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Engaging Students Through Active LearningChris Knapper Queen’s University, Emeritus Engaging Students Through Active Learning The Problem Recently, a journalist asked if I had any

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  • 1Number 45, Winter 2007

    Number 45 Winter 2007


    Chris KnapperQueen’s University, Emeritus

    Engaging Students Through Active Learning

    The ProblemRecently, a journalist asked if I had any viewson faculty claims that today’s universitystudents seem distracted (to use a politeterm) in class - talking, sending text messages,even answering their cell phones.

    What he was describing is a lack of studentengagement - or at least engagement with theclass, the teacher, or subject matter. Theissue of student engagement has becomecentral, as many Canadian universitiesembrace the National Survey of StudentEngagement (NSSE)1 as the preferredindicator of teaching effectiveness.

    Engagement has a great deal to do with thestudents’ own attitudes, motivation, andapproaches to learning. But teachers,classrooms, and the organization of settingsfor learning also play a role. Large classesand high student-to-faculty ratiosundoubtedly make teaching moreimpersonal, and make it more difficult to

    ensure that teaching remains relevant tostudents’ needs. But some teachers, even invery large classes, seem to have no difficultyengaging students’ attention, whereas othershave great difficulty establishing rapport,even when classes are small.

    How might we encourage studentengagement and make learning a more activeprocess, even in large lecture settings?

    Why Active Learning?By active learning I mean that students arenot simply listening passively to a lecture, butbecome engaged with the ideas beingcommunicated, process the information,integrate ideas with what they already know,and can subsequently transfer their learningto new situations. Most of us knowintuitively that learning by doing is moreeffective than simply listening or reading(e.g. learning a new computer application).There is also empirical evidence that activelearning strategies promote greatercognitive development in universitystudents.

    Lecturing is the most popular method ofuniversity teaching worldwide, mainlybecause it seems to be a very efficientmethod of communicating with largenumbers of students at one time to ‘cover’content. There is abundant empiricalevidence, however, that students often donot fully comprehend or retain informationtransmitted in lectures.

    Low motivation, boredom, and fatigue can allplay a role in the lack of student attention.

    One important way of counteracting thesefactors is active involvement of students inlecture classes. Another approach is tointroduce some variety, or even tension.

    Many of the strategies for introducing activelearning are well known. They includeencouraging accurate student note-taking(e.g. by use of incomplete handouts2), in-classdemonstrations (perhaps linked to a set ofinterpretive questions to answer on the spot),quizzes and short opinion surveys, and briefsmall group discussions on questions posedby the lecturer. These techniques certainlywork, and some of the lecturers who haveused them successfully are among our mostadmired 3M National Teaching Fellows.

    Beyond the LectureBut it is also important to recognize thatmost learning takes place outside class,

    Classroom settings affect learning.

    continued on page 4

    Engagement through small group discussions.

  • 2Number 45, Winter 2007

    Expressions of interest are invited for editorand co-editor.

    Three issues of the STLHE Newsletter arepublished annually. The appointment isrecommended for a term of three years,with an option to renew. Currently, theeditor is involved in all stages of production.The co-editor is a new position, with thegoal of encouraging bilingual contributions.

    Preference will be given to people with:• Experience in editing and publishing• Organizational skills• Ability to work well with others• Access to a network of educators• Infrastructure to support editorial process• Membership in STLHE.

    Selection Process: Candidates will beselected by a panel including representationfrom the STLHE President, EducationalDevelopers Caucus and Council of National3M Teaching Fellows.

    Transition: The retiring editor will co-editone issue with the incoming editors.

    Submissions: Candidates should submit awritten letter of interest indicating relevantexperience, ideas for future directions, and acurriculum vitae.

    Date/date limite: le 6 avril/ April 6, 2007To/destinataire: Sylvia Riselay [email protected]

    For additional information, please contact/Pour des renseignements supplémentairesErika Kustra, Editor: [email protected]

    Call for EditorsSTLHE Newsletter

    STLHE/SAPESSteering CommitteeRussell Day, BCMargaret Wilson, ABDieter Schönwetter, SK/MBDebra Dawson, ON, SWNicola Simmons, ON, CentralAline Germain-Rutherford, ON, NEAndré Bourret, Francophone QCBluma Litner, Anglophone QCLynn Taylor, NSShannon Murray, NL/NB/PEI

    Ex-Officio MembersJulia Christensen Hughes, PresidentGary Poole, Past-PresidentJoy Mighty, President ElectAlan Wright, Chair, Publications Cmt.Arshad Ahmad, Teaching AwardsBob Sproule,TreasurerAlex Fancy, Council of 3M Teaching FellowsTeresa Dawson, Educational DevelopersCaucus

    Electronic DiscussionSTLHE ForumThe STLHE electronic mail forum, activesince October 1988, supports theexchange of opinions, ideas andexperiences concerning teaching andlearning in higher education.

