Tag Archives: educational development

Helping: What it means in educational development


This table is taken from Schein, 2009 (p.7).

Educational development: “The profession dedicated to helping colleges and universities function effectively as teaching and learning communities” (from Felten, Kalish, Pingree, & Plank, 2007, p.93)

As an educational developer, helping is important.  Whether I am program planning, consulting, or facilitating, my ultimate aim is to help (to enhance teaching and learning in some way). Schein (2009) notes that there is helpful help and unhelpful help. I know I have done both.

In order to better understand what it means to help, I am reading Schein’s book  “Helping: How to offer, give and receive help”.  Below are some sense-making notes I have taken and quotes I find particularly useful from the first three chapters (future blog posts will explore the other chapters).

Schein begins by describing two cultural principles that are fundamental to understanding the helping relationship:

  • “….all communication between two parties is a reciprocal process that must be, or at least must seem to be, fair and equitable” (p.11)
  • “… all relationships in human cultures are to a large degree based on scripted roles that we learn to play early in life and which become so automatic that we are often not even conscious of them” (p.11-12)

He applies the notions of “social theatrics” and “social economics to describe communication within a cultural context.

According to Schein, “every helping relationship is in a state of imbalance” in the beginning (p.35). That imbalance exists largely because of the unequal power dynamics; the client (the term he uses for anyone seeking or being offered help) is “down” and the helper is “up”. “Being thrust into the role of help is immediately a gain in status and power…” (p.33),  Schein notes. The helping process is often impeded because the people involved fail to recognize the initial imbalance. Consequently, neither the helper or client initially knows what to expect and what to give the relationship.  So that our help may be helpful, we must address and deal with the imbalance.

Doing so, however, can be difficult because the helper and client may fall into traps.

Traps the helper may fall into Traps the client may fall into
  • dispensing wisdom prematurely
  • meeting defensiveness with more pressure
  • accepting the problem and over-reacting to the dependence
  • initial mistrust
  • relief
  • looking for attention, reassurance and/or validation instead of help

A successful helping relationship requires that the helper intervene in ways that “build up the client’s status” (p.47). By addressing the imbalance of power, the helping relationship may further develop and become productive.

Reference: Schein, E. (2009). Helping: How to offer, give and receive help.  San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Applying a backward-design approach to an educational development program

Aligning Screwed-Up Planets Of The Universe

We promote a backwards design approach among our instructors…but—ironically—I am only now starting to use it in my own educational development planning and assessment work. Though the task of applying backward design to our entire Centre offerings is too daunting, the application of this concept to a sub-set of our offerings is appealing and makes good sense.

Carol Hurney’s (@hurneyca) session titled “Applying backwards design to your center” (see here for her POD Conference 2015 resources) has prompted me to think further about the application of backward design to the Formative Peer Review of Teaching, one of the programs I oversee.

At this time, the program consists of:

  • Peer review of teaching workshops
  • Online resources
  • A formative peer review of teaching team

And, I have been considering the addition of:

  • Open classroom week
  • A flipped peer review of teaching workshop

Taking a backward design approach to this program would mean that I:

1) Identify desired results: What do I want the learners to understand and know and be able to do? What are the learning goals and objectives for the formative peer review program? What essential questions will learners explore? What knowledge & skill will learners acquire? Confession: I have done this only for the Workshop, but not for the program as a whole.

2) Determine acceptable evidence: How do I know that the learners (those who participate in the Formative Peer Review of Teaching program) know what I want them to know?   Confession: I have this vaguely charted out in my head, but have nothing written down.

3) Plan the learning experiences. What do I need to do in the program to prepare the learners for the above assessment?   Status: Naturally, I have this covered!

Where things are at and next steps: Clearly, I have a lot of work to do when it comes to applying a backward design to the Formative Peer Review of Teaching Program. This is one of my planned follow-ups from the excellent POD conference. I’ll keep you posted.


Photo credit: Ian Sane, “Aligning Screwed-Up Planets Of The Universe”. Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Scholarship of Educational Development

I recently read Deandra Little‘s article titled “Reflections on the State of the Scholarship of Educational Development“.  I’ve had the pleasure of hearing Deandra present at different conferences and enjoy her work; this article was no exception.

