have not only enlightened me in terms of the different pedagogical practices that can be implemented to improve learning, but also have allowed me to improve my own skills as a videographer in terms of attempting to create a work that intellectually stimulates, entertains, and informs. What I like most about this series is that it has given me an opportunity to be more creative in terms of stylistic features and structure while still adhering to coherent, formal features to articulately present the information. I thoroughly enjoy the freedom of creativity, but the necessity for concise and comprehensive information delivery creates a fun challenge.

These past nine months working at CTSI I feel has truly helped me develop stronger critical, academic, and, importantly, technical skills. Importantly, over these past nine months I have developed a greater sense of community at U of T, which appeared in my first year of study to be a somewhat daunting institution. I excitedly look forward to collaborating on future projects and can’t wait to continue to engage in more critical, artistic and creative endeavours with CTSI.

Academic Toolbox Renewal Initiative

When you are thinking of using a new educational technology, do you ask
yourself, does the solution allow me (and my department) to take advantage
of international standards for interoperability and integration, or is it
a completely closed proprietary solution that can¹t connect to anything
else in our Toolbox?

When considering a new teaching tool, the tool should ideally let you
leverage international standards for the interoperability of teaching and
learning tools. Examples should include the Learning Tool Interoperability
(LTI) standard, the IMS Common Cartridge format, the Question and Test
Interoperability (QTI) standard, and the Sharable Content Object Reference
Model (SCORM), etc. In particular, software or solutions delivered through
a web browser should include something called an Application Programming
Interface (API), which would allow other University systems to interact
with the tool. Otherwise, you could end up using all kinds of tools that
don¹t work well together, and which detract from the teaching and learning

Also, many people at the University are particularly interested in
leveraging the benefits of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), and therefore,
the new tool should ideally be operating system-agnostic (i.e., work on
Windows, Apple and Linux computers at the very least), and where
applicable, they should work with all contemporary web browsers (Chrome,
Firefox, Safari, Explorer), and be designed for mobile access (either
through a responsive web interface or multiple-OS-specific apps).

For more on the Academic Toolbox Renewal Initiative, please visit

Group Work By Design – graduating my group work grump

By Kelly Gordon, Assistant to the Directors, CTSI

This past fall I became a student again. After 7 years of “real life”, I slid back into the murky world of choosing courses, writing papers, getting grades, and the one thing I was dreading above all others, doing group work.

Some context – during my undergraduate career I did not raise my hand once to participate in a class discussion. I maxed out the number of correspondence classes I could take while living on-campus (a means to avoid having to do work with anyone else). I avoided taking courses with mandatory tutorials. My reticence stemmed from real life experiences of awkwardly trying to assemble a group, uneven instances of work division and a general feeling of nervousness, anxiety and discomfort.

Even though I could recite the pedagogical benefits of group work, or “cooperative learning” (working at CTSI will do that), I planned to continue my NO group work policy in grad school. The real life positive points to group work remained the Polkaroo of instructional strategies – something I heard people talk about, but never saw manifest in real life.

Three weeks into my first course – I knew something was different. I found myself in a group, and I was excited about our work. My inner design nerd wanted to know why this time felt different and so I uncovered my “group work game changers”:

  1. Having time in class to work with the group! Not only did this give us, a group of busy adults, a chance to work together, but it also gave us time to get to know each other face-to-face.
  2. Learning from other groups through class status reports and check-ins.
  3. Dividing up an assignment already organized into parts. Built in assessment checkpoints, allowed our group to easily balance the division of work and stay on track!
  4. New tools– use of online collaboration tools to reshape how we work together.

It turns out there is design behind group work! Carnegie Mellon’s Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation breaks down the design of successful group projects using the work of Johnson, Johnson & Smith, 1991 to offer practical strategies to architect a group-project built on a foundation of best practices. They offer three main practices: creating interdependence, devoting time to team work skills and building in individual accountability to guide the design of a positive group assignment.

The University of Waterloo’s Centre for Teaching Excellence takes the design of group assignments one step further and details roles and responsibilities beyond the initial design phase. They deconstruct a group assignment into five stages (preparing, designing, introducing, monitoring and closing the assignment). This framework is helpful as it allows the instructor (designer) to walk through their assignment (design) as the student (user) would experience it. I’m sure we can all recollect a start to a group project that began with an awkward moment of trying to form a group out of a class of strangers. Designing a group selection process is just one of the strategies offered in the Waterloo’s Centre’s phased approach to design.

Finally, while the work of the instructor/designer is essential in creating a positive group project experience, true excellence requires some responsibility and ownership on the student side as well. Charles, our wise beyond years student blogger wrote his own post about group work and spells out 6 practical tips to help you as an individual work better “ensemble”.

As I gear up for another year of course selection, I no longer have the urge to comb through the layers of a course syllabus, scouring the assessments for avoidable group projects. Now, I look for elements of design.  If you think about a course as a road trip, assessments are the planned pit stops on the way. And while a perfect group is never guaranteed, like a well curated playlist, the effort you put in at the start, allows for smooth cruising along the way.


What’s New for U of T Portal?

Now that the May upgrade is complete, we can all enjoy the enhanced features and new tools of the U of T’s Learning Portal. Highlights include My Grade Student View, Teaching Assistants and Graders Assigned as Delegated Graders, and Reconciling Grades. The Anonymous and Delegated Grading function in the Assignment tool allows greater flexibility in assigning roles and responsibilities to teaching assistants or graders. This is also a good opportunity to explore the new and improved Portfolio Tool.

You can read more about What’s New for U of T Portal on the portalinfo site.




Have you met this year’s award recipients?

We are pleased to announce the 2015 recipients for the Teaching Assistants’ Training Program Teaching Excellence Awards. This is the inaugural year for the CI award, honoring graduate student Course Instructors at the University of Toronto.


2015 TA Teaching Excellence Awards
Mario Badr (Electrical and Computer Engineering)
Kris (Sanghyun) Kim (Chemistry)
Darius Rackus (Chemistry)
Sean Smith (Philosophy)

More information about this award, including a complete list of shortlisted candidates, is available on the TA Teaching Excellence Award page.

You can read more about Mario Badr on U of T Engineering News.

2015 CI Teaching Excellence Awards
Letitia Henville (English, UTSC)

More information about this award, including a complete list of shortlisted candidates, is available on the CI Teaching Award page.