Training Camp for CUPE 3902 Unit 1 Course Instructors – Dec. 7th, 2012

The 2011-2014 collective agreement between CUPE 3902 and the University,  outlines that Course Instructors (CIs) who are members of Unit 1 who will be teaching a course at the University for the very first time shall receive 6 hours of paid job training. At the Centre For Teaching Support & Innovation, we have taken a variety of steps to help the University meet this mandate. In the fall of 2012, I was hired as the first Course Instructor Training Co-ordinator and I have been developing a series of workshops.

On December 7th, 2012 from 9:30 to 5:00 pm we are holding a Training Camp, a full day of training targeted as advanced professional development for CIs beginning contracts in January 2013. Training Camp will be held in the CTSI Office, Robarts Library, 4th floor, Room 4029 from 9:30 am -5:00 pm.  The breakdown of the day will be as follows.

  • Course Design and Management for First Time CUPE 3902 Unit 1 Course Instructors (9:30-11:30am)
  • Making Your Syllabus Work for You and Your Students: Effective Course Syllabus Design (12:30-2:30 pm)
  • Designing Effective Assessments (3:00-5:00 pm)

To register for CI training camp please visit our registration page.  

We recommend that CIs review the information provided by CUPE 3902 on CI training. CIs should use the CUPE 3902 CI Training Request form on this page to get departmental approval for any workshops you plan to take through CTSI as part of your paid training.

The Cheesy Smackdown

I am feeling very full right now. Full of cheesy, comfort food goodness thanks to the Mac’n’Cheese Smackdown. Organized by UeaTs (Food Services at U of T), the same folks who brought us Food Truck Fridays and co-sponsored World Food Day events on campus, the Smackdown brought 5 chefs (from New College, Victoria, St. Mike’s, Chestnut, and the Exchange) and 5 mac’n’cheese dishes together. Hungry participants paid $1 a bowl and voted for their favourite. The winner was Chef Jaco from Chestnut Residence.

All that remains....

In truth, Team CTSI was torn between St. Mike’s mom’s style mac’n’cheese (loved the veggies) and Victoria College’s beer, bacon and saltine concoction. It was a combination that we hadn’t encountered before and, as a colleague pointed out, ‘the saltines were the true innovation.’ It was also pretty clear to us that we were taking our voting very seriously. We talked it through, we discussed the pros about each selection (all options were tasty so it was really a struggle to decide which of the pros was the best – a hierarchy of pros, if you will), and we each had to make a tough decision at ballot time. As another colleague noted, “I was torn between ‘Mom’ and ‘Bacon’ until the moment I voted.” It was also the perfect day to sit in Willocks Common and discuss the important things in life. Today it was bacon.

The question now is….. what’s the next smackdown, @UeaToronto? Meatballs were at the top of our list. Or pie. Or apple crisp. Maybe soup? Ah, and now I’m hungry again.


Good advice for us all

I read the Life @ U of T blog regularly – interesting stories, great tips about campus life – but I found Sarah’s post this week particularly moving. It was a genuine “I’ve been there!” kind of feeling. Because yes, I’ve been there.

My undergraduate degree took a rather long time (I will, at long last, convocate this November) so I have experienced the university classroom from a number of vantage points. My first round (1988-1991), I barely, if ever, spoke in class or tutorial. I was terrified. Didn’t think I had anything of merit to offer, worried that I would say something so off-base that I would look ridiculous. When I returned as a mature student in 2008, I made a conscious effort to change this situation. I still wasn’t comfortable speaking (even if I was older than some instructors and most of my fellow students, I could still be intimidated) but I forced myself to and – as Sarah points out – it did get easier. And I did learn that I could survive any potential embarrassment.

More than just a survey: student learning experience is at the core of the new U of T course evaluation framework

In keeping with its commitment to excellence in teaching, the University of Toronto is pleased to announce the launch of a new course evaluation framework. This new framework is aimed at assessing factors that contribute to students’ overall learning experiences in their courses. At the heart of this new framework are new core institutional course evaluation questions, which stem from the University’s expectation that students have valuable learning experiences in their courses. Stated simply, the University of Toronto expects that its courses are intellectually stimulating, create environments conducive to real learning, and provide opportunity for students to demonstrate their knowledge.

The need for a new course evaluation framework has been on the minds of the academic administration for some time. Recognizing the importance of an institutional approach to the assessment of students’ learning experiences in their courses, in 2009 a working group chaired by Professor Jill Matus, Vice Provost – Students, and Professor Edith Hillan, Vice Provost – Academic and Faculty Life, and consisting of academic representation from divisions across the institution, was created. After 2 years of extensive consultation with students, faculty, and staff, a rigorous review of the empirical literature on the assessment of teaching, and an examination of practices at other institutions, the working group recommended a number of significant changes to current course evaluation practice at the University of Toronto. Briefly, the Working Group recommended the development of a new university policy regarding the evaluation of University of Toronto courses (passed at Governing Council in 2011), the complete redesign of course evaluation questions that stem directly from the institution’s teaching and learning goals for students, a centralized team of experts to manage and to evaluate the framework, a framework that provides both summative and formative student feedback to instructors, and a new online system to meet the university’s commitment to student needs and campus sustainability. To monitor the realization of these recommendations, a Course Evaluation Implementation Group was established as well. Co-chaired by Professor Cheryl Regehr, Vice Provost – Academic Programs, and Professor Carol Rolheiser, Director, Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation, this group has been and continues to be instrumental in monitoring and advising each stage of implementation.

