In this issue:


The value of reflection

When I ask people at work "How are you?" the most common response I hear is: "Busy." For many of us, the pace of our work is fast and steady, often spilling into evenings and weekends. When I told people about my most recent workshop on becoming a critically reflective teacher, they said "That sounds interesting, Donna, but I don't have time to go." 

No time to think about our work as teachers? No time to stop and consider if what we are doing is meeting our goals? No time to think about whether we are using our limited resource of time effectively? 

Glassick, Huber, and Maeroff (1997), in their book Scholarship Assessed, identify standards for assessing all scholarly activity, which includes teaching. The standards were: clear goals, adequate preparation, appropriate methods, significant results, effective presentation, and reflective critique. There is a clear sense that we can benefit from looking back on what we have done, considering what worked and what did not, soliciting feedback from others, and using all of these ideas to inform future practice. But does reflection just focus on practice?

Cranton (1994) suggests that we need to question the assumptions behind our practice and ask ourselves these key questions:

  • What did I do?
  • How did I decide to do that?
  • Why should I question what I did? (p.220).

Other researchers concur with the need to examine our assumptions and consciously choose to keep them or alter them. 

But assumptions are hard to uncover and articulate. At the workshop, we engaged in an activity devised by Stephen Brookfield that asked us first to describe the observable features we would use to constitute "effective teaching" if we were to observe and assess a peer's teaching. Then we worked on articulating the assumptions behind those features. For example, if I look for interaction with the students throughout a class via questions and activities, I'm assuming that good teachers interact with their students and that students want to be active in the classroom. This was a helpful activity when the results were examined in relation to other statements that we made about our teaching actions, intentions, and beliefs in response to other workshop activities. Where did we have misalignments and why?

This introspective session challenged all of us to really think about and articulate why we do what we do as teachers and how much we put our beliefs into practice. In only three hours, we gained valuable insights into our teaching practices and expanded our understanding of our roles as teachers. We also identified how to re-focus our teaching efforts in more effective ways. For those of you interested in increasing your insights and ideas about teaching, I would encourage you to take a little time to attend a TRACE workshop or talk to your colleagues about issues in teaching and learning. The teaching philosophy from Howard Armitage, accountancy professor and director of Waterloo's Centre for Business, Entrepreneurship, and Technology, that appears in this issue shows reflective thought about teaching and opens the door for discussion with others. The power of dialogue can be enormous, as you share experiences and strategies with one another and learn more about your own and others' beliefs about teaching. Department meetings could represent one forum for such discussions. If you are interested in devoting some of this meeting time to talk about teaching and would like assistance from TRACE (e.g., discussion facilitation, mini presentation), please contact Donna Ellis at ext. 5713 or at donnae@ admmail.

References:

Cranton, P. (1994). Understanding and promoting transformative learning: A guide for 
   educators of adults. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Glassick, C.E., Huber, M.T., & Maeroff, G.I. (1997). Scholarship assessed: Evaluation of 
   the professoriate. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. 

Donna Ellis


Award-winning teaching at Waterloo: Howard Armitage's philosophy of teaching 

For Howard Armitage, teaching is a "work of love." If you talk to him about teaching, his passion and commitment are both clear and energizing. Howard was recognized for his dedication to teaching and educational leadership this past summer when he received a 3M Teaching Fellowship Award at the annual Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education conference. I had a chance to read his teaching dossier and asked to share his teaching philosophy statement with the Waterloo community. 

Howard believes that "teaching is the highest form of understanding," and he developed the following principles for his teaching to help explain this belief:

  • I will be well informed and steeped in the knowledge of my field and its related disciplines
  • I will stimulate active, not passive, learning and encourage students to be critical, creative thinkers with the capacity to go on learning long after their university days are over
  • I will not only transmit knowledge but transform and extend it through research that informs my teaching
  • I will be an inspired teacher who keeps the flame of scholarship alive (from the teaching dossier of H. Armitage, 2004, p.4).

