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)

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

Student Emails: A Creative Video Guide to Email Etiquette

While many students have mastered the art of email, others tend to take “poetic license” – unclear subject lines, omitted course name or student ID, or even an occasional use of an emoticon!

If you’re an instructor, suggest students hone their email communication skills by watching a short instructional video produced by Teaching and Learning Services. Share the link with students through myCourses and add the link to your course outlines!email-1346077_1280

If you’re a student, get together with some friends, take out some snacks, and sit back to enjoy this brief instructional video.

Interested in knowing more about writing emails to instructors? Check out Re: Your Recent Email to Your Professor and Email Etiquette: Guidelines for Writing to Your Professors.



Helping Students Communicate Science – Beyond the Classroom!

There’s a new course at McGill. It’s called Communicating Science (CCOM 314). Diane Dechief, a Faculty Lecturer at the McGill Writing Centre, designed the course and is teaching its first run this semester.

I interviewed Diane to learn what the course addresses and how she designed it. The first thing I learned is that communicating science is a growing interest for many scientists.  

Diane explained: There’s a movement, both online and off, toward increasing science communication. It’s a push for academics to become better at talking about their research to non-specialists, and for scientists, in particular, to assert their knowledge, control their message, and communicate with the public more broadly. Continue reading Helping Students Communicate Science – Beyond the Classroom!

How do I get students to engage with course readings?

Co-authors: Helle-Mai Lenk, Emiri Oda, Diane Maratta

This post, co-authored by McGill instructor Helle-Mai Lenk, her former student Emiri Oda, and Diane Maratta, a Learning Technology Consultant with McGill’s Teaching and Learning Services, describes the implementation of Perusall, a tool for engaging students with course readings by having them do online, asynchronous annotations in context to which peers can respond. Continue reading How do I get students to engage with course readings?

Getting Students to Attend to Important Course Information: First Day myCourses “Scavenger Hunt”

magnifying-glass-with-words.JPGOn the first day of classes, I, like other instructors, share either a hard copy or electronic copy of the course outline with students. (Actually, at McGill, the course outline must be provided to students during the first week of classes according to the McGill Charter of Students’ Rights (Chapter One, Article 10.2 – amended by McGill Senate 21 January 2009 – of the Handbook on Student Rights and Responsibilities, available as a PDF). I hope all students will be motivated to read it attentively on their own because it has information that is important for them to succeed at the course. But my hope has been repeatedly dashed. So, I tried a more directive approach: orally “walking” students through salient points of the course outline (can you say tedious?) and asking students to pose questions about anything that’s unclear. No questions. Great. It’s confirmation that I write clear course outlines. Probably not. More likely, students don’t have enough time to take in the content of this truly important document.

So, I switched approaches again. On the first day of class, students now have to engage in an awareness-raising activity whereby they have to find important information in the course outline. Continue reading Getting Students to Attend to Important Course Information: First Day myCourses “Scavenger Hunt”

New Peer Assessment Website launched by Teaching and Learning Services

by Diane Maratta and Carolyn Samuel

Have you been thinking of using Peer Assessment (PA) in any of your courses? We, at Teaching and Learning Services (TLS), have added a new “PA” section to our website with resources to support instructors who wish to implement PA in their courses. Continue reading New Peer Assessment Website launched by Teaching and Learning Services