Category: professional development

Foundations of Teaching and Learning Part 5: Outcomes

In collaboration with colleagues at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus, I designed and facilitated, again and again, a series of discipline-specific workshops called “Foundations of Teaching and Learning in X” where X is Health and Exercise Sciences, Digital Literacy, Nursing, Engineering, and others. In this series of blog posts, I describe the motivation, how the content was made discipline-specific, the format of the sessions, the process for organizing the series, and the outcomes. This final post is about some of the outcomes and consequences of the series.


Has the series been successful? If the number of participants is the only measure, then at first glance, maybe not. In the Series, we had about 10 people from Health and Exercise Sciences, 10 from the Library, 8 in Nursing, about 30 in Engineering. Remember, though, each of these participants attended 6 sessions and invested about 15 hours into the series. Ten participants at 15 hours each is like 100 people attending a 90-minute workshop!  That would be considered a huge success in any Centre for Teaching and Learning. It’s important to measure success by more than just bums-in-seats. In hindsight, some kind of pre- and post-survey of the participants would have been a great idea.

Foundations Spin-offs

One of my goals for Foundations was to create a cohort of colleagues who could continue to talk about teaching and learning in their Department, School, or Faculty after the series was over. I’m thrilled the people I worked with did that, and more:

In Health and Exercise Sciences, my local champion, Greg duManoir, and another teaching professor, Tanya Forneris, created a 2-term, for-credit graduate course about teaching and learning. In the Fall, students learn about teaching and learning in HES with materials based on the ones we used in Foundations. In the Winter, the graduate students are embedded in a particular HES course. They help the course instructor develop materials and have some opportunities to teach some classes.

Sajni Lacey, my workshop partner in the UBC Okanagan Library, adapted Foundations of Teaching and Learning in Digital Literacy into a 10-week orientation for new Library staff.

I’ve run the series twice in the School of Nursing. The first time there were about 8 Nursing instructors and clinical teaching staff. The second time was in Spring 2020 after everyone had pivoted online because of the COVID 19 pandemic. In collaboration with my colleagues Jackie Denison in Nursing and Janine Hirtz in the Centre for Teaching and Learning, we updated the series to the Foundations of Online Teaching and Learning in Nursing. We also managed to open up the series to Nursing instructors from nearby Okanagan College (a cohort of Nursing students start and Okanagan College and transfer to UBC Okanagan after 2nd year.) I say “managed” because it required getting non-UBC people into the LMS, which is takes a quite a few extra forms and signatures.

In the School of Engineering, Ayman Elnaggar used the Foundations series as the anchor to successfully pitch and then organize “Engineering Education Week”, a week of teaching and learning workshops and discussions that runs over Reading Week. (We adjusted the format of Foundations to account for participants having less time before the sessions to prepare.) With the promotion and endorsement from the Director of the School, we attracted close to 30 participants, ranging from graduate students to full professors. The Director also paid for coffee and lunch!

Impact beyond the classroom

The local champions I worked with – Greg, Jackie, Ayman, and others – are Associate Professors of Teaching in UBC’s teaching professor stream. Sajni is the Learning and Curriculum Support librarian. Each of them must demonstrate “impact beyond their own classroom” as part of the merit, tenure, and promotion process. Organizing and co-facilitating the Foundations series is an opportunity to do that. This is another component deliberately built into the series to make it valuable to the participants.

To me, the biggest indicator of the success of the Foundations series was that busy, exhausted course instructors and graduate students returned week after week to the sessions. With so many competing requests and tasks, they judged these workshops were a valuable use of their time and attention.


The series wouldn’t have developed, evolved, and improved without Greg duManoir’s support and enthusiasm. I’m grateful to Rob Shave, Director of the School of Health and Exercise Sciences, for supporting Greg and I. It was a privilege to work with Jackie Denison in Nursing, along with School leaders Manuela Reekie, Sheila Epps, and Marie Tarrant. I always enjoy working with Sajni Lacey in the UBC Okanagan Library and I thank Associate Chief Librarian, Robert Janke, for creating time for the staff to participate. My thanks to Ayman Elnaggar for championing the series in the School of Engineering and to School Director, Mina Hoorfar, for her ongoing support for teaching and learning. Thanks also to my Centre for Teaching and Learning team, especially  Janine Hirtz, for skillfully fulfilling the mission of Centre while giving me the time to develop and teach the series.


Foundations of Teaching and Learning Part 4: Organizing the Series

In collaboration with colleagues at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus, I designed and facilitated, again and again, a series of discipline-specific workshops called “Foundations of Teaching and Learning in X” where X is Health and Exercise Sciences, Digital Literacy, Nursing, Engineering, and others. In this series of blog posts, I describe the motivation, how the content was made discipline-specific, the format of the sessions, the process for organizing the series, and the outcomes. This post is about sparking and organizing the series in a Faculty, School, Department, or other Unit. I’ll refer to “Department” and “Department Head” here to keep it simpler.