I highlighted the phrases bolded above and asked him to explain how he operationalizes those ideals each and every day in his teaching. 

Howard reads widely, taking ideas from the literature and implementing methods and strategies as a consultant to various organizations. He brings this applied learning back into his classrooms, teaching his students what he has learned from his real-world experiences and extending and transforming this knowledge by creating teaching cases for his colleagues.  His consulting work and his teaching share a symbiotic relationship that makes both activities stronger. 

He is notorious for having an interactive classroom. For him, it is a given to know his students' names, even when class sizes hover between 50 and 75 students. This allows him to call on everyone, and with participation being worth 30-35% of the course grade, he works at drawing in all students to hear their ideas. He also uses debates in one course, spending 30-40 minutes per week having student teams work on presenting concise, convincing arguments about problems found out in the business world. 

Howard focuses on skill development as much as content acquisition in his courses. The debates foster critical thinking and presentation skills. He also teaches students how to engage in strategy mapping, a performance measurement system used in industry. To do this, they need to create a mission, a vision, objectives, and outcome measures for an organization, and use brainstorming and evaluation techniques such as cost/benefit analyses to solve the problems posed. And he pushes his students to continue using the skills honed in his courses by asking them to send follow-up emails to share how they have put ideas from his courses into practice. It works. He has numerous emails and cards from past students who explain how his courses influenced them.

His explanation of being an "inspired" teacher focuses on adding value and making a difference: he aims to "get knowledge out and leave the students with something new in a way that's unique." Howard reflects after each class on how well he has met his aims, and how well he has connected with each student. He talks to students outside of class time who weren't engaged that day to better understand their situations.

In all, Howard thoroughly enjoys his teaching and sees great value in linking the theoretical with the applied, involving students in each class, and showing that he cares. He also acknowledges the value of showing students that teachers are human and shares stories of experiences gone wrong and what he learned from them.

Congratulations, Howard! Your award is well-deserved and your philosophy is an inspiration.

Donna Ellis


The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: The Teaching-Based Research Group

In your teaching, do you wonder. Has this new activity increased students' learning? What do my students think about the course resources I am using? Who can I talk to at Waterloo about teaching as part of my life as a scholar? If these questions interest you, then you will want to know about a new initiative on campus. 

The Centre for Learning and Teaching through Technology (LT3) and the Office of the Associate Vice-President, Learning Resources and Innovation have initiated the University of Waterloo Teaching-Based Research Group.  The goal of this research group is to explore teaching as a scholarly activity, through a community of researchers committed to systematic study of classroom teaching practices and their impacts on student learning outcomes. 

All members of the Teaching-Based Research Group come with an interest in enhancing their teaching through scholarly activities. These activities include assessing students' learning experiences and ways to improve them; developing innovations in teaching methods and conducting classroom-focused action research or more formal research studies; and reviewing teaching-related conference papers, journal articles, books and learning objects. Members come from across Waterloo's faculties, including faculty members of all ranks and other instructional staff with an interest in systematic validation of the effects of their teaching on student learning. 

The current activities of Teaching-Based Research Group members include: 

  • exploring the research base for teaching in their disciplines;
  • conducting assessments of the impacts of teaching practices on learning outcomes;
  • developing research-based innovations in teaching practices;
  • sharing information on scholarly activities through seminars, workshops, presentations and publications;
  • promoting discipline research on teaching and learning to colleagues and to the broader community at Waterloo and beyond.

For further information on the Teaching-Based Research Group and its activities visit the website (http://www.learning.uwaterloo.ca/research) or contact Dr. Vivian Schoner, strategic consultant for research and evaluation, LT3, and research associate professor, St. Paul's United College, University of Waterloo (ext. 2940 or vschoner@LT3.uwaterloo.ca)

Vivian Schoner


Back To school 2004 - Who are our students?

Being aware of key characteristics of each new incoming group of students can help us to connect with them. Tina Roberts (Director, marketing and undergraduate recruitment) and Julie Kalbfleisch (Manager, liaison and external relations) prepared a profile of this year's class that you may find useful.

