educational development

Don’t end with Q&A when giving a presentation


I recently had the pleasure of presenting on the topic of peer review of teaching at the “Valuing Teaching” series organized by Simon Fraser University.

As I planned for that presentation, I recalled a tip I read in Steal the Show by author Michael Port. In that book, Port suggests that one should not close a presentation with the question and answer period (Q&A). He cautions that putting the Q&A at the end can result in loss of control for the speaker. Specifically, someone may take things in a direction you did not intend the presentation to go, the main point of your session might get lost on the audience, and/or people may sneak off.  In a nutshell: you lose your opportunity for a  strong close.

Port recommends that the Q&A period be inserted before the end of the presentation. This allows you (the opportunity) to finish strong!  [For some funny–but familiar–examples of how ‘not to end’, read Chris Anderson’s, Curator for Ted Talks, short article here].

For some good tips on ‘ending your presentation with style’, see this blog post by Jesmine Moon. Moon includes examples of each:

  • inspire your audience with a quote
  • end with a compelling image
  • leave with a question
  • encourage action
  • reiterate your message

Have a favourite? Let me know in the comments!

Photo credit: https: // (Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic)

Peer review of teaching videos

I’m excited to share a series of videos on the formative peer review of teaching. The purpose of these videos is to enhance understanding of, and skills for, the peer review of teaching. These videos are for both reviewers and reviewees.
The videos can be found on the UBC Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology’s YouTube Channel at the “Formative Peer Review of Teaching” playlist:

The specific videos are:
This project started as an attempt to create videos myself. The result was cheesy looking videos which were painstakingly long to create.
Since I am not a particularly patient person (my children and spouse would wholeheartedly agree), and because I appreciate high quality work, I was thrilled that, in the end, the videos were a produced with the expert help of Michael Sider and UBC Studios.
Please send me your feedback via email (isabeau.iqbal[at], twitter (@isabeauiqbal) or in the comments box. You can, of course, leave comments on YouTube.

Should I get a PhD?

If you are an educational developer, you may be debating whether you want to go back to school and pursue doctoral studies. In this post, I share my perspective and experience on that issue in the hopes that doing so may help colleagues who are grappling with the question of “Should I get a PhD?”

Early thoughts about getting a PhD

I started working as an educational developer in 2003 as I was completing my Masters degree in Adult Education. I deeply enjoyed my work at the teaching and learning centre but because I was employed there only 1 to 2 days per week it took me a few years to “get” what this field was about. By 2006, my work at the centre was more regular and I recognized that educational development was a profession I felt committed to.

Knowing that I wanted to pursue a career in educational development, I began to ask myself whether I wanted to do doctoral studies. My sense was that I would have more varied and interesting opportunities with a PhD and that, overall, this would lead to greater career fulfillment. Specifically, I remember feeling that the PhD matters in the world of higher education and that ‘having one’ would allow me to collaborate meaningfully with others more often.

Other issues I considered in my decision-making process

Even if I felt fairly confident that pursuing a doctoral degree would be a good career decision, I had many other things to consider before I submitted my application. These are the main issues I thought about/stressed over as I made my decision:

  • Mothering. I had two young children (ages 2 and 6 at the time). Could I mother them in a way that I felt good about if I did my PhD? That is, could I give them the attention, love, and time I wanted to while pursuing doctoral studies?
    • It turns out I could but only because I became extremely good at setting boundaries around a whole number of other ‘opportunities’. During my studies, I said ‘no’ to a bunch of tempting offers (i.e., service work, side-research projects, volunteer opportunities, projects etc) so I could give more to my children and enjoy them as much as possible.
  • Relationship. I had heard that the rate of divorce was fairly high in graduate school. I was in a long-time relationship and did not want ours to end up in divorce.
    • It didn’t. We will have been together 22 years this fall (2017).
  • Work. I wanted to continue working part-part time. Since my reasons for starting doctoral studies were strongly related to my career, I wanted to keep working as an educational developer.
    • The teaching centre’s director at that time, Dr. Gary Poole, and my supervisor, Ms. Janice Johnson, were highly supportive of my professional growth and I was able to continue working at the teaching and learning centre part-time while going to school.

Support from my family

My father, mother, and spouse were supportive of me going back to school and this was an important aspect of my decision-making process. My retired father, I knew, would provide as much help as he could with childcare; he also offered to help me financially (I accepted).  Both my parents had had academic careers and my father was ecstatic that I was considering a PhD. I was confident I could count on my spouse for emotional support; he’s my biggest cheerleader.

Has it been ‘worth it’?

I began my PhD in Education (with a focus on teaching and learning in higher education) in 2007 and completed it in 2012. There were many aspects I enjoyed about doing a PhD and, at the same time, there was a lot of stress involved.

