June 2023

OTL Announcements

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Faculty, Staff, and Students Come Together for TLI 2023: Successes, Challenges, and New Ideas 

On May 17th and 18th, the Teaching and Learning Innovations Conference (TLI) returned after a significant hiatus during the pandemic. Over 140 faculty, staff, and students attended the conference, which combined an in-person day and an online day. The conference focused on teaching successes, challenges, and new ideas that have emerged during and since the pandemic. The conference featured over 30 presentations, 8 workshops, a poster session, and 3 expert panels. Presenters showcased creative teaching and assessment strategies including experiential learning, collaborative online international learning, arts-based pedagogy, citizen science, authentic assessments, and many others. 

The closing panel, What Path Do We Take: The Future of Higher Education, featured Dr. Jade Ferguson (Associate Dean, Academic Equity and Anti-Racism), Patricia Tersigni (Director, Academic Programs and Policy), and Dr. Mary Wilson (Associate Professor, education, Wilfrid Laurier University) with moderator Dr. Byron Sheldrick (Associate Vice President, Academic). These inspiring educators discussed current challenges facing higher education including pressure to focus on economic rather than social good, a mental health crisis, and hate, misogyny, homophobia, and racism.  

The panelists then discussed ways in which educators can address these challenges at the classroom, department, and institutional levels. Dr. Ferguson focused on the role of student-led activism and direct action toward making positive change on campus. The panelists encouraged instructors to focus on the joy of learning and to strive to create ‘cultures of relentless welcome’ (Felten, 2019) in their teaching. Dr. Wilson highlighted the work of educational developers and instructors on pedagogies of hope and care and the role of education to connect students and break down the tendency for isolation and self-protection. When asked about specific strategies educators can use to create a human-centred educational environment, the panelists suggested the following: 

  • Create spaces for students to connect with the instructor (e.g., kettle spaces, office hours) and each other
  • Learn and use your students’ names
  • Revise academic policies and procedures that focus on surveillance rather than student support
  • Learn from instructional designers who focus on compassionate accommodation (as we did during the pandemic)
  • Use your course outline to set the tone for the course – share a bit about who you are as an instructor, encourage students to be joyful participants in the course 
  • Break down silos in higher education by fostering interdisciplinary partnerships and student-instructor partnerships 

We are grateful to the panelists for sharing their thoughts with us on the future of higher education! 

We loved connecting once again to talk all things teaching and learning, and share our teaching successes and challenges in community. We hope you will join us next May for TLI 2024!

Learning Enhancement Fund and AVPA SoTL Grant Recipients  

On behalf of the Associate Vice-President (Academic), we are pleased to announce the 2023-2024 Learning Enhancement Fund (LEF) and the Associate Vice-President (Academic), Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Grant recipients.  

One LEF project received funding to support and enrich the learning experience of our undergraduate students: Developing online community-engaged Indigenous Cultural Safety Training for veterinary trainees (Lauren Van Patter and Lynn Henderson (Ontario Veterinary College), with Angela Mashford-Pringle (Waakebiness-Bryce Institute for Indigenous Health, University of Toronto). 

The AVPA SoTL Grant provides financial support for research projects that inform and enhance learning experiences, teaching practices, and educational development within and across disciplines. Two projects received funding this year: Integrating career preparation into the academic curriculum at UofG (Don Bruce, with Nicola Edwards and Sobia Iqbal, School of Languages and Literatures), and Instructor and student values of plain language writing competencies in the wake of generative A.I. (Kerry Ritchie, Human Health and Nutritional Sciences and Aron Fazekas, Office of Teaching and Learning).  

Congratulations to this year’s LEF and AVPA SoTL Grant recipients!

Spotlight on Universal Design

Moving forward with UDL in Ontario higher education 

OTL has been building support and resources for inclusive universal design principles in instruction and assessments. A study released in April emphasizes the crucial role of implementing universal design for learning (UDL) in making higher education accessible and inclusive.

The report from the provincial government agency HEQCO (the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario) recommends that universities and colleges: 

“Establish UDL as institutional policy.”

  • The report shows that so far, UDL has largely been achieved through grassroots approaches by faculty and staff. The recommendations encourage post-secondary higher administration to commit formal support and resources to growing UDL, which has been lacking across post-secondary institutions. Many such projects succeed through lateral leadership of grassroots efforts supported by higher administration. 

“Facilitate opportunities for faculty and staff (including senior administrators) to connect and learn.” 

  • In other words, how can instructors be supported in implementing UDL in teaching and learning? To build greater awareness of UDL and how it can be applied, the OTL is incorporating more information on UDL in upcoming new faculty orientations, building new web-based resources, and offering consultations for any faculty interested in incorporating UDL in their teaching. Further opportunities are in the works and will be announced here. 

