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.
Continue reading eLATE Teaching Week: Professors open classrooms for peer observation
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
When we hear academic integrity, we often think about the student code of conduct which contains policies on plagiarism and cheating. These polices provide explicit boundaries to help guide students towards learning ethical behaviour practises. The polices also empower instructors with clear definitions to help them teach students the nuances of academic writing, research, and ethical work. However, when students cross the boundaries, these policies become the foundation of disciplinary action. But what about professors and researchers? Their research and publishing is not always confined to an institution and is more commonly found in the global ether of academic publishing where journals and publishers set the boundaries. Who monitors their publishing and research and what happens when they cross the line? Enter Dr. Ivan Oranksy, vice president and global editorial director of MedPage Today and co-founder of Retraction Watch, an online blog. Oransky visited McGill as part of the Academic Integrity Day on Feb. 3. His talk, [Retractions, Post-Publication Peer Review, and Fraud: Scientific Publishing’s Wild West] attracted over 150 profs, graduate students, and staff from four Montreal universities. Continue reading Publishing’s Wild West Watchdog
What causes natural disasters? Can you avoid them?
To kick off the third run of their Natural Disasters MOOC on edX, Professors John Stix and John Gyakum will be hosting their first Reddit AMA!
AMA mean “Ask Me Anything” so questions about the strange weather we are experiencing, the current ‘Super El Nino’, the chances of another ice storm, the professors’ research, and more, are all fair game.
As of 12:30PM today (Tuesday, Jan 19th) the link will be live on the TLS website on our Natural Disasters MOOC page.
We look forward to seeing you there!
There’s a lot of buzz around McGill these days about sustainability. We have an office dedicated to it, hundreds of community-based projects funded by the Sustainability Projects Fund, a major program in Sustainability, Science and Society and numerous courses that focus on various aspects of social, environmental and economic sustainability. Continue reading Reflections on the Sustainability Learning Community
McGill has just released its third MOOC, The Body Matters (BODY101x) on the edX platform. This course is 10 weeks long and focuses on benefits of physical activity, how to prevent injuries as well as what to do when an injury occurs. Dr. Ian Shrier is the primary instructor (@ianshrier) along with many other guests who are all experts in their field. Over 23,000 students have enrolled from over 180 countries. Have a look at a more detailed description of this MOOC along with the intro video: Continue reading The Body Matters – BODY101x – McGill’s 3rd MOOC has begun
Earlier this fall I spent an afternoon in my farmers’ field digging up carrots. Yes, I am part of community supported agriculture (CSA) – this particular group is led by a couple whose farm is in the outskirts of Montreal. Every week, I enjoy deliveries of fresh, local, organic and DELICIOUS vegetables. However, this Sunday was different. Instead of bringing my canvas bags to the neighborhood drop-off point to pick up my veggies, I headed across the bridge to where the vegetables are actually grown. Continue reading My farmer, my teacher