Office Hours and Talking to Professors

In conjunction with Student Life, CTSI has been working on a series of videos for students visiting instructors during office hours. On the Student Life side, these videos are a part of their Talking to Your Professors campaign that offers tips and strategies for students who feel shy or uncomfortable (or overwhelmed) about approaching faculty. This information is practical and covers a variety of methods of interaction, including before and after class, social media and email etiquette.

For CTSI, these videos figure into our work on Student-Faculty Interaction. Over the past year, we have highlighted instructors who have found innovative ways to engage with their undergraduate students in our Focus on Faculty profiles and provided resources on effective practices and supporting student faculty interaction. We decided to approach our first topic – office hours and talking to profs – from different angles, starting with some humour…

The video was written and directed by Tyler Blacquiere (who also acts as Christopher Strong), a fourth year U of T student who was working in our office on a work study contract.  We decided that a public service announcement spoof was a great approach to the video – and something that we hadn’t seen before – and Tyler ran with it (even demonstrating a great deal of dedication to the project by watching Sally Struthers commercials in search of material).  All of the faculty members who participated (Barbara Murck, Mark Kingwell, Keren Rice, Shafique Varani and Mike Reid, who jumped in at the last minute to help us out) were generous with their time and are on-camera naturals. We’re still considering whether or not we should release a blooper reel. A lot of very funny stuff was left on the ‘cutting room floor’. (That phrase has little meaning in the digital age but it captures what I mean.)

Our next step was to interview undergraduates and explore some real world scenarios regarding visiting instructors during office hours. We wanted to show positive and negative experiences that students have had with instructors and any advice that they might offer to fellow students. We have a number of these videos prepared and ready to launch but here’s just a taste to whet your appetite.

 

 

Upcoming at CTSI

We are working on a new project with Student Life that will be launched at the end of January. We don’t want to give too much away – there’s something to be said about the element of surprise – but we thought we would offer a few hints.

The first clue (if it isn’t already obvious by these photos) is that the project involves a video starring faculty members and directed by CTSI work study student Tyler Blacquiere (if you don’t know Tyler yet, don’t worry. You will):

Please note that Tyler takes his role as a director very seriously, keeping the spirit of Alfred Hitchcock alive (or taking inspiration from Sam Raimi. I didn’t ask which he preferred) by wearing a suit and tie on set.

Props will be used.

And just in case you missed the props in question….

We are halfway through our shooting schedule (we’re off to UTM on Monday) and pretty pleased with the results so far. Our faculty have been  generous with their time and willing to act a little silly (not that I’m suggesting finger puppets could be interpreted as silly) in front of the camera for a good cause. We are all excited to see what comes next.

Evaluating participation

Students in discussion at desks

Image by lynn dombrowski; Used under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Evaluating student participation in tutorials or seminars can be a challenge for everyone from first time TAs to experienced instructors.

Recently, I came across an interesting suggestion posted on the Student Participation/Active Learning page on the website of the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia.  They offer the suggestion of providing students with the opportunity to assess themselves part-way through the term and receive feedback.  The blockquote below shows the choices that the University of the Sciences suggest for students to engage with for self-assessment:

  1. I contribute worthwhile comments several times during every class. Please cite an example
  2. I contribute one or more worthwhile comments almost every class. Please cite and example
  3. I often contribute or participate in class discussions. Please cite an example
  4. I occasionally contribute
  5. I rarely contribute

January is Assessment Month at CTSI

Assessment is not only about testing knowledge and content but supporting students in developing learning strategies. CTSI’s January and February workshops highlight alternative approaches that integrate assessment into learning and personal reflection. Topics include Communicating with Your Students: Effective Oral and Written Feedback, Assembling Your Teaching Dossier (both a workshop and a clinic) and The Challenge of Teaching Effective Scholarly Writing.  We’re also pleased to present two workshops with David DiBattista, Professor and 3M National Teaching Fellow (2007), Department of Psychology, Brock University. Professor DiBattista has published several articles on the use of multiple-choice questions (in The Journal of Experimental Education and Canadian Journal of Higher Education, among others) and regularly presents on his research. He will be joining us on February 7th to lead two workshops: Getting the Most Out of Multiple-choice Questions and From Principles to Practice: Examining the Structure and Content of Multiple-choice Items

To learn more about these events and workshops, please visit the CTSI 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.

Caption This!

Enter the 2011 Teaching & Learning Symposium Caption Contest for a chance to win a Dell Streak 7 Honeycomb Tablet.