    To subscribe, contact the list coordinator:Russ Hunt, Email [email protected] or visitCommunication at

    Teaching and Learning inHigher Education Newsletter

    Number 45, Winter 2007Newsletter of the Society for Teachingand Learning in Higher Education/L’avancement de la pédagogie dansl’enseignement supérieur

    Editor: Erika Kustrac/o Centre for Leadership in LearningMcMaster UniversityHamilton, ON L8S 4K1 CanadaEmail: [email protected] Associates:Julia Christensen Hughes,Rosalie Pedersen, Alan WrightAssistance: Sylvia Riselay

    Material may be reprinted or photo-copied for institutional use within Canada.Please note appropriate credit and, as acourtesy to the author, forward twocopies of the reprint to the above address.

    Recent Publications bySTLHE Members

    Engaging students in learning, throughmethods such as active learning, self-directed learning, peer mentoring and groupactivities has vast rewards. This issueshares several different perspectives andstrategies.

    If you have any items for ‘RecentPublications’ or any other suggestionsregarding the STLHE Newsletter, pleasecontact the Editor.

    Winter Newsletter:Engaging Students

    Germain-Rutherford, A. & Bakary, D. (2006).Défis de la formation à l’utilisation des TICdans les universités: modèle de formation àl’intégration des TIC. dans N. Colet & M.Romainville (Ed.) La pratique enseignanteen mutation à l’université”(pp.153-169).Bruxelles: Editions de Boeck.

    Kalman, C. (2006). Successful Science andEngineering Teaching in Colleges andUnviersities. Vermont: Anker.

    Rédacteur du bulletinde la SAPES

    Appel de déclarations d’intérêt pour lespostes de rédacteur et de co-rédacteur

    Le bulletin de la SAPES paraît trois fois l’an.La période de nomination recommandée estde trois ans, avec possibilité derenouvellement. La rédactrice actuelle dubulletin participe à toutes les étapes de laproduction. Le poste de co-rédacteur est unnouveau poste. Sa création vise à favoriser laprésentation de contributions dans les deuxlangues.

    La préférence sera accordée aux personnesqui présenteront les atouts suivants :• Expérience de la rédaction et de l’édition• Capacité d’organisation• Capacité de travailler avec d’autres

    personnes• Accès à un réseau d’éducateurs• Accès à une infrastructure de soutien

    pour le processus rédactionnel• Statut de membre de la SAPES.

    Processus de sélection : Un jury formé dela présidente de la SAPES et de représentantsdu Réseau de formateurs en pédagogie del’enseignement supérieur et du Conseil duPrix d’enseignement 3M.

    Transition : La rédactrice sortante assurerala co-rédaction d’un numéro avec le nouveaurédacteur.

    Candidatures : Les candidats sont invités àsoumettre une lettre de déclaration d’intérêtoù ils feront état de leur expérience et deleurs idées concernant les orientations. Lalettre devrait s’accompagner d’un curriculumvitae.

  • 3Number 45, Winter 2007

    Forming groups for class activities can bechallenging and stressful for both studentsand instructors. Yet working in groups is agreat way to increase student engagement,critical thinking, and a learner focused class.

    Here are nine effective strategies that can beused to create informal groups. Some ofthese activities take minimal time whileothers can be an activity in themselves.Some work well with large classes, whileother are better suited for small classes.

    1. Candies Predetermine how manygroups you need and how many studentsper group. Purchase as many types ofcandies as you have groups and mix thecandies all together in a bowl. Asstudents enter the class, ask them to picka candy. When it is time to get thegroups together, tell all the students withcandy A to get together, candy B to gettogether, and so on.

    2. Alphabetical lines For quick groupformation, use the class list to assigngroups based on last names (i.e. fromA – C = one group). If you have time,you can ask students to line upalphabetically (without speaking for anadded challenge). To change the groups,try first names, favourite foods, hockeyplayers or theorists. You can also trybirthdays, so that students line up bybirthdates.

