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A new twist on caring about good learning and teaching

I have worked in the field of educational development since 2003. I entered this profession by accident–but stayed because I care a LOT about students’ learning.

My own experience of being an undergraduate student remains quite negative–even though that experience dates a long way back. I attribute a 9-year gap between the end of my undergraduate degree and the start of my graduate degree largely to the fact that I associated university learning with joyless learning.

Tomorrow, my 18-year old son starts university. Now, there’s a whole new angle to me caring about student learning and I badly want his courses and professors to further fuel his love of learning.

It’s interesting to be in this place of educational-developer-mother-of-a-new-university-student.

 

A teaching-focussed career in higher education (non tenure-track)

When I am interacting with people who are not familiar with post-secondary environments and they learn that I work at a university, they generally assume I am a faculty member and that teaching is my main responsibility.

I am not a faculty member and have never aspired to have a tenure track faculty position, even when I undertook a PhD. Yet, the focus of my work is teaching and learning.

This spring, because of my professional path as an educational developer, I was invited to be a panelist at two different conference sessions. Both were designed for a graduate student audience. In this post, I’ve captured some of what I shared.

Graduate Students in Teaching Mini Conference 2019

Grad student mini conference panel

The purpose of this session was to highlight different types of teaching-focussed careers in academia. Bits and pieces I shared:

  • If you are attracted to a career the involves teaching, seek out opportunities to teach!
  • Think broadly about teaching. Explore and consider what type of teaching brings you enjoyment. Categories may include: adults, children, classroom, formal, group, one-on-one, facilitative, content-expert, training, planning…
  • Inform people that you want to do more teaching. If volunteering or doing guest lectures are options for you, let people know. Unless you do so, organizers may feel shy to invite you when they know they don’t have a budget to compensate you.
  • Share which topics/areas you’re interested in teaching. If you are teaching people who are not topic specialists, make sure you can speak on the topic in a way that is relatable to others.
  • Get over the belief that teaching is reserved for those with a faculty appointment! Teaching is part of so many roles and positions.

Note: The mini-conference was organized by my colleagues Drs. Shaya Golparian and Joseph Topornycky at the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology at the University of British Columbia. Thank you for inviting me to be part of this session! Co-panelists were Drs. Rowshan Rahmanian, Lacey Samuels and David Oliver. Conference link. 

 

Life after your PhD: Jobs beyond the academy

The purpose of this session was to hear the career narratives of four people who had graduated with PhDs in Education and whose primary role was not a tenure-track faculty member. Bits and pieces I shared:

  • Within the academy, there exists a strongly held belief that landing a faculty position is the (most) desirable outcome. Even if, intellectually, one doesn’t buy into that belief, I think it still affects the self-perception of those of us who intentionally choose not to pursue traditional faculty roles.
  • Take full advantage of any institutional career support you have for your career growth.
  • When seeking employment, reach out to your network.
  • LinkedIn has many features that allow you to grow your network, share your expertise, and develop your brand. Learn how to use it in a way that feels good to you (and be willing to stretch and/or try things out).
  • If you are lucky enough to have a supervisor who is willing to mentor you, gladly accept and enjoy this partnership in whatever ways are possible (co-publications, conferences, introductions, committees…)

Photo above: Isabeau with co-panelists Ernesto Pena and Lucia Terra (also Shaya Golparian, not in picture).

This session was organized by Dr. Christine Kampen Robinson (below) who served as LLRC 2nd VP along with Casey Burkholder under the Canadian Association of Curriculum Studies (which is part of the Canadian Society for the Study of Education). Thank you for inviting me to be part of this session!

Christine Kampen Robinson organizer and Isabeau

Does good student-faculty rapport enhance student learning?

Over the past few months, I have collaborated with faculty members from the Faculty of Arts to do two panel presentations on the topic of student-faculty rapport.

As I prepared for those sessions, I looked into the connections between learning and student-faculty rapport.

For those who are impatient to know whether rapport can enhance student learning, I’ll go straight to my findings: unsurprisingly, research to date has not been able to draw a direct link between rapport and learning.

Though strong faculty-student rapport may not ’cause’ enhanced learning, it helps create conditions conducive to learning.

The literature I reviewed consistently reports that faculty-student rapport results in:

  • higher student motivation
  • increased student participation in class
  • perceptions of increased program quality (from the students’ perspective)
  • greater course satisfaction among students
  • enhanced communication and understanding between students and faculty members

(Frisby & Martin, 2010; Granitz, Koernig & Harich, 2009; McInnis Brown & Starrett, 2017; Wilson & Ryan, 2012)

The above is a compelling list of reasons to pay attention to this aspect of teaching and learning!

