STLHE 2014

STLHE 2014 Conference

Concurrent Sessions 2: Interactive Workshops and Panels

Wednesday, June 18, 2014, 2:30 - 3:20pm (50 minutes)
McArthur Hall, Queen's University

CON2.01 – Welcome to My Classroom: Integrated First-Year Experience, Day 1: Frames and Foundations (Room A241/242)
Lisa Dickson, Angèle Smith and Tracy Summerville (University of Northern British Columbia)

This interactive session will demonstrate the principles of design for an innovative, integrated first-year arts, social sciences and humanities curriculum that transforms not only the traditional “silo” disciplinary model but also the community of learning that encompasses students, faculty, staff and service-providers.  The Integrated Advanced Skills and Knowledge curriculum (IASK) is a suite of 6 question-based courses designed to introduce students to the culture of scholarship and inquiry. Cohort-based and emphasizing the “conversation” that is the foundation of scholarship, the curriculum helps students to understand the intellectual, social, cultural and historical “frames” that underlie disciplinary studies at university, as well as the connections between domains of knowledge and social practice. Arising out of a process of institution-wide visioning and needs-assessment, the program is grounded in key outcomes and principles. One of these, “integration of knowledge,” demanded the creation of a new model of pedagogical delivery, which in turn demanded the transformation of the relationships among faculty who now work in a fully collaborative, mutually supportive, and transparent environment. Embedded librarians, representatives from the First Nations, Academic Success and Wellness Centres, career counsellors, teaching assistants and student mentors work with faculty to provide experiential learning opportunities for students who themselves are encouraged to work collaboratively to become active participants in the scholarly “conversation.”

The session will begin with a brief “walk-through” of the first class of the three course first semester curriculum, including a hands-on experiential learning exercise, “the puzzle box,” followed by a presentation of the design and pedagogical principles that structure the curriculum. There will also be a general discussion period for all of the session participants. Three instructors will demonstrate the model of collaboration and integration by introducing “students” to the interlocking conceptual “frames” that shape their courses:  “Ways of Knowing;” “People, Place and Culture” and “Foundations of Learning.”

CON2.02 – Delivering an Interdisciplinary Curriculum Via Research Projects: How to Make it Work (Room A239)
Carolyn Eyles, Sarah Symons and Russ Ellis (McMaster University)

Transforming undergraduate experiences to allow students to learn through active engagement in stimulating and relevant project work is extremely effective. A project-based approach, where students explore real-world, open-ended questions, seems to be particularly successful for women in engineering (Vaz et al., 2013) and has been proposed as a strategy for science, technology, and mathematics, as well (Grasgreen, 2013). The Honours Integrated Science (iSci) program at McMaster University focuses on student learning of science through a series of team-based, interdisciplinary research projects.  Students are introduced to the tools and techniques required for effective research in their first six weeks in the program. They engage in a low stakes ‘practice’ research project during this time and by the second half of their first term they embark on their first full exploration of guided inquiry.  Instructor involvement in research projects gradually decreases as students move through first year and subsequent years of the program; by fourth year, iSci students are extremely proficient in conducting both team-based and independent disciplinary and interdisciplinary research. They have been transformed into independent and creative learners. 

This session will explore methods to transform the experience of all learning community members through the design and delivery of interdisciplinary research projects. Workshop participants will work in small groups (1) to identify key tools and techniques essential for effective student investigations, (2) to identify potential research project topics, and (3) to identify effective means of disciplinary integration. The focus will be on delivery to first year students. Participants will also consider ways to design and scaffold upper level research projects and how these may differ from introductory level projects.  We will examine strategies for staging development of disciplinary and ‘soft’ skills as well as the acquisition of knowledge, attitudes and experiences.  We will also discuss assessment and evaluation processes that are most appropriate for project-based learning.

The workshop will be informed by the experiences of instructors and staff responsible for the design and delivery of the iSci program.  We will reflect on project design, the creation of experiential (lab and field) components, project assessment, and challenges we have faced during the first five years of running this program. Workshop participants will gain an understanding of the basic elements required to establish project-based learning initiatives at course or program levels.

