Tag Archives: POD

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)

Bringing mindfulness into post-secondary teaching



Teacher Candidate practices mindfulness at Nitobe Memorial Gardens, UBC.

Last year, I attended the 2014  Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education Conference  where there were a number of sessions on the use of mindfulness in higher education. This inspired me to think about how I might bring mindfulness into my teaching.

I teach in the Bachelor of Education program at the University of BC and my students are individuals who are preparing to be teachers in elementary and secondary schools. The course I teach looks at the role of knowledge in a teacher’s practice. In our short six weeks together, we explore concepts such as pedagogical content knowledge, core knowledge, embodied knowledge and “other” ways of knowing.

Given the course goals, I have  recently started to incorporate mindfulness into my classroom teaching. Additional reasons that have motivated me to do so are:

  • mindfulness is increasingly being used in the K-12 system (with many proven benefits) and therefore I want my students to become more familiar with it so they can decide whether or not to adopt it in their teaching
  • university students are often stressed and anxious and, by learning about mindfulness and being able to do short exercises, they may start to apply these techniques in their personal lives for their own well-being

I think it is relevant to say that, prior to this, I did not have my own mindfulness practice; that is, I was not able to draw upon my own past experience and have been learning as I go.

What have I done to bring this into the classroom?

  • Have created a “mindfulness” section of my course site where I suggest exercises to the students (i.e., “try this during the week”)
  • Present on evidence-based benefits of mindfulness in class
  • Do short mindfulness exercises in class (breathing, listen to the sounds)
  • Have a classroom discussion where students share their experiences of mindfulness in their schools
  • And, this week, together with Dr. Erin Graham who teaches the same course at the same time, we took the class to the Nitobe Memorial Gardens  where they practiced mindfulness in this lovely setting. Before hand, we sent students “instructions” with various exercises to try out.

In the past offering of this course, I received positive feedback from students on the incorporation of mindfulness. I will continue to invite feedback from students to get a sense of how this is going for them.

Some useful resources I have discovered along the way: