Session descriptions and links to presenter materials if provided

Session descriptions

100s  │   200s  │   300s  │   400s

Session 100s: 10:30-11:45 a.m.

Links to session descriptions: 101, 102, 103, 104, 105, 106

Session 101 – Panel - Collaborative Courses: Our Experience in INTEG375 – Philosophy of Interdisciplinarity   
Katie Plaisance, Centre for Knowledge Integration, University of Waterloo 
Rob Gorbet, Centre for Knowledge Integration, University of Waterloo
Naman Kumar, Computer Engineering, University of Waterloo
Ryan Martens, Centre for Knowledge Integration, University of Waterloo
Jenna Vikse, Centre for Knowledge Integration, University of Waterloo

In Winter 2013, Author 1 from the Centre for Knowledge Integration (CKI) offered a 3rd year elective course on the Philosophy of Interdisciplinarity.  The course model is collaborative: the 13 students and instructor worked together to develop the syllabus, assignments, timelines, and rubrics.  Classes are participatory, and were regularly attended by Author 2, also a faculty member in CKI.  This delivery model had challenges and benefits, barriers and breakthroughs.  We would like to share this experiment with others at the conference in order to encourage others considering similar models, and discuss best practices.

We propose a panel format, with three 12-minute presentations discussing barriers and breakthroughs from three different perspectives: those of Author 1, the instructor; Author 2, a non-instructor faculty member attending the course regularly; and Bachelor of Knowledge Integration (BKI) students enrolled in the course.

Author 1’s presentation will set the context for the course and reflect on the challenges and benefits of giving up control in a collaborative classroom, and any institutional barriers she sees to implementing this teaching model at Waterloo.  She will also discuss the challenge of teaching a course on interdisciplinarity, while acknowledging her own disciplinary standpoint.  Author 2 will talk about his participation in the course in relation to the course dynamic, his relationship with Author 1 as a colleague, and his relationship with the students, all of whom he also teaches in other BKI courses.  The students will present their perspectives on the experience: what benefits or detriments does the collaborative teaching model have?  What barriers exist to student learning that are either created/reinforced or mitigated/removed by using this model?

The panelist presentations will be followed by a 20-30 minute discussion period.

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Session 102 (pdf) – Workshop – Online Teaching: Exploring Fears, Uncovering Possibilities  
Dina Meurnier, Centre for Extended Learning, University of Waterloo
Debra Freedman, Centre for Extended Learning, University of Waterloo

We’re told that integration between courses is desirable (Morgan & Bolton, 1998), but how do you actually integrate courses?  This is a significant challenge in Engineering, where a minimum amount of material must be
Participating, as an instructor, in the online learning environment can be quite overwhelming and uncertain: What does it mean to transform in-residence courses into online spaces? Can I integrate Web 2.0 technology? What is a Learning Management System (LMS)? How do I manage interactions with students? What kind of effect will teaching in the online environment have on my career and workload?  How do I preserve my democratic pedagogical stance?  How do I maintain my sanity in the online virtual 24/7-classroom space? (Major, 2010)

The objectives of this workshop are

  • to consider what it means to be an online/virtual professor, regardless of discipline;
  • to explore concerns, hesitations, trepidations, and possibilities for online learning through a variety of interactive activities; and
  • to introduce online learning terminology and current research.

The intent of this workshop is to acknowledge potential barriers and, more importantly, to explore possibilities, breakthroughs, and strategies that create a more enjoyable, enriching, and deeper online experience for both instructor and student.

Major, C. H. (2010). Do virtual professors dream of electric students? University Faculty Experiences with online distance education. Teachers College Record, 112 (8), 2154-2208.

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Session 103 -- Presentations

103 a (pdf) - Team Projects in an Introductory Course in Statistics
Cyntha Struthers, SJU Statistics and Actuarial Science, University of Waterloo  
Donald McLeish, SJU Statistics and Actuarial Science, University of Waterloo  

In the winter 2013 term, for the first time, the introductory statistics course in the Mathematics Faculty, Stat 231, was taught involving teams of 3-4 students.  Since there were approximately 450 students,  fourteen TA’s and two faculty members, there were many challenges to administering this program, from forming teams according to program of study on D2L, to scheduling four team meetings with TA’s during the term for each team.  

Objectives:   Since statistics is the science of planning experiments, collecting data and drawing inferences, it seemed natural that an exercise in doing this should play an important part in this introductory course in statistics. The majority of the students in this class have specialized interests in computer science, business or actuarial science. Teams were expected to find or collect data relevant to their area of specialization and to investigate questions of interest using methodologies learned in the course.  We believed that they would gain an appreciation of the breadth of applications of statistics as well as the difficulties in drawing inferences from data subject to variability.  We also hoped to develop the students’ skills for teamwork and to give them an opportunity for interaction with other students and with the TA’s, in spite of the very large class sizes.

Conclusions:   The experiment is not yet complete but we expect the performance on team projects and appreciation of the exercise to be highly correlated with performance in the course. The TA’s, who act essentially as statistical consultants, should also benefit by developing mentoring skills and a better understanding of statistical consulting. We hope to support such conclusions using exit surveys administered to both students and TA’s at the end of term.  In this presentation we will discuss the successes and challenges of this initiative, with a view to continuing it in future terms.

103b - The SJU Small Group Problem Sessions
J.P. Pretti, SJU Mathematics & Centre for Education Mathematics and Computing, University of Waterloo
Conrad Hewitt, SJU Mathematics, University of Waterloo
Benoit Charbonneau, SJU Mathematics, University of Waterloo
Francine Vinette, SJU Mathematics, University of Waterloo
Janelle Resch, SJU Mathematics, University of Waterloo

Over the past two years, we have guided incoming math students in weekly problem-solving sessions in groups of four or five students.  The experience has been enjoyable and beneficial for both students and instructors.

First year students' abilities are typically assessed through written assignments and exams. This model is not conducive to jump starting critical thinking skills early on in the students' university careers, especially if they are not confident in their own abilities. Moreover, recent changes in the Ontario high school curriculum widen the gap in background between students. Due to lack of resources, this issue cannot be sufficiently addressed through attention and feedback to weekly assignments.  Our small group problem sessions allow students to fail and succeed in a non-evaluated, non-threatening environment. The selected math problems support and supplement the first year curriculum. Students find them engaging. It increases their confidence in, and enjoyment of, the material.
Within one week of arriving on campus, each of our students had spent one hour doing mathematics in the office of one of their Professors. This early close contact with faculty members reduces students' fear of, and aids in their transition to, university.

A major benefit for the instructors is being able to observe our students as they think about, struggle with and progress through a problem.  This feedback cannot be obtained through our more standard methods of evaluation. In addition, the instructors enjoy this unique opportunity to meet and work with our students: it is a most rewarding to experience and share in their active enthusiastic participation from our students, to witness their creativity, and realise that the experience has made for deeper student learning.

This is an account of our success and failures, and how a team of dedicated instructors made this experiment possible.

103c - Group work implementation in first year physics  
Joseph Sanderson, Physics and Astronomy, University of Waterloo
Benji Wales, Physics and Astronomy, University of Waterloo

As part of a LITE funded program, we have developed a computational tool designed to allow regulated group work, in large first year classes. We have implemented the group work classes in the fall 2012 Physics 111 course and are  currently carrying out a learning impact study, which is designed to  help us to assess the effect of group work on the conceptual understanding and approach to physics of first year bio science majors.

As well as results from the learning impact study we will present an account of the group work class implementation and the learning impact study.  We will look at the adaptations made in a follow up  course in the winter term and discuss how our results and experiences can help us adapt our approach in future implementations.

