Author Archives: joannealisonfox

What? So What? Now What?

The title of this blog post presents a framework for reflective teaching practice that I would like to play around with in this blog post.

I have just participated in the three day Course Design Intensive workshop offered through the Centre for Teaching and Learning at UBC. My role was both as a participant and as a future facilitator. I took notes about both the workshop facilitation and the course design principles. I brought my First Year Seminars in Science (SCIE113) DACUM (aka. our course goals, skills, and objectives) and reflected on the strengths of our course design and the changes we have made in our re-design efforts.

So What?
I found the workshop valuable on several levels. I connected with like-minded teaching colleagues, and enjoyed the opportunity to hear about and provide input on a wide-variety of teaching scenarios. I’ve identified new teaching tools and lots of literature that I’d like to follow-up with. This was a chance for me to evaluate my own interest and suitability to act as a facilitator for future offerings of the workshop – which I see as a great opportunity. This course helped me to set aside valuable time (in my extremely time sensitive schedule this term) to reflect on the SCIE113 DACUM. I have concluded that the changes we have made in implementation and assessments from the pilot to the scaled up version of the course are still aligned with our course goals and learning objectives. I wonder if grouping the learning objectives into three units instead of six units would better help students (and Instructors) connect the in-class writing assignments to the course content. However, my visual views of the course materials (mind maps/visual syllabus) still identify at least 5 distinct units (see picture below).

Now What?
I will draw the visual syllabus picture – that I came up with today – on the first class of SCIE113. This picture will offer a valuable view of how the course content connects together and will highlight the course goals to students. If I start with the “you” part of the picture, I can also start with a comments about my classrooms as 1) safe places, 2) the importance of trying, and making mistakes, and 3) hard work. I also like how the voice, piece of writing, and the hand highlight the role that students can play in science – and how their voice is important.

I have a list of books that I would like to add to my library.
Dee Fink ISBN 0-7879-6055-1 ** I already reference this book. I should buy it.
Brookfield/Preskill Effective Use of Discussion ISBN 0-7879-4458-0
Brookfield -Teaching Critical Thinking ISBN 978-0-470-88934-3
Weimer Learner Centered Teaching ISBN 0-7879-5646-5
Graphic Syllabus ISBN 978-0-470-88934-3

I also need to set aside some time to read this literature. In fact, I think it would be useful to do some deliberate reflection around several topics 1) Balancing my workload, 2) Things that worked well this past term in SCIE113 (This past term of SCIE113 was very close to my description of my ideal teaching experience. What did this look like? Why did this happen? & What did I do that supported this experience? 3) Highest Priority for changes in SCIE113 (at a personal level and at a program level) 4) SOTL research ideas/action items/follow-up stemming out of SCIE113.

Lastly, I will follow up with the CDI team about participating in future offerings as a facilitator.

Goals for Portfolio

I was just looking over some notes from a seminar where I jotted down:

Goals for Portfolios

  1. Share best practices, learn, see examples
  2. Tenure, hiring
  3. Feedback, reflection on personal effectiveness

I can’t remember what the seminar was about – all I remember is that it had nothing to do with portfolios – but something from my day must have sparked me into thinking about teaching portfolios.

How Scientists Think?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about, “How Scientists Think?”  I’m excited to be working on an innovative curricula project here at UBC centered around science as a way of knowing.

…more about this later…

To this end, I just read this article, “How Scientists Think in the Real World: Implications for Science Education” by Kevin Dunbar.

According to the article, scientists are particularly stimulated by unexpected results, love making analogies, and work best in groups.  I’d say, “That’s about right!”

In thinking about how my teaching strategies align with these values, I came up with a short list of ideas.  Encourage group work, practice using analogies, explicitly encourage the use of analogy by students, and ready students for the unexpected.

Is an e-portfolio worth the effort?

I was recently asked how I would respond to PhD students who are in the process of putting together their own teaching portfolios and are wondering, “Is it really worth the effort?”

Here are my thoughts:

1) Putting together your e-portfolio is a valuable chance for personal reflection.  I found that the process of putting together my e-portfolio helped me to summarize and evaluate my own teaching skills and philosophy towards education.  You can look at the experiences you’re documenting in your portfolio and see your own personal strengths and weaknesses.  This kind of critical evaluation can be really valuable in job applications, interview scenarios AND for your own personal growth.

2) I’ve used my e-portfolio in at least two different job applications (required in the academic world).  Having an e-portfolio at the ready made it a lot easier to apply for jobs quickly.  Outside of academia, having an up-to-date e-portfolio helps you see your own personal strengths and weaknesses – and have lots of examples at the ready for interviews, cover letters etc.  It’s like having an ubber resume at the ready.

