educational development

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

Using stick figure narratives in educational development

This blog describes how we can use stick figure narratives in our educational development (ED) work.

My thoughts on this were inspired by a workshop facilitated by Dr. Jessica Motherwell McFarlane who presented at Symposium 2018.  Dr. Motherwell McFarlane uses stick-figure narratives in her role as an instructor and counsellor to explore resiliency.

One of the premises of her work is that everyone can draw stick figures; consequently, it is not something that needs to be taught. Brain researchers, she explained, show that we instantly know when we are seeing stick figures and it is as if “a stick figure visual language app” comes with our brain. “Why not use it?!” she asked us playfully.

Dr. Jessica Motherwell McFarlane led us through several experiential exercises at the Symposium. In this post, I’ll describe these and consider how I could use these in ED.

Materials Needed

Each attendee received:

  • 3 coloured markers, including one gel pen for writing on black paper
  • Coloured donut-shaped reinforcement stickers (the kind used for loose leaf paper holes). Also called “loopy” stickers in the workshop. (10 or more)
  • 5×8 blank index card (1)
  • 5×8 black card stock (1)

Activity 1: “Something unexpected happened…”

Within a few minutes of sitting down, we were asked to “show an image” or “make an image” depicting something funny and unexpected that had happened in our teaching.  We were given a short time (I think it was 2 minutes) and one rule: We had to use at least one loopy sticker in our image–and we could use as many loopy stickers as we wished. We then got into trios and shared our stories and drawings.

I do not remember what I drew; nor what my story was. What I recall is feeling stressed at having to draw right away, having to come up with something “funny”, and the requirement to do so within such a short time limit. I had gone to the workshop because I anticipated it would make me feel uncomfortable–right I was!

When debriefing this activity, Dr. Motherwell McFarlane emphasized the importance of getting participants to draw almost immediately and of giving people only a short time to do so. She also intentionally avoids using the words “draw an image” because the word “draw” can generate a feeling of anxiety in people.

Application to educational development: The activity could easily become “tell the story of something funny or happy or unexpected that happened in your ED work”. This, and the two activities below, could be part of a session promoting reflective practice in ED.

Activity 2: “Emotional X-Rays…”

This was my favourite!

The instructions went something like:

“You are going to create two images using stick figures and at least one loopy sticker. Use the white index card to show a situation in your educational development work (she used teaching), as it might be perceived by the people around you. Use the black card to show the same situation, as experienced internally by you.”

We had approximately 3 minutes to create both images and then shared the stories in trios or pairs.

Below are the two images I generated:

Image 1 (the “outside” view) Explained: My Fall has been very, very, very busy. I’ve had so many projects and have been applying my sharpest organizational skills and efficiency to complete these. The figure in this image is me flexing my ED muscles to keep various projects moving.

What I am projecting to the outside

Image 2 (the “inside” experience) Explained: This fall has been one of the most difficult periods in my life as I have been providing intense support to my daughter in her recovery of anorexia (I am sharing this with her permission). I have been drained and sad much of the time.

What is happening inside me

Activity 3: “Then and now…celebrating change”

This activity invites the image-maker to show and celebrate an aspect of one’s professional evolution.

The instructions went something like:

  • Think about your role as a __________ (you could use ‘educational developer’; Dr. Motherwell McFarlane used ‘educator’; I considered my role as an adult educator).  In the small, middle box, write the number of years that you have had that role (for me, 24 years as an adult educator).
  • Think about a change in you over that period of time.
  • In the top section, make an image that shows a way you used to do things/how things used to be…
  • In the bottom section, make an image that shows what things are like now…

A few people were then invited to share* their Then and Now narratives using the document camera at the front of the room.

*Tip: Dr. Motherwell McFarlane has her own travelling (iPEVO HD USB) document camera and advised that it is helpful to assign one person to be collecting images and positioning them properly so that you, the facilitator, can focus on the storyteller and not on futzing with the image/direction/camera.

*****

This session was my favourite at the Symposium. If you decide to use stick figures or have thoughts on how you might use them, please send me an email or write a comment — I’d love to hear from you!

I’d like to give a BIG thanks to Dr. Motherwell McFarlane who so kindly read through a draft of this post, added details that I had accidentally omitted, and provided other helpful feedback.

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

Audience

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: //flic.kr/p/rqBEup (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: https://www.youtube.com/user/ctltresources/playlists

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]ubc.ca), 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: //flic.kr/p/cBFFBS

Questioned proposal: https: //flic.kr/p/4S8uZe