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Session 104 – Presentations

104a - Recording and posting lecture content as a studying tool for students
Sean D. Peterson, Mechanical & Mechatronics Engineering, University of Waterloo

Fluid Mechanics II, a 3rd year engineering course, introduces students to mathematical modeling of fluid flows. Specifically, students are expected to be able to plan and develop quantitative models of engineering flows, such as the flow of air over a wing. By nature, students find this modeling difficult, as fluid phenomena can be highly complex, difficult to visualize, and are governed by very complicated equations. As an educator, striking a balance between topic breadth and depth is challenging, as is explaining the physical relevance and importance of abstract mathematical models. These challenges are exacerbated by the fact that students may have to miss lectures to accommodate co-op interviews.

In an effort to better integrate multi-media visualizations, to allow students to capture mathematical details over time, and to access materials from lectures missed for interviews, in Fall 2010 the blackboard was eschewed in favor of a tablet PC projected onto a screen. The tablet is treated as a blackboard, with written notes developed during class. In contrast to a traditional blackboard, however, both the tablet screen and spoken word are simultaneously recorded and posted on the course website.

The experience gained switching from using conventional blackboard media to using recorded tablet media with integrated multi-media will be given in this presentation. After a brief overview of course goals and the video capture process, qualitative and quantitative observations of student reaction, engagement, and learning, including student lecture attendance, exam performance, and feedback will be presented. A discussion of features of the lectures that may contribute to the overall effectiveness of the course will conclude the presentation.

Session 104 b (pdf) -  Case studies as open ended problems for student deep learning in Chemical Engineering
Christine Moresoli, Chemical Engineering, University of Waterloo
Marc Aucoin, Chemical Engineering, University of Waterloo
Jason Grove, Chemical Engineering, University of Waterloo

Case studies have received considerable interest as a means to encourage deeper learning through increased engagement of students. Through case studies, students are able to develop critical analysis, increase their ability to source information and enhance their creativity.

Recently the Chemical Engineering Department at University of Waterloo has developed case studies in core and elective courses. Case studies have been introduced in the first year chemical engineering concepts course, third year compulsory bioprocess engineering course and fourth year technical elective advanced bioprocess engineering, food process engineering and ecological engineering course. Each course had unique teaching requirements that were considered in the development and delivery of case studies and their learning purposes. For example, in first year, learning objectives were at an introductory level while for the fourth year elective courses, learning objectives were at a mastery level. In first year, students searched information for the first time while in fourth year, students had to conduct extensive information searches, detailed critical analysis of the information and exploration of alternative solutions.

These case studies were developed from industrially relevant situations and in collaboration with Waterloo Cases in Design Engineering. For example, application of biochemical processes for energy production was developed for the core bioprocess engineering course and the Maple Leaf listeriosis outbreak was selected for the elective food process engineering elective course.

This presentation will reflect on the implementation of these case studies, learning objectives and breakthrough and barriers experienced by the course instructors. Potential approaches to resolve barriers will also be discussed.

104 c (pdf) - D.I.Y. Test Questions as a Tool for Deeper Learning  
Andrea Prier, Student Success Office, University of Waterloo
Bill Owen, First Year Engineering Office, University of Waterloo
David Wang, Electrical & Computer Engineering, University of Waterloo
Paula Smith, Mathematics, University of Waterloo
Mary Robinson, First Year Engineering Office, University of Waterloo

How do we get students to think more deeply about the material that they are learning?  We must first demonstrate to them how the level of their learning influences their motivation to learn the material, their retention of the information, and ultimately, their mastery of the course material and success on the final exam.  Creating a classroom environment that empowers students to plan course content that is usually designed by the instructor can assist in these objectives.  ‘Flipping’ your classroom in this way can also facilitate higher order thought processes in students by encouraging them to establish meaningful connections between course concepts, teaching them how to learn autonomously, and empowering them to evaluate the importance of the taught material.

A review of specific courses at the University of Waterloo currently using this experiential approach to learning will be explored. These courses curriculum development, content delivery, and course outcomes in relation to assignments that include ‘student-created exam questions’ will be examined.

Examples of how these types of assignments can be effective will be shown at both ends of the academic spectrum. Outcomes surrounding increased student engagement, retention levels, and exam averages will be highlighted from courses within the ‘Reduced Load’ program, offered to first-year at risk learners, including UNIV 101 / GENE 199 (Strategies and Skills for Academic Success), CHE 102 (Chemistry for Engineers), and MATH 115 (Linear Algebra for Engineers); as well as from a graduate level course offered to students in Electrical and Computing Engineering, ECE 682 (Multivariable Control Systems).

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Session 105 – Presentations

105 a (pdf) - Sustaining Online Courses with Absentee Authors: Breaking Down Barriers
Anuja Bajaj, Centre for Extended Learning, University of Waterloo
Dorothy Hadfield, English, University of Waterloo

The predominant model for online course development and delivery across disciplines at the University of Waterloo engages a faculty expert to author a course that will subsequently be taught by other instructors. While this might in theory seem like an efficient way to extend the reach of faculty expertise, courses delivered via this model can, if not implemented properly, create barriers to effective teaching and student learning.

Our understanding of these barriers derives from practical experience from two different perspectives: the technical imperatives of delivering the courses through the Centre for Extended Learning (CEL) and the pedagogical challenges encountered by parachuting an instructor into an online course to facilitate student engagement and learning. Without proper implementation and preparedness, barriers can arise from:

  • the lack of continuity in communications about the course;
  • restrictions on the ability to customize the course (e.g time, intellectual property, copyright, University Policies, content expertise etc..);
  • the challenges of understanding the technological requirements and pedagogical objectives of the course; and
  • the difficulty of fostering instructor engagement when the instructor has had little or no input into or expertise in the course content

This presentation will focus on the insights and suggestions we have developed for breaking through these barriers to improve course delivery methods, instructor engagement and contributions, and student learning such as:

  • introducing a liaison/co-ordinator role to assist with continuity and instructor orientation/onboarding ;
  • developing resources for instructors/TAs to guide them through the administrative and technical aspects of the course; and
  • building flexibility and sustainability into both the structure and content of courses;

105b - Podcasting as an educational tool in an online distance studies course
Sarah McLean, Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, Western University
Jay Loftus, Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, Western University

The term ‘podcast’ is often used as a synonym for any multimedia content (i.e. lecture recording) that is posted online, or in a course website. The term originated as a colloquialism by combining ‘pod’ from ‘iPod’ and ‘cast’ from broadcast. The purpose was to define a subscription based broadcast that was deliverable to mobile devices like Apple’s iPod. In recent years technology used for creating podcasts has become more accessible. However, the challenge has been how to use this technology to enable learning and mitigate some shortcomings of online courses.    

Podcasting was used as an educational tool in an online distance studies class. This class had an enrollment of 220 students. Each week students were provided with learning activities to complete prior to listening to the podcast. The podcasts answered the weekly learning activities questions and content that students found difficult. The podcasts were created using PowerPoint and captured using Camtasia. Students could download the podcast as an MP4, or could subscribe to a course iTunes channel.

Midway through the course, an anonymous, voluntary online survey was released for students to provide feedback regarding the podcasts. Seventy-six of 220 students responded. Of those who responded, 87% indicated that they listened to the podcasts “most weeks or every week”.  Furthermore, 74% of respondents found that the podcasts were either “quite helpful or incredibly helpful” with their understanding of course material.

Students were also given the opportunity to provide qualitative feedback through written comments. As a whole the students responded positively to the use of podcasts and several stated that it made the course feel more personal.