Dr. Deandra Little

Deandra Little

Below, I have written down a few quotes that particularly stood out for me during my first read of the article [see note 1 at bottom]:

    • Educational development: “the profession dedicated to helping colleges and universities function effectively as teaching and learning communities” (from Felten, Kalish, Pingree, & Plank, 2007, p.93) [love this definition and am going to add it to my portfolio]
    • We strive to be the “learning partners of choice” (Debowski, 2011, p.320) in our communities
    • “We have…been hesitant to claim leadership roles as we promote and collaborate on institutional projects (Shroeder & Associates, 2011), preferring often to cultivate change quietly, indirectly, or in partnership”
    • When we research and publish the scholarship of educational development we need to keep asking:
      • What knowledge bases do we build on and add to? What new things are we saying about something old?
      • What old approaches might productively help explain new evidence?
      • More broadly: What topic areas do we want to explore and what research questions do they pose?
      • How many different approaches and methods can we use to create the fullest possible picture of that topic?
      • What possibilities are we overlooking?
      • (I have modified the formatting of this last quote to make the questions stand out more)

Note 1: The article as a whole is worth reading and the ideas above are just a few that stood out for me. I am deliberately trying to keep my blogs short and easy/fun to write because, if I don’t do so, I simply won’t write these.

Educational development: common sense or content expertise?

As teachers and educational developers, we have all undoubtedly come across people who believe our work is “common sense”. Though I am convinced we apply common sense to our work, I am equally convinced that our content expertise (in this case, our subject knowledge of teaching and learning in higher education) factors in strongly.  As Shulman (1986) asserts: The way you understand your subject influences the way you teach. In my work at the teaching and learning centre, the educational developer is the teacher, and the students are the learners who participate in our workshops and with whom we consult.

Because of the course I am teaching (Education, Knowledge, and Curriculum, in the Bachelor of Education Program), I have been reading again about pedagogical content knowledge (PCK), or “the ways of representing and formulating the subject that makes it comprehensible for others”. It has gotten me thinking about how PCK might apply to my educational development work.  Like the teacher candidates in my course, I wonder if I’m under-rating my knowledge of “the subject”—in this case educational development.

knowledge eyechart
Here are some of statements and questions, pulled from the references below and modified, that I find particularly useful as I think about our educational development knowledge and work:  (I have replaced the word “teachers” with “educational developers”):

  • How does somebody who really knows something teach it to somebody who doesn’t?
  • Educational developers are often unaware of the knowledge they possess–it being often contextualised and associated with particular learners, events, and teaching situations.
  • What are the most powerful examples, explanations, analogies that I use to promote the learners’ understanding of x, y or z?
  • Teaching in educational development is not generic (was “teaching is not generic”)
  • How do I prepare to teach (in an ED context) something I have never previously learned?

On Monday in class, I urged the teacher candidates to honour their content knowledge.  I think I need to take my own advice.

Photo credit: Nancy White, “Knowledge eye chart”. https://flic.kr/p/5Sy5Cq, Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Shulman, L. (1986). Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching. Educational Researcher, 15(2), 4-14.
Shulman, L. & Sparks, D. (1992). Merging content knowledge and pedagogy: An interview with Lee Shulman.  Journal of Staff Development, 13(1). 14-16.
Berry, A., Loughran, J. & van Driel, J.H. (2008). Revisiting the roots of pedagogical content knowledge. International Journal of Science Education, 30(10). 1271-1279.

Workshops Facilitated

Dec 2023: Eeeks, I haven’t updated this page in about 10 years! I’ll get around to that eventually!!


This section of my portfolio lists some of my facilitation activities; I have divided these into Facilitative Teaching and Facilitation.

Facilitative Teaching

In my educational developer role, I have the pleasure of facilitating a variety of workshops. As a workshop facilitator, I generally take on the role of facilitative teaching. In facilitative teaching, the “teacher” has the content knowledge that she wants  learners to know (or the behaviours she wishes to help the learners change). She recognizes this but assumes she is not the only expert in the room; therefore, she uses the learners ideas and experience in her teaching. In facilitative teaching, the teacher guides the learning by presenting complex problems, cases, projects, or situations in order to help learners construct meaning and come to an understanding of important ideas and processes (Wiggins & McTighe, 2007; Nelson, 2009).

Workshops I have facilitated include (in alphabetical order):

  • Classroom Assessment Techniques: This 1-2 hour session focuses on helping instructors learn about, and design, formative assessment methods.
  • Course Design Intensive (CDI): In this 3-day workshop, participants work individually and collaboratively to design or re-design a course that they  teach or are planning to teach. Feedback from participants indicates that the CDI is extremely helpful for learning about alignment, learner-centered approaches, and backward design:

    “Thanks a lot for the excellent workshop you and your colleagues facilitated last week. It was truly amazing!” – Participant (December 2016)