Considering that most of the students starting at Waterloo in 2004 were born after 1982, it is no surprise that I experienced blank stares from my students as I happily referred to a Star Trek: The Next Generation character called "Q" in a class I taught recently. This television series has not produced new episodes since these students were quite young. They were born after Terry Fox was forced to abandon his marathon of hope, they were just born when Pierre Elliott Trudeau resigned as Prime Minister and the Canadian Charter of Rights was enacted, and they were quite young when the space shuttle Challenger blew up a few seconds after take-off.

These students have specific expectations about their professors. They expect professors to be available shortly before and after class, as well as via email and even instant messaging - almost 100% of them have internet access from home, and the majority have high-speed access. They would also like to hear about their professors' research without feeling that teaching is an imposition on their professors. Altogether, they expect caring professors who will learn their names and deliver dynamic, interesting, and inspiring lectures.

They come with specific concerns as well. They worry that increased class sizes will make professors inaccessible. They are also worried about burnout, too much pressure, and difficult grading practices. Despite these concerns, they have many qualities that will help them succeed: they seem to be optimistic, co-operative, confident, and achievement-oriented. They also seem to accept authority and follow the rules, though they are aware of loop-holes! They are a watched-over, sheltered generation.

Altogether, the incoming class of 2004 sounds like an eager group of students with promising qualities and valid concerns. So consider how to position your courses and your role as a teacher to harness their potential in relation to your goals.

Geneviève Desmarais 


Teaching Excellence Council updates 

The Teaching Excellence Council (TEC) members have been working on various projects this past term. 

From the sub-group working on teaching awards, Brian Forrest tells us that they have been looking at how the University formally recognizes outstanding teaching. They have started with a review of the current Distinguished Teacher Award (DTA) Program, and one of their main focuses has been the nomination process for the DTA.

The group has also had extensive discussions on the merit of faculty-based teaching awards. The Faculty of Engineering already has such a program. They expect to complete their work by the end of September. 

From the classroom enhancements sub-group, Winston Cherry tells us that they have been visiting classrooms scheduled for renovations to identify improvements to help instructors. They also ask for your feedback: 

  • Which classrooms have good features you would like to see more widely available?
  • Which classrooms have poor features you would like to see changed?

Please send comments to Winston on paper (not by email) in statistics and actuarial science, MC. Please include class size, teaching format (lecture, small groups), and discipline or subject area. 

Thanks to the TEC members! We look forward to reporting on more outcomes in the future...

Winston Cherry 


Certificate in University Teaching information session

If you are interested in finding out more about Waterloo's Certificate in University Teaching program for graduate students, please attend the meeting being held on Tuesday, September 14, 2004, from 12:00 - 1:00 p.m. in MC 5158.

You will learn about the various components of the program and hear from a current participant. Please bring your questions!

We also encourage any faculty members to attend who are interested in this program for their graduate students. Associate chairs for graduate studies as well as graduate secretaries may also find the session useful in their work with graduate students.


Revising our website, rethinking our philosophy

With the release of the new AVP-LRI website out of Tom Carey's office, TRACE was asked to revamp its web presence. We've started with a new homepage and used this project as an opportunity to reflect on our office. Our revised working philosophy is that teaching is complex yet rewarding, and good teaching involves skills and attitudes that can be learned. To enact this philosophy, we will support yet challenge you in developing and reflecting on your teaching practices, goals, and beliefs.

We explain on the homepage the services and resources that we offer.  The right side of the page shows quick links to familiar TRACE pages, such as workshop registrations, observation requests, the Certificate in University Teaching, and teaching awards.

We will continue to work on updating the rest of the site during the fall term. So watch for changes as we work on implementing our new look.  This project will result in the discontinuation of some web pages, including the listing of Waterloo course web pages. Our aim is to have a streamlined, easy-to-navigate website that enables you to find what you need easily without overwhelming you with information.