Given the increasing number of university courses provided online, the use of podcasts may be an effective tool to enhance student learning and decrease transactional distances in online education.

105 c (pdf) - Clicking to Understand
Sue McMillen, Faculty Development, Buffalo State College

Clickers, or student response systems, are one tool for engaging students in reflecting on misconceptions and then building a more robust understanding of a challenging topic.  Research has shown that conceptual clicker questions followed by peer instruction results in significant learning gains.  Students are actively involved in peer instruction and often hear information from their peers that refutes their misconceptions. In addition, examples of using clicker questions to open class discussions and give all students a voice in the discussion will be shared.  The last application of clickers that will be discussed is their impact on the difficulty of getting students to complete course readings.  All in all, clickers are powerful tools that enhance many active learning pedagogies in ways that encourage students to take responsibility for their own learning.

Session objectives:
Participants will use clickers in an interactive demonstration.
Participants will be able to identify several pedagogical applications of clickers.
Participants will discuss benefits of using clickers to address the challenges of student misconceptions, lack of student engagement or participation, and holding students responsible for completing readings.

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Session 106 – Presentations

106a - Triple Barriered Teaching
Maxwell Hartt, School of Planning, University of Waterloo

A large class size can be a significant barrier when trying to engage students and facilitate effective learning and teaching. This barrier can be compounded when it is a first-year undergraduate course, and once again if the course content is almost universally disliked. My university teaching career began with such a triple-barriered course – introductory statistics for five hundred first year environment students. This course is dreaded by students and avoided by professors. A difficult balancing act is needed in order to manage the course and present the material in an interesting and cohesive manner. I walked into a situation marred with barriers, but through perseverance and creative teaching methods, I held my unwavering belief that even an introductory statistics class could be fun.

The single-most useful technique that helped me overcome said barriers was that of constant, iterative and varied feedback. Following Chris Kyriacou’s theory of the three basic features for effective teaching (attentiveness, receptiveness and appropriateness) I developed several feedback techniques that were of great assistance in keeping me informed of student progress, criticisms and challenges. One in particular – “offline iClickers” – had a particularly strong impact and that is what I will discuss in detail in my presentation. These were essentially large flash cards (A, B, C and D) which allowed me to get instant feedback in class, while engaging the students and, also, providing them with the creative exercise of designing their own iClickers. Direct evidence of the impact on students came in the form of high attendance rates, the buy-in and participation from students and, importantly, a higher than expected class average.

From this presentation my colleagues will be able to adapt their current teaching methods and presentation strategies to integrate my techniques to, ultimately, help facilitate daunting triple-barriered classes.

106b - Teaching Abstract Statistical Concepts With Applied Research Questions
Reza Ramezan, Statistics and Actuarial Science, University of Waterloo  
Most university majors take at least one course in introductory probability and statistics, which involves learning abstract concepts. One of these concepts is the total probability rule, which calculates the probability of an event by conditioning it on a set of non-intersecting events. Teaching this theory to students, many instructors over this typical example: We have two urns, A and B. While urn A contains 5 red and 2 blue balls, urn B contains 3 red and 3 blue balls. One urn is chosen at random and a ball is randomly selected from that urn. Given that the selected ball is red, what is the probability of it being from urn A?

Choosing coloured balls from lettered urns is not, traditionally, a problem encountered in day-to-day life. I argue that whenever possible, we should have tangible examples/activities to teach basic concepts. Presenting applications (wherever possible) of an abstract concept helps students better understand the material being taught. In this talk I will present a method to teach the total probability rule, which I have found both exciting, and engaging to students in my classes. The activity is motivated by the question “Is it possible to collect reliable answers to sensitive, awkward or controversial questions without making the subjects uncomfortable?" It turns out that the answer is yes, and the solution can be used to teach the concept of the total probability rule. The need for answers to such questions is good motivation to teach conditional probability in introductory statistics or research methods courses to both statistics and non-statistics majors. This is a practice-based method, and though its teaching electiveness has not been formally tested, I have noticed its efficacy in several courses where it has been employed. During the presentation I both demonstrate this activity, and, through a working example, show how the choice of activity involved in teaching a basic statistical concept can make a difference in a student's understanding, enliven a lecture and engage even the most reluctant of learners. I leave decisions on the electiveness of the method to the audience.

This activity is also of research value. It is an elective method to collect reliable answers to questions which usually make respondents uncomfortable in usual settings. Questions about tax, salary or political views all belong to this category, and usually rise in Sociology, Psychology, Economy, Political Science, and Education research.

106 c (pdf)- Generating Effective Feedback from Demonstration Lectures
Gordon Stubley, Dean of Engineering Office, University of Waterloo
Julie Timmermans, Centre for Teaching Excellence, University of Waterloo

With an increased emphasis on the evaluation of faculty applicants’ teaching potential, it is becoming more common to have applicants to both tenure-track and sessional positions give a demonstration lecture.  For both the applicant and the academic unit to realize the full benefit from these demonstration lectures, it is desirable that the reviewers provide constructive feedback.  In this presentation, we will outline a method used for gathering and structuring constructive feedback.

The presentation is based upon a session of the Engineering Teaching Development Working Group in which a simulated novice instructor, acted by one of the authors, gave a 10 minute demonstration lecture to a small group of undergraduate students and faculty members.  The second author then facilitated a discussion with the student and faculty observers to generate prioritized lists of the instructor’s teaching strengths and areas for immediate improvement.

In our presentation, we begin by providing an outline of the organization and context of the working group’s session. A comparison of the themes that arose from the student observers, from the faculty observers, and from the facilitated discussion involving both student and faculty observers will then be presented. This will be followed by a brief analysis of the longer-term impact of the session on the participant observers as assessed from feedback gathered four months after the session. The presentation will conclude with some observations about the roles of the student observers, the faculty observers, and the facilitator.  During the discussion we hope to explore the usefulness of such a model for gathering and structuring feedback from multiple perspectives to facilitate the teaching development of novice instructors.

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Session 200s: Poster Session 11:45 – 12:15 p.m.

Links to Session Descriptions: 201, 202, 203, 204, 205, 206

201 - A case-based method for an engineering economics course  
Mehrdad Pirnia, Electrical & Computer Engineering, University of Waterloo

This presentation is to demonstrate an implementation of a case-based learning (CL) method in an engineering economics course which is being taught to second year undergrad engineering students at UWaterloo. It should be noted that CL can be used on other engineering courses as well, but it is not the focus of this presentation.

In order to make the course more interesting and to develop students’ analytical skills in complicated, real life projects, we develop an engineering case study, integrating all the 8 course modules. Since the class size is large (e.g., 130 students), we run this method on only 10 students, chosen voluntarily. The selected students should individually submit 8 reports, reflecting their numerical and analytical feedback on the engineering case. 80% of the assessment is by reports and the rest is through two quizzes.

We believe this learner-centered method provides a good opportunity for students to appreciate the relevance of economics in everyday engineering projects, as they are obligated to apply the learnt material in real life examples; and helps the instructors to put more focus on delivering material, relevant to such applications. This project is still under process and the results will be provided by the end of Spring 2013 semester.

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202 - Teaching Computational Thinking through Introductory CS Courses
Azin Ashkan, Computer Science, University of Waterloo

Computer Science (CS) requires deep understanding of abstract concepts and relating them to computational problems, rather than only learning how to use a computer or create a Web page. In addition to teaching the basics and rules of a programming language to students, a major part of a CS introductory course involves teaching the students how to analyze a problem, relate different concepts, and use them to solve the problem. As a result, a major challenge in teaching introductory courses in computer science discipline is how to prepare students for computational thinking [1] and its use in their future classes. Programming language is one means to implement ideas, whereas the way of thinking about a problem and eventually solving it matters the most.

