educational development

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

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.