This year’s Teaching & Learning Symposium, co-hosted by the Office of the Vice-President and Provost and CTSI, will focus on the theme of Cultivating Teaching, Cultivating Learning. The interactive sessions, roundtable discussions and poster displays are all presented by UofT instructors and staff. The Symposium is an opportunity to share research and experiences in the classroom with colleagues, to discuss teaching issues and to learn from each other. Attendees will also have the opportunity to hear from this year’s winners of the President’s Teaching Award and the keynote address by Roger Martin, Dean, Rotman School of Managment on Cultivating the Opposable Mind.

The day will conclude with our Caption Contest. The CTSI Caption Contest Team will select three captions from all the entries (you can enter HERE) and symposium attendees will vote for the winner. The winner will receive a Dell Streak 7 Honeycomb Tablet (and bragging rights, of course). You don’t have to be at the symposium to win (although we do encourage you to attend!) but you must be a UofT instructor or staff member.

The cartoon was drawn by Tom Gravestock, professional artist extraordinaire. We greatly appreciate his take on the steampunk teaching experience.

Large Classroom Teaching: a new online resource from CTSI

We’re excited to announce that our new online learning module on Large Classroom Teaching is now available. This has been a collaborative project between CTSI staff, Teaching Academy members (winners of the President’s Teaching Award) and Tyler Blacquiere, our work-study student. One of our goals in producing this module was to bring colleagues together via video clips to share their experience and expertise. Walking into a large classroom – whether that’s 60 or 1600 students – can be a daunting experience for students and instructors alike. Rather than reinventing the wheel (and assuming that there is something called the ‘teaching wheel’), we’ve compiled interviews and resources from instructors, staff and graduate students who offer their knowledge and real life experiences working in the large class setting. The module highlights work already happening on UofT campuses. Instructors describe their  methods to engage with students, and how students can engage with each other, even when there are hundreds gathered in a single room.

Our module, divided into four broad categories (planning, strategies, assessment and technology), is designed to help instructors and teaching assistants as they build and deliver their courses. There is so much more to teaching than simply providing content. There is more to assessment than mid-term tests. Visit our module and explore the almost 100 short clips (yes, 100! I was pretty impressed when I added them all up) and resources available online.   They can be used by individual instructors as they refine their teaching approaches, or can  be used by groups in workshop and seminar settings through CTSI or as department-based discussions.

Please keep in mind that we want to continue building this module, highlighting and exploring initiatives across all three campuses. If you have an experience that you would like to share – or have specific questions regarding this module or large classroom teaching – please feel free to contact CTSI at any time.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-mKiU6aOe8

Hallowe’en and presentation horror stories

As a Trainer with the TATP, one of my responsibilities has been to design and teach a workshop for TAs on Classroom Presentations.  Within the workshop, we review a number of resources to provide inspiration to create dynamic and engaging classroom presentations.

Getting into the spooky spirit, I would like to share a Hallowe’en twist on one of these resources.

Slideshare.net is a website for sharing slide decks that can be easily emailed, linked, and shared on the web. Slideshare sometimes runs contests to identify the best slide decks. In one iteration of the contest, they ran a Presentation Horror Story Contest.

Boom or Bust, is one of my favourite winners from the presentation horror stories contest, because the creators draw on traditions from comic books to tell a story through their slides.  The types of images shown in Boom or Bust can be easily created using a software package like Comic Life.

If you are looking for a more general slide deck on presentation, I also recommend the tongue and cheek ‘You Suck at Powerpoint.’ It offers some up-to-date suggestions to make your presentation graphically appealing. If you are looking at SlideShare.net keep in mind that you may need to translate concepts from business to educational contexts to make them relevant for your students.

YOU SUCK AT POWERPOINT!

View more presentations from @JESSEDEE.

Academic Technology & Classroom Response Systems

There has been a lot of talk lately about the use of classroom response systems (at UofT, we use iClickers) and the role they should play in higher education. They are useful tools for engagement, especially in large classes, but are some instructors relying too heavily on them? And, perhaps more importantly, are some students taking advantage of the technology and committing academic offences whether they realize it or not. Recently, the Chronicle of Higher Education published an article – “With Cheating Only a Click Away, Professors Reduce the Incentive” – that renewed this conversation around the CTSI office. With clickers being used more and more, and class sizes on the increase, we asked ourselves when and how clickers should be used and when should they be left behind.

First of all, we need to remember that academic integrity is not only about plagiarism. As the Chronicle article points out, a major abuse of the clicker system happens when students bring in more than one device to ‘represent’ absent classmates. Students can still meet the attendance marks, or answer quiz questions, without stepping foot in the classroom thanks to helpful friends. While these students might understand that ‘helping’ each other in this way is cheating the system, they might not recognize that it’s an academic offence. This is a good reminder that 1) using clickers to check attendance is not a fail-safe method and 2) if we use engagement technology (like clickers) in the classroom we should be sure to explain the procedures and implications to our students.

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