Ramping up for the new school year

Image: Walking on St George StreetRegistration for this year’s Back-to-School Series is now open. A complete list of workshop titles and descriptions is available online. This year, we have a new featured event – a Teaching with Technology Fair on Wednesday, August 28th. This all-day event, hosted by CTSI and Academic & Collaborative Technologies (ACT), is an opportunity for the U of T community to meet with educational technology specialists to learn about available free tools (and to discuss how these tools can be used in the classroom and online). You can read more about (and register for) this event online – information about visiting specialists will be added soon.

These sessions are for new and returning University of Toronto faculty. All sessions are free but registration is required.

For those of you who really like to plan ahead, the Call for Proposals for the 8th Annual Teaching & Learning Symposium is available. This year’s theme is Learning Across & Beyond Borders. As always, the symposium offers the opportunity for U of T faculty, staff and librarians to share research, experience and ideas about teaching, hear from the 2013 President’s Teaching Award winners, participate in workshops and enjoy a day together in Hart House. New sessions have been added this year – Lightning Talks and Nifty Assignments. You can ream more about them online. The deadline for proposal submission is September 16th.

On the graduate student side, the Teaching Assistants’ Training Program (TATP) has just completed a week of training for its new staff. Each year, the TATP hires 15 senior graduate students as peer trainers. They lead mandatory departmental training for new teaching assistants and course instructors (in CUPE 3902, unit 1), microteaching sessions, workshops and offer consultations on teaching dossiers and in-class observations. We’ll be posting more information about this new team shortly.

It is a bit surprising that we are almost half way through the summer months but it does feel good to have the jump on fall. Because it’s always a little closer than you think….

 

 

2012 TATP Teaching Excellence Award Winners

Congratulations to the following U of T teaching assistants, winners of this year’s award:

Emily Holland, Department of Anthropology
Stefana Gargova, Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures
Sara Osenton, Department of East Asian Studies
Abdul Rahman Ayoub,
Department of Mathematics & Computational Sciences

Some nominees worked as a part of a teaching team in large lecture courses or science labs while others led small tutorials or language labs. The only common denominators: the nominees enthusiasm for teaching and the enthusiasm for learning they inspired in their students. Nominators were asked to comment on the TA’s communication and organizational skills, their feedback and knowledge of the course material. In each case, the candidate demonstrated dedication, insight and knowledge in the classroom. As always, the response was extraordinary as so many were willing (and often excited) to share their experiences with teaching assistants at U of T. Many students shared stories about TAs guiding them through difficult material, making the tutorial experience an enjoyable one and encouraging enthusiasm about the subject matter. A common theme we noticed this year, students nominate a TA when they feel their voice is being heard whether in tutorials, during office hours or email.

This year, we received 433 online nominations from students and 48 nominations from faculty. A total of 197 TAs were nominated (from more than 40 departments) with 63 TAs eligible for the short list. Thank you to everyone who took the time to nominate a TA this year. Winners receive a cash prize, certificate and award luncheon in their honour.

For more information on this award—and how you can nominate a TA for next year’s award—please visit www.uoft.me/taaward.

Shortlisted Candidates:
Keira Galway, Faculty of Music
Julia Su, Department of Linguistics
Helen Marshall, Department of English
Lauren Beard, Department of Comparative Literature
Robert Williamson, Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Guillaume Barlet, Department of Geology
Sherry Esfahani, Materials Science & Engineering
Danielle DeSouza, Department of Occupational Therapy

TATP Teaching Excellence Award – the Shortlist

It is with great pleasure (and excitement) that we can announce this year’s short list candidates for the 2012 TATP Teaching Excellence Award:

Abdul Abyab, Department of Mathematics & Computational Sciences
Guillaume Barlet, Department of Geology
Lauren Beard, Department of Comparative Literature
Danielle DeSouza, Department of Occupational Therapy
Shaghayegh Esfahani, Materials Science & Engineering
Keira Galway, Faculty of Music
Stefana Gargova, Department of Germanic Languages
Emily Holland, Department of Anthropology
Helen Marshall, Department of English
Sara Osenton, Department of East Asian Studies
Julia Su, Department of Linguistics
Robertson Williamson, Department of Biology

This year, we received 433 online nominations from students and 48 nominations from faculty. A total of 197 TAs were nominated with 63 TAs eligible for the short list.

The TATP Teaching Excellence Award is in it’s 9th year (it was established in 2003 and the first awards were presented in 2004). Recipients of the award receive a certificate, an honorarium and a luncheon in their honour. They also sit on a panel during that year’s TA Day (held before fall term starts) and participate in a Q&A with new (and some returning) TAs at the university. I will admit that every year I worry that no one will have a question for the award winners (and I should admit that I have this fear every time I participate in a Q&A) but every year we have more than enough to fill the allotted time, and then some.