This poster discusses techniques that can be used to encourage computational thinking in introductory CS courses. These techniques can be implemented throughout a process that starts with introducing a concept to students at an abstract-level and ends with evaluating students learning progress with respect to that concept.

The initial phase of this process encourages one of the most important ideas of computational thinking [1]; computational thinking is about conceptualizing and not programming, and it is about a way that humans, not computers, analyze a problem. A concept can be initially introduced to students without connecting it directly to either computers or programs.

One way of achieving this goal is through using the relations between different concepts. Metaphors [3] are particularly found to be helpful for this purpose in order to understand and experience one specific concept through an analogy to a more familiar concept.

Once the initial link is established, the details of the concept can be explained to students in more formal and practical forms. This way, they learn how to make connection between the problem at the abstract level and the solution at a more practical level.

The third phase confirms the link establishment by summarizing the material for the students. A summary can confirm the understanding of the main concept by reviewing the important points and examples.

Finally, to close the loop in the learning process, learner’s feedback can be collected. A problem-based approach [2] is encouraged here where quick and effective questions are asked about the concept that has been just taught. This creates opportunity for both collecting feedback from students’ learning progress and creating discussions in class.

Partial List of References
[1] Wing, J. M. (2006). Computational Thinking. Communications of the ACM Journal, 49 (3), 33-35.
[2] Kay, J., Barg, M., Fekete, A., Greening, T., Hollands, O., Kingston, J. H., & Crawford, K. (2000). Problem-Based Learning for Foundation Computer Science Courses. Computer Science Education Journal, 10(2), 109-128.
[3] Hazzan, Orit, Lapidot, Tami, Ragonis, Noa (2011). Guide to Teaching Computer Science, Springer London.

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203 - Evaluation Of Pedagogical Techniques In Human Factor Courses In Engineering
Vivek Kant, Systems Design Engineering, University of Waterloo

Teaching Human Factors courses poses an interdisciplinary challenge to educators in engineering departments. The main challenge is to convey the interdisciplinary knowledge, mind-set, assumptions and values. Interdisciplinary course instructors often adopt methods that focus on active engagement and deep learning, for example, studio-based approaches (Moody, 2011), expert student panels (Histon & Scott, 2009) and service-learning (Klatsky, 2000).  However, class context (size, nature, background of students) may pose challenges in deciding which technique is best suited. For example, studio-based approaches work well in small groups and focus on problem solving skills; whereas, expert panels work well in large groups, but focus on critical evaluation skills. The educator will need to compare these methods to serve their goals given the class context. These methods tend to be so disparate that it becomes difficult to evaluate among them quantitatively. Therefore, I propose a strategy that allows for conceptual evaluation of teaching techniques. This strategy is based on Kenneth Burke’s (1945) tool - the “dramatistic pentad”. The pentad, consisting of five elements, is a problem-solving probe for understanding purposeful behaviour: scene (when and where – setting), act (what – learning and teaching), agent (who – student and teachers), agency (how-instructional method) and purpose (why-learning and teaching outcome). Using the pentad, I will examine the above-mentioned techniques, to understand the components and assess a fit between them and the instructional context. Categorization of the techniques into the pentadic categories allows the educator to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses more directly. The goal of the analysis is to provide a principled method by which an educator can assess the various techniques in terms of whether they are an appropriate fit for the class context. More broadly, it presents a promising approach that allows educators in other fields for comparing potential techniques in their classroom teaching.

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204 - A non-traditional approach to engage Engineering students with their own learning
Samar Mohamed, Centre for Teaching Excellence, University of Waterloo
Paul Calamai, Systems Design Engineering, University of Waterloo

SyDe 411 is a new fourth year core Engineering course focused on having students understand and apply numerical methods and optimization techniques as tools for problem solving and systems design.

To encourage students to be actively engaged with the course material, which can be dry, the teaching team and the faculty liaison spent lots of time thinking of non-traditional activities that would help the students achieve the course’s learning objectives, and still have an interesting learning experience.

Since this course was being offered for the first time, we had some latitude for delivering components of this course in a manner that is not only different than the traditional lecture, lab and tutorial model that dominates most Engineering courses, but also focused on involving students as active participants in their own learning.

We designed and implemented several blended group activities that were meant to keep the students engaged with each week’s topics and eager to learn more about them. During these activities students needed to work together both online and face to face under the supervision of their TA. In some of those activities the students provided feedback to their peers who were expected to act on, and discuss with their evaluators. These kinds of activities intended to enrich the students’ professional development experience.

In this poster we will show:

  1. How we used UW-LEARN effectively to make these activities both beneficial and enjoyable to students’ learning.
  2. How we designed and strategically located these activities during the term.
  3. How a typical week would run for the students,

Finally we will reflect on what went well and what needs improvement in this experience.

The blended activities that we designed and implemented are not engineering specific, they can be used as is, or fine-tuned to be used in different learning contexts.

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205 - Effective Assessment in Graduate Online Computer Science (CS) Courses
Zainab AlMeraj, Computer Science, University of Waterloo

The online learning experience is deemed convenient because it provides students with unlimited and unrestricted access to course material. It’s a convenience that allows students to study at a time that they are most productive, and reduces the inconveniences of getting to class on time. Determining success of online teaching as opposed to the common classroom requires carefully set criteria on which student learning can be assessed [1]. Below I aim to present ideas on how to achieve effective evaluation through a balance between formative and carefully designed summative assessments targeting Graduate CS courses. A large number of formative assessments can aid in guiding students to achieve course learning outcomes while online. Of these, self-testing is the most relevant. Certain activities, like, required multiple-choice tests provide automatic feedback to learners and teachers. These tests are essential, allowing students to try again and again until the concept is learned. The teacher can use knowledge of these trials to identify “trouble” areas and intervene benefiting all students. Common summative assessments for Graduate CS courses include exams and projects. A main problem with required online courses at universities is in-person exam taking. To remedy this issue, I propose two strategies, the first is redesigning exams to include randomized multiple choice questions presented to each student differently one per page with no chance of going back. And secondly, putting more weight on projects through an integrated design template that enables teachers to determine whether outcomes are met by just running executables remotely. If administered appropriately, summative assessments will alleviate the challenges of exam attendance and locating proctors for students traveling or on a work term.

[1] Online Assessment Strategies: A Primer. Jeanne Sewell et al. Journal of online learning and teaching Vol. 6, No. 1, March 2010.

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206 - Developing Graduate Students’ Research Skills in Engineering Disciplines
Allaa Hilal, Electrical & Computer Engineering, University of Waterloo

Graduate engineering programs are expected to equip their graduates with a wide spectrum of skills in conceptualizing, abstraction, critical thinking, and technical writing. Although developing such skills is an important part of graduate-level education, little efforts have been done to address the development of these skills in the graduate curriculum, especially in engineering disciplines. The development of these skills is left to the students and their affiliated supervisors, if any. Throughout 2011 and 2012, the authors have worked on developing a graduate research-based course that interactively increase the students understanding of the complex and diverse concepts of the sensor networks research field. Being an advanced graduate course resulted in a course that is highly technical and covers a large number of topics in the networks field. Between 2009-2010, the traditional lecturing techniques were used to cover the material. Nevertheless, traditional lecturing techniques stood short in deepening the students’ understanding of such advanced field. Thus, the authors decided to increase student engagement in the course by including a challenging research-based project as part of the course. Such research-based project require not only deep understanding of what is already out there in the literature, but also the ability to extrapolate the knowledge to generate coherent and cohesive ideas that the students then defend based on the literature and support their explanation by real or simulative data. Nevertheless, research-based project design is challenging because of the students’ time limitation.  The challenge is to put realistic expectations to the time and effort students put in the course without compromising the depth. Furthermore, research abilities and technical writing skills vary greatly among students. In the poster, the details of the project and the graduate attributes developed will be discussed; in addition, details of the course structure and outcomes of the student projects will be presented.