“Evaluate UDL uptake and outcomes to monitor institutionalization progress.” 

  • Finding ways to measure the implementation of UDL in learning environments will help gauge best approaches and areas to improve along the way. Faculty and staff can engage in scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) research to study and report on UDL principles put into practice.  Institutional research on the implementation of UDL is needed, as Goodwin University educators demonstrate in their 2022 book UDL University.  

The three recommendations arose from four virtual events held between Fall 2021 and Spring 2022 in which 103 post-secondary education stakeholders identified challenges and strategies in implementing UDL. If you’re seeking support and information on UDL, or wish to conduct a study of applying UDL principles in your teaching, please reach out to our educational developer Christopher Laursen at laursenc@uoguelph.ca

Meet an Educational Developer

Each month, we will feature a member of the Office of Teaching and Learning team in a brief interview. For more information about each Educational Developer’s portfolio, please visit our website.

Dr. Christie Stewart, Educational Developer  

What pathway did you take to your career as an Educational Developer? 

My journey to becoming an Educational Developer was a winding route, as it often is for those who enter this career path. I first became passionate about teaching as a graduate student TA for immunology and medical microbiology labs. This passion grew while I was finishing my PhD in plant science as an instructor teaching human anatomy and physiology at St. Clair College, where I began to design my own learner-centred courses. Though these courses were not in my field of expertise, teaching, regardless of the content, inspired and energized me. Once I had the opportunity to teach ecology and environmental science as faculty at Western University and Huron University College, I gained an appreciation of how teaching content I am enthusiastic about impacts student engagement and success. During this time, I also had the opportunity to develop course and program curriculum, learning outcomes and lead a special ONCAT-supported project to develop learning outcomes-based transfer agreements between Western and 16 Ontario Colleges. It was at that time that I discovered this amazing career path! So, after 10 years of focusing on teaching undergraduate students, I formally made the leap to being an Educational Developer. I am grateful for the last 5 years for the support and guidance of my colleagues, instructors and students who have given me the opportunity to continue to learn and grow in this role. 

What interests you about teaching and learning? 

Much like the workings of an ecosystem, the educational landscape is complex, as is program and course curriculum. There are connections between the learning environment, learning outcomes, courses, teaching practices, and assessments that make up the entirety of the curriculum. I’m drawn to this complexity and have a strong desire to understand these connections at the macro- and micro-scales. Taking this holistic perspective on course and program curriculum is necessary to intentionally create and assess it and understand a learner’s experience.  

I’m also fascinated by the science of how humans learn and the intersections of cognitive neuroscience, and the emotional, behavioural and social aspects of learning. This includes my own learning as I continue to grow as an educator and become a ‘student’ over, and over, again. 

What advice would you give new instructors? 

Continue to grow and reflect. Teaching is an iterative process, which requires feedback, time, and reflection. Make sure you set time aside to reflect, whether it’s right after a lesson, or at a weekly scheduled time. Reflection will help you discover your authentic self as an educator. When you reflect, don’t reflect in a bubble! Talk to your colleagues, formally or informally, to gain perspective on your experiences and ways forward. You won’t be perfect the first time or the fiftieth time. And even then, you won’t have it all figured out. Teaching will require some intellectual humility, but you don’t need to know everything. You’re human and students want to see that you’re human. This may mean you are placed outside of your comfort zone. Become comfortable in that discomfort because it is in those moments where you learn from others, including your students. These are the moments you will grow as an educator. 

Featured SoTL Snapshot

Many courses assess oral communication by requiring students to give a presentation, and many students experience some level of anxiety or nervousness related to public speaking. Instructors can help support anxious students by encouraging them to use positive self-talk. This SoTL Snapshot summarizes research that found that students who were required to recite a short positive self-talk statement before giving an in-class speech experienced a greater reduction in anxiety compared to students who were not required to recite the positive self-talk statement. This simple and effective intervention may help support students’ mental health concerns related to public speaking. 

Generative AI and Teaching: Special Newsletter Issue Coming in July 

The July issue of the OTL Teaching and Learning Digest will highlight resources, policy, and ideas related to AI and teaching. As OTL continues to curate and develop resources for instructors, we would like to know what your biggest concerns are related to AI and teaching. Please complete this 3-question survey to let us know what you need related to AI and teaching to inform our development of workshops and resources.   

Reflections on Pedagogy: Musings for Educators 

“Human connection is the basis upon which learning takes place. Relationships are essential because there is no learning without relationships.”

- Randy Bass, Georgetown University 

For more teaching resources or to chat with an Educational Developer, visit our website at otl.uoguelph.ca or contact otl@uoguelph.ca.