Winners will be announced on Monday, April 30, 2012.

Jen O’Leary, Molecular Genetics & Siyu Liu, Electrical & Computer Engineering
2011 TA Award winners

 

Reflections on the TA Teaching Excellence Award

For the past eight years, I have had the distinct pleasure of coordinating the Teaching Assistants’ Training Program Teaching Excellence Award. It is always inspiring to read students’ testimonials about teaching assistants who are making a difference in their education. It reminds me of stepping back into the undergraduate classroom (I am taking full advantage of UofT employee benefits by enrolling in classes) and being reminded how intelligent UofT students are – smart, insightful and funny. Much like the 2011 3M Fellows Thank Your Teacher initiative, the TA Award is an opportunity to say thanks but to also offer recognition for a job well done.

(from left to right, 2011 winners William McFadden, Department of History,
Siyu Liu, Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering)

Last year we received over 550 nominations (from students and faculty) for TAs – 185 individual TAs were nominated – and this year is looking just as promising. We have almost twice as many nominations as we did this time last year. I certainly don’t want to jinx the number of responses to come but I think we might be heading into a record breaking year. Some of the TAs who make the short-list of candidates receive dozens of nominations from students, others receive only two (the minimum required to be eligible for the short-list). Some TAs are leading multiple tutorials or labs in large survey courses, encountering dozens upon dozens of students, while others lead smaller group sessions, or are working as a Course Instructor. There really isn’t a standard, only good teaching and enthusiasm for the subject matter and sharing that enthusiasm with their students. As one student wrote (in a nomination letter submitted during the short-list stage as all online nominations are anonymous) said about 2008 award winner Chiara Frigeni, Department of Linguistics:

Chiara was constantly encouraging students.  She would find a way to elicit student participation in a manner that didn’t make people feel singled out; rather, she made it fun and enjoyable. She was constantly encouraging, and her passion for course material was unparalleled.

As I have the chance to see the nominations as they come in, I know that this story isn’t unique. We hear from students on all three campuses from a wide range of departments. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times (and will probably say it a thousand times more), enthusiasm counts.

To nominate a TA, please visit the Teaching Excellence Award website.

CTSI: the view from the 7th floor

With the start of the new year, we have settled in our new, albeit temporary, home. Our space on the 4th floor of Robarts is under renovation – our office has grown considerably over the last few years with the amalgamation of offices (Office of Teaching Advancement, Teaching Assistants’ Training Program and Resource Centre for Academic Technology) in 2009 and the addition of staff and services – so we are residing on the 7th floor of the library until July 2012.

We packed up our old space just before the holidays and many of us felt a little sad. There were no actual tears (at least not that I know of) but it was hard to say goodbye.

Throughout the time we occupied the space (as individual offices then one big pedagogical family), we enjoyed countless workshops and events, facilitated 6 Teaching & Learning symposia and many conferences, supported the implementation of the UofT portal (Blackboard) and training for instructors, graduate students and staff, supported teaching award files and facilitated the TATP Teaching Excellence Award and met with many, many instructors and graduate students on a number of teaching related issues and questions.

Thankfully, we’ve landed in a space that allows us to continue this pace and there will be no break in our schedule or programming. The one drawback is that we don’t have a seminar rooms right next door that we can use for workshops and training but the upside is that we can explore buildings and rooms around campus with our winter 2012 workshop series. And personally, I rather like being surrounded by old card catalogues and library stacks. It’s comforting. Also, we have space for the desktop computer archive so I know that we are home.

To reach our office, take the #4 elevator from the 2nd floor of Robarts and follow the signs. All of our other contact information remains the same.

ctsi.teaching@utoronto.ca
416-946-3319

To reach an individual staff member, please visit the CTSI contact page.

Curriculum guides for film – not just for K-12

Image of film audience

Image by Canadian Film Centre used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

This post addresses a question I have fielded as a TATP trainer who teaches a workshop on video in the classroom.

Partcipants sometimes ask, where can I find video curriculum guides to help me teach in my discipline? This question does not emerge out of thin air. It comes up because when I teach the workshop, I bring along a curriculum kit called Teaching the Levees.  Hurricane Katrina caused devastating damage to New Orleans.  The curriculum guide is intended to support discussion of the associated social and political issues that are raised in Spike Lee’s film When the Levees Broke. 

In my experience, TAs and instructors alike are very enthusiastic that other people prepare discussion questions that may be appropriate for their classroom!  It is often a novel concept that such resources are available.