3) An e-portfolio helps you get organized.  I used to have a binder / really big pile of stuff that I wanted to put together into a teaching portfolio.  Honestly, it was a big effort to get the e-portfolio started but I enjoyed the process.  I like using wordpress and now that I’ve got it started updating is easy.

Ideas about Student Motivation

I recently read this Idea Paper about “Student Goal Orientation, Motivation, and Learning” by Marilla D. Svinicki. It’s interesting to think about what motivates the students we teach. I think this paper summarizes nicely how to reach out to the majority of students:

  1. Prioritize Learning
  2. Expect Success
  3. Make Your Class a Safe Place
  4. Encourage Community
  5. Offer Choices
  6. Be a Role Model

Taking UBC MIX under my wing

I just finished writing a TLEF grant to support the UBC MIX project. I’m pretty excited about the potential of this project.

UBC MIX is a project that creates new learning experiences for UBC students by developing cross-discipline and cross-faculty partnerships between courses already taught at UBC. UBC MIX brings together faculty members interested in making small adjustments to their class curriculum that can MIX, or bring together, students from two different courses. Examples of innovative teaching partnerships include joint lectures, electronic discussions between the classes, joint field trips, and mixed-class group projects. The idea behind UBC MIX is to compliment the curriculum of both classes by exploring links between subjects, exposing the students to new ideas, and encouraging students to explore their own subject areas from a different point of view. By facilitating connections, developing resources, and supporting MIX activities, the UBC MIX project aims to offer UBC undergraduate students access to unique opportunities for exploring interdisciplinary connections in their education.

Being a scientist in Nigeria

This summer I traveled to the University of Ibadan in Nigeria to participate in the West African Biotechnology Workshops as an invited instructor. Here is an update that I wrote during my stay.

Being a scientist in Nigeria means being very resourceful in finding solutions to barriers… the power goes out 2-4x per day or some days does not come on at all. Scientists here are very practiced at being practical & creative at the same time, a recipe for good science. Only one day did I start to think that the barriers were too big… but then the attitude of the students brought me back around. They work very very hard and are very excited about what they are learning. There are ~20 graduate students, medical doctors, and technicians taking our course. The people that I have met here in Nigeria is what I have enjoyed most. They are full of hope that their country will become one of the top 20 countries in the world. (The goverment has a plan called the 20:20 vision – that hopes to use education, science and technology to raise the profile of Nigeria by 2020). It has been interesting to talk to these young graduate students, to get their own views on the corrupt government and the political problems in the North, and the wars in the Delta (the oil rich region of the country). It is a country with many problems. For example, Nigeria’s children account for 18% of the global under-5 mortality rate. The UN has identified Nigeria as one African country that, if it were to improve and aim to meet the Millienium Development Goals, could make the most impact.

Success with TLEF!

I’ve recently received word that the two TLEF grants that I submitted were both funded!  The Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund (TLEF) was created in 1991 at UBC to enrich student learning by supporting innovative and effective educational enhancements.

Project #1: University of British Columbia International Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM) team, submitted with Dr. Eric Lagally & Dr. David Ng

We seek to initiate a team of undergraduate students to compete in the current year’s International Genetically Engineered Machines competition.  The iGEM competition draws teams of undergraduates from the top universities all over the world to try to answer the question:  “Can simple biological systems be built from interchangeable parts and operated in living cells, or is biology simply too complex to be engineered in this way?”

The team will work for a summer on the assigned project and submit their findings to an international conference, the iGEM Jamboree, held annually in mid-November at MIT. This funding request covers part of the costs of entering and running a UBC team, as well as travel costs to the conference to present their findings. Other required funds will be provided by in-kind and cash donations from UBC academic units and industrial partners.

Project #2: TERRY TALKS – INTERDISCIPLINARY STUDENT JAM` – Ideas that Inspire Action, submitted with Dr. David Ng, Dr. Allens Sens, Chad Hyson, Jamil Rhajiak, Nabila Pirani

“Terry talks” is an annual event where students are given a high profile platform to communicate their passions and desires. It essentially borrows a template from a well-established conference known as the TED conference, and modifies it for delivery within the UBC community.

Here, the general intent is to bring together the University’s “most fascinating (student) thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives.” Under this context, a single day conference can accommodate 9 student speakers from a wide range of interests and backgrounds. The talks will be held at a large venue, where one can engage a significant number of audience members. The talks will also be video archived for online viewing after the event.

This would provide stimulating content, relevant to a variety of globally relevant issues, and would ultimately foster collaborative efforts and idea sharing amongst the conference attendees. In all, this will strengthen the existing networks responsible for student led initiatives, and in doing so act as a significant catalyst in creating a stronger socially responsible student community.

Woo hoo!