Several members of the CTSI team attended the Society for Teaching & Learning in Higher Education conference in Montreal last week (June 19-22). It was an eventful and stimulating few days (although that also meant we didn’t have much time to explore the city). Pam Gravestock, Associate Director, presented a research paper, Does Teaching Matter? Assessing Teaching for Tenure at Canadian Universities, on Wednesday. Addressing the pervasive assumption that research activity trumps teaching contributions, Dr. Gravestock reported on her comprehensive review and analysis of tenure policies at 46 Canadian universities and reveals the common practices and differing policies throughout. It was a successful session – with more than 80 in attendance – and there was a lively Q&A period afterward.
Our second presentation was a half-day pre-conference session demonstrating our Exploring Large Classroom Teaching module. The theme of this year’s conference was “Learning without Boundaries?” and our module addressed this topic in a number of ways. First of all, the module is available to anyone with access to the internet. You do not need a University of Toronto login to view or participate. We designed the module so the user can forge their own path, decide what to view next and what resources will be most helpful. Also, we employed a simple platform to make the module accessible and as intuitive as possible (which isn’t an easy task but we’re pleased with the results). By breaking the topic into four broad topics (Planning, Strategies, Assessment, Technology), we can dig deeper into each area without cluttering the web page with too much information. Our 3-hour workshop led the participants through our process in creating the module (it was a very iterative process) and the many ways we’ve used it since its launch.
A priority when designing and building the module was to incorporate collaboration and feedback. Assembling the videos and resources was certainly collaborative as each interview led to another. We discovered many interesting projects and practices across the university because our interview subject, whether instructor or graduate student, pointed us in the right direction. We wanted to promote the fine work already in progress at U of T and we pleased (although not surprised) by the number of examples to highlight. Since launching the module, this diversity in projects and disciplines has been beneficial during consultations with colleagues. They provide straight forward and simple of examples when discussing practices and possibilities. In truth, we’ve found that the discussion aspect has been the most fruitful outcome of our module. It can be used in a number of ways and it has opened the conversation. There was a lot of discussion during our session concerning needs, wants, and resources – and the conversation continues with each consultation and each workshop that the module resources are utilized.
We expected only a few participants for our session – we were told less than 10 – but more than 20 joined us! They were a lively and responsive group, which was a huge relief for me. This was the first time (in a long time) that I co-presented at a conference. I couldn’t have asked for a better re-introduction, though. It was a great experience planning the session and a surprisingly not-overly-stressed time in front of the crowd. In both instances, I’d say that is due to a smart, supportive and capable team.