    3. Clock/dance card At the beginning ofthe class, have students fill out a clock ordance card, which includes who theirpartner will be at a specified time e.g.1:00 Shari, 2:00 Jo. It is important thatboth students sign up for the same timeon each of their cards!

    Each time you want to form a dyad, askthe students to find their partner for aspecific time. This allows you to changepartners often. You can use the samestrategy without the specific times, so

    that students sign up for their firstpartner, second partner, and so on.

    4. Topic areas Place flip charts around theroom, labeled with with topics areas.Let students know the number of groupmembers allowed in each group. Havestudents sign up for the topic they wouldlike to explore.

    5. Matches/predetermined categoriesAsk students to find someone elsewearing a matching item, such as abaseball hat or earrings.

    For predetermined categories, preparein advance for the number of groupsrequired. Distribute to each student atopic, artifact, item or key word that fitsone of the categories. Challengestudents to find their category group.For example, if the category is teachingmethods, key words for students couldbe lecture, active learning anddiscussion. This activity is beneficialbecause it helps student becomeacquainted with key words and coursetopics.

    6. Pre-assigned groups Create namecards and put them on tables in groupsbefore students arrive. If that is notpossible, ask students to move to wheretheir name tag is located.

    7. Random Ask each person to findsomeone close to them. Next time ask

    them to pick someone new. Anotherway to change the groups is to ask a fewstudents to move spaces, or move to theback of the room and then to formgroups with those around them.

    8. Find your partner Tape a word orname to each person’s back and askthem to find others with the sameconcept on their backs. For example,students wearing the words forming,storming, norming and performing wouldform the “Stages of Team Development”group. The words can be appropriate tothe discipline or just for fun. The samestrategy can be used with puzzle pieces.

    9. What is your opinion? Have studentsrate their agreement with a statement ona scale of 1 to 25 (or whatever numberworks). Ask them to form a line basedon their rating. Use their position tocreate the desired number of groups.For example, if you want four groups,then count 1,2,3,4; 1,2,3,4. Theadvantage is that you can choose tocreate groups of people with the sameor different view points.

    Engaging students in group activities anddiscussions can have a large impact ontheir understanding and retention ofinformation. Forming groups is often acritical step in the success of theseteaching methods. Choose the methodof forming groups that will best matchyour learning objectives.

    Forming Small Groups

    Julie Weible and Rosalie PedersenUniversity of Calgary

    Forming groups quickly for small group work.

  • 4Number 45, Winter 2007

    when students have time to reflect, integrateinformation from different sources, anddebate issues and insights with colleagues.

    If we fill students’ time with formal classroominstruction, there will be little left for suchprocesses. This forces us to ask some hardquestions about the available time of bothstudents and teachers.

    It may look ‘efficient’ to have students listento lectures for 15 hours a week3 while we

    diligently ‘cover’ the key concepts in thefield. But if students do not properlycomprehend, own, and build upon thismaterial, then the time has been wasted asfar as real learning is concerned. Just as weused to talk of spending quality time withfamily, we might do well to consider qualitylearning for our students.

    Quality learning is one reason for thepersistence of such approaches as problem-based learning, inquiry learning, and projectwork, despite current resource constraints.

    These methods place considerable demandson teachers’ time and pedagogical expertise,but at their best they have in common anemphasis on student activity, and engagementwith issues that are relevant to students’lives. As a result, these methods canproduce learning that transfers readily tomany situations beyond the classroom.

    Of course engaging students can be riskyboth for teachers and students, since itinvolves transferring some power andcontrol from one to the other and makingstudents responsible for their own learning.

    continued from page 1Engaging Students

    Most learning occurs outside of class.

    In the world beyond university, that iswhere the responsibility for learning willultimately lie.

    1 Sponsored by Indiana University.2 Prepared notes that cover the main

    points of a lecture but with key elementslacking.

    3 A typical load for a full-time student atmany Canadian universities, not countingtime spent getting to and from theclassroom.

    Christopher Knapper, one of the founding members of the Society,

    publishes extensively on teaching and learning.