One of the features of Foundations is collaborating with a “local champion” in the Department where the series might run. That person is key to making this series work.

In every series I’ve run, the local champion is someone I already know well. They’re the people who drop into the Centre to chat, attend teaching presentations and events, and are known beyond their unit for being excellent educators. It’s been my pleasure and privilege to work with Greg duManoir, Jackie Denison, Sajni Lacey, Ayman Elnaggar, and others.

I’ll spring Foundations on them during one of our frequent conversations, “Say, do you think your Department would be interested in a series of workshops about how to teach [your discipline]?” If they’re interested, we put together a flyer about the series that’s tailored from my generic doc.

The next step isn’t sending it out to the Department, it’s a conversation with the Department Head. Their endorsement of the series is vital because they’re the one who’s going to promote it in an email and in the next Faculty meeting. When the invitation to participate comes from them, it sends a message to course instructors, graduate students, and postdocs that this is a legitimate investment of their time. Participants are able to say to their colleagues, “Love to chat but I’m on my way to a Foundations workshop…” and “No, sorry, I can’t come to that meeting, I have a Foundations session.”

Having the Department Head on-board also opens up the possibility of using the time slot set aside for Department business. For example, suppose Department meetings are always on Mondays at 1:00 – 3:00 pm. The Department tries to not schedule classes at this time so everyone can attend the meeting. Except the Department meetings are only once per month, right? The other Monday’s that month are perfect for the Foundations series!

All that may change from one Term to the next, so I aim to run the entire 6-session series in one Term, usually every 2 weeks, starting in early October or early February. That is, a month into the Term when things are settled down but finishing before everyone is focused on finishing the term and the final exam.

If you’re really lucky, the room where the Department meetings are held might also be available, especially if it’s a meeting/conference room in the Department rather than a nearby classroom. The location of the meeting matters – busy, exhausted, or stressed course instructors might see the walk across campus in the rain or snow as reason they just can’t make it this week. A familiar room just down the hall – bring your coffee, no need to put on a jacket – is a better location.

With the time, dates, and location set and Department Head’s approval and promotion, the local champion starts recruiting and assembling their peers. By this time, I’ve set up a course in the LMS with me and the local champion as “instructors”. I add the participants as “students.” This might be the first time these course instructors have experienced the LMS from a student point-of-view (the built-in “student view” doesn’t always mimic the student experience).

And so the series begins. One week is the workshop,  the next week I meet with the local champion to design and prepare the following week’s topic.

When the series is over, there’s one last important task. For each participant, I send a letter to the Department Head, with a PDF and cc’d to the participant, with details about the series:

  • when it ran
  • how many hours the participant invested
  • what we discussed

The Department Head files it away. The participant adds it to their teaching dossier. They can bring it up during their annual review without fear of skepticism or having to justify the time they spent on teaching (and not their research). Graduate students and postdocs can use the letter as a record of their professional development.

I also write a special letter to the Department Head about the invaluable contributions of the local champion. This letter can serve as “evidence of impact beyond their classroom.”

The motivation for all the organization and overhead is to provide value for the participants’ precious time and attention. If I’m privileged to get 15 hours of their time, it’s my responsibility to make it worthwhile.

In the final part of this series, I’ll describe some of the programs and opportunities that were sparked by the Foundations series.

Foundations of Teaching and Learning Part 3: Format of the Sessions

In collaboration with colleagues at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus, I designed and facilitated, again and again, a series of discipline-specific workshops called “Foundations of Teaching and Learning in X” where X is Health and Exercise Sciences, Digital Literacy, Nursing, Engineering, and others. In this series of blog posts, I describe the motivation, how the content was made discipline-specific, the format of the sessions, the process for organizing the series, and the outcomes. This post has more details about the format of the sessions. Spoiler: it’s all about modelling.

One of features of the Foundations series, recall, is being at times and in places that are convenient for the participants. This means running the series within one academic term, when course instructors’ schedules are consistent. The sessions typically run every second week, giving people time to prepare between sessions. In this post I’ll run through the typical structure and format around one of the biweekly, 90-minute sessions.

I always create a course in the LMS – I’ve used Canvas and D2L/Brightspace – to support the series. This give me a chance to demonstrate and model some of the features of the LMS that support students. The course has a main landing page with information about the series, kind of like the course syllabus page, and then pages or modules for each session.

Spoiler: Even more important as the content, I feel, is how I teach it. These precious face-to-face sessions are all about modelling. It might not look like it to the participants – in fact, the less obvious and more natural the better – but I’m working hard, pushing my teaching abilities to the max.

