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)

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

I came upon a student in distress


 

One afternoon last fall, I went to the washroom in the McLennan Library. Unexpectedly, I heard sobbing coming from one of the stalls. I bent over to look for the shoes that would indicate which stall the sobbing was coming from. I saw the shoes; I also saw a bum in jeans. Someone was sitting on the floor of the stall sobbing uncontrollably. I knocked on the door and asked, “Do you need help?” No response other than more sobbing. I knocked again. This time I said, “My name is Carolyn Samuel. I work down the hall at Teaching and Learning Services (TLS). Can you open the door?” There was no vocal reply, but I heard the latch click. Gently, I pushed the door open. She was a student. She sat sobbing and didn’t even look up when I opened the door. I asked if I could put my hand on her shoulder. She nodded. I was hoping the human touch would provide her with some comfort in what was clearly a time of despair. “Can you tell me your name? Your first name only.” She did. With some coaxing, we went together to my office. She continued to sob. I asked only a few questions. She was an undergraduate student from Toronto. It was her first semester. She felt she was falling behind. She agreed to walk with me to the Office of the Dean of Students. On the way, she stopped suddenly. Still sobbing, she blurted, “I can’t go! I have to be in class now or I’ll fall behind even more!” She was in no condition to go to class. With a little more coaxing, we made it to the Brown Building, where I left her in the hands of the staff at the Office of the Dean of Students.

Have you ever thought about what you would do if you found a student in distress on campus? If you’ve never thought about it, you probably should. Continue reading I came upon a student in distress

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!