“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.
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:
- how difficult your questions were
- how well your questions discriminated
- how well your distractors worked
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?
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.
For 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.
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!
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.
How can you help students connect related concepts in your course?
Join us for this second webinar in our series that will address questions and offer ideas on selecting teaching strategies based on how students learn.
- December 13, 12:15-12:45pm: Connecting: Teaching students to organize knowledge
Register now online!
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!