CON2.03 – A Bilingual, Online, Interactive, Learning Tool for Organic Chemistry (Room A232)
Alison Flynn, Jeanette Caron, Jamey Laroche, Caroline Marcoux and Gisèle Richard (University of Ottawa)

Fundamental to a student’s understanding of organic chemistry is the ability to interpret and use its language, including molecules’ names and other key terms. Since there is an infinite number of molecules possible, molecules are named using an internationally recognized nomenclature system. Students must master three key nomenclature learning objectives to be successful in chemistry: (i) identify key parts (functional groups) of a molecule, (ii) name a molecule, given its structure, and (iii) draw a molecule, given its name. In a chemistry course in higher education, a discussion about a given reaction cannot take place if the participants in that discussion are not able, at a minimum, to identify the functional group in question. Unfortunately, students often struggle to do so (Loeffler, 1989); thus, there is a learning gap.

While there are many resources that describe the rules for naming molecules, there is a paucity of resources available to actively practice naming molecules and receive feedback; many of these resources are of low quality, especially in French. Furthermore, students often do not see the real-life applications of the molecules they are naming.

To respond to this learning gap, the lack of quality resources and link to real-life applications, our team developed a free, interactive, online, bilingual learning tool that draws from a question bank of approximately 1000 molecules on which students will (i) identify key parts (functional groups) of a molecule, (ii) name a molecule, given its structure, and (iii) draw a molecule, given its name. This online learning tool is student-driven; it allows students to tailor their learning to their needs by customizing nomenclature quizzes and provides immediate feedback.

In this session, we will describe why and how we created this tool. We will also describe the roles of our team members that included an instructional designer, chemistry professor, multimedia programmer, assistant production designer, web designer, and chemistry student, which we hope will be helpful to others embarking on such a project. Participants will work with the learning tool and discuss ways to adapt such a system for their own purposes (e.g., to address student learning difficulties by through a student-driven resource). Please bring a device (laptop or tablet) if you can!  We will have a few available as well.

CON2.04 – But What About the Campus? The Place of Physical Learning Spaces in an Increasingly Virtual World (Room A227)
Adam Finkelstein, Jennie Ferris, and Laura Winer (McGill University)

Over the course of four years, students spend over 1500 hours in classrooms that physically communicate universities’ values and vision of teaching and learning. Active learning spaces promote active and collaborative learning, while lecture halls perpetuate a transmission approach to teaching and learning. In the last few years, there has been a huge increase in universities’ commitment to virtual environments, from the flipped classroom to MOOCs. These virtual environments have implications for the types of transformative educational experiences that universities can offer students. While universities have been exploring the challenges and opportunities of the virtual world, for many students, Canadian universities continue to be primarily campus-based (and non-virtual) classroom experiences. Considering the virtual and physical learning environment as a coherent whole brings forward important questions related to universities’ visions of teaching and learning and implications for rethinking physical campus space.

Current campus renovations are built with the intention of lasting and meeting university space needs for the next 20+ years. What types of learning do we want to promote on our campuses, and what does this mean for physical learning spaces? Session participants will consider a number of emerging questions about the physical learning environment in light of changes to the virtual learning environment: Are we building the types of spaces that students and faculty on our campus need given the potential impact of these virtual environments now and in the future? Where will teaching and learning occur? If many courses take advantage of flipped learning, are lecture halls still necessary? Is there still a purpose of separating classrooms and teaching labs? Can our flexible spaces adapt to future needs? Will informal spaces ultimately replace the formal classroom spaces? This session will discuss the impact of virtual environments on campus learning space needs and the possibilities for addressing these needs as we move forward in the 21st century.

CON2.05 – Enhancing Registered Nurse Job Readiness Through Constructive Alignment and Standardization in Simulation Design (Room A342)
Rylan Egan, Deborah Tregunno, Marian Luctkar-Flude, Kim Sears and Jennifer Medves (Queen’s University)

Aligning learning outcomes, assessment, and instruction (constructive alignment, Biggs, 1999) imbues educators with the opportunity to systematically (re)design curriculum for transformation. Recently the School of Nursing at Queen’s University has spearheaded a project using productivity and Innovation Funds (PIF) to integrate high fidelity patient simulation scenarios at 12 Nursing Schools (and their college partners) across Ontario.