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Session 300s: 2:35 –3:50 p.m.

Links to Session Descriptions: 301, 302, 303, 304, 305, 306

Session 301 – Workshop Delving Deeper into Decoding the Disciplines
David Pace, Indiana University Bloomington
Leah Shopkow, Indiana University Bloomington

We are taking the somewhat unusual approach in this workshop of giving the audience a choice of the content of the workshop. After a quick review of the Decoding the Disciplines methodology, participants will choose whether they want to delve deeper into the Decoding interview or whether they wish to explore the issue of how to model as part of a bottleneck lesson.  In the first case, participants will learn how to do a Decoding interview and will have an opportunity to practice it. In the second case, we will explore various approaches to modeling and again, participants will work on how to model the negotiation of their own bottleneck. To finish up we will present some examples of different sorts of assessments, and participants will discuss the design of authentic assessments that will tell them how well their students have mastered the crucial operations necessary to succeed in their discipline.

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302 (pdf) – Workshop – Resolving Instructional Challenges in Blended Courses
Mark Morton, Centre for Teaching Excellence, University of Waterloo

By now, most instructors are familiar with the “backwards design” process of developing a course by first articulating learning outcomes and then aligning them with relevant learning activities and assessments. This process, however, is incomplete, because it does not address the fact that in every course students encounter instructional challenges that hinder their learning. Instructional challenges can be cognitive, motivational, social, or systemic. For example, “Students don’t come to class prepared” is a motivational instructional challenge, while “Students don’t like to engage in group work” is a social instructional challenge. Accordingly, to supplement the deficiencies of the familiar “backwards design” process, a secondary and parallel process – one that resolves instructional challenges – needs to be deployed. That secondary process, which is the focus of this workshop, asks instructors to first identify the instructional challenges for a given course using an online inventory that the facilitator has developed. The instructor is then invited to use a template, also developed by the facilitator, to align each instructional challenge with a learning activity that addresses the challenge, as well as an assessment that determines the efficacy of the learning activity. During the workshop, the online inventory of instructional challenges, as well as the aforementioned template, will be shared with participants. The first half of the workshop will be devoted to the facilitator explicating the process, presenting the online inventory of instructional challenges, and working through the template. The last half will be devoted to guided discussion.

Workshop Objectives:

  1. Understand the nature of instructional challenges;
  2. Understand how to resolve instructional challenges by aligning them with relevant learning activities and assessments;
  3. Understand how to use the online inventory and template developed by the facilitator.

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Session 303 – Panel – Conundrums, collaboration and collegiality:  Insights into interdisciplinary teaching in the Faculty of Environment
André Roy, Environment, University of Waterloo
Jean Andrey, Geography, University of Waterloo
Mark Seasons, School of Planning, University of Waterloo
Mary Louise McAllister, Environment & Resource Studies, University of Waterloo

Members of the Faculty of Environment encounter unique pedagogical challenges as they seek to integrate curriculum that fosters critical thinking and problem-solving skills related to the biophysical, social and built environment. Curriculum includes geography, ecology, planning, green business, economics, governance, policy, knowledge integration, and the list goes on. It is a challenge, albeit a stimulating one, to teach interdisciplinary studies to students possessing strengths in a diversity of backgrounds. Faculty of Environment curriculum is directed at teaching students how to effectively investigate and address seemingly intractable, nested environmental problems operating from the global to the local scale.  The ability to instruct effectively in these areas requires a diverse pedagogical toolkit that includes adaptive classroom teaching strategies, student-centred learning approaches, experiential activities supplemented with lab work and field trips, partnerships and teamwork. The Dean and two Associate Deans of the Faculty of Environment (all of whom are recipients of university distinguished teacher’s awards) and the Faculty Teaching Fellow, will share stories of what worked well and inspired students in their classrooms—as well as lessons learned from  efforts that fell somewhat short of the mark.  Panel participants will focus in particular on how they teach critical thinking skills and problem solving in an interdisciplinary environment, drawing on their experiences in biology, geography, planning and governance. In addition, all members of the panel will explore some of the initiatives they are taking in an administrative capacity in order to inspire change and lead by example—core principles of the Faculty of Environment.

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Session 304 – Presentations  

304a - Incorporating Student Feedback to Develop Design Case Studies for First Year Engineering Courses  
Katharina Hassel, Chemical Engineering, University of Waterloo
Christine Moresoli, Chemical Engineering, University of Waterloo
Michael Fowler, Chemical Engineering, University of Waterloo

Promoting positive learning outcomes, such as understanding basic engineering theories and achieving competency in problem solving, is a key target in our first year chemical engineering concept courses. The definition of engineering “design” is the development of a system, component or process that involves multiple decision making steps, in which fundamental mathematics and engineering sciences are applied to convert resources optimally for meeting the required needs. One bottleneck we observe in teaching to engineering undergraduates is that students often cannot comprehend some of the theories presented in a course, if they are presented in a theoretical lecture environment only. Introducing the design methodology, by using case studies, is a promising avenue for motivating students and sparking their interest in the engineering profession. The exposure to the case study design methodology in group work is allowing students to encounter open ended problems, types and sourcing of information and the development of their communication skills – all in the vicinity of a fascinating and current real life engineering problem. This learning experience is supporting our major focus to prepare them with technical skills and basic knowledge of the design process. An important tool to improve students’ learning experience for subsequent course offerings is to consider their feedback and statements. By focusing on student learning, feedback and open ended conceptual design case studies, we were able to connect and relate theoretical content to practical applications and enhanced student learning. In this presentation, we will show the conceptual design approach developed over the last three years in the first year Chemical Engineering concept course at University of Waterloo and will summarize the feedback of the students collected over the course offering. We will also outline future strategies to integrate their responses in the course.         

304 b (pdf)- Achieving a win-win balance with community service learning:  Are we there yet?
Katie Cook, School of Pharmacy, University of Waterloo  
Nancy Waite, School of Pharmacy, University of Waterloo  

As an academic institution engaged with the local community, it is challenging to achieve balance between community and university interests.  The intention of community service-learning (CSL) is to contribute to community capacity building while also providing meaningful student learning regarding civic engagement, advocacy etc.  However, student involvement in the community can have both positive and negative intended and unintended outcomes and it is important to explore whether a win-win balance is achieved.  Over 700 pharmacy students over the last seven years have completed approximately 95 community partner-identified capacity-building projects and several educational research projects have been conducted to examine the outcomes achieved.  As part of our curricular quality assurance process, the School is now reviewing the value-add of our CSL program. In this session, we will:

  1. Present our student and community outcome data obtained from several classes of students and from CSL partner interviews. Data will include the positive and negative impact that this type of engagement has had on partner organizations and the broader community, the balance between outputs and inputs for our community partners, learning outcomes for students, tangible and intangible outcomes for community organizations, and the potential for transformative change as a result of this CSL model. Some of the unintended outcomes that will be explored include the level of creativity displayed by our science-based students, the camaraderie developed between agency staff and our students, and the changes of agency staff views towards the field of pharmacy.
  2. Share the facilitators and barriers experienced in the CSL development and implementation process,
  3. Engage the audience in a CSL curricular quality assurance discussion to answer the questions: Did we reach a win-win balance? Should CSL continue and if so, what should be retained, removed, and changed? Who should be included in this conversation?

