All courses have begun! I have now met all ~430 of my my learners as classes and some individuals who have introduced themselves to me. I must say I am excited!!! There is such fantastic energy in all three of my courses that I’m very much looking forward to this term. I just came from intro psych (psyc 100 section 6) which is mostly comprised of students who are brand new to UBC… I’m pumped! In spite of the room feeling hot as an oven, my learners were engaged and with me the whole time. One student did fall asleep however, so I made the risky choice to go wake him. The point was that I want people to know that I expect them to be awake — I’m there trying to help them learn, so I want them to try to learn too. Luckily, he was a good sport about it; he introduced himself to me after class and we laughed about it.
This morning and last night I started my research methods courses (sections 1 and 901, respectively). This is an exciting, foundational course, and I got a fantastic vibe from my learners in return. Overall, there is recognition that the course is a lot of work, but I think I managed to convey that there’s a whole team of us here to support them, and more details will come. Many students introduced themselves to me personally, which I always appreciate, and during both class periods we laughed. I like laughter in class. Maybe I’ll make that a goal this year. Each class period should include laughter.
So overall I’m feeling great about this semester (in fact, I’m sitting here with a smile on my face as I write!). I feel prepared for the courses (broadly, at least!), and energized by my wonderful students. This is the start of something great.
Wow, I feel like I’m in full gear now preparing for the new year. The end of August is always such a bittersweet time. Summer was a fabulous mix of fun, relaxation, and enough accomplishments to feel good but not overwhelmed. I’ll miss it! But I’m also looking forward excitedly for September. New students, new classrooms, new challenges lay ahead!
Here’s my latest accomplishment: My finalized Intro Psych 100 Section 6 syllabus. Check it out!
I have spent the last three days at the annual conference of the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education in Toronto. Wow, I have hit exhaustion. So many ideas. So many engaging conversations. Inspired. Overwhelmed. I can’t do it all. But I can do. The challenge over the next few days for me will be to hold on to the most important nuggets. A list of some key ideas to help:
- Embrace the Smackdown in Teaching Smackdowns. Try to find out what real issues are facing faculty in our department, and invite conversation. Consider a panel including undergrad and grad students, faculty, and administrators. Ground the discussion in the literature. — from Pedagogical Provocations workshop (e.g., Connie @ U of A)
- A cat doesn’t come until the can opener sounds. Creative insight doesn’t occur with out work. — a metaphor Amanda Burk heard
- What in my courses is taught/assessed, taught/not assessed (and so on to fill out the quadrants)? Decision points. — from someone Amanda Burk heard
- Students learn what they do. What are students in my classes doing?
- To download a Youtube video, add pwn before youtube in the url.
- To teach “knowledge-ability” (1) enage in real problems, (2) with students, (3) while harnessing the relevant tools. — Michael Wesch @ Kansas; implications for my 208 assignment; see ideas document
- To examine test questions: What is the test question asking? What learning is the question evaluating? How can it be re-written so these align? Consider cognitive load theory. — Joanne Nakonechny
- “On an exam, I ask you to be competent, not clever. On an assignment you have 2 weeks to think about, I ask you to be clever.” — another participant’s comment re: evaluation
- Break down a tough exam question. Think out loud as I respond. What assumptions do I make? Can I structure the question so that students demonstrate understanding of the theory, then ability to use it, then ability to apply it, then ability to turn it on its head. — insight from Joanne’s session.
- Email my former student Gillian about her work on the NSSE.
- Think about how I can help demystify academia for my students.
- At the first year level, you are joining the professional academic community. What impact does that have for my first weeks of class? Tie professional communication to job preparation. Email and general etiquette. Give examples of high quality work, compare to poor quality, and differentiate them. — from Professionalism session (Waterloo connection)
- Celebrate failure: “How fascinating!” — from Nicola Simmons’ session (Waterloo office of learning and teaching)
- (How) can I contribute to the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning? What will that look like in my career? How can I balance this in the context of my other responsibilities, especially in terms of time? — from Nicola Simmons’ session (Waterloo office of learning and teaching)
- What excites me about SoTL is the potential for collaborating with students and colleagues, making a meaningful contribution, expanding the impact of my work, staying accountable for my teaching and learning actions. — from Nicola Simmons’ session (Waterloo office of learning and teaching)
- Grad student teaching portfolio resources: http://www.mcgill.ca/tls/teachingportfolio/
- Interdisciplinarity: There are more commonalities that one would think. The creative process as described by artists is not unlike the process of developing research and writing it up. We don’t talk about it in the same way, but the processes of attempts, failure, revision, inspiration, feedback/peer review — and the accompanying emotional roller coaster — have many parallels. There are also common issues in teaching people to do really difficult things: e.g., learn technical proficiency and content, critically evaluate their own and others’ work.
This list became much longer than I had anticipated it would, given my fatigue. Yet one of the most important things I’ve learned this year is that whenever I’m close to exhaustion, I can easily be energized by thinking about teaching and learning.
What does an instructor do when there is no one around to instruct? What does a garden do when there is no sun?
I’m learning the answers to both of those questions. The latter question is visually apparent to me right now: It does not grow many flowers, but it does grow lots of foliage. Lots and lots of foliage. I have dill that’s two feet tall! Leaves of all the flowering plants are overlapping. But few flowers.
The former question is also becoming quite apparent. I’m building. Developing. Planning. Reading. Meeting. (So many meetings!) Thinking. Writing. I’m starting to become concerned with all I’m doing! Some examples, if you’re interested: I’m planning TA and TF Development programming for the fall/winter. I met with public affairs to discuss a potential media piece on learning strategies, based off my 208 course. I’m writing a review of a textbook in preparation for an upcoming Canadian edition (more on that later!) — it’s the one I use for 217, and there’s a possibility I might be involved in the “Canadianizing” of it. I’m helping Sunaina to plan for our Psychology Tri-Mentoring program. I’m working with colleagues to start a casual network of instructors within the Faculty of Arts. I’m attending an orientation to become a peer reviewer of teaching (so exciting!). Oh, and I’m planning syllabi and assignments and lesson ideas and gathering new content for my courses! Wow. Write it all out like this is a little overwhelming. But that’s one of the things I really like about my job. I get to challenge myself to do more, think more, and be more. It can be an addiction though, and I need to watch out I don’t plan too much for the fall!
2009 is rapidly approaching completion… and I must say I’m quite ok with that! A year ago I didn’t have a dissertation written, was headed to an ill-timed teaching conference (NITOP, in Florida), and was anxiously preparing to interview for the Instructor-1 position I now hold. This has been a whirlwind year: I got the job (yay!), defended my dissertation, bought a condo with my husband, and spent four frantic yet satisfying months teaching in my first semester as tenure-track faculty at UBC. Amid all the craziness and exhaustion, I was thrilled (and relieved) to feel a sense of contentment with what I was doing. Teaching six times a week was a harried schedule, and many times I didn’t know how I could make it. But at the end of the day I was happy I was teaching. If I can go through all that in one semester and still love teaching, then this must be the perfect career for me!
As I head in to the new year, I’m feeling a typical mix of emotions. I’m eager and nervous to meet my new students next week; I’m nervous my syllabi won’t be copied on time (I couldn’t submit them until yesterday — yikes!); I’m hopeful that my schedule will be at least a little less hectic than last term. More than anything, I’m looking forward to being back in the classroom, starting fresh on another adventure, ready to learn as much to teach, and to strive each day to create opportunities for students to learn (if they so choose).