    We are delighted to include with thisnewsletter a copy of the University Edition ofMaclean’s magazine profiling this year’s 3MNational Teaching Fellowship award

    2008 Call for Nominations3M National Teaching Fellowships

    STLHE and 3M Canada invite nominations for the 2008 3MNational Teaching Fellowships Program. Up to ten awards,presented annually at the STLHE Conference in June, recognizeexemplary contributions to educational and teaching excellence inCanadian universities. Awards are open to all individualscurrently teaching in a Canadian university, regardless of disciplineor level of appointment.Note: The 2008 Call will have some revisions.

    Details: limite: November 16/ le 16 novembre, 2007Telephone/téléphone: (514) 848-2424, ext. 2928 / 2793Email/Courriel: Arshad Ahmad ([email protected])

    2008 Appel de candidaturesPrix d’enseignement 3M

    SAPES et 3M Canada lancent un appel de candidatures. Dix prix,remis chaque année au mois du juin lors du congrès de la SAPES,soulignent les contributions remarquables à l’avancement del’enseignement supérieur dans les universités canadiennes. Estadmissible toute personne qui enseigne actuellement dans uneuniversité canadienne, quels que soient sa discipline et son rang.L’appel de candidatures sera modifié cette année.

    winners. Congratulations to our newestFellows! Also, please refer to the enclosedinsert which details an opportunity tocontribute to Silence in Teaching and Learning,

    Council of National 3M Teaching Fellows

    a book being edited by the Council ofNational 3M Teaching Fellows.

    Version française incluse.

    Alex FancyMount Alison University

  • 5Number 45, Winter 2007

    Sharing Successful Learning Strategies

    A unique feature of Experiential Education (EE) at Atkinson (YorkUniversity’s second largest faculty, with 10,000 students and over350 faculty members) is that it is not a practicum, nor a placement,but rather a group-based course assignment, embedded in thecurriculum.

    Small teams of senior students work on client-identified endeavorsfor up to fifty percent of their course grade. Teams have projectchoice from the outset, so student buy-in is maximized.Organizations see students grappling with important, time-sensitiveissues, while students enhance their disciplinary knowledge, increasetheir professional skills, and make career connections.

    Student teams select projects from a pre-screened list that is sent toAtkinson’s EE Manager, Geoff Webb, and co-approved by the coursedirector. Clients are discouraged from overly defining their project,because an important learning point is enabling the teams to craft aproject plan that meets academic requirements, while deliveringtangible value to the client (for profit and not for profitorganizations).

    EE is well integrated with active learning classroom endeavors andstudents are fully supported regarding project coordination and thesetting of expectations. Verbal and written progress reports aremandated and EE hosts/clients are regularly surveyed regardingsatisfaction and progress. Student peer evaluations are also built inand group dynamics carefully monitored.

    Towards the end of the endeavor, student teams often presentfindings and recommendations to their project sponsor either in classor off site. Clients assess the suitability of the team’s suggestions andoverall professionalism. This evaluation informs the final EE grade.

    The time commitment for organizations is low, involving no morethan five face-to-face meetings supplemented by email, phone andwebcam updates.

    In the winter semester of 2007, over 90 organizations such asUNICEF, the University Health Network, the Canadian Chamber ofCommerce, the Toronto Arts Council and Bank of Montreal arepartnering with approximately 650 students. This number will growas more faculty members add EE to their teaching and learningtoolkit.

    For more information, contact Geoff Webb at [email protected]/akevents/academic/ee/index.html

    For LearnersPutting learning to use:An experiential education initiative

    Geoff WebbYork University

    For TeachersSharing food and thoughtenergizes course redesign cohorts

    BJ EibUniversity of Calgary

    To support groups of faculty who are redesigning their courses, wehost ‘cohort lunches’ several times a semester. The Teaching andLearning Centre (TLC) provides a simple lunch (sandwiches, fruit anddrinks) and organizes the meeting space and agenda. The purpose isto build a sense of mutual support; therefore the focus is on sharingideas, materials and questions in an informal, discussion environment.

    Each meeting focuses on one topic, such as orienting students to thecourse, assessing and grading, or structuring the content of courseoutlines. Usually, we invite one or two past participants to presentten-minute snapshots of their course redesign and its implementation,with a focus on the topic for that particular session.

    The rest of the 75-minute session is devoted to small groupdiscussions of the topic. TLC staff distribute name tags among thetables in a slightly different configuration each time. This helps breakup project teams and ‘old friend groups’ so that participants candiscuss issues and see that they have much to learn from those fromother disciplines and situations.

