In this issue:


Thinking beyond our borders

The first reaction of most people to the events of September 11th was to huddle, literally or figuratively, with those dearest to them. This inward-focused and narrow frame of reference is a perfectly natural and adaptive response to a sudden serious threat over which we have no control. However, given the inevitability of globalization, I think that our best bet for a secure future is to try to learn as much as we can about other cultures and peoples. In fact, our University committed itself, in the "Fifth Decade" report, to increasing its international activities, and an advisory committee subsequently produced "Beyond Borders: A Strategy for Enhanced Internationalization at the University of Waterloo." This report contains various recommendations for enhancing international activity.  There has been action and progress in some of the areas, and Bruce Mitchell (associate vice-president academic, responsible for 'International Connections') and I are currently working together to think of ways the TRACE Office could help facilitate some of the recommendations that relate to teaching and learning.

The students we teach will be leaders in the world without borders.  Knowledge about others and their ways of doing things, combined with a flexibility of mind that we all try to instill in our students, are tools they will need to deal with the important issues that face the world's people.  Therefore, it is critical that our students have insight into the way the rest of the world operates, and why. At present, students in each faculty can study abroad (Waterloo has over 80 exchange agreements), as well as work, volunteer, or take courses in other countries. Clearly, though, only a small fraction of our students can take advantage of these opportunities because of the increased costs involved in travelling and living overseas.  How else can we 'inter-nationalize' the educational experience of the rest of the student population?  Here are a few ideas that Bruce and I, and others, have been discussing:

  • Enlisting the help of our international students, as well as Canadian students who have studied or worked abroad, to widen our perspectives
  • Helping faculty and staff to be aware of cultural norms that could make it difficult for some students to fully participate in the "Western" dialectic educational process
  • Encouraging faculty to develop and/or enhance international exchange programs, and introducing them to other faculty members who have experience in these activities 
  • Helping faculty members to find ways to broaden the curriculum to acknowledge global or cultural diversity where appropriate (it obviously makes little sense to try to 'internationalize' a calculus or a physical chemistry course, beyond, for example, making students aware of the international nature of science)

I would certainly welcome and appreciate any ideas and feedback concerning this topic from you, the teaching community at Waterloo. 

Barbara Bulman-Fleming


CUT graduates: Where are they now?

TRACE, with the on-going assistance of the Graduate Studies Office, began Waterloo's Certificate in University Teaching (CUT) in September 1998. Our program stacks up well against other programs in Canada and the United States, surpassing the requirements of many programs and serving as a model for the development of others. Where are our students now? We decided to interview two recent graduates. Here are their stories.

When Jonathon Fowles graduated from Waterloo's kinesiology department in October 2001, he had already embarked on his new career as an assistant professor at Acadia University. Jonathon has a tenure-track position in Acadia's School of Recreation Management and Kinesiology. Because Acadia is a teaching and undergraduate focused institution, his workload is divided up as follows: 50% teaching, 30% scholarly activity, and 20% service and administration. His teaching load is 6 courses per year, which translates to 2 courses with labs each term. In his core courses of Applied Human Anatomy and Applied Human Physiology, he has 72 students in each course. For his elective courses, Physiological Assessment and Fitness Programming, he has only 18 students. He has been learning about advising students as he has 10 first year students to guide throughout their academic careers as well as undergraduate honours thesis projects to supervise. And since arriving at Acadia, Jonathon and his colleagues have received a significant Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) equipment grant, which he used to outfit his lab space.

How did the CUT help him secure his position? Because of Acadia's teaching focus, the CUT piqued the interest of the hiring committee, and he was able to turn it into a major selling point. He also submitted his teaching dossier - a required component of the CUT - as evidence of good teaching. That made a clear statement about his commitment to teaching. As part of his interview, he also had to teach a class, and he felt that his preparation through the CUT gave him an edge.

Jonathon uses much of what he learned in the CUT in his career, citing the workshops and the teaching observations as the most valuable components. His advice to current CUT participants is to go after opportunities for teaching when they're still students as a way to help them work on their dossiers throughout their degrees. "Don't leave the dossier to the end," he cautions. "It helps you to build your profile and your confidence."

Similar to Jonathon, when Kelly Pryde convocated from Waterloo in June 2001 with a doctoral degree in psychology, she was already employed.  But Kelly chose a different, non-academic route; her employer is IBM. 

Kelly is a performance consultant in IBM's learning services division. Her department - Mindspan Solutions - helps businesses plan, design, and implement e-learning solutions to improve employee performance and achieve business goals. The topics vary widely from security awareness training to management skills training. Depending on a business's key goals, Kelly's position involves a lot of instructional design work and consulting on adult learning; most recently, she has been working on a contract to develop 100 e-learning modules for a large Canadian company.