Am I glad I did it? Yes, for so many reasons.

Has it been worth it, career-wise? Yes.  I had predicted that completing a PhD would lead to more fulfilling work and I believe it has. Within the context of the large, research-intensive university within which I work, I have been involved in various research projects, collaborations, facilitative processes, and consultations that I don’t think would have been available to me if I did not have a PhD.

Did it help me grow as an educational developer? Yes, yes, and yes because I gained so much by way of knowledge, skills, and experience during my years of study.

If you have any questions, please contact me! If you’d like to consider the “Should I get a PhD?” question further, read the interviews at Should I Get a PhD?


Photo credits:

Finger face with a question: https: //

Questioned proposal: https: //


Documenting the impact of educational leadership in faculty member careers

Leadership quote

For just under a year, I have been involved in a collaborative project concerning educational leadership (EL) in faculty member careers.

This initiative involves (1) clarifying what EL is in the context of faculty member careers and (2) helping faculty members articulate the evidence and impact of their EL activities.The people with whom I am collaborating are Dr. Simon Bates (lead) and Dr. Simon Albon. Though my involvement is in the UBC context, this is part of a larger international Universitas 21 project.

One of the reasons that articulating evidence and impact of EL matters is because Educational Leadership Stream faculty must be able to do so to advance their careers (see note 1). However, since EL is a concept people are still trying to figure out, it is not yet ‘obvious’ what counts as evidence and how to communicate the impact.

We have begun to develop some resources to help with this and are workshopping them with faculty members and others to get their feedback.

The tool I wish to share about in this blog post is the Educational Leadership Mapping (ELM) tool.  The ELM tool is an organizing framework that can help instructors begin to categorize and make sense of their EL activities. This two-dimensional framework asks instructors to plot what they do related to teaching/learning and the forms of enactment. Learn more here.

Download the ELM tool here as a PowerPoint slide.

In our experience, faculty members have an easier time plotting along the horizontal axis than on the vertical; they can find it difficult to distinguish between “Manage” and “Lead” and may have a (negative) reaction to the word “manage”. The distinctions made on page 2 of The University of Glasgow’s Guidelines for Learning, Teaching & Scholarship Track may be helpful for distinguishing where to place an activity along the vertical (i.e., items in the Professorial list would match up best with “Lead”).

Our work is ongoing and we welcome your feedback. We will be presenting this work at the 2017 POD Conference in Montreal and I will be writing more posts on the topic as we prepare for that session.


Note 1: Though faculty members in the Educational Leadership stream MUST demonstrate EL, faculty members at all ranks and appointments may be engaging in EL.

Photocredit: https: //


Evaluating the Course Design Intensive

Rainy Days and Mondays

As do several other teaching and learning centres, ours offers a Course Design Intensive (CDI). During this 3-day course, participants make progress on the design or redesign a course for post-secondary students.

Since 2015, I have been leading a program evaluation of our CDI. The process and methodology have been messy and inconsistent…and have taught me a lot about program evaluation. In this blog post, I share on the retrospective pre-test (RPT), one of the approaches I have used as part of our multi-faceted evaluation [for a 2-page description of our program evaluation, see here].

Retrospective pre-test

The retrospective pre-test is a survey that is administered at the same time as the post-test. Learners are asked to answer questions about their level of understanding, confidence or skill after an intervention. They are then asked to think back to their understanding prior to the intervention and to answer the same questions, but from the perspective of the present moment. See here for more information, including a brief description of strengths and weaknesses of this approach.

What we used to do before

Prior to December 2016, we did the following:

Before the CDI

The survey asked participants to consider the learning outcomes for the CDI and, using a Likert Scale, rate: (1) how important is this skill in course design?; (2) how confident are you in your current skills in this area? [see here for pre-CDI program evaluation survey].

On day 3 of the CDI

On the last day of the CDI, participants would complete a survey that had the same questions as above (#1 and #2) and this question: (3) how helpful has the CDI been in learning this skill? [see here for post-CDI program evaluation survey]

What we do now: Retrospective pre-test and post-test

Instead of administering two surveys at two different times, we now administer the retrospective pre-test and post-test at the same time. After consulting different articles about the benefits and disadvantages of one method over another, I surmised that the main advantage, in the case of the CDI, was mostly practical: one survey vs two.  To access our survey, see here.

Additional resources on the retrospective pre-test

The Retrospective Pretest: An Imperfect but Useful Tool (Harvard Family Project, 2005)

The Retrospective Pretest Method for Evaluating Training (Evaluate Webinar, 2015)



  1. Thanks go to Dr. Chris Lovato for introducing me to retrospective pre-test.
  2. Photo credit: Bill Dickinson “Rainy Days and Mondays” https ://