    Cohort members leave the lunch with new ideas and suggestions,answers to many of their questions, and a few resources (relevantarticles, tip-sheets, websites) to aid their ongoing course redesignwork. Often, they also have scheduled a time to get together with anew colleague to continue a discussion that began during the lunch.

    TLC staff respond to requests for information and material byposting online, sending a follow-up email or providing it at the nextlunch.

    For more information, contact BJ Eib at [email protected]

    Faculty meet to redesign courses over lunch.

  • 6Number 45, Winter 2007

    Academic peer mentoring programs arecertainly not new to higher education, but inour small pilot program, we have supportedundergraduate learning through peerleadership in an efficient, collegial, andcost-effective manner.

    At the Faculty of Communication and Cultureat the University of Calgary, a single courseempowers students to enhance their peers’learning in a diverse and growing number ofcourses in our small liberal arts faculty.

    Course Description“Collaborative Learning and PeerMentoring” is a half-year, 3-credit coursethat combines a 40-hour practicum withweekly discussions of the theory andapplication of collaborative learning in highereducation. It counts as an option within thestudent’s major in any program in our faculty.

    Impact on StudentsIn over 400 student surveys over two years,73-77% of students who actively engagedwith our peer mentors perceived a significantor marginal benefit to their academic and/orsocial engagement with learning.

    Program DesignI designed the program in 2005 with theindispensable support of our Associate DeanAcademic, Doug Brent. I function as theprogram coordinator as well as the peermentors’ instructor, guiding and teaching upto 30 peer mentors per year andcoordinating with their host instructors.

    Senior undergraduate students partner withan instructor to perform a small practicum asa peer mentor in a course they have takenpreviously. Applications demonstrate goodacademic transcripts, personal motivation,prior mentoring-related experience, andstrong recommendations from facultymembers. Partnering peer mentors with ahost instructor who knows and trusts themprovides a foundation for self-confidence andsmoothes their integration into the course.

    Peer Mentor RolesPeer mentor roles supplement, never replaceor duplicate, instructors’ and teaching

    Piloting an Undergraduate Course-based Peer Mentoring Program

    Tania SmithUniversity of Calgary

    assistants’ roles in a specific course. Peermentors neither grade student work norlecture authoritatively on core coursematerial. Instead, they support activelearning by leading a combination of in-classand extra-curricular activities from anundergraduate peer’s perspective. Forexample, peer mentors might offer in-classpresentations, co-facilitation of classdiscussion, small group activities,extracurricular study groups, feedback ondrafts, online discussion, individualizedtutoring, and support for students who speakEnglish as an additional language.

    Assessment MethodsDuring the term, peer mentors submitweekly service logs by email to their hostinstructor and program coordinator, attendweekly mentoring classes, do assignedreadings and reflective writing, and observeand analyze another peer mentor at work.A final report, service portfolio, and socialevent involving host instructors andprospective peer mentors wraps up theexperience.

    Student Engagement ModelWe chose to embed service within anacademic credit course because our teachingphilosophy favours apprenticeship throughthe combination of academic theory and

    experiential service-learning. Our peermentors collaborate in the design of theirown roles and activities through pre-termrole planning consultations with their hostinstructor and myself. As they write theirproposal, they conduct some self-directedresearch and consult about specific skillsand knowledge they will need.

    Peer mentors with time in their schedulesand extraordinary dedication often volunteerabove and beyond the practicumexpectations, especially if they are partneredwith a very supportive host instructor.

    The adventure of taking on an innovative rolein higher education and the joy ofcollaborating with an instructor whom thementor respects offer more rewards than atypical course. However, the CollaborativeLearning and Peer Mentoring course theytake concurrently is essential as it provides adiverse cohort of peer mentors with anintellectual and social center of support andeducation. Approximately half of our peermentors have continued their mentoringservice or collaborated in my research andwriting about peer mentoring.

    Impact on InstructorsInstructors who host peer mentors haveresponded very positively to the program,ending their term with very positivecomments on the experience and hostingpeer mentors in subsequent terms. Facultyalso appreciate talking with each otherabout how they have deployed peer mentorsto support their teaching.

    By April 2007, peer mentors will haveserved in 12 different courses ranging fromCanadian Studies to Women’s Studies, and 13of our faculty members (both sessional andfull time) will have hosted peer mentors.