In collaboration with Queen’s Centre for Teaching and Learning, the School of Nursing has conducted two large collaborative hands-on workshops to align curricula within and across institutes. Alignment has been made possible by the institutes agreeing upon a shared template, and engaging in collaboration with a willingness to share resources, both human capital and intellectual property. Prior to delving into technical aspects of simulation development, organizers dedicated a full day to the development of scenario outcomes and rubric design. Upon completion of the learning outcome component of the day, nurse educators were asked to further define outcomes through the development of rubric descriptors within a three level rubric. Although educators found this process onerous, and the learning curve steep, it was agreed that building a strong foundation was essential for the validity of scenario development. This approach to simulation development is unique and represents a student focused, and an outcomes informed approach. Whereas traditional learning outcomes are created in a “verb + instructional focus” format, learning outcomes in this collaboration have implemented a “verb + instructional focus + purpose” framework that was converted into the maxim “Do What, With What, For What?” Extending the traditional learning outcome framework allowed educators to delineate the relevant scope and context for their chosen scenario. Pedagogically speaking, the development of outcomes and their direct alignment with rubric criteria allow students to set targeted goals based on course instruction, self-evaluate their performance, and receive external feedback on focused outcomes. This is imperative in the ill-defined context of nursing simulation education where demonstration of “soft skills” such as critical thinking, problem solving, triage, and collegial communication represent the “hard competencies” that can save lives. Moreover, within the context of province wide knowledge sharing, the indexing of instructional preparation, learning outcomes, and competency metrics allow for alignment across school curriculum, and importantly decreases redundancies and gaps across simulations held within the repository.

In this workshop, participants will be presented evaluation data on the project, and be asked to engage with presenters in a discussion around the “Do What, With What, For What?” format and approach to developing outcomes and rubrics as a means of curriculum development. Finally, the longitudinal potential of this project to align educational and practical nursing outcomes will be discussed.

CON2.06 – Including Students in the Learning Experience: How Reflective Writing Assignments can be Used to Help Students Engage with Course Content (Room A211)
Kristie Dukewich (University of Toronto) and Deborah P. Vossen (St. Francis Xavier University)

Writing-to-learn involves the use of low-stakes informal writing activities that help students reflect on concepts or ideas presented in a course. Writing-to-learn can be a powerful tool in helping students understand and engage with course concepts, and past research has shown that writing-to-learn activities can substantially improve performance on summative assessments (Nevid, Pastva, McClelland, 2013).

Not only is writing helpful for learning, but it is also a skill that students are expected to acquire during their post-secondary degree. However, it can be a challenge to provide writing opportunities that are interesting to students and easy for instructors to implement and grade, particularly in courses with more than 30 students. Reflective journaling is one method that can address these objectives.

Reflective writing can take a variety of forms. The versatility of reflective writing means that it can be adapted to suit a number of different disciplines. For example, reflective writing has been implemented in core science courses by having students reflect on how they understand a specific concept from the course, essentially giving them the opportunity to explain these concepts to themselves (Kalman, 2011). More applicable courses have implemented reflective writing by having students evaluate how the course concepts are observable in their own lives (Nevid et al, 2013). Finally, practical courses have used reflective writing as a venue for student reflection on practical experience or mock simulations so that past experiences can help inform future experiences (Sandars, 2009).

Participants in this session will first hear about the different forms that reflective writing assignments can take, and will be asked to describe which form of reflective writing might best suit their discipline. We will then describe how we implemented reflective journal assignments in two courses, a mid-sized 3rd year course at the University of Toronto in Psychology, and a small 4th year course at St. Francis Xavier University in Human Kinetics. Participants will have the opportunity to see our assignment description and marking rubric for our low-stakes assignments, and learn how each of us have implemented the assignment, taking advantage of online pedagogical technologies. We will also share our end-of-course reflections on how we might change the assignment to better suit the needs of the students and instructors. Finally, we will solicit suggestions from participants on how to improve this kind of assignment and how to scale the assignment for larger 2nd and 3rd year courses.

