All Posts Tagged With: "how to teach"
Shelagh Crooks earns a 3M National Teaching Fellowship
Shelagh Crooks, who teaches philosophy and education at Saint Mary’s University, is a 3M National Teaching Fellowship recipient for 2013. Maclean’s On Campus is profiling all 10.
When Shelagh Crooks started teaching first-year philosophy students, she’d give them something to read and then ask, “what did you think?” She was expecting them to defend the author’s position, refute it, or identify passages that confused them. Instead she got mostly blank stares.
“They didn’t know how to read critically and ask, ‘What is this person’s position? What evidence has he put forward for that position? Is that evidence sufficient to justify what he’s saying?’,” she explains. “They [didn't] really know how to read.”
Simon Ellis earns a 3M National Teaching Fellowship
Simon Ellis, a wood science professor and director of the Wood Products Processing program at the University of British Columbia, is a 3M National Teaching Fellowship recipient for 2013. Maclean’s On Campus is profiling all 10 recipients.
Simon Ellis says the esoteric discipline of wood science “chose him.” As a teenager in England, he liked the idea of predicting the world through science, so he planned to be a meteorologist. That was, of course, until he learned about forensic sciences. When he realized he couldn’t stomach handling dead bodies, he turned to horticulture. That morphed to forestry after he realized that trees are the biggest plants of all.
With his mind made up, he applied to Bangor University in Wales. “I went for an interview and a lot of people up there said, ‘they’re going to try and get you to do this wood science course. Not enough people are on that course.’” The interviewer did just that and Ellis discovered his passion.
Wood science is “a range of sciences applied to one beautiful material,” he says. Now, as a professor and administrator of the Wood Products Processing program, he passes down his appreciation for wood. The program, a fusion of science, engineering and business, is about marketing wood products, which he believes is best done by those who truly appreciate trees.
Getting people excited about wood isn’t easy, but it’s something Ellis enjoys. “I’m very energetic,” he says. “I think most students would agree that enthusiasm is contagious,” he adds. “When I give some of the examples of the wonderful structures of wood, students get engaged.”
One way he achieves this is with visual aids. They include a bunch of drinking straws wrapped together with tape, which illustrates the basic structure of wood. He also brings in little pieces of wood that appear identical to students until they perform an experiment. They’re asked to try and break both pieces with a hammer. One is regular wood and the other is compression wood, a material the tree quickly produces to push itself back up straight when it’s leaning.
“What’s surprising to [students] is that the regular wood usually doesn’t break,” he says, “but the compression wood fails easily.” The demonstration helps students see compression wood is too brittle for building and that wood is “very good for doing what the tree wants it to do,” but is not always great for human purposes.
To Ellis, it’s beautiful to behold. “If you look at some of this intricate cell wall architecture with an electron microscope, they’re just works of art as far as I’m concerned,” he says. “I have a couple textbooks on my shelf that are really just photographs of wood and they’re as good a coffee table book as anyone could have.”
Darren Dahl earns a 3M National Teaching Fellowship
Darren Dahl, a professor and associate dean of the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia, is a 3M National Teaching Fellowship recipient for 2013. Maclean’s On Campus is profiling all 10 in the coming weeks.
“I don’t use technology,” says University of British Columbia professor Darren Dahl of his creativity course. “Technology is great for some topics, but I can engage at a much higher level without it.”
To show he’s serious, any student who opens his or her computer or whose phone rings during class must donate $100 to charity. His own phone once went off. “Boom. $100 in the pot,” he says.
It keeps students focused on discussions that Dahl referees. It also leaves time for plenty of games. His focus on keeping students engaged is one of the reasons he was awarded one of 10 prestigious 3M National Teaching Fellowships for 2013.
Kim Fordham Misfeldt earns 3M Teaching Fellowship
Kim Fordham Misfeldt, a professor of German and the Humanities Chair at the Augustana Campus of the University of Alberta, is a 3M National Teaching Fellowship recipient for 2013. Maclean’s On Campus is profiling all 10 recipients.
As an undergraduate student at the University of Saskatchewan, Kim Fordham Misfeldt dabbled in French, German and Norwegian. But is wasn’t until she taught her first German class as a master’s student that she witnessed the transformative effect learning a foreign language could have on a student. She has not stopped teaching since.
“A new language can be an invaluable tool,” she says, “but language is also a physical experience, and an emotional experience, and I try to incorporate that into my classes.”
Joan Conrod earns 3M National Teaching Fellowship
Joan Conrod, a professor of accounting at Dalhousie University, is a 3M National Teaching Fellowship recipient for 2013. Maclean’s On Campus is profiling all 10 in the coming weeks.
Who knew that “consolidation” could actually be a student’s favourite course? But that’s the Joan Conrod effect. Students of Conrod, a professor of accounting, have admitted to loving the technical nitty-gritty that is accounting. Leanne McCarvill, now a chartered accountant, once wrote in a note to Conrod: “Two years ago when I took my first course I was scared of you, and now I can’t imagine not seeing you every week.”
Conrod calls that one of her most memorable compliments. “I think one of the things I am most proud of is I teach really hard courses, really technical, and my students go on to harder things,” she says. “My job is to make sure that not only do they understand the content, but they enjoy it.”