    New RefinementsThis term, by partly combining theintroductory peer mentoring course with anew course for advanced peer mentors, weare now able to provide more guidance forour new peer mentors, thus enriching theexperience for all.

    Tania Smith with her peer mentors.Photo by Ken Bendiktsen,University of Calgary

  • 7Number 45, Winter 2007

    One Approach to Student Engagement:Strengthening the Nexus Between Research, Teaching and Learning

    Julia Christensen HughesSTLHE PresidentUniversity of Guelph

    This article is part of an ongoing international exchange among the presidents of the societiesfor teaching and learning from Canada, Australasia, and the United States. What follows is anadaptation of a report written by Julia Christensen Hughes, President of STLHE, and EvelinaRog, following a Canadian “Roundtable on Research, Teaching and Learning,” facilitated bySTLHE and the Canadian Federal Government during 2006. Many of the recommendationsgenerated are directly applicable to strengthening student engagement. The full report isavailable at

    Last spring STLHE, Human Resources andSocial Development Canada (HRSDC), andthe University of Guelph collaborated inorganizing a Roundtable for exploring theresearch/teaching/learning nexus in post-secondary education (PSE) and for identifyingpotential strategies for creating national,provincial and institutional contexts in whichall of these essential activities might thrive.

    At the Roundtable, participants expressedconcern about the increasing polarization ofresearch and teaching in Canada, the desireof colleges to become more involved inresearch, and the need to provide moresupport for the scholarship of teaching andlearning (SoTL). Participants were alsoconcerned about low levels of studentengagement as well as the ability of the PSEsystem to meet the needs of students fromtraditionally underrepresented groups (e.g.Aboriginal students, students of immigrantfamilies, students with disabilities and non-high school completers). Canada’scompetitiveness on the world stage fordealing with these issues was also raised.

    Participants concluded that there is a need tostrengthen Canada as a learning societyand to develop a comprehensive, nationalvision for PSE. To make the case for furthergovernment investment in PSE, we needresearch in at least three areas:

    1. Current versus desired learningexperiences and outcomes

    2. Current versus desired participationrates in PSE, including those ofunder-represented groups

    3. The potential to market an improvedCanadian PSE system internationally

    Further, participants suggested (1) thatsources of funding and communities ofpractice need to be established for exploringthese issues and (2) that the role of thegranting councils and the Canada Research

    Chairs program (CRC) could bestrengthened in this regard. Severalinstitutional strategies were also suggested.

    Institutional-level Strategies

    1. Establish an institutional vision thatincludes the research/teaching/learningnexus and the institution’s contribution toa learning society.

    2. Implement curricular development andassessment approaches that explicitlysupport the development of critical inquiryskills and citizenship behaviours andencourage the integration of theselearning outcomes across the curriculum.

    3. Commit to the use of innovative andactive pedagogical approaches (e.g.,critical inquiry, problem-based learning,community service learning) in bothdomestic and international contexts.

    4. Develop a connected community offaculty, educational developers, learningand writing specialists, librarians, andlearning technology staff etc. to supportcourse development and theimplementation of effective pedagogies.

    5. Encourage greater collaboration and/orintegration between teaching supportdepartments and offices of research (i.e.,both should be perceived as core services,and have similar prestige and focus).

    6. Ensure tenure, promotion, andmerit-based pay policies adopt a broaddefinition of scholarship, value teaching,and reinforce the integration of research,teaching and learning. Rewarddepartments whose faculty achievesuccess in these areas.

    7. Establish institutes or other formalstructures to support faculty interestedin pursuing the SoTL.

    8. Provide professional developmentopportunities for faculty and graduatestudents; encourage and/or requiretheir participation in courses onpedagogical theory and practice.

    9. Profile and celebrate teaching andlearning successes and its scholarship ininstitutional publications and events, andthrough awards programs (forindividuals, programs anddepartments).

    10. Foster collaboration between universityand college researchers.

    STLHE continues to advocate forthe implementation of theserecommendations.

    Julia ChristensenHughes, President ofthe Society forTeaching and Learningin Higher Education

  • 8Number 45, Winter 2007

    Creative Problem Solving:Green Guide ReviewAnne-Marie RyanDalhousie University

    The Boyer Commission (1998) argued thatuniversities ought to provide researchexperiences for every undergraduate student,beginning with an inquiry-based first year andculminating in an inquiry-based capstoneexperience. The STLHE Green Guide,Teaching the Art of Inquiry, is an exceptionaltool for exploring exactly how to do that.

