Category: teaching

Active Learning and Antiracism

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
I’m reading “How to Be an Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi. This blog post is a thread I posted on Twitter. Clicking on any of the tweets will open the thread in Twitter where you can more easily follow links, react, and respond.

I’m looking forward to the next 200 pages of “How to Be an Antiracist” and the insights that emerge.

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.