The new course evaluation framework is innovative in its approach to the evaluation of teaching. It balances the need to assess broad institutional expectations for teaching and learning while recognizing that students’ learning experiences vary by specific pedagogical goals set out by an academic discipline. Thus, beyond the core institutional questions, course evaluations are customizable, providing divisions, departments, and instructors the option to select their own questions from a new course evaluation question bank. This multi-level assessment approach ensures that students’ learning experiences are assessed broadly and within learning contexts. Course evaluation questions are both quantitative and qualitative, providing faculty with extensive information to incorporate into future course design or redesign.

The University of Toronto’s new course evaluation framework is also innovative in its involvement with students in both design and administration. Not only did students from across the institution play a central role in the actual wording of core institutional questions, students’ concerns regarding the lack of opportunity to provide thoughtful feedback about their learning experiences during class time was recognized as a key priority. To meet this concern, the University of Toronto licensed an online course evaluation delivery tool from Canadian company, eXplorance. Within the new framework, students now have approximately 2 weeks during the end of their courses to provide feedback from their personal computers or electronic devices. Students’ responses to the new questions and the online system have been overwhelmingly positive. Of a sample of 10,000 students surveyed who have used the new framework and system to evaluate their courses, approximately 60% felt that completing an evaluation using the new system was better than completing evaluations on paper in class.

The University of Toronto has invested in a number of resources to ensure the innovative goals of the new course evaluation framework are met. As a new centralized service, the course evaluation framework is managed through the Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation, under the direction of the Associate Director, Dr. Pam Gravestock and a new Course Evaluation Support Officer, Dr. Cherie Werhun. In addition to managing the online system, course evaluation reports, and the course evaluation item bank, the Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation is responsible for ongoing analysis of the new framework and for working with divisions to create course evaluation divisional procedures, interpretation guidelines, and educational materials to assist academic administration, faculty, and students in their use of course evaluation data.

The implementation of the new course evaluation framework has expanded considerably since its inception in the Fall of 2011. To date, approximately 1000 courses have been evaluated, generating over 16,000 evaluations within Arts & Science, Nursing, UTM, and UTSC. This fall, 2012, Arts & Science and Social Work will be participating fully in the new framework, and other divisions are set to join in 2013. As additional faculties join the new course evaluation framework, the University of Toronto is committed to meeting this growth with new support. This fall, course evaluations will be integrated with Blackboard and in 2013, a new U of T course evaluation app will be released for use with students’ iPhones.

The implementation of the new course evaluation framework at the University of Toronto has been no small task, and has involved the coordinated investment of numerous resources, faculty, staff, and students. Overall, this campus-wide dedication to the new course evaluation framework at the University of Toronto suggests that the institution is committed not only to excellence in teaching but to excellence in the evaluation of teaching, as well.

It is indeed an exciting time for teaching at U of T!

For more information on the new course evaluation framework and online system, please visit: and

For instructors who are interested in promoting the new course evaluation initiative in their classroom, Just-in-Time Powerpoint slides are available from the CTSI website.

Putting YOU in EvalYOUation: video for U of T students

Grand Opening: CTSI, Robarts Library Reference Services and new student study areas

It started with a need for new student spaces. After conducting focus groups, surveys and consultations with students, we knew U of T students wanted study spaces with natural light, comfortable seating, access to computers and wireless networks, and conveniently located to other resources (e.g. books). Thanks to a generous donation by Russell and Katherine Morrison (who have already made significant contributions to St. George campus in the past decade – including Morrison Hall residence at University College), we now have a beautiful new space for study and collaboration for students – and for CTSI and Robarts Library Reference Services, too. On October 2nd, U of T Libraries and CTSI officially opened our newly renovated space that also includes study areas and a computer lab for students.

Mr. Russell Morrison

As the university has changed, Robarts Library has followed suit. Students’ needs change as the community diversifies, technologies evolve and academia grows to encompass more views, more areas of study and, quite simply, more students. These latest renovations reflect that need but as Cheryl Misak, Vice-President and Provost, said, “Of course, this new space is also about teaching.”

We now have two computer labs and the Blackburn Room for training, workshops and events (we included photos of these new spaces in a previous post). All of these rooms have been in full use since the end of August (when CTSI held their Back-to-School workshop series) and staff, instructors and students have all given them high marks. The spaces are flexible (easy to move furniture around to suit workshop needs) and technology is available and accessible (not to mention functional). On the CTSI side, we now have two new rooms for meetings and consultations and a collaboration space for staff to meet, schedule and plan upcoming events and projects.

The architect firm Gow Hastings – as well as everyone else involved in the design and coordination of these renovations – did a marvellous job listening to all our concerns, and our wish list, so that we can all – staff and students alike – enjoy a comfortable and welcoming work environment. And the sunlight, let’s not forget the sunlight! This new space also provides more opportunities for CTSI and Reference Services Librarians to cross paths. Not only is it nice to know your neighbours, we’ve already started a number of projects together simply because we run into each other in the hall and start a conversation. Let the collaborations continue!

The next step – hopefully not too far down the road – is the Robarts Common, a student centre scheduled to be built at the north-west end of the library. The hallway to the centre will extend right from our new space. According to Chief Librarian Larry Alford, “The new five-storey pavilion will become a new face of Robarts, opening up the west side of the building to the street, bring a flood of natural light to the lower floors and making the overall environment more inviting, accessible and productive for students.”

Phrase that describes your favourite learning space

Who supports your learning?This post also appears in the U of T Libraries’ Noteworthy magazine.