  • Developing Your Skills as Peer Reviewer of Teaching: a four-hour experiential workshop to help individual gain skills and knowledge applicable in peer review of teaching situations. Participants are instructors and teaching assistants who come from different Faculties across UBC; we have also been invited to offer the workshop at the University of Northern BC and Douglas College. Co-facilitated with CTLT colleagues many times since 2009.
  • Educational Developers Portfolio: In 2016, Judy Chan and I co-facilitated a webinar titled “The Educational Developers Portfolio: Possibilities, Purposes and Preparation” for the Educational Developers’ Caucus. In 2017, I collaborated with Drs. Dawson, McDonald, and Chan to co-design and co-facilitate the first EDC Institute on the Educational Developers portfolio (see here, in “Past Institute” section)
  • Effective Team Presentations: a 1.5 hour workshop for graduate students who are working, in teams, to create and make a team presentation.
  • Feedback-related WorkshopsI have facilitated a number of workshops on giving and receiving feedback. Some of these were short workshops for graduate students. Others included:
    • Feedback workshop for PharmD students: This workshop is geared at enhancing feedback communication between PharmD students and their preceptors. The workshop activities engage the students in role-playing, brainstorming, discussion and script writing. Co-facilitated with Gary Poole since 2010. For photos and lesson plan, see here.
    • Feedback workshop for preceptors (of PharmD students and Residents): Workshop aimed at enhancing preceptors’ abilities to give and respond to feedback from students in the PharmD program or Residents. Offered November 22, 2013 (co-facilitated with Gary Poole, 3 hours).
  • For New Educational Developers: Full-day workshop offered at the Festival of Learning in 2016. Co-facilitated with: Jennifer Jasper (Justice Institute of BC) and Eric Kristensen (Retired educational developer).
  • Instructional Skills Workshops (see here).
  • Learning Outcomes: a 1-3 hour session designed to teach learning outcomes basics.
  • Learner-Centered Syllabus: 1-3 hour session designed to help instructors develop a learner-centered syllabus.
  • Peer Coaching for Graduate Students: a half day workshop for graduate students interested in building their skills as peer coaches.
  • Presentation Skills Workshop for Graduate Students: a 2-day workshop geared at enhancing presentation skills. 
  • Reflecting on Feedback on your Teaching: a 3-hour workshop on the use of reflection and feedback to improve teaching.
  • Teaching Portfolio Workshops: Topics have ranged from “how-to” seminars to help people use technology to build their own portfolios to the use of reflection in portfolios.  Most recently (December 2016), I co-facilitated a session titled “Using Your Teaching Portfolio to Showcase Your Educational Leadership” with Simon Albon and Simon Bates.  Sample feedback:
    “Thanks for facilitating such a helpful workshop!” – Faculty member, Faculty of Applied Science

    “Thanks to all of you for a very interesting and informative session…Sessions like the one you offered on Tuesday are very helpful to me as I try to orient myself to all these new developments and directions on campus.” – Faculty member, School of Music

  • TA Mentorship: a full day workshop for graduate students who are coordinating TA (teaching) mentorship programs in their departments and mentoring graduate students on teaching. Co-facilitated with Joseph Topornycky. (Workshop offered twice in August 2011 and again in September 2012).


“Group facilitation is a process in which a person, whose selection is acceptable to all members of the group, is substantively neutral,  and has no decision-making authority, diagnoses and intervenes to help a group improve how it identifies and solves problems and makes decisions, to increase the group’s effectiveness.” – Roger Schwarz

I distinguish facilitation from facilitative teaching because, in the latter, the facilitator has content expertise and purposefully works with learners to help them come to an understanding of specific and important ideas and processes.

Below, in reverse chronological order, are sessions I facilitated:

  • Characteristics of the Ideal Graduate. As part of an overall curriculum renewal process, Allyson Rayner and I co-facilitated a 3-hour working session with course co-ordinators and section leads from the Bachelor of Medical Laboratory Sciences, to help them articulate about characteristics of the ideal graduate. March 4, 2016.
  • Communication Skills for Health Science Professionals. On October 20, 2014, I was part of a facilitation team for a wonderful event for Audiology and Speech Language Pathology students.  This event involved professional actors who were acting out complex scenarios in which communication played a central piece. Students interacted with the actors in these situations.  My role was to facilitate the process, including the debrief.
  • Strategic Planning for OESD (Mission, Vision, Values). In May, 2013, I facilitated the development of a new mission statement for the OESD.  This process continued–slowly–until I left the OESD in April 2015
  • Cross-Professionals Collaboration. (Centre for Health Education Scholarship). In July, 2013, I facilitated an Historical Scan and Focused Conversation for seven members of a committee who had been working on a cross-professionals initiative for a number of years.  The purpose of the session was to reflect on what the group had learned so far and begin to plan for the future (this latter part was facilitated by Deborah Butler).  Deb, Glenn Regehr, Sarah Dobson and I worked closely together to plan this session.
  • Curriculum Retreat for new Entry to Practice PharmD Program. (Pharmaceutical Sciences). On June 20, 2013, Janice Johnson and I co-facilitated a curriculum retreat for the Faculty to assist members (approximately 60 participated) learn more about, and contribute their ideas to, the development of the new Entry-to-Practice PharmD program.

Photo credit: The colors of autumn by Susanne Nilsson (CC BY)