She feels that the CUT was instrumental in helping her to secure her job.  The experience and knowledge she gained through the CUT first helped her to feel qualified to even apply for the position. And she sold the instructional development skills, communication skills, and presentation skills that she honed during the CUT as key transferable skills.

For Kelly, instructional design and adult learning were areas which she intuitively knew about, but she is now able to clearly articulate to her clients why certain designs will best meet the needs of their employees and the overall goals of their businesses. She has the background needed to be very effective in her position.

Kelly's advice to current CUT participants who are interested in working in industry instead of academe is simple: think outside the academic box.  "Look at all the skills that you gain in doing the program, and identify how they can be transferred to a position in industry. Also, avoid limiting yourself to your research area; instead, think about all the skills that you've developed as a graduate student and how you can generalize them." 

Donna Ellis


The view from UCSA

TRACE, in two previous newsletters 1), has dealt with issues related to academic misconduct and plagiarism. In this article, I will discuss my experiences as chair of the University Committee on Student Appeals (UCSA), and suggest some methods that instructors can employ to discourage plagiarism. As UCSA chair, I have sat for hours with tribunals, hearing cases of cheating and plagiarism, and have informed students that they are suspended or expelled from the University. This year, I reported to Senate that the case activity for cheating and plagiarism, although small on a University-wide scale, has risen compared to the situation three years ago 2). 

What have I learned, and what can we learn? The cost to all in these activities (investigative by associate deans; adjudicative by tribunals) is huge. But it is worth it to protect the academic integrity of all Waterloo degrees. It is necessary for the institution to be vigilant and to take action when appropriate. Most often, at the student level, there is confusion, desperation, and frustration. Always there is a sadness. And, increasingly, there appears to be a disconnection between institutional values and the values of our students. Some students deem it to be acceptable to cheat to further their academic careers; they believe that they 'deserve' degrees to augment their earning power: "I need a job, my degree will open that door, the University has said come here for that purpose"; "I am paying significantly for the experience"; "Classes are too big"; "I don't see any relevance"; "My instructors are distant."  Therefore, anything that must be done to graduate is seen by them as fine and worth the risk. 

The ability to borrow from the works of others has existed for as long as academics have shared ideas. To acknowledge and build on these ideas is scholarship. What has changed is the ready access to the scholarship - the Internet. Failure to acknowledge others' work is plagiarism 3).But is it that simple? Two cases at the UCSA level still nag at me. In one, it was argued (unsuccessfully) that all in the field borrowed from others and that this was so obvious that the concept of plagiarism was not meaningful.  Indeed a witness, highly acclaimed in the discipline, admitted to having inadvertently failed to acknowledge the work of an admired colleague and friend. In the other case, I truly believe that a fourth-year student did not know s/he had plagiarized (again, an unsuccessful appeal).

Plagiarism must be, and is, taken seriously by the institution. Technology has provided more ready access. Prevention seems a worthwhile strategy!  What can we, as instructors, do? Practical suggestions are available on-line 4) and in Baldwin (2001), and I'll list six points of my own.

  1. Show you're human. It is easier to cheat a system than a caring person. Make it clear that you are approachable so that a student who feels trapped by circumstances can talk to you; relief can be arranged before the student feels pressured into cheating.
  2. Be a role model. In your course, give attribution to others' material.  Demonstrate reference styles. In tests and exams, show that you take cheating seriously by discouraging it: back packs and purses under students' desks, spaces between seats, multiple versions of the exam, attentive proctors, etc.
  3. Be clear. Define plagiarism in class or in your course materials; detail your expectations for assignments (e.g., group vs. independent work). Student leaders, village dons, the ombudsperson, and others relate stories of inconsistency in tolerance for cheating among instructors even in multi-section courses. Standardize how the department or faculty addresses and educates with respect to cheating. Use an assignment checklist 5), which, for example, students sign and date, and on which they are asked to verify that they did not plagiarize or collaborate, and that they have referenced all sources.
  4. Tailor assignments to your course. Limit topics and resources. It is easier to find ready-made solutions to the more general tasks. Ask for work notes to be submitted, too. Vary the assignments and tests regularly.
  5. Be meaningful. Make that assignment pertinent to learning objectives so students see the purpose.
  6. Don't ignore cheating and plagiarism when you find it. Collect the evidence. Inform the associate dean. Seek advice from your associate chair or dean, or the Secretariat. The student must be told of your concerns and given a chance to respond. 