CON2.07 – The Importance of the Faculty/Student Relationship in the Experiences of Graduate Students with Disabilities in Canadian Postsecondary Education (Room A207)
Mahadeo Sukhai, (National Educational Association of Disabled Students [NEADS])

As the number of students with disabilities entering graduate education in Canada continues to increase, faculty, instructors, graduate departments, disability service providers, and universities as a whole are having to develop new strategies to facilitate their success. There is a critical lack of research and information about issues faced by graduate students with disabilities; as such, institutions are developing policy and practice guidelines on limited, anecdotal and local experience. No significant research on this population has been undertaken within Canada or the United States, and large, national data sets are lacking. In this environment, faculty and instructors are left with no clear practices and procedures, or any substantive knowledge on graduate students with disabilities. At the same time, universities need to be responsive to new and evolving provincial legislative landscapes in Canada. Therefore, there is a significant requirement to have a detailed understanding, both quantitative and qualitative, of the experiences of disabled students in graduate studies, in order to aid faculty in understanding their roles in working with graduate students with disabilities.

To address this knowledge gap, we undertook a multi-pronged research approach, including the following: a comprehensive online national survey of graduate students with disabilities; institutional best-practices surveys; focus groups of service providers and relevant professional populations; key informant interviews; data mining of extant relevant surveys; a detailed literature review; and the empanelment of an advisory National Taskforce on the Experience of Graduate Students with Disabilities, populated with subject matter experts drawn from sectors across the Canadian post-secondary landscape.

This presentation will highlight our research findings to date, focusing on the important role faculty have in creating a welcoming and inclusive graduate environment. At this point, there is no “fully accessible graduate environment”; furthermore, off-the-shelf accommodations may not be available in all situations. While this gap certainly poses challenges for graduate administrators and policy makers, it represents an opportunity for faculty to develop their own solutions and adapt them to their particular student’s needs. Such efforts may be aided by the deployment and use of universally designed equipment, facilities, as well as research and course materials and readings that do not require active interventions to make them accessible. However, many faculty are unsure about how to meet the needs of graduate students with disabilities. Using case study scenarios, this presentation will deconstruct the major issues faced by faculty when working with graduate students with disabilities. It will also demonstrate how collaboration, creative application of resources and critical analysis of program requirements can lead to increased success rates for graduate students with disabilities. Participants will have the opportunity to work through and discuss the scenarios, in order to develop creative ways of dealing with each issue.

CON2.08 – Going Beyond “Interactive Teaching”: Practical Approaches to Building a Community of Practice in the First Year Science Classroom (Room A339)
James Fraser and Kevin M. Alexander (Queen’s University)

An extensive amount of literature documents the improved learning gains made by interactive teaching compared to traditional lecture delivery.  The challenge is how to identify what interactive approaches provide the best results and how to avoid methods that masquerade as interactive teaching but yield limited true “heads-on” opportunities?  We need a simple and practical framework to determine how to best invest our (and students’) limited time.

This workshop will start with a discussion of the community of practice model that will help attendees judge the potential merits of particular pedagogies for their situation.  As a case study, we will discuss our efforts to build such a community in a first-year physics course through promoting student discussion, providing frequent feedback to students, and being adaptable when students bring up challenges they are facing in the course. Through multiple teaching strategies, we found most students become actively engaged in course material and adopted a commitment to learning and to helping each other learn.  These strategies, most validated in the literature but some more innovative, include peer instruction, just-in-time teaching, mini-whiteboard problem-solving, “Amazing Race” review, and two-stage exams.  Workshop attendees will get to test run some of these approaches to see if they work for them and share their ideas on other approaches that would yield similar “heads-on” experiences.

The community of practice model brought our attention to a serious problem in our approach: we asked students to enter into a community of practice but prof-TA interactions still resembled a traditional supervisor/worker relationship.  TA training took on a whole new light when we, as professor and lead TA, adopted some of the strategies we used to help our students learn physics and used them with the TA team to help us improve our teaching.  This relatively modest intervention lead to statistically significant improvement in TAs’ self-identification as educators.  Through small group discussions, attendees will have the opportunity to evaluate how such an approach to TA training could be used in their own departments, and give us feedback on how we could make ours even better.

