History, mission, and vision
Waterloo is among the first universities in Canada to have instituted teaching development, inaugurating a centre in 1976. Reconfigured in 2007 to bring together support for classroom teaching, new technologies, and scholarly investigation, the CTE’s mission is to foster teaching and learning of the highest quality at Waterloo. We do this by working collaboratively with departments and individuals at all career stages across the University.
Our vision as a unit is to inspire teaching excellence, innovation, and inquiry. These represent our main areas of instructional support, which we provide primarily through community-building and capacity-building while making ourselves available for one-on-one consultations at point of need. Visit our vision page for more information.
Breadth of programs
The bulk of our work is focused on inspiring and fostering teaching excellence. All levels and ranks, from teaching assistants and postdoctoral fellows to new professors and senior leaders, attend our workshops and intensive programming. Faculty also seek consultations on course design and delivery issues for both face-to-face and blended learning courses. We work extensively with departments and whole faculties on curriculum renewal and program design along with custom programming. Finally, with more than 2,500 course offerings annually in Waterloo LEARN, a significant role for us is to support basic and advanced uses of this learning management system.
The rigorous Certificate in University Teaching (CUT) for graduate students began in 1998 as one of the first Canadian comprehensive programs. In January 2011, we launched a new pre-requisite program – the Fundamentals of University Teaching – to serve as a pre-requisite to the CUT. Elements of this have been adapted for a Postdoctoral Fellows series. In May 2012, we launched revised core programming for new faculty members. Compulsory in Engineering and Applied Health Sciences, all new faculty members are invited to participate.
To celebrate teaching excellence, we administer annual teaching awards and invite faculty recipients to open their classrooms to their colleagues. We often present about CTE’s work to international visitors, and in 2010 and 2014, we provided training programs to faculty members from King Saud University, Saudi Arabia. Our instructional developers are sought-after facilitators in the profession more widely and on campus. We also work collaboratively with the Faculty Teaching Fellows and Associate Dean, Teaching, to share ideas, provide joint programming, and promote an institutional culture that values teaching.
CTE curates popular online resources for teaching assistants, faculty, and teaching staff; for example, we have developed more than 100 tip sheets on practical topics. These tip sheets are accessed almost 43,000 times per month by people from Waterloo and around the world. We publish the newsletter Teaching Matters each term, and all members of our staff blog about current events in teaching and learning at Waterloo and current issues in higher education more generally.
We are also here to support innovation in teaching and learning. We investigate emerging technologies and share our observations and recommendations with our university community and beyond through workshops and our online resources. We also encourage alternative ways of assessing student learning. For example, e-portfolios are being used at Waterloo to help students themselves integrate their learning. Recently, we launched a revised Learning Innovation and Teaching Enhancement (LITE) grants program, with support from the office of the Associate Vice-President, Academic, to promote further innovation and pedagogical development.
CTE provided leadership on the university-wide Task Force on Innovative Teaching Practices to Promote Deep Learning, whose report highlights 35 examples of innovative instruction at Waterloo in courses and across programs. Many recommendations from the report have been implemented; the full report is available on our website. CTE will continue to highlight examples of innovative instructional practices through venues such as our online teaching stories and the experiential education series at which faculty members and their students share their experiences.
Finally, we foster inquiry about teaching and learning. CTE offers a range of services to help our clients explore more systematically the theory and practice of teaching and learning in the disciplines. We run learning communities that bring together instructors with a common interest or concern to learn from one another and the extensive research literature in higher education. Graduate students and instructors investigate the scholarship of teaching and learning in our CUT program and through the LITE grants program, respectively. As a venue for sharing exemplary practices and formal pedagogical research, CTE organizes the Opportunities and New Directions conference annually. We attract more than 120 internal and external participants to this event, helping to facilitate knowledge exchange across institutions. Many of our own staff present and publish actively in the field of higher education as well.
Overall, we help to build capacity in and community around teaching and learning. Our role is more facilitative than directive. We provide spaces for conversations and exploration. We ask questions that get our clients thinking deeply, and we listen to their needs. We bring people together whose paths might not otherwise cross. Waterloo’s commitment to excellence and innovation in teaching and learning is embodied in CTE and the people who make use of our services and support.