    Teaching the Art of Inquiry provides acompelling and practical introduction to anumber of issues, including: What is inquiry?Why is it an effective teaching and learningmethod? How and where inquiry can beused effectively? The answers are providedusing examples drawn from inquiry coursestaught across a diverse range of science,social science, and humanities courses, andacross all four years of study.

    Both authors have extensive experienceusing inquiry-based learning in their teaching.A self-reflective approach, combined withanecdotal examples from successful inquirycourses, adds tremendously to the case forusing inquiry at the undergraduate level.From exploring the usefulness of a researchworkshop to introduce students to the

    inquiry process, to the potential role of peerassessment in the inquiry assessmentprocess, this guide has something of value forall instructors, academic developers, andadministrators interested in inquiry.

    Having used this guide extensively as aresource for faculty interested in innovativepedagogy, I have found inevitable gaps. Thecase for inquiry would be stronger had theauthors demonstrated the impact of inquiryon student learning. For example, the recentwork of Justice et al (admittedly completedafter the Green Guide), demonstratesexplicitly how inquiry can benefit studentdevelopment, adding evidence that inquiry isone of the most powerful pedagogies forenhancing student learning.

    As well, the guide would be improved byincluding some administrative lessons fromthe Canadian experience. Faculty membersimplementing inquiry-based learning need tobe aware of a range of issues, such asdebates over class size, allocation ofresources, and the administration involvedwhen teams of instructors teach one inquirycourse.

    Teaching the Art of Inquiry does not claim thatinquiry is the only pedagogical method thatshould be employed with students.However, in a society embracing increasingcomplexity and demanding universitygraduates have the ability to thrive in thatcomplexity, the skills of research and inquiryhave an important role in the future ofundergraduate education in Canada. ThisGreen Guide can play an important role inmaking the acquisition of these skills a realityon your campus and in your classroom.


    Boyer Commission (1998). ReinventingUndergraduate Education. New York: SUNYat Stony Brook.

    Justice, C., Rice, J., Warry, W. and Laurie, I. (inpress). Taking inquiry makes a difference -a comparative analysis of student learning,Journal of Excellence in College Teaching.

    Brad WuetherickUniversity of Alberta

    Learning through Inquiry: Green Guide Review

    What do door stops, artists, engineering,communicating and creativity have incommon? They are all part of the kind ofcreative problem solving approachproposed by Daryl Caswell in CreativeProblem Solving.

    In this latest of the Green Guide series,Caswell advocates for teams of students tosolve a real-world, or ‘wicked’ problemthrough the practices of familiarization,functionality, and testing, embedded withinthe theoretical framework of the triad,narrative, participatory inquiry, and non-linear processing. Of course, Caswell alsorecognizes the importance of the tools of theproblem solving trade - communication,visualization, and collaboration. As we readthe guide, these interconnected triads unfold.

    Using his own experience with developingand teaching courses on creative problemsolving, Caswell takes us on a journey firstthrough the nature of this problem solvingapproach, then on to the underlyingframework and pedagogical rationale. Heculminates with an overview of some of thepractical considerations, including, to theauthor’s credit, potential pit-falls andcautionary tales.

    Caswell’s own marriage of art and scienceallows for a free-flowing and well-organizedreadable Guide, well-peppered withnarratives, anecdotes, and studentcomments. The underlying premise ofCaswell’s creative problem solving is thatstudents need ‘wicked’ rather than tameproblems to solve; wicked problems beingreal-world problems for which there is noone right answer.

    I read the Guide with interest and heightenedrecognition of the potential of deep learningin such an approach. So it is with great

    delight that I have found a ‘real’ problem formy students to take on in the next few weeks.

    To my surprise, I am starting to understandthat not only is this a true learning adventurefor the students, it is also a learning adventurefor the instructor.

    Short handbooks on a wide varietyof teaching and learning issues.

    To order: www.bookstore.uwo.caThe Bookstore at Western

    STLHE Green Guides

    Caswell, D. (2006). Creative Problem Solving.Green Guide No. 7. London, Canada:STLHE/SAPES.

    Hudspith, B. & Jenkins, H. (2001). Teachingthe Art of Inquiry, Green Guide No. 3.Halifax, Canada: STLHE/SAPES.

