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)

Taking audiences’ cultural and linguistic backgrounds into consideration when communicating at mcgill


A recent publication entitled Twelve tips for promoting learning during presentations in cross cultural settings provides “tips for educators to consider when planning and delivering formal presentations (e.g. lectures and workshops) in cross cultural settings” (Saiki, Snell, & Bhanji, 2017, p. 1). I’d like to highlight the relevance of these tips to communication at McGill—through classroom instruction, meeting presentations, Town Hall talks, etc.—in light of the cultural and linguistic diversity at this institution. Continue reading Taking audiences’ cultural and linguistic backgrounds into consideration when communicating at mcgill

Informal Talking Teaching Communities: Spread the Word!


In the 2015-2016 academic year, McGill’s Teaching and Learning Services (TLS) launched The Lunch Spot—an informal lunch-time forum where all of the university’s instructors were invited to bring their brown bag lunches and gather for some informal talking about teaching. Working with the principle “if you feed them, they will come,” TLS encouraged partaking in The Lunch Spot with the offer of home-made sweet treats.*

The Lunch Spot continues this year at McGill’s TLS on the following dates: Friday, September 30, 2016 (please register) and Friday, January 27, 2017.

Given that I practically live for talking about teaching and that I have a sweet tooth, I participated in The Lunch Spot at every opportunity during the 2015-2016 academic year. It was time incredibly well spent: I met instructors from a variety of disciplines with whom I shared some of my favourite instructional strategies and from whom I got some motivating ideas. (I actually got one really cool idea from an Engineering professor about how to encourage students to pay attention to test and exam instructions.) Continue reading Informal Talking Teaching Communities: Spread the Word!

What’s the prof gonna ask?


Every August, I teach a 3-credit course at McGill called Academic English Seminar, which is an academic skills course for incoming undergraduate students who speak English as a second or other language. The course runs 39 hours over 13 days. It’s intended to support students’ transition from high school or CEGEP learning to university learning. Every time I teach the course, I introduce at least one new topic or one new learning strategy. Last year, the new topic was the learning merits of taking handwritten notes versus laptop notes. This year, I introduced students to a study strategy to help them address a question students frequently pose when they’re studying together for a test: What’s the prof gonna ask? The strategy was the application of Bloom’s Taxonomy of levels of learning to the creation of questions as a means for anticipating what information professors might deem important in the readings they assign. I encouraged students to think: Why would the professor have assigned this reading? What are the salient points the professor wants me to draw from this reading? Continue reading What’s the prof gonna ask?

Daring to try new teaching strategies in your course


This post featuring Prof. Rhonda Amsel is the latest installment in our ongoing series about assessment tools for large classes. On June 12, 2015, Rhonda was the guest speaker at a session entitled Daring to Try New Teaching Strategies in your Large Class.

Rhonda Amsel teaches stats … stats classes of 300-400 undergrads from across the disciplines. She’s been teaching stats for over 40 years, and as suggested by the title of her presentation, not only is she not complacent about her teaching, but it’s obvious she still enjoys it. With her wry sense of humour, she quipped that teaching in an auditorium provides many of the challenges of a live performance, like Math-donna in front of an audience (but with more conservative costumes.) Continue reading Daring to try new teaching strategies in your course

Peer review with 500 students


lawrence-chenThis post featuring Prof. Lawrence Chen is the latest installment in our ongoing series about assessment tools for large classes. On March 17, 2015, Lawrence was the guest speaker at a brown bag lunch session on Evaluation and Feedback for Large Classes. In his presentation, Peer Review as an Active Learning Strategy in a Large First Year Course, Lawrence shared his thoughts on the pedagogy and logistics related to his experience implementing a peer review writing assignment with nearly 500 undergraduate Engineering students, as well as his students’ thoughts on engaging in this peer review task. Continue reading Peer review with 500 students

Handwritten notes vs. laptop notes: Does one method afford deeper learning than the other?


Apparently, yes.

HandwritingA study entitled The pen is mightier than the keyboard: Advantages of longhand over laptop note taking (Mueller & Oppenheimer, 2014) compared the two methods in different experiments. Findings suggest that when tested for factual recall, student performance was about the same for both note-taking methods; however, students who took handwritten notes fared better when tested for conceptual learning. Continue reading Handwritten notes vs. laptop notes: Does one method afford deeper learning than the other?

Click record: Hi, [name]. I’ve just finished reading your paper and I’d like to give you some feedback …


Thus begins the audio recorded feedback I provide students with on their oral and written assignment drafts. When I refer to audio feedback, I mean assignment feedback I give to students in the form of an audio recording. This means of feedback is an effective and efficient alternative to providing students with handwritten comments. Continue reading Click record: Hi, [name]. I’ve just finished reading your paper and I’d like to give you some feedback …