304c - Action Research for Power System Engineering Education
Mostafa Farrokhabadi, Electrical & Computer Engineering, University of Waterloo and Luigi Vanfretti, Electrical & Computer Engineering, University of Waterloo

This paper will present results of an educational research project aiming to implement “action research” methodologies for enhancing power systems engineering education. The bulk of the project focused in the implementation of Constructive Alignment Theory (CAT). The will paper consist of three parts, the first dealing with design and implementation of CAT in the power system analysis course serving as research platform through a consensus-based process, and the impact of the CAT implementation on student learning. The second part is dedicated to the evaluation of the CAT implementation using the Repertory Grid structured interview technique to gather data from students whose learning approach was pre-classified through a new ranking algorithm for the Revised-Two Factor Study Process Questionnaire. The third part presents a “data mash-up” approach to systematically scrutinize student feedback and determine the most relevant one that can be used for making enhancements in course design and delivery. An outline for the systematic enhancement of the power system analysis course is set forth as a continuation of this action research project.

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Session 305 – Presentations

305 a (pdf)- Helping English Language Learners (ELLs) overcome language barriers in the university classroom 305 a strategies (pdf)  305 a reference list (pdf)
Christine Morgan, Renison University English Language Centre, University of Waterloo
Nancy Oczkowski, Renison University English Language Centre, University of Waterloo

Professors are faced with an increasing number of English Language Learners (ELLs) whose often inadequate language skills can prove a barrier to learning and academic achievement. While ELLs typically develop proficiency in basic interpersonal communication skills within two years of their arrival, “[d]eveloping cognitive academic language proficiency…is a long and gradual process” (Roessingh & Douglas, 2012, p. 84). University professors are sensitive to the challenges faced; however, many are unsure of how to help and are ill-equipped to respond effectively (Li, 2004). Instructors from the ELI at Renison University College will present strategies professors can incorporate into their teaching that require little extra planning but make a significant difference to the academic success of ELL students. The presentation will focus on strategies for communicating course curriculum, including assessment expectations, content delivery, and vocabulary development. In addition, the issues surrounding unintentional plagiarism and the challenges ELL writers face will be discussed: “Learning to write from sources requires years, not weeks or months, of practice” (Li & Casanave 2012). The University of Waterloo’s plan for internationalization includes increasing enrollment of undergraduate international students to 20% (currently at 11%) and graduate international students to 30% (currently at 32%), so the challenges will continue to grow.
Li, Y. (2004). Learning to live and study in Canada: Stories of four EFL   learners from China. TESL Canada Journal, 22(2), 25-43.

Li, Y & Casanave, C. P. (2012). Two-first year students’ for writing from sources: Patchwriting or Plagiarism? Journal of Second Language Writing, 21, 165-180.

Linneman, T. Understanding patchwriting and unintentional plagiarism by English language learners. Masters Abstracts International, 0087-0087. Retrieved from (862776545; 201103968).

Roessingh, H., & Douglas, S. R. (2012). Educational outcomes of English language learners at     university. Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 42(1), 80-97. Retrieved from

Wang, L. (2012). Behind the curtain: A critical view of theory and practice of tutoring international english language learners at university writing centers. Indiana University of Pennsylvania).  ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 340. Retrieved from (1012118289).

305 b (pdf) - Gerla: Online Language Learning--Research and Development Perspectives
Mathias Schulze, Germanic & Slavic Studies, University of Waterloo
Kyle Scholz, Germanic & Slavic Studies, University of Waterloo

The research and development project Gerla aims to design and implement a suite of online elementary and intermediate German-language courses for university students. This semester, the second of four courses is running. These four courses are synchronized with their equivalent on-campus courses. They are created relying on the ADDIE courseware engineering cycle (Colpaert, 2004; 2006) and are routed in task-based language teaching (Michael & Reinders, 2010). Their virtual learning environment incorporates a set of state-of-the-art German-language textbook packages (Berliner Platz). The courses are implemented in LEARN and utilize the functionalities of this virtual learning environment.

In this paper, we will discuss the theoretical foundation of course design and implementation, outline developmental processes, and present the systematic structure of these courses. Embedding this quasi case study in the context of contemporary efforts and discourses in online language learning facilitates my discussion of achievements, challenges, and limitations of university language education online.  Our discussion will draw on complexity-scientific approaches (Larsen-Freeman & Cameron, 2008; Verspoor et al., 2011) to and on sociocultural theory (Lantolf & Thorne, 2006; Swain et al., 2011) in Applied Linguistics. This enables us to highlight important variables of the complex, dynamic systems of courseware design and implementation as well as of online language learning.

We will argue that the increasing role of online learning in language-based (and other) disciplines necessitates thorough reflection on technology transfer, pedagogic practices, and most importantly insights from second-language development (SLD) theories.

305 c (pdf)- Semi-Colonized: Malebranche, Freire and My Summer in Nanjing
Shannon Dea, Philosophy, University of Waterloo

This presentation recounts my experience teaching philosophy in China in order to problematize the contrast between two different approaches to educating the “colonized”: the “insular eurocentrism” (Mungello, 1980) of Nicolas Malebranche’s Dialogue Between A Christian Philosopher and a Chinese Philosopher (1708) and the dialogic pedagogy of Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1968). In the earlier work, Malebranche carelessly (and inaccurately) appropriates traditional Chinese thought in order to convert the Chinese to Christianity. Freire’s dialogic approach seeks to help liberate the colonized student through an egalitarian, student-centred pedagogy. When I taught philosophy in China in the summer of 2012, I encouraged the students to dialogically engage with Malebranche’s text, using a pedagogy in many respects similar to Freire’s. While, on the surface, the contrast between Malebranche’s colonial approach and Freire’s dialogical approach is stark, it is arguable that not even Freirean pedagogy escapes colonialism. If the teacher---even the Freirean teacher---is necessarily the colonizer to the students’ colonized, then dialogic pedagogy may in fact be more insidious than Malebranche’s. The presentation will briefly limn the two approaches, and then describe what happened when I brought them into dialogue in the Chinese classroom. The primary objective of the presentation is to encourage instructors to reflect on their possible role as colonizers and the ways in which their own pedagogy may be implicated in the colonizer/colonized relationship. However, audience members will also learn about some practical methods of implementing a dialogic pedogogy, and some reasons to consider doing so despite the larger worry about colonialism. While the philosophy classroom was the site for the particular experiences I will relate, the questions raised by the presentation are important for educators in all disciplines.

Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Trans. Myra Bergman Ramos. London: Penguin, 1996.

Malebranche, Nicolas. Dialogue Between a Christian Philosopher and a Chinese Philosopher on the Existence and Nature of God. Trans. Dominick Iorio. Washington: UP of America, 1980.

Mungello, David. “Malebranche on Chinese Philosophy.” Journal of the History of Ideas 41.4 (1980) 551-178

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Session 306 – Presentations

306 a (pdf)- Enhancing Team Effectiveness in Coursework through Training  
Kevin Leung, Psychology, University of Waterloo
John Michela, Psychology, University of Waterloo
Vivian Wing-Sheung Chan, Psychology, University of Waterloo
Jayna Mitchell, Psychology, Univer
sity of Waterloo

In courses requiring teamwork, many instructors use team contracting and role assignments (leader, devil's advocate, etc.) to promote team effectiveness. After seeing some teams "floundering" on assignments, we surmised that students would benefit from more extensive training in teamwork as such. Accordingly, we created teamwork training materials that provide a systematic problem-solving framework, along with recommendations for interpersonal relationship management in teams. This novel training was delivered through podcasts, handouts, and an in-class activity assigned to teams.