In preparation for this workshop, please complete a quick survey online before the conference, accessible through We need your responses to create a workshop that will address your concerns and questions.

CON2.09 – How Far Can We Go?  Engaging University Students in the Construction of their Education (Room A334)
Lori Goff and Kris Knorr (McMaster University) 

How might we take the idea of engaging students beyond the traditional?  Let’s start with the concepts of student-centered, social, inquiry-based learning and endeavor to engage students more deeply.  Let’s build upon the idea of involving students in feedback on teaching, in learning communities, and as student representatives on curriculum committees. Is it possible to go further?  Can we consider for a moment the possibility of students as co-creators of university courses? 

In fact, Bovil (2013) reviews the recent calls for students as co-creators of curricula and cites from the literature many examples of students engaged as co-creators of university curriculum in the UK. She advocates for the role of educational developers to help influence change and garner support of co-created curriculum approaches. 

As Canadian educational developers, we felt particularly well-situated to propose this idea within the Faculty of Science, a faculty with whom we have developed strong connections.  We developed an Applied Curriculum Design course for third and fourth year students from across the faculty.  The course was rather unique in that students did not just learn about curriculum or course design; they actually developed a series of learning modules for first year students. These modules, which are embedded into a new first year science course, aim to enable incoming science students to develop and practice foundational scientific research skills, adjust more easily to university, and become aware of and reflect upon the many possible programs and career paths that science has to offer.  Through teaching this Applied Curriculum Design course, we found ourselves amazed by what the students developed.  As the course progressed, we found ourselves transforming into learners as we enabled our students to become the teachers. 

Let’s discus the idea of engaging students as co-creators of curriculum together. We will contribute our experiences in enabling students to co-create a first year science and compare these to some of the examples gleaned from the literature.  Perhaps together we can develop some principles and guidelines that can enable others to transform students into teachers and teachers into learners.

CON2.10 – The Road Less Traveled?  Pathways from Passivity to Agency in Student Learning (Room A333)
Gail Frost and Maureen Connolly (Brock University)

Service-based learning courses give our physical education and kinesiology students a chance to apply the theory they are learning in their degree programs in practical, real-life contexts before they graduate.  They work with actual clients, designing and implementing physical activity programs with adults or engaging with children and youth with various disabilities. Our goal is that they learn not only the appropriate professional and ethical behaviour necessary for their future careers but, more importantly, how to think creatively and respond to changing circumstances (Entwistle, 2009). Students write a journal entry after each interaction with their client, using a “What? So What? Now What?” format and use their collection of journal entries to complete a reflective writing assignment during the term. We believe that reflective writing is an integral part of authentic transformative learning (Freire, 1987) and have been working for the past several years to find the most effective way to encourage our students to seek meaning, relate and associate ideas, examine the evidence and engage with the material with curiosity and interest.

In our first iteration of working with reflection in a structured way we combined the description of working with the client with reflection on the encounter itself.  Students achieved some success with description and reporting but seemed to have difficulty reflecting on their own actions.

As a result, we separated the journal from the reflection, allowing more protocol driven and literal journaling based in professional field-note standards, and providing ongoing formative feedback on the quality of this journaling. The follow-up reflections were based on prompts associated with situations of critical distance so that the students did not have to make that shift from their own writing.

Our second iteration was more successful in terms of producing thoughtful and detailed descriptions of client encounters and practitioner behaviours and for more than 50% of each class the reflective components improved.  However, new challenges emerged in the reflection component for a minority of the students. 

We will share our interpretations of what happened in our latest experiment, especially in terms of student passivity and agency, and we will invite session participants to join us in alternative analyses of the challenges we faced.  To facilitate this process, participants will also be invited to contribute their own experiences with teaching and assessing reflective writing through brainstorming, scenarios and small group discussion.  We anticipate that participants will leave our session with a variety of approaches for teaching and assessing reflection as well as strategies for problem-solving in contexts involving reflection.