Below are the slides I developed for the panel sessions; for anyone interested, there is an extensive list of references at the end. You can view the entire slide deck by clicking on the link below the image. Please note that you are welcome to use and modify these slides (with attribution).

References:

Frisby, B. N., & Martin, M. M. (2010). Instructor–student and student–student rapport in the classroom. Communication Education, 59(2), 146-164.

Granitz, N. A., Koernig, S. K., and Harich, K. R. (2009). Now it’s personal: Antecedents and outcomes of rapport between business faculty and their students. Journal of Marketing Education, 31 (1), 52-65.

McInnis Brown, M. & Starrett, T. (2017). Fostering student connectedness: Building relationships in the classroom. Retrieved from: https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-and-learning/fostering-student-connectedness-building-relationships-classroom/

Wilson, J. & Ryan, R. (2012). Developing student-teacher rapport in the undergraduate classroom. In W. Buskist & V.A. Benassi (Eds.) Effective College and University Teaching: Strategies and Tactics for the New Professoriate, 81-90 Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Photo Credit: https: //flic.kr/p/8MYPZi. Professor MaryCarol Huner and Katie Dennis discuss her 3-D model of “Daily Domestic Arguments” by Leonardo Dudreville

Insights from facilitating outside of higher education

As someone who facilitates workshops regularly, it is a treat to watch/experience someone else’s strong facilitation.

Last month, I had the occasion to collaborate with Isabel Budke to offer Leadership Principles, a 3-part course at Vantage Point for those in the non-profit sector. Isabel facilitated the first and last session, and I did the middle one.

This was the first time I had facilitated outside of a higher education context in 15 years, and on a topic (leadership) that I had never presented on in a group.

I have noticed that many educational developers share similar facilitation approaches, so being part of a session outside of higher education and also led by someone with a different professional background gave me a few insights/reminders. These are presented below.

Extensive group sharing can work.

I tend to plan many small group activities and incorporate only limited large group sharing. Isabel did the opposite and I was surprised at how much and how easily the participants shared in the large group. I thought their sharing would dwindle quickly, but it didn’t.

Inspirational quotes don’t need to be avoided.

In my facilitation (including conferences, workshops), I don’t think I’ve ever used a motivational quote. My assumption has been that an academic audience would not take me seriously and/or would be turned off by these. In the Vantage Point sessions, Isabel used a few inspirational quotes and I noticed that the participants enjoyed and reflected on these out-loud and without prompting.

Trust, and plan for fewer activities

I am prone to worry and plan all my facilitation sessions extensively. Session #2 (the one I facilitated) was no exception. Isabel, too, plans extensively. The difference is that I normally incorporate many activities (for fear that there won’t be ‘enough’) and, in her sessions, Isabel selected only a few activities and allowed more time. It felt spacious, productive, and more relaxing.

Be warm and less reserved

I consider myself a warm person and I like to connect individually with others. When I facilitate in a group, I think, however, that some of my warmth may be “lost” because I get concerned with The Plan (which tends to be overly ambitious when I’m facilitating something for the first time). I enjoyed seeing how Isabel exuded warmth throughout.

What have you learned lately by watching others facilitated? Let me know in the comments–I’d love to hear from you.

 

(This photo was taken on Day 3, during an activity that Isabel facilitated)

How do young undergraduate students learn best?

young students at post-secondaryIt should come as no surprise to me that the longer I work at UBC, the younger the students look. I can’t tell the difference between someone who is 17 and 26 and even photos of newly appointed faculty members make me feel “old”.

I frequently wonder how the generational gap between educators and students affects the teaching and learning of undergraduates. Given that 87% of undergraduate students at UBC are 25 years or younger, there is a compelling need to better understand how these students like to learn and how they learn best.

I recognize there is a whole literature on the first year experience (FYE) (see note 1) and a growing recognition of these students’ needs. See, for example, the research section of the National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition (USA).

I have not yet delved into that scholarship and perhaps the answers to “How do young undergraduates like to learn?” and “What teaching practices best promote their learning?” are in the FYE literature.

However, If I were an overworked and overwhelmed instructor and wanted some accessible ideas to address the above questions–specifically as it pertains to young undergraduate students–I might feel out of luck. A quick google search with the search terms “How do undergraduates like to learn?” brings up many results along the lines of “What courses should you take” or “What’s it like to study [history, business, physics etc]?”. Everything reads like it was written by someone my age:)

 

Note 1: As an educational developer, I am well aware of the excellent and extensive literature on teaching and learning in post-secondary. What I’m eager to discover is whether there is accessible and current literature that focuses on the young adult.