All posts by Isabeau Iqbal

Reflections from Studio23

I recently attended Studio23Reignite your teaching and facilitation practice“, an in-person event organized by BC Campus and held in Vancouver, BC.

There was a time when I didn’t need to specify “in person”. Now, it matters! In fact, this was a major draw for me: I relished the thought of being with colleagues in the same physical location, interacting, and learning together.

This BC Campus event was terrific! And, before too much time goes by, I wanted to capture some of the reasons I enjoyed it so much and some of the learning. The two are interconnected.

Surprise & Delight

I was surprised in a good way, multiple times. For example, the opening address and land acknowledgment by Alice Guss, from the Squamish Nation, had us flapping our wings, being foxes, jumping like whales and building community from the get-go. (more delights in the bullets below).

I also deeply appreciated all the attention to inclusion, such as: a quiet room, a special care kit for anyone who might be feeling sensory overload, blankets for those of us who are always cold. Plus the more standard approaches: friendly, food requests, space between sessions, some sessions online.

Learning & More Delight

Kathi Camilleri, the Day 1 Keynote, told stories in such a flowing way and with humour — reminding us that we know how to “do village” and, therefore, we know how to contribute to a decolonized system.

I loved, loved the Improvisation for Life session led by Sarah Louise Turner and Sanders Whiting. They made it fun and relevant. Normally terrified of improv, they showed me I don’t need to be.

Carrie Nolan, the Day 2 Keynote, shared about Joy as an Antidote. Not a ho-hum session by any stretch. We played a creative alternative –and full auditorium game of — rock, paper, scissors. She reminded us about “connection before content” as she shared about her own personal experience of the “contour-less” period around COVID.


Creativity was infused throughout the Studio–this stood out. One session where this was central was Kat Thorson‘s “Creative Engagement” where she facilitated us drawing an owl. She took us through the process, shape by shape and helped us see how, within a short time, we could put the parts together and create.

That’s a quick snapshot of some of what I enjoyed. There was more. But I gave myself 30 minutes to write and now time is up!

Credit: The feature image is from the Studio23 website where the content is Creative Commons Licensed.

October 2023 ChatGPT Challenge

I’ve decided to set myself a challenge for this month: to experiment with, and learn about, ChatGPT.

Background: I’ve been burying my head in the sand when it comes to ChatGPT. Mostly due to overwhelm…However, the enthusiasm of some of my colleagues at CTLT has finally rubbed off on me, and I’m now eager to play and learn –and see how I can apply this tool in my educational development work.

Below is a record of things I’ve tried and ways I’ve pursued my learning during this self-imposed ChatGPT #30daychallenge.

October 2: Listened to Tea for Teaching episode on ChatGPT:

  • What stood out: The guest used ChatGPT to write his book and was totally upfront about that. I didn’t expect that.

October 3: Asked it to improve an email I had composed.

  • Result was ok. Some good suggestions.

October 4: I entered in a question that was phrased in a boring manner and asked it to list 5 more creative alternatives.

  • I received fun, creative suggestions. I picked one of the suggestions.

October 5: Watched a video on how to use ChatGPT to generate descriptions for a YouTube video.

  • I have created an instructional video that is an introduction to teaching dossiers and one of my next steps is to create a description.

October 6: Entered in text and asked it to come up with some possible titles

  • Titles generated were super dull. I didn’t use the suggestions and didn’t continue to prompt it.

October 10: Generated a description for YouTube videos on Teaching Dossier

  • The text generated is cheesy, but it gave me a base to start from. I don’t think it saved me time overall.

October 11: Got help with HTML

  • I was trying to put a box around some text in WordPress and asked ChatGPT for help. Success!

October 12:  Tried out Canva’s Magic’s Design

  • It was helpful and definitely saved me time. I am not talented–at all–when it comes to design.

October 16: Attempted to put information into a 2-column table

  • I wasn’t successful with this one. I was trying to format a table of contents (from a PDF) so that the page numbers would be right justified. I wasn’t able to figure this one out.

October 17: Generated emojis for a list

October 18: Played around with getting help with session design.

  • Not satisfied with results.

October 23: Attended “Approaches to Prompting (30+30)” (CTLT online event)

  • Take away: I need to get better at prompting. I think my poor prompting strategies are the reason I’m not satisfied with many of the results I’m getting.

October 25: Played around with prompting

  • I’m quite impatient and still getting sub-optimal results. I should read the resource from the workshop I attended on Oct 23 (and apply the strategies).

October 26: Got it to revise an existing bio and then asked why it had made the suggested changes.

  • The explanations were clear and helpful. I like understanding the why behind edits!


My 30-day challenge is a wrap! And, there’s so much more to learn. I’m going to keep tracking some of that learning here.

A table that outlines AI tools that some of CTLT staff are using:

Want to try still:

  • images
  • (recommended by Jens)

Inclusive Meetings for Professionals


I recently attended “A Guide to Inclusive Meetings for Professionals” facilitated by Cicely Belle Blain (love their name!).

My goal was, of course, to learn more about this topic so that I can create, host, and lead more inclusive meetings.

One of my favourite ways of processing information is to write about what I’ve learned. To that end, here are a few notes from the workshop.

Inclusive meetings are needs-based, foster trust and honour intersectionality

Some questions to ask myself when I design a meeting:

  • If trust is built when people’s needs are heard and met, how do I determine people’s needs and then help them meet these?
  • If trust is built when people are able to contribute, what do I need to do to allow for this?
  • How do I plan for and foster trust within my meeting design?