T – 1 week

I meet with my co-facilitator in the Department, School, or Faculty. We go over my “skeleton” presentation and find discipline-specific content, concepts, resources, etc. to plug into my presentation. We talk about the active learning components of the session to identify alternatives that are more familiar or relevant to the cohort. In my series with the UBC Okanagan Library, for example, we didn’t discuss peer instruction with clickers because the librarians “parachute” into courses to give 1-off lessons and they can’t rely on the students having clickers. Instead, we adapted my resources and discussed how to create good think-pair-share questions and effective choreography for running think-pair-share.

T – 1 week (after my meeting with my co-facilitator)

Following the flipped learning model, I post a new page for the session in the LMS. It contains

  • an overview of the topic
  • learning outcomes for the session
  • detailed guidance about preparing for the session, including links to readings, videos, or podcasts , instructions for what parts of the resources to read, pay extra attention to, or skip.
  • I do my best to follow the recommended practices for accessing these resources, like linking doi’s not PDFs and sometimes, deliberately choosing resources that are copyright protected and only available using institutional credentials – this is what the students will experience when their instructors link to journals that aren’t open access.
  • a “reading quiz” with questions about facts and concepts in the resource. I try to go beyond multiple-choice to demonstrate that the LMS has select-all-that-apply, short answer, ranking/sorting, upload,… question types
  • I like to include open ended questions in the reading quiz, like “What did you find most interesting [or confusing] about the reading?”
  • sometimes I use the Discussion board to draw out their knowledge and experiences related to the session. This might be asking them to share a resource or a describe scenario they’ve encountered. If I ask, it’s my challenge and responsibility to integrate those contributions into the session.

When the page or module is published, I send an announcement through the LMS to the “class”. The announcement usually looks something like this:

Hi everyone,

In Session 3, on Wednesday, October 28 at 11:00 am – 12:30 pm in Room B104, we’ll dig deeper in the evidence behind the benefits of effective active learning. My goal is that you’ll be familiar enough with a key 2014 paper (Freeman et al.) that you’ll be able to translate the results and inclusive teaching practices into your own discipline and your own courses.

Before our session, I’d like you to read a couple of short articles, listen to a podcast, and also share a story in a Discussion post. All the details, as usual, are in the Session 3 module [a direct link to the page  or module in the LMS]

See you next week,


T – 1 day

If I asked people to share resources or post to the Discussion board, I review their input, leave myself notes at the right points in my presentation at to invite participants to share their stories and resources, and update my resources. My active learning strategies often have handouts (worksheets, cards for sorting) and technologies (portable whiteboards, clickers,…) so I ensure everything is prepared.

T-30 minutes

We try to meet in the Department’s conference room rather than a classroom, so there’s usually plenty of time to get into the space early. My goal is to have everything ready so that as participants begin arriving, I can give them my full attention. I put up a slide to catch their fleeting attention and spark their curiosity, usually with the prompts, “What do you notice? What do you wonder?” Here are a few:

In Leo Lionni’s “Fish is Fish” (1970), Fish imagines a cow described by his friend, Frog. This leads to our discussion about drawing out and working with students’ pre-existing knowledge.
At the beginning of the session on learning outcomes, we notice the checklists and wonder why they’re useful.
Archery targets instantly tell you your level of mastery and how to improve. Perfect for a session on formative feedback!

T – 0 Launch

The sessions last 80 minutes. They follow a familiar lesson plan:

  • welcome
  • discuss Notice/Wonder and segue to the session topic
  • session outcomes (usually distinguishing concepts and skills)
  • mini-lecture (10-15 minutes)
  • one or more episodes of active learning, including peer instruction with clickers, group work on portable whiteboards, and jigsaw discussions
  • report out from group work
  • preview and reminder about next session

T + 80 minutes

Some participants have to get to the next meeting so I try very hard to finish on time. For anyone who stay later, I usually plan for another 15 – 30 minutes to follow up on the session, consult with them about they can integrate the series outcomes into their course, and talk about any other teaching and learning challenges they’re having.

T + 1 day

I return to the module created in the LMS to add resources from the session: PDFs of my slides and any handouts/worksheets, links to articles and other resources mentioned in the session, and session recordings when running the session online. The goal is to have everything about the session in one place in the LMS so that if a participant returns looking for something, they don’t have to search through multiple modules or folders.

If this looks like a typical flipped class, rather than a workshop, that’s exactly the point. I want my “students” to witness and experience all the components so they’ll be more successful when it’s their turn to design a course, a class, or even just a 15-minute lesson.

In the next post in this series, I’ll describe the discussions and planning that go into organizing a series in a Department, School, or Faculty.