We evaluated this training in a Human Resources Management course. In each weekly session, students work in (stable) four-member teams to complete an assignment. At the beginning of the course, 14 teams were randomly assigned to receive our novel teamwork training ("treatment" group). As a comparison or "control" treatment, 14 other teams received parallel materials concerning typical contracting/role assignment preparation for teamwork.

The most striking difference between these two conditions involved marks on the final exam, which averaged 79% in the treatment group versus 73%, control.  Thus, better teamwork apparently yielded better learning overall. Direct evidence of better teamwork was seen in the treatment group's significantly higher marks on some assignments. Also, in an online survey in week five, treatment group students reported significantly greater use of a systematic problem solving process, more positive team relations, and greater team effectiveness overall.

Our presentation will include a detailed description of the novel teamwork training materials, covering their basis in scholarship on teams, their components, and the podcast delivery method. These materials will be made available to all Waterloo instructors. Although the content concerning problem-solving and relationships management is highly generic, adaptations of the materials for other courses will be considered. We will also discuss the challenges encountered from contrary norms among students for teamwork and apparent decay of the training's impact over the term.

CANCELLED 306b - Teaching/Learning Strategies that Didn't Work, and Why  
James Skidmore, Germanic & Slavic Studies, University of Waterloo

My courses in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Waterloo serve a variety of disciplines, so I have focused on three general issues that plague students: communicating ideas and arguments in written form; conducting research independently; grasping the notion of academic integrity.   

By adopting a staged/laddered structure for course essay assignments, I instituted longer preparatory phases to the projects to eliminate last-minute writing by encouraging them to reflect on their project and broader issues involving the communication of ideas.  This writing project also addressed my second concern, namely the students’ ability to research topics independently, by including extensive information literacy exercises.  The intention of these activities was to equip students with the skills to avoid the third issue, namely plagiarism.

While a study funded by the University of Waterloo established that these exercises improved the students’ library and research skills, and therefore improved their ability to communicate relevant ideas, I have never been satisfied that the students gained the sustained practice required to transfer these skills to other contexts.  Students compartmentalize their learning according to class or subject (cf. Billing; Drummond et al), and therefore I question the value of these strategies beyond their immediate positive impact in my own courses.

Many instructors, concerned with these learning issues, employ strategies similar to mine.  Educational research (cf.Fallows and Steven), however, stresses that initiatives conducted independently will not be as successful as hoped; they are ultimately doomed to failure without a broadly coherent and collaborative strategy.  But the Faculty of Arts has no such strategy, thereby neutralizing most positive benefits of the individualized teaching/learning strategies described above.  This presentation will argue that institutions such as the Faculty of Arts can have a greater impact on student skill acquisition by implementing and enabling broader teaching/learning strategies.

       Billing, David. “Teaching for Transfer of Core/Key Skills in Higher Education: Cognitive Skills.”  Higher Education  Vol. 53.4 (2007): 483-516.
       Drummond, Ian, Iain Nixon, and John Wiltshire. "Personal Transferable Skills in Higher Education: The Problems of Implementing Good Practice." Quality Assurance in Education 6.1 (1998): 19-27.
       Fallows, Stephen, and Christine Steven. Integrating Key Skills in Higher Education: Employability, Transferable Skills and Learning for Life.  London: Kogan Page, 2000.

306c - Experiential learning in undergraduate pharmacy curriculum in Ontario: How co-op affects students’ professional and personal development  
Certina Ho, School of Pharmacy, University of Waterloo
Brett Morphy, School of Pharmacy, University of Waterloo
Atsushi Kawano, School of Pharmacy, University of Waterloo

The School of Pharmacy at the University of Waterloo is the only undergraduate pharmacy program in Canada that includes a co-op component. Pharmacy has evolved from a dispensing-focused to a patient-oriented health care profession over the last decade. This paper uses exploratory descriptive qualitative research to attempt to find out how co-op experiences affect the professional and personal development of students.

Constructivism is the lens that I used to explore the skills development during co-operative experience of undergraduate pharmacy students. Open-ended questions were used in semi-structured interviews and focus groups to allow pharmacy students, co-op employers, and faculty members to freely express their viewpoints. An inductive approach was applied when generating or developing themes from the data collected in this study.

19 pharmacy students from the vanguard class of 88 participated in the semi-structured interviews. Two faculty focus groups were held. 12 employers were interviewed by phone. Students expressed their experiential learning experience on medication therapy management, interprofessional collaboration, safety, quality assurance, professionalism and work ethics that contribute to their personal and intellectual growth. These findings were compared with independent themes captured from the faculty focus groups and employers’ interviews.

Experiential learning acquired through co-op work terms has offered pharmacy students not only the opportunity to prepare them as pharmacists, but also the mechanism to reflect and integrate their professional and personal skills in providing patient-focused care in their future career. The skills acquired during students’ co-op experience, such as collaboration, quality assurance, professionalism, and work ethics are not pharmacy-specific; they can be adapted to other disciplines beyond health care. Future changes in teaching and learning should consider integration of students’ experiential learning from co-op into their classroom activities where sharing and discussion of experience are encouraged and supported.

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Session 400s: 4:00-5:00 p.m.

Links to Session Descriptions: 401, 402, 403, 404, 405

401 (pdf)– Panel – Eportfolios- Benefits, Challenges and Impact on Student Learning
Katherine Lithgow, Centre for Teaching Excellence, University of Waterloo
Taryn MacLean, Arts & Business, University of Waterloo
Geoff Malleck, Economics, University of Waterloo
Jennifer Roberts-Smith, Drama & Speech Communication, University of Waterloo
Robert Sproule, School of Accounting & Finance, University of Waterloo

The use of ePortfolios has grown dramatically over the past decade. Clarke and Eynon (2009) identify four factors that account for the increase:

  1. an increased emphasis on student centered active learning
  2. the influence of digital communication technologies
  3. calls for more accountability and outcomes assessment in higher education
  4. increasing fluidity in employment and education with an emphasis on integrative learning and the recognized need to develop students’ employability-related skills.

Eportfolios provide a space for students to reflect on what they have learned, how they have learned and how that might impact decisions they make in the future. Eportfolios can help foster their abilities to integrate learning between courses, across disciplines and over time, and connect this in a personally meaningful manner to other aspects of their life outside the classroom. Incorporating video, audio and text allows students to provide a richer picture of their learning, provide evidence of their learning and share that in a more engaging and personalized format.   Eportfolios can be used to showcase skills, abilities and experiences to different audiences including faculty and prospective employers.  

So…what has to be in place in order for our students to achieve these desired outcomes?  

At this session, we will discuss some of the practical challenges associated with incorporating ePortfolios and how we have met, or in some cases, failed to meet them.  Three panelists representing different disciplinary perspectives will share how they have designed and implemented ePortfolio activities to foster meaning-making, reflection, and integrative learning.  Panelists will discuss ePortfolio principles and best practices, along with the benefits and the challenges associated with its use, and the impact this has on student learning. Their experiences will be used to initiate an interactive discussion on the benefits and challenges associated with incorporating course- and program-based ePortfolio activities.