I started with how tough it is to deal with academic misbehaviour. But I believe the process works and can be rewarding. Over the years, the Associate Deans have developed penalties that are effective and serve to dissuade: there are few, if any, repeat offenders. They are also educational: students, having served a suspension or lesser penalty, go on to graduate. Waterloo degree holders can be proud of the degree they have earned.

Jay Thomson


Using instructional rubrics to focus student learning

I recently attended a workshop on creating rubrics given by Dr. Jim Eison of the Center for Teaching Enhancement at the University of South Florida. Jim defined instructional rubrics, or scoring rubrics, as descriptive schemes developed and used by teachers or other evaluators to assist in the analysis of students' efforts. Rubrics can be used to enhance student learning by providing students with a clear, complete, and easily understood description of the primary traits or essential components that should appear in their completed work product or their performance. They can also be used explicitly in grading by providing a clear description of the specific characteristics or qualities of each score or grade level, which can also help to improve grading efficiency or be used for student self-assessment. And rubrics don't have to be constructed only by the instructor. They can be created in conjunction with the students, which helps them to identify with the course requirements and objectives. 

Although rubrics can be very powerful tools, there are some challenges for instructors in creating them. For instance, as with any tool, pre-planning is necessary to ensure that the rubric fits with the context and content of the course, the course goals and objectives, and the assessment methods Finding the right level of specificity is also important so students understand what is required in a particular course, but at the same time, don't all produce the same assignment. They need to add their own individuality to their work. Remember that just because a rubric has been created doesn't mean that students will understand it. You should review any rubrics with your students and discuss discipline-specific terms.  Remember that not all of your students may be from your discipline. 

An excerpt from an instructional rubric for essay writing appears as an example below. It demonstrates how rubrics can help to outline the characteristics or qualities that are associated with possible scores, while also serving as a powerful self-assessment tool. 

So, how can you implement the use of rubrics in your own teaching? Let me provide an example from my own experience of preparing a course that I am teaching in the winter 2002 term: IS 303a - Designing Learning Activities Using Interactive Multimedia. IS 303a is a project-based course in which students work in teams to develop a prototype for an interactive learning activity that will address an instructional challenge in a Waterloo course. Typically, projects come from a variety of disciplines and are challenges that have been identified to me by faculty members who are interested in exploring the use of learning technologies in their classes. In the course, students learn about the process of designing a piece of interactive learnware and actually work through the process themselves as they create a prototype to address the instructional challenge. I have examples of prototypes from past classes to show the students so they know what they are working toward.  But my main goal for them in the course is to understand the process of learnware design and how individual steps in the process are connected and iterative. So, although final prototypes from past projects are valuable, my students can really benefit from receiving and using rubrics for each stage of the design. The clearer the rubrics, the more likely the students will make good progress and I will receive well-designed prototypes by the end of the course. I will also strongly encourage the students to use the rubrics for self-analysis of their work. 

Rubrics, then, should help to focus our students' learning on the tasks we assign them and optimize everyone's satisfaction with the course.

Instructional rubric for a persuasive essay (Andrade, 2000)

  Gradations of quality
Criterion 4 3 2 1
The Claim I make a claim and explain why it is controversial. I make a claim but don't explain why it is controversial. My claim is buried, confused and/or unclear. I don't say what my argument or claim is.
Reasons in support of the claim I give clear and accurate reasons in support of my claim. I give reasons in support of my claim, but I overlook important reasons. I give 1 or 2 weak reasons that don't support my claim and/or irrelevant or confusing reasons. I don't give reasons in support of my claim.

Additional references

Andrade, H.G., "Using Rubrics to Promote Thinking and Learning," Educational Leadership, 57, 5 (February, 2000).  Available online:  http://www.ascd.org/readingroom/edlead/0002/andrade.html

Anderson, R.S., and B.W. Speck (eds.), Changing the Way We Grade Student Performance: Classroom Assessment and the New Learning Paradigm, New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 74, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1998.

Moskal, B.M., "Scoring Rubrics: What, When and How," Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, 7, 3 (2000).  Available online: http://ericae.net/pare/getvn.asp?v=7&n=3

Walvoord, B.E., Effective Grading: A Tool for Learning and Assessment, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2000.

Tracy Penny Light


From presenting to lecturing

Most graduate students already have a generous amount of experience giving presentations in classes or at conferences. We might expect good presenters to naturally become good lecturers. Unfortunately, good presentations do not necessarily make good lectures, and unless we make some adjustments, we might end up giving our undergraduate students presentations instead of lectures. On September 25, 2001, TRACE presented the workshop "From Presenting to Lecturing: Adapting Material for Classroom Delivery," and a tip sheet was created from the topics covered in the workshop. The focus of this workshop was to emphasize differences between presenting and lecturing, and the facilitator discussed four general areas in which differences might be encountered: context, structure, interaction, and delivery and materials.

