Tales of a Teacher: Veronica Kitchen
by Sarah Forbes. This is the second of three Centre for Teaching Excellence Teaching Stories that will be featured in the Daily Bulletin this week.
If you walk into Dr. Veronica Kitchen’s World Politics class, you might think you’ve taken a wrong turn into the Drama department. Unlike a typical political science lecture, her students spend class time participating in games and active demonstrations that subtly mimic the real-world circumstances of politics. These games, according to Kitchen, allow students to take a break from sitting still and listening, as well as allow them to organically reach conclusions that mirror what academics have learned by observing the real world of politics.
In her eight years of teaching, Kitchen has always aimed to make her political science courses flexible, interesting, and memorable for each student. "That's because," she says, “students are unique and interesting people.” In her experience, two sections of the same course can turn out radically different depending on the students in the class and their interests. This perspective leads Kitchen to experience teaching as novel and exciting in every class. It’s also part of why she chooses to have a public Twitter account, where she creates a hashtag for each of her courses (like this one), which she uses to post extra content related to each course. By following her Twitter feed, students can see that she’s human just like them. “It makes the looks of shock when they see me at the grocery store go away,“ she laughs.
Kitchen’s perspective on teaching closely parallels her ideas about interaction, new technology, and student individuality. “Google will always win for mere answers,” she explains, “but students will still need a toolbox to help them interpret and act on information, and that’s what I hope to provide.” In her upper year classes, Kitchen allows her students to guide the topics they discuss each class. This way, they can use their existing skills and foundational knowledge to explore what they truly find interesting. To get them to this level, Kitchen has learned to act as a guide in the first-year courses, allowing students to get to answers in their own way in order to build their confidence and their ability to navigate information.
The experiential learning in World Politics parallels this exploration. By providing interactive learning games for her students, Kitchen hopes that they’ll learn the ”deeper” lessons of political science. These go beyond theories to examine the interaction of factors such as frustration, anger, and trust – base human emotions that can influence negotiations in positive or negative ways. So far, it seems to be working. While fully integrating experiential learning into World Politics was just an experiment last year, she plans to continue it with slight modifications in the future. She’s looking forward to seeing students who have experienced experiential learning in her fourth-year seminars and beyond, and discovering where political science takes them in the future.
GreenHouse Co-op Pilot Relaunches
By Samantha Johns, WatCACE/GreenHouse Co-op Program Coordinator
Experiential education plays a critical role in the development of career-ready undergraduate students. To provide more opportunities for experiential education, the St. Paul’s GreenHouse and the WatCACE research team have re-launched the GreenHouse co-op pilot, run previously in the Winter of 2014.
As part of the University’s strategic plan, the pilot contributes to the employment and development of first work term students, while building relationships with potential new co-op employers. The pilot offers 12 first work term co-ops the opportunity to experience being a “Social Entrepreneur in Training”, rotating through three different social start-ups from February to April. The students are provided with a comprehensive training week prior to working in the first organization, to ensure they are prepared for the demands and culture of the start-up environment.
In addition to the support provided by their CECA student advisor, the students will also have the support of a program coordinator who will act as the liaison between the students and their employers. Unlike a typical co-op program, students will be matched in pairs and assigned to specific employers by the program coordinator who will have a good understanding of the students’ skills and interests for learning and development.
This term, we have selected a very diverse group of students to participate in the pilot. The students come from a wide variety of academic programs, and many have previous experience contributing to various social causes. The passion and determination of these students is unmatched – they are ideal candidates for success in this pilot.
Social start-ups interested in being part of this Winter 2016 program can contact Samantha Johns for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bridging divides over water issues
The Water Institute is continuing its 2015-2016 WaterTalks Lecture series tomorrow with an event featuring Professor Sharachchandra Lélé, senior fellow at the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment in Bangalore, India.
The talk is entitled “Bridging many divides: building an interdisciplinary understanding of water issues in a developing country context.”
Lélé is a highly interdisciplinary environmental scholar who bridges the natural sciences, economics, and political science in understanding the concepts of and pathways to environmentally sustainable and socially just development. He combines an interest in the concepts of sustainable development, sustainability and environmental justice with an urge to do knowledge generation that is more directly linked to change on the ground by balancing academic and applied research and teaching. His empirical work has focused on issues in forest and water resource management in South Asia.
“Water problems in general are ‘wicked’ problems that demand an interdisciplinary approach to addressing them,” says the talk’s abstract. “In developing countries like India, the pressing nature of water problems does not permit the luxury of fragmented analysis. But carrying out interdisciplinary and change-relevant research is easier said than done, especially within academia. On the one hand, it involves bridging the research-action divide. On the other hand, it involves bridging not just the ‘big divide’ between the natural and social sciences, but also the ‘bigger divide’ within the social sciences. And sometimes it requires bridging the gap between what reality seems to demand and what donors seem to be bothered about!”
In his lecture, Lélé will explore the multi-dimensional nature of these divides, with examples from water research in India, arguing that adopting a ‘problem-driven’ approach and explicitly embracing multiple normative concerns and multi-causality offers a way towards more socially meaningful and rigorous research.
The event takes place on Thursday, January 28 at 2:30 p.m. in DC 1302 and will be livestreamed.
Employers on campus next week hosting employer information sessions include Arista Networks, Shopify, Atomic Labs, Pacific Services Canada Limited, Essroc, National Instruments, Zenefits, Cisco, SAP, Wave, Wattpad, Canon Innovation Lab, ProgressSoft Corporation, Apple, DRI Capital Inc., and Dropbox.
Would you like to know more about the GRADventure program? The Graduate Studies Office invites graduate students, graduate faculty, program coordinators and other graduate studies stakeholders to the GRADventure launch event today in Needles Hall 3318. Drop in any time between 1:00 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. for some coffee and sweets, and to learn more about GRADventure. A few short speeches will begin at 1:30 p.m.
Stop by MC 5501 from 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. today to see The Women in Math Winter Lecture: "Mathematics of Rubik’s cube." How many positions does Rubik's cube have? If one disassembles Rubik's cube and puts it back together again randomly, will it be solvable? What is God's number? Speaker Matilde Lalin, Associate Professor at the University of Montréal, will answer all this and more - don't miss the mathematics of one of the most popular puzzles in history! All are welcome, no registration required.