Clark, E.J., & Eynon, B. (2009). E-portfolios at 2.0- Surveying the field. AAC&U Peer Review, Winter. Retrieved from  

Conference on College Composition and Communication Taskforce on Best Practices in Electronic Portfolios. (2007). Principles and practices in electronic portfolios. Retrieved from

Cambridge, D. (March 21,2012).  Go big or go home. Educause Review. Retrieved from

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Session 402 – Panel – Decoding Historical Decision Making: A Case Study
Geoffrey Hayes, History, University of Waterloo
Katrina Ackerman, History, University of Waterloo
Michael Slusarczyn, History, University of Waterloo
Brendan Donelson, History, University of Waterloo

One of the biggest bottlenecks for history students (among others) centres on how to consider evidence, use their imaginations and ask the right historical questions to assess events without the benefit of hindsight.  This presentation will explore how students in a second year history class examined Canada’s decision to send 2000 troops to Hong Kong in the fall of 1941. The results were disastrous. Some historians and many students since have echoed the claims of some politicians then that Canada’s decision was wrong, uninformed or just plain ‘stupid.’ How can we develop a more sophisticated assessment of these events, and teach students about the complexity of decisions made in the past?

This presentation will trace the results of a teaching model employed in a second year history class of 100 students. It draws upon the strategies laid out in the Decoding the Discipline History Learning Project. The conference presentation will discuss a role playing model in which students must first give their ‘opinion’ of the Hong Kong decision. They then must imagine that they are the senior officials responsible for sending the troops to Hong Kong. Before they decide, they must ask a series of questions to ‘situate’ the primary documents before them. These documents will include a basic chronology of events; the original memorandum that the Canadian cabinet considered; newspapers from the period as well as popular depictions of the Japanese and the war in the East. The students must also explain their decisions to their groups, before they enter into a class-wide debate. Another poll at the end of class will help gauge if students changed their opinions based upon the exercise.

Does such a model help students ‘imagine’ the past more effectively, read documents more critically, and avoid making judgments based on hindsight?

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403 (pdf) – Panel – ‘High Speed’ Learning - Insights into a Course Redesign to Blended-accelerated and Fully Online
Jane Holbrook, Centre for Teaching Excellence, University of Waterloo
Tracy Penny Light, Sexuality, Marriage & Family Studies, University of Waterloo
Gillian Dabrowski, Centre for Extended Learning, University of Waterloo
Alisha Pol, History, University of Waterloo
Siobhan Torrie, Psychology, University of Waterloo

This panel discussion will bring an instructor, a teaching assistant and a student together with two instructional developers to offer multiple perspectives and insights into the successes and challenges of a concurrent course redesign of a face-to-face course to a blended, accelerated (block) course and a fully online course.
The instructor made the decision to develop a blended offering of her Sexuality, Marriage and Family Studies course, SMF 206, in fall 2011. The blended course, first offered in spring 2012, uses lectures, discussions and group work to explore the dynamics of couple and family relationships throughout the life cycle and the various theories regarding couple and family relationships. Students are assessed primarily through an eportfolio where they collect evidence of their learning and reflect on how their own culture and families have influenced their attitudes about family and relationships. Formerly offered over the traditional 12 week term, this course is now completed by students in 5 weeks and this change has been made possible by the new blended format that relies on both face-to-face and online media components and face-to-face and online discussion and group work.  The blended-accelerated course was designed as a transition to offering the course as a fully online course which is being offered in winter 2013, but its success has encouraged the instructor to continue the blended offering in addition to the online course.
The panelists will provide insight into the course development process and how the redesigns have affected student engagement and learning. Attendees from many disciplines will find value in the discussion of student feedback to the blended-accelerated course and fully online course, the impact of an eportfolio as an assessment and the role of reflection and discussion in the two course designs.

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404 (pdf) – Workshop – Experiences with Problem-based Learning: Insights from the Classroom
Barb Bloemhof, Economics, University of Waterloo

It is perhaps easiest to teach a course designed with familiar instructional techniques, perhaps something comfortable that we ourselves have experienced.  Newness and unfamiliarity can be barriers to a more student-centered instructional practice such as advocated by Barr and Tagg (Change, November/December 1995, 13-25).  This interactive workshop will combine an opportunity to learn in a problem-based context with a summary of outcomes achieved in a second-year University of Waterloo course taught with problem-based learning (Barrows, New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 68 1995, 3-12; Neufeld and Barrows, Journal of Medical Education, 49 November 1974, 1040-1050).  Participants will experience a problem about instructional practice in higher education that will take them out of the familiar into an exploration of design for a problem-based learning course.  The activity will integrate the scholarly evidence about problem-based learning as a type of active and self-directed learning.  At the end of the activity, participants will have the first draft of a problem-based learning course design for their own teaching.  Reflecting on their work in the activity, groups of participants will record and discuss the dominant ambiguities that a learner can predictably experience, and will strategize the supports that can foster breakthroughs in students. We will compare those observations to the data collected from the Winter 2012 offering of a second-year economics course.  Because the experience is grounded in the participant’s own instructional context, the course process and design insights taken from this workshop are relevant outside of economics.  This research has benefitted from funding through the Learning Innovation and Teaching Enhancement Grant program.

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Session 405 – Presentations

405a - The Role of Identifying and Decoding Bottlenecks in the Redesign of Tax Curriculum
Jim Barnett, School of Accounting & Finance, University of Waterloo
Julie Timmermans, Centre for Teaching Excellence, University of Waterloo

As part of the re-development of our three-course undergraduate program in taxation, we wanted to identify those topics that cause our students difficulty (bottlenecks) and then engage experts, our tax faculty and alumni in tax practice, to construct ways of thinking (decoding) about these topics that can be modeled for students and practiced by students to result in deep learning.

Within the Decoding the Disciplines (DtD) literature, learning stumbling blocks are referred to as “bottlenecks.”  Underlying bottlenecks are often disciplinary ways of thinking about a subject that are natural and tacit for experts, yet difficult for students.  “Decoding” bottlenecks therefore involves experts “reconstruct[ing] the steps that they themselves do when solving similar problems,” so that they may be modeled for students and integrated into teaching. Thus, DtD is also a methodology, as it provides a clearly-delineated, seven-step process for identifying and deconstructing bottlenecks and provides guidelines for designing instructional, motivational, and assessment strategies that support deep learning of the troublesome concepts.  The DtD model is therefore an appropriate fit for informing the redesign of the courses in the tax sequence.

We did this by gathering information from students who have taken both undergraduate tax courses and from faculty who teach those tax topics to determine “bottlenecks” to learning.  We then worked with faculty and tax professionals to design a way for these difficult concepts to be “decoded” in order to be more easily understood and applied.  These diverse groups gave us a broad range of input that better informed our curriculum re-design. To our knowledge, engaging students, faculty, and professionals to identify and decode bottlenecks represents a novel approach within the DtD methodology.

This presentation will focus on how we conducted the study, the results, and the impact on the curriculum.

405 b (pdf) - The Challenge of making Theory Relevant (Strategies to Increase Student Engagement)
David Wang, Electrical & Computer Engineering, University of Waterloo

Increasingly, students have great difficulties making connections between fundamental theoretical concepts and their practical applications in the workplace.   This is exacerbated at the University of Waterloo, where the cooperative education program produces students who are very familiar with industrial practices but have impatience with theory that may not appear to have practical examples.  In this presentation, possible reasons for this increasing gap between theory and practice will be explored.  These include societal influences as well as deficiencies in the secondary school programs.  A general strategy for increasing student engagement that has been implemented by the presenter is presented.  The technique starts with presenting technologies that either directly or indirectly relies on the theory and introducing them as a capstone examples that are referred to throughout the duration of the lectures.   Concrete examples from a second year math course on differential equations will be studied, where abstract mathematical concepts are tied into 3-D sound, music and robotics.   The impact on course critiques and student feedback will be presented as evidence of increased student engagement.

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