Though the different contexts of presentations and lectures might seem obvious, it might be beneficial to become aware of how the two actually differ. Presentations are usually 'stand-alone' events, their main focus being to convey information to knowledgeble colleagues. In contrast, lectures typically fit within the context of a series of lectures, and they are designed to help students learn material they will later be tested on.  These diverging contexts should actually influence how presentations and lectures are structured.

For openers, presenters have an advantage: they usually get an introduction from the organizer, and the audience's attention is already on them when they begin delivering their material. In contrast, lecturers must obtain the students' attention before they can begin lecturing, and the first part of the lecture should focus on reviewing the most recent material and reveal the content for the current lecture. Because audiences for research presentations are generally knowledgeable colleagues, presenters can deal with many points in a short amount of time. In contrast, lectures are delivered to students whose goal is to learn new material. As such, each 50-minute lecture should cover only 2-3 main points in order to maximize learning. Finally, when closing a presentation, one needs a final conclusion or a take-home message that recaps the main findings presented. But the end of the lecture does not amount to the end of material for a given course. Therefore, the closing of a lecture should encompass a wrap-up that contains both a review of the main points of the lecture just given, as well as a preview of what is to come in the next lecture. This will help maintain continuity between lectures.

The greatest difference between presentations and lectures appears in the interaction between the speaker and the audience. Interaction rarely occurs in presentations, aside from question periods at the end. In contrast, interaction often occurs during lectures, as it is conducive to learning. Interactive activities can be used to break the flow of lectures, emphasize key material, or provide 'hands-on' experience. Question strategies can be used to verify and secure students' knowledge of the material, and student questions and comments are usually accepted throughout the lecture, as they allow the clarification and consolidation of material presented.

In contrast, 'delivery and materials' is probably the area where the fewest differences exist. Effective presentation skills and effective visual aids are important for both types of delivery. However, the visual aids used during a lecture aim to assist student learning, and they should be highly adaptable in order to respond to unanticipated student needs or questions. The use of visuals also needs to complement the pace of student note-taking. Similarly, the handouts given in a lecture should be a teaching tool - not just a reiteration of the material being delivered verbally. Finally, contrary to presentations that usually flow uninterrupted, it is advisable to break up lectures in 10-15 minute segments. The average attention span usually does not exceed 15-20 minutes, and students will benefit from activities, summaries, or questions to break up the flow of the lecture, and refocus their attention.

Although there may be numerous differences between presentations and lectures, they are by no means exclusive categories. Rather, one should perceive them as lying at opposite ends of a continuum. Most of our 'lectures' might actually fall somewhere between the two extremes, simply because effective teachers selectively incorporate in their delivery the aspects of presenting and lecturing that best suit the learning needs of their students. 

Geneviève Desmarais


New teaching assistant developers

Cara DeHaan is pursuing her master's degree in English language and literature. Last term she led tutorials for a business writing course and was responsible for preparing tutorial exercises, marking written assignments and tests, and meeting with students one on one. She also regularly assisted the instructor during lectures. Not only did Cara thoroughly enjoy building relationships with her students, but also she was invigorated by the opportunity to learn from and with her class. Cara is excited about the chance to assist other students and knows that she herself will learn a lot about teaching this year. 

Martha Roberts is a PhD candidate in the cognition division in the Department of Psychology. During her time at the University of Waterloo, she has been a teaching assistant in basic and advanced data analysis, introductory psychology, and cognition/perception laboratory courses. She has also worked as a private tutor in several different subject areas. Martha completed her first formal teaching course as a young teenager, and over the past fifteen years she has developed her skills. She is an enthusiastic and dedicated teacher who deeply enjoys helping students realize their full potential. She looks forward to working in TRACE where she will have the opportunity to share her past experience and gain valuable new experiences. 


Announcing winter 2002 TRACE events

Workshops for the winter 2002 term:

Teaching large classes January 23 12 - 1:30 p.m.
Motivating students February 12 12 - 1:30 p.m.
Teaching dossiers, part 2 February 27 OR
February 28
10 - 11:30 a.m.
2:30 - 4 p.m.
Writing CVs and cover letters March 11 12 - 1:30 p.m.
On-line assignments March 26 12 - 1:30 p.m.
Course design April 10 OR
April 16
9 - 12 noon
9 - 12 noon

For more specific details, watch for notices in your department and via the Certificate listserv.  Each lunchtime workshop is followed by an informal discussion group one week following the workshop. 

CUT participants, please note that all of these workshops partially fulfill CUT requirements for GS 901 and 902. The teaching dossier workshop is required for the CUT.