Heather Zwicker earns a 3M National Teaching Fellowship
Heather Zwicker, a professor of English and Film Studies turned Vice-Dean of Arts at the University of Alberta, is a 3M National Teaching Fellowship recipient for 2013. Maclean’s On Campus is profiling all 10 in the coming weeks.
It was 2003 and Zwicker had taken a six-month teaching position in Hawaii when it dawned on her that she knew more about the culture of Honolulu than that of her hometown Edmonton.
When she got back to the University of Alberta, she put together a senior-level course that focused on the city’s history and arts scene.
It was difficult at first, because there weren’t many published works about Edmonton.
“That’s when I realized that the other part of the course had to be getting students into the city,” she says. She had them tour the campus, taking in the history of the university, and go for walks and transit rides, recording everything they noticed. Based on their observations, they created unique maps of the city using soundscapes and video. “It was really fantastic. The students’ work was amazing,” she says, adding one project was submitted to a film festival.
Mark Goldszmidt earns 3M National Teaching Fellowship
Mark Goldszmidt, a professor at the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry at Western University, is a 3M National Teaching Fellowship recipient for 2013. Maclean’s On Campus is profiling all 10 in the coming weeks.
In 1999, when Mark Goldszmidt was a postgraduate medical student at Western, he took a one-day course on teaching with Dr. Wayne Weston. “At the end of the workshop he stuck around,” says Weston, an emeritus professor of family medicine, “and had a lot of insightful questions and suggestions.”
It was the beginning of more than a decade of collaboration between the two, and a classic Goldszmidt move. “I always see the gaps, and the ways it could be better,” says Goldszmidt, an associate professor of medicine who teaches a spectrum of students, from undergraduates to faculty. He has revamped other classes, created new ones, and when he saw a bigger need for innovation in medical education, he helped found the Centre for Education Research & Innovation.
Prof. Pettigrew on why he was wrong
Religion is a sensitive topic for many, so discussion of it in the university classroom can be difficult. In my case, religion often comes up in literature classes and I do my best to not impose too much of my own views, lest the discussion turn too much to the religious questions per se and not enough on the literary questions. As I point out to my students, it doesn’t matter what you believe about God, but it does matter what Milton thought about God—at least when you’re reading Milton.
When your class material is religion itself though, things must become muddier. And I’ve heard many stories from colleagues over the years about awkward moments when religious students vigorously advanced their views against evolution or the Big Bang or could not be persuaded to entertain different point of view because “that’s just not what I believe.”
Prof. Pettigrew says proper lectures work just fine
One can hardly check out an education website these day without hearing something about the flipped classroom (sometimes called flipped learning or inverted learning). If you don’t believe me, click here, and here, and here.
The basic idea is that the supposed old way of teaching—providing all the information to the class via lectures is tedious and ineffective. After all, there are plenty of ways of getting information to students outside of class—say, via online talks. In the so-called “flipped” model, students get the basic information outside of class and teachers use the class time to create activities and and projects that help students understand that information more deeply.
Prof. Fiona Walton employs more than just empathy
“People aren’t fond of saying Aboriginal Education is going well,” says the University of Prince Edward Island’s Fiona Walton, “but there are many many pockets where marvelous things are happening.”
Walton’s CV is too long to recount, but there’s one central theme. This 3M National Teaching Fellowship recipient is dedicated to building leaders in Indigenous Education by focusing on doing more of the things that are going right.
Walton has taught students from many backgrounds in the Bachelor of Education Specialization in Indigenous Education at the University of Prince Edward Island, which she helped develop after years teaching in the Arctic. More recently, she’s guided the curriculum of the groundbreaking Master of Education Leadership in Nunavut.
Prof. Pettigrew on why teaching tips may be useless
When you’ve been a prof as long as I have, you are bound to reach a point where you go from resenting other professors who won’t change their teaching strategies, to resenting all those professors trying to tell you how to do your job.
I crossed this threshold last week reading this article by Rick Sheridan in Faculty Focus. Sheridan provides five tips to get students to come to class. My mental responses were as follows: no, no, okay I guess but no, hell no, and no. Let’s look at each of Sheridan’s suggestions.
1. Prepare learning contracts for students to sign at the beginning of the semester so that students know what’s expected of them.
No. Because students already get a detailed description of what’s expected of them. It’s called a syllabus. What difference does it make if you get students to sign an unenforceable document agreeing to do what they’ve already agreed to do when they enrolled in the course?
Prof. Pettigrew explains his “no… yes… ummm?” method
This week my Detective Fiction class was looking at Jeff Lindsay’s Darkly Dreaming Dexter, a novel about a Miami forensics analyst who is secretly a serial killer, but who only targets other killers (and yes, the inspiration for the Dexter TV show).
Trying to get my class to think through the complex moral questions that the novel raises, I asked them, “To appreciate this novel, you have to support capital punishment, don’t you?”
One of my best students jumped right in. “No” she said firmly, then instantly changed her mind: “Yes.” Then reconsidered again: “Ummm…”
And I knew I had asked the perfect question.
Why humour should count on course evaluations. Really.
When my august institution was creating its new course evaluation form, I was asked to provide input, and I dutifully suggested a number of questions that I thought should be on such a form.
One of my ideas, a question asking whether the professor was funny, was rejected outright on the grounds that not all professors are funny, so it wouldn’t be fair to include that criterion.
To my mind, the response begged the question, though. Some professors may lack foresight— does that mean you can’t ask if the course seemed to have been planned well?