The facilitator created a helpful visual that summarizes 3 types of power: social, systemic and personal.

(shared with permission from the facilitator)

Inclusive meetings redistribute power 

Personal power is the easiest to re-distribute. Therefore, we need to think about how we can instill personal power onto others. The facilitator provided some ideas:

Ways to redistribute power

  • Collaborate on the agenda
  • Notice what is selected as a priority and what is put on hold. Question.
  • Value lived experience as knowledge
  • Take a needs-based focus
  • Practice mentorship as a value rather than restricting it to a formal process

Practicing mentorship as a value, within the context of inclusive meetings, can look like:

  • recognize when to advocate
  • notice harmful dynamics and step in
  • uplift and spotlight others’ ideas
  • give frequent and consistent praise
  • help other prepare for a meeting and debrief
  • give people time to plan

Honouring people’s lived experiences in a meeting 

  • honour what people bring
  • accept (welcome) vulnerability and chaos (e.g., working from home during COVID)
  • encourage sharing personal stories
  • open with a meaningful check-in and close with inspiring check-out
  • affirm people’s decisions around boundaries (note: we have a lot of notions about what “professionalism” looks like)

Needs-based resources in a meeting

  • ensure people have the right set up to be present
  • schedule when it works for people
  • encourage feedback during and after
  • circulate the agenda
  • be willing to shift and change plans
  • allow people to participate in a way that makes sense for them

Favourite quote from the workshop

“Urgency is often more of a mentality than a reality”

Unconscious Bias 

  • Deeply rooted
  • We can’t eradicate

Question to ask yourself: “Do you hold onto that bias because it keeps you safe or because it keeps you comfortable?”

Some forms of bias

  1. HIPPO Bias (looking to the highest paid person for their opinion)
  2. Affinity Bias (seeking comfort in those who are like us)
  3. Confirmation bias (We seek answers we already believe are true)
  4. Dunning-Kruger Effect (Overconfidence in skills we lack)
  5. Bandwagon Bias (We’re more likely to believe something if many others believe it too)

Biases don’t have to be harmful, but they can be. The intention is often to preserve status quo.

Workshop follow up resources

  1. Detour spotting (form of micro aggression; “Attitudes or behaviours that signal a detour or wrong turn into shame, denial or defensiveness” – Jona Olsson). See the Cultural Bridges to Justice Website
  2. White supremacy characteristics
  3. Book: Crucial conversations

EDC 2021 Conference Take-aways

I attended parts of the online Educational Developers Caucus Conference Celebrating, Connecting, and Caring for Ourselves in February.

I challenged myself to publicly post a few take-aways from each session because I wanted to share my learning and figured this would be a good strategy to help me stay present at the sessions.

Here are the sessions I attended:

Contract positions in educational development

Keynote presenters: Tim Loblaw & Ruth Rodgers

Show and tell videos

Caring for our community: When will wellbeing be a priority?

Keynote presenters: Klodiana Kolomitro & Natasha Kenny

  • Padlet link:


6 tips for starting a mastermind group in higher education

people participating in a facilitated meetingOver the past few years, I have participated in and facilitated several different types of mastermind groups (MMG) within and outside of higher education. (If you are not sure what a MMG is, see my earlier post here).

Most recently, I designed and co-facilitated an in-person MMG for educators in the first-year experience (FYE). The group was open to anyone who identified as an educator of students who are in their first year of an undergraduate degree. In this particular offering, there were 9 participants and the group was comprised of faculty members and staff at the University of British Columbia (Vancouver campus).

Given my positive experience with MMG, and the growing interest within the POD Network, I wanted to share some resources that will help you start your own.

Tips for the set-up phase

Here is a list of tips I have compiled to make the facilitator’s life easier in the setup phase:

1. Be as clear as possible about the purpose of the MMG when you advertise it. See here for how we articulated the purpose and structure for the MMG for FYE. In your introductory text, you may wish to:

  • define what a MMG is and isn’t (and, possibly, address some people’s aversion to the term?)
  • briefly explain what a spotlight is since it is a key feature of MMG

2. Once you have determined the purpose of your MMG, decide on the number of meetings and frequency of your meetings. We found that 4 meetings, every 2 weeks, worked well for this MMG. Meeting every 2 weeks allow the group’s energy to be sustained without overwhelming people with weekly commitments.

3. Set meeting dates/times ahead of time if (like me) you have an aversion to Doodle polls and to spending a lot of time trying to accommodate multiple people’s schedules. I found it easier to have the dates/times (and room bookings) pre-determined so that potential participants could easily ascertain whether they were available.

4. Begin to advertise the MMG approximately 2 months before the start date. This will give you a chance to promote it, answer questions from interested parties, and will augment the chances that people can block off the time in their calendar.

5. Consider a 2-step application process. For the MMG for Educators in the FYE, the first step asked potential participants to confirm that they could make 3 of the 4 meetings and that they were, in fact, actively involved in the FYE. The second step allowed me to reach back out to people and clarify anything that needed clarification and/or to immediately “accept” their application. See here for the wording/messaging that appeared on the CTLT website.

6. Specify whether the group is closed or open and who (if anyone) has permission to invite other participants. My preference is for a closed group that is consistent throughout the duration of the MMG.

I will be sharing more in a future post. If you have any questions, please reach out to me at isabeau(dot)iqbal(at)ubc(dot)ca. I am sure I’ve forgotten some details that would be helpful to others.