If you have any questions or comments about our website project, please contact Donna Ellis at ext. 5713.


New program coordinator

The TRACE Office has a new program coordinator to manage the Certificate in University Teaching program and provide course redesign services to help deal with limited resources and large enrolments.  Geneviève Desmarais is nearing completion of her PhD in psychology at Waterloo. She has been working at the TRACE office as a teaching assistant (TA) developer intermittently since 2001, and has been involved in research related to teaching issues. Geneviève has taught a second-year Physiological Psychology course twice over the past few years, and has been a TA for numerous courses, including statistical analysis courses for which she led regular tutorials, as well as designed review activities for large numbers of students. Geneviève is interested in developing and integrating the principles of universal design for learning in large and diverse classrooms, and her background in psychology includes knowledge of cognitive and physiological psychology, which give her insight into students' learning needs and behaviours. She is looking forward to her increased responsibilities and to working with instructors at all 
levels.

Congratulations, Gen!


For new faculty 

September 9th will bring the welcoming events for new Waterloo faculty members. We have more than 90 new faculty this year at Waterloo. The morning starts with breakout group activities, then a lunch with deans and department chairs. Amit Chakma and Tom Carey will bring greetings from Waterloo. Lunch is followed by a panel presentation on issues of balance in the faculty career, and features presentations by Andy McMurry, English, Linda Jessup, health studies and gerontology, Beth Jewkes, management sciences, and Roydon Fraser, mechanical engineering and faculty association of the University of Waterloo (FAUW).

A BBQ at president Johnston's farm with new faculty and their partners ends the day. The BBQ is co-sponsored by the FAUW and the new faculty planning committee. At least one new faculty workshop will occur in each term, starting with 'Funding for innovations' in October. Sessions on documenting teaching for tenure and promotion and using course evaluations will follow in the winter and spring terms. Invitations will be sent prior to each event. You can also check www.watport.uwaterloo.ca for more details.

Welcome to Waterloo - community begins with you!


Changes in distance education

For the fall 2004 term, 85 of the 255 courses in the distance education program will be offered in an online format. Students will receive a CD-ROM containing the course material (audio lectures and other learning material in a variety of formats). Computer conferencing, enabling interaction among the students and with the instructor, is a common feature of the courses. Many courses point students to websites containing valuable resource information. Our first online courses were created in 1997, and we have been adding 15-20 courses each year.

The move to the e-learning format was prompted by a number of things.  We were convinced early on that the Internet provided a great vehicle to take the distance out of distance education. As well, we believed that the new technologies could help us deliver the material in more effective formats, improving learning. Finally, from talking with instructors who had prepared courses in the "tapes and notes" format, we knew that experience had a positive impact on their on-campus teaching. We felt their involvement with the new technologies would carry over to the classroom as well, and there are many examples of that happening.

Not all courses have been converted to the e-learning format, yet they have a new look. After 36 years of relying on cassette tapes for the audio portion of the course material, this fall almost all of our audio will be delivered in a convenient mp3 format on CD-ROM. Students will no longer have to return the tapes at the end of term, the audio quality is considerably better, duplication costs are greatly reduced, and the audio for a whole course can fit on one CD-ROM.

Will we get to the point when all the courses will be online? That probably would be a good position to be in, but instructor resources and dollars will determine that.

Don Kasta


Announcing fall 2004 TRACE events

Motivating students September 23 OR
September 28
12 - 1:30 p.m.
12 - 1:30 p.m.
Preparing students for group projects October 4 12 - 1:30 p.m.
Teaching dossiers October 22 1:30 - 3:30 p.m.
Engaging students with online resources October 26 12 - 1:30 p.m.
The juggling act: Balancing roles November 17 12 - 1:30 p.m.
CVs and cover letters November 25 12 - 1:30 p.m.
Understanding the learner December 8 OR
December 14
9:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
9:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

For more specific details, watch for notices in your department and via the Certificate listserv. 
To join the listserv, email trace@admmail

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 and will be offered every term.