All posts by Carolyn Samuel

Academic Associate at McGill's Teaching and Learning Services.; former Senior Faculty Lecturer at the McGill Writing Centre; area of specialization: Second Language Education; loves teaching and learning; will work for chocolate (Photo credit: Owen Egan)

Strategy Bites: A new blog series with ideas for getting students active in their learning


At the 2018 SALTISE conference held at McGill University in Montreal, keynote speakers Richard Felder and Rebecca Brent spoke on the topic of Understanding and Minimizing Resistance to Learner-centered Teaching. They pointed out that many students are accustomed to and comfortable taking notes while listening to instructors lecture. But being more active in class doesn’t necessarily appeal to students.

Strategies exist for addressing student resistance, such as:

  • being explicit with students about why you’re asking them to do active learning tasks and
  • varying your teaching methods so that students benefit from different types of learning opportunities. Read more.

Another point raised was that active learning strategies often take little classroom time. Over the coming weeks, this blog series will present “Strategy Bites”—a series of 2-3 minute videos produced by Teaching and Learning Services that describe how to implement a number of strategies we’re featuring based on relative ease of implementation, suitability for different class sizes, and their representation of a variety of interaction types. These blog posts will also address students’ perceptions of these strategies and offer links to additional resources. Stay tuned for some practical ideas!

Seeking help deciding which strategies to implement and how they’ll fit with your teaching? If you’re a McGill University instructor, contact Teaching and Learning Services for a one-on-one-consultation.

Featured Image photo credit: Victor Tangerman

Highs and Lows of Course Evaluations


Student ratings and comments in course evaluations can bolster teachers’ sense of efficacy. But even a single less-than-favourable rating or comment has the potential for disproportionately occupying our thoughts. This phenomenon—of focusing on the one or two negative comments among a sea of positive ones—is common.

Continue reading Highs and Lows of Course Evaluations

Getting Students To Distinguish Fact From Fallacy In The Media


Faculty of Management Professor Elena Obukhova is eager for her students to become “discerning media consumers.” In a recent article in The McGill Reporter “How a Desautels professor is sensitizing students to fake news,” Professor Obukhova describes an assignment she gives students to develop their skill at critically evaluating media content so that they can discern facts from fake news.

Continue reading Getting Students To Distinguish Fact From Fallacy In The Media

My Love Affair with the Document Camera


“Recently, I heard one of my students ask his friend, ‘If you were stranded on an island and could only take one item with you what would you bring?’ I started thinking about the question as it applied to my classroom. The thought came to my mind, ‘What is the one item in my classroom that I absolutely could not do without?’ […] My eyes landed on […] my document camera” (Borel, 2014). I didn’t write that. But I could have. It aptly captures my sentiments about the doc cam, as it’s often referred to.

Continue reading My Love Affair with the Document Camera

‘Tis the season: reviewing multiple choice question exam results at the end of term


If you teach at McGill and give students multiple choice question (MCQ) final exams, you’ll be receiving a “Test Item Statistics Report” from the Exam Office sometime after the end of term. This report, also known as an “item analysis report,” is sent to you along with the exam results. The report lets you know all kinds of interesting things about your exam, such as:

Exam
Photo credit: “Exam” by Alberto G. is licensed under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
  • how difficult your questions were
  • how well your questions discriminated
  • how well your distractors worked

Continue reading ‘Tis the season: reviewing multiple choice question exam results at the end of term

Which Moments In Canadian History Do Undergrads Believe Matter?


That’s what McGill Prof. Laura Madokoro wanted to know. Laura teaches Canada Since 1867 – Interrogating the Nation: Moment by Moment (HIST 203). This semester, students working in small groups have been assigned the task of selecting a “moment” they believe really matters to the history of Canada and then presenting an argument to support their choice. Each group has selected one moment from 1930-1979 and one from 1980 to the present. Students present their arguments in class and publish them in a blog called Moments that Matter: Canadian History since 1867, along with photos and embedded videos. Continue reading Which Moments In Canadian History Do Undergrads Believe Matter?

eLATE Teaching Week: Professors open classrooms for peer observation


Teaching can be an isolating endeavour. Instructors often prep material on their own, go to class, teach, and then go back to their offices. What they do in class is almost like a hidden act shared only between themselves and their students. Especially at a research-intensive university, instructors don’t always have opportunities or make the time to chat with colleagues about what goes on in their classrooms. But such conversations have the potential for being valuable in that they can inform instructors’ choice of teaching strategies; they can inspire and motivate instructors to innovate in the classroom.

eLATE1For one week last semester (November 20-24, 2017), eLATE (Enhancing Learning and Teaching in Engineering) held its first Teaching Week, an initiative that addressed the isolation by providing an opportunity for instructors in the Faculty of Engineering and the Faculty of Science to “open” their classes for observation by their colleagues. Faculty, postdoctoral scholars, and senior PhD students could learn from peers and see first-hand the implementation of a variety of teaching strategies. Some 15 professors from Architecture, Chemical Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Materials Engineering, Physics, and Urban Planning participated. Those wanting to observe had to register for logistics reasons, but other than that, the event was fairly informal—there were no articulated learning outcomes and instructors were not being evaluated by their peers! By fostering peer observation and discussion of teaching practices, eLATE’s Teaching Week sought to build a community of practice to enhance pedagogical excellence in the Faculty of Engineering. The initiative included “coffee and chat” and “happy hour” gatherings where colleagues could reflect on and discuss the classes they had observed during the week.

Continue reading eLATE Teaching Week: Professors open classrooms for peer observation