A challenge for post-secondary educators, is that most curriculum guides for film seem to be directed towards the teachers of kindergarten to grade 12 students. In researching this blog post, Jenaya Webb, Public Services Librarian, OISE Library, indicated to me that they have a collection of curriculum guides to assist their student teachers on placements in the K-12 educational system.  Jenaya also helped me to compile a list of more widely available resources to the U of T community (see below).

In order to find curriculum kits or guides that may be useful in your post-secondary teaching, I recommend using the web as a starting point to find resources that you can adapt to make relevant for your course. Some options in alphabetical order include:


1) Amnesty International Film Curriculum Guides

As a human rights organization, Amnesty has a number of PDF downloadable curriculum guides for films that address issues such as war, race, and gender. I downloaded the curriculum guide for Born into Brothels, an academy award winning documentary, and found that some of the grade 9-12 level discussion questions could be easily adapted by linking to a university course level reading.

2) HotDocs:  Toronto’s own documentary festival has film resources in their HotDocs library for K-12 learning.  Here you may find materials that link to your courses.  In the words of the HotDocs team, “these docs will engage students with issues of our day; with vital ideas, critical questions and new perspectives outside the mainstream media and school textbook.”

3)  National Film Board (NFB) of Canada:
The NFB has a comprehensive section of their website devoted to educators. There is a section of the website where teachers can search for teaching guides on various topics. Additionally, I find the playlists for educators organized thematically (i.e. films about Science and Technology) to be a great resource.

I hope that you are able to find curriculum materials for films that are relevant for your classroom.  If you have experiences or tips you wish to share, please comment.

Collaborative Learning Techniques in Action

Classes are in full swing, tutorials are up and running and we’re hearing reports of great experiences in the classrooms. Sandra Romain, a PhD student in the Department of Anthropology and the UTSC TA Trainer for the TATP, is having a great start to her tutorials. This is Sandra’s second year with the TATP (after a number of years working as a TA at UofT) and has been applying teaching techniques learned with her TATP team and TA training. “I have had the confidence to develop tutorial material based on collaborative teaching structures,” Sandra said. She’s had an inspiring response from her students.

From the start of her tutorials, Sandra put collaborative teaching techniques to work. In the first tutorial, she used Think-Pair-Share (an exercise that pairs off the students to discuss a topic then report back to the rest of the group) to look at research paradigms (a rather complex theoretical topic for 2nd year students). In the second tutorial, Sandra took this one step further by using the 3-Step Interview (where students work in groups of three – an interviewer, a responder and a recorder. Students change roles throughout the process as they work through concepts and questions). When she met with a bit of resistance with some students – someone grumbled about having to ‘pair up’ with another student – Sandra “jokingly told her I’d get back to her at the end of the activity.” When asked if the student could answer her own question about why they were doing these activities, the student answered, “Because I just finally understood what Interpretivism was!”

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TA Day 2011

TA Day 2011 was held on Sept. 1st. It was the perfect way to kickoff the month of September and the back to school season at U of T.

As a trainer with the TATP, I find that TA day is an interesting opportunity to meet returning and new TAs. While TAs are often very excited about the upcoming semester, they always have a lot on the go in the month of September. Many TA day attendees are new to the U of T and they can be settling into a new department, new city, or even be new to Canada. Luckily, TA day is a good place to gather teaching tips and also to find out informally about important stuff like the student housing service or TIFF.

This year the programming for TA day featured an array of presentations and workshops for both first-time and experienced TAs. A keynote address was provided by Prof. Mark Kingwell, from Philosophy on the topic of How To Be A Great TA Without Losing Your Mind, Your Soul, or Your Lunch. Presentations were also made by award winning TAs from U of T, and Dr. Tanya Lewis, Director of Academic Success and Accessibility Services, CUPE 3902 and CTSI staff. Throughout the day, new TAs discussed issues like ‘the first class’ and ‘grading.’ Returning and experienced TAs had the opportunity consider new challenges like designing their own courses.

If you attended (or wish you attended) TA day, we hope to see you out at the fall workshop series.

Meet the New TATP Staff

The Teaching Assistants’ Training Program welcomes its 2011-12 staff.

 

 

 

 

The TATP is a peer-training—teaching assistants offering training to other teaching assistants—program that is housed in the Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation.  For more than a decade, the TATP has helped train and offered workshops and consultations for graduate students and teaching assistants at the University of Toronto. The office started out quite small with only 3 staff members but has now grown to 14 (4 coordinators and 10 trainers, including one UTM and one at UTSC). If you are not already familiar with the work of the TATP, please visit their website for more information, including a list of this year’s staff. The TATP Certificate Programs, workshops, departmental training sessions, consultations and resources have made the TATP an indispensible service for UofT graduate students (and undergraduate students working as teaching assistants).

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