CON2.11 – Exploring Best Peer Review of Teaching Practices (A240)
Shaya Golparian and Judy Chan (University of British Columbia); and Alice Cassidy (In View Education and Professional Development)

How can you positively influence student learning by conducting peer review of teaching (PRT)? In what ways do you support colleagues who ask you to sit in on their classes and provide them with feedback?

Chism (2007) defines PRT as a form of evaluation designed to provide feedback to instructors about their teaching in order to foster improvement or make personal and/or career decisions. PRT occurs along a continuum from informal to formal. Informal peer review, usually conducted for developmental purposes, is often defined as formative peer review. Formal peer review, usually conducted for evaluation purposes, is defined as summative. The two terms formative and summative evaluation, first introduced by Scriven (1973) within the context of program evaluation, have now been widely adopted in the evaluation of teaching.

Classroom PRT can be a transformative process for both reviewee and reviewer. Cassidy & Johnson (2006) designed and first implemented a three-part PRT process at the University of British Columbia (UBC). The model involves a pre-observation meeting, class observation, and a post-observation meeting. Notes taken at each of the three stages comprise a report that is provided to the reviewee. They may wish to include it in their teaching dossier or application for a job, promotion and/or tenure.

Based on the Instructional Skills Workshop (ISW) model, the process is reviewee-focused and currently informs both formative and summative peer review of teaching processes at UBC. We recommend that peer reviewers participate in a 4-hour training workshop to practise techniques they will use in a peer review. Each Faculty at UBC has developed and implemented a procedure suited for their own individual needs.

In this interactive session intended for people who have conducted Peer Review of Teaching, we will begin by role-playing a typical interaction between reviewer and reviewee in the pre-observation meeting. We will then briefly describe the other two parts of the process. Using classroom peer review challenges that you contribute, the group will identify potential solutions. We’ll cap the session with a co-created list of best practices. You will leave this session having explored classroom peer review of teaching from a variety of perspectives, and will be able to help your colleagues enhance student learning.

CON2.12 – Small-Group, Online, Peer-Driven Learning: The “Pod” Phenomenon (Room A343)
Moderated by: Jacqueline Murray (University of Guelph)
Panelists: Sarah Keefer (Trent University) and Kateryna V. Keefer (Western University)

Decades of educational research and practice have shown that students learn best when they are actively engaged with the course material and with one another in collaborative, enquiry-based learning (EBL) activities. However, increasing class sizes resulting from economic classroom re-scaling have become a major obstacle to implementing instructional methods that support these student needs, as most learner-centred techniques require regular, time-intensive student-to-student interaction. Capitalizing on current advancements in online learning technologies, Professor Sarah Keefer (National 3M Teaching Fellow, 2009 cohort) has adapted the traditional small-group EBL model to a large-class format, by allowing students to collaborate both face-to-face and within virtual Pods (discrete online units of 3-4 peers).

In this blended EBL model, several times during the term students first read and analyse a posted exercise in class (individually and in small groups), then post their inquiry notes within their online Pod, and finally peer-review and grade their podmates’ submissions, providing commentary and rationale for each assessment. The course instructor monitors student input and, where needed, comments privately on individual posts, but interferes as little as possible; thus, this learning strategy belongs entirely to the students who are responsible for all aspects of it. The exercise materials are designed to facilitate critical thinking and application of course concepts, and the iterative process provides students with an opportunity to self-reflect and internalize the learning. Most importantly, by shifting some of the collaborative activities online, the “Pod” model circumvents the limitations of large course enrolments, delivering the learning benefits of a traditional small-group EBL design.

In this discussion panel, Professor Sarah Keefer will provide an overview of her “Pod” model and describe how it has been applied for skill-work practice in her third-year History of the English Language course, as well as for specific literary studies in second- and third-year English Literature courses. Dr. Kateryna Keefer will illustrate her application of the “Pod” model to a second-year Psychology course, demonstrating the cross-disciplinary versatility of this transformative approach. The audience will have the opportunity to learn about the logistics of setting up and managing the Pods, reflect on the practical benefits and challenges of the model, ask the panelists questions, and provide suggestions for further adaptation.