  • 9Number 45, Winter 2007

    EDC CornerEducational Developers Caucus

    Teresa DawsonEDC Chair, University of Victoria

    As I write this, the winter Conference onEngagement and Educational Developmentco-hosted by the Universities of Guelph andWaterloo is upon us. An enormous vote ofthanks is due to co-chairs Trevor Holmes andDonna Ellis and their incredible teams, as wellas to Alice Cassidy, Vice-Chair ProfessionalDevelopment, for the amazing job they havedone together to bring us this wonderfulevent. What fabulous sessions we have toenjoy, on everything from getting started infaculty development on a shoestring togetting published in the scholarship ofteaching and learning.

    Vous pouvez également prendreconnaissance des premières initiativesdécoulant du Plan de perfectionnementprofessionnel que les membres du Réseaude formateurs en pédagogie del’enseignement supérieur (Réseau) nous ontdemandé de mettre en oeuvre. Il s’agissaitd’organiser un atelier préalable au congrès àl’intention des nouveaux concepteurspédagogiques en tant que professionnels endébut de carrière sur le thème del’engagement de nos communautés, et unautre atelier destiné à leurs homologues pluschevronnés sur le thème de l’engagement ducorps professoral envers notre travail.

    Les affiches conçues à ce propos concernentdes sujets variés, allant de la satisfaction desbesoins des apprenants d’une seconde langueaux questions d’accessibilité, en passant par laformation des aide senseignants et les effortsdéployés pour conceptualiser le champ dudéveloppement pédagogique dans uncontexte international. Nous pouvons enoutre vous fournir des détails sur le nouveauprogramme de subventions qui a été financégrâce à vos efforts soutenus en vue derecruter des membres institutionnels au nomde la SAPES. Qui plus est, l’ensemble desessais, articles et critiques de sites Webpubliés en 2006/2007 sous la coordinationde Jennifer Jasper de l’ l’Université de la

    Colombie-Britannique, et auxquels denombreux membres ont collaboré, seradiffusé à titre de ressource sur le site web ducongrès du Réseau.

    I am struck by how much is happening in theCaucus, the depth and range of experience ofmembers and how kind people are in sharingtheir expertise so willingly with others. I hearabout new initiatives almost daily. All of this isdone on a volunteer basis by some of thevery busiest people I know. I cannot tell youhow privileged I feel to chair a group withsuch generosity of spirit. When colleagues inother areas ask me about it, I tell them it isthe EDC way. I hope we will treasure suchcollective collegiality always.

    En parlant de personnes très occupées, jetiens à vous rappeler que deux postes au seinde la direction du Réseau serontprochainement ouverts, étant donné que lesmandats respectifs du secrétaire et du vice-président des Communications viennent àexpiration. Nous vous invitons à poser votre

    The Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education

    La Société pour l’avancement de la pédagogie dans l’enseignement supérieur

    STLHE/SAPES Conference 2007

    June / Juin 13 – 16, 2007

    University of Alberta, Edmonton La University of Alberta à Edmonton

    Evolving Scholarship

    L’Ēvolution des Connaissances [email protected]

    candidature en vue des élections. Ladirection du Réseau devra en outre nommerun nouveau trésorier parmi ses membres,alors n’hésitez pas à communiquer avec noussi vous possédez les compétences voulues etavez le désir de vous impliquer. Nousespérons combler ces postes d’ici laprochaine réunion générale du Réseau, quiaura lieu dans le cadre du congrès de laSAPES, à Edmonton.

    Speaking of busy people, just a reminder thattwo positions on the EDC Executive will beopen shortly as the current Secretary andVice-Chair, Communications, are reachingthe end of their terms. Please considerletting your name stand in the elections. TheExecutive will also need to appoint a newTreasurer from among the membership, soplease let us know if you have particular skillsand interests in this area. We hope to havethese positions filled by the next EDCGeneral Meeting at the STLHE 2007Conference in Edmonton.

    La chronique du Réseau de formateursen pédagogie de l’enseignement supérieur

  • 10Number 45, Winter 2007

    Message de la présidente

    Julia Christensen HughesPrésidente de la SAPESUniversité de Guelph

    English version on page 11

    L’année 2007 s’annonce aussi palpitante questimulante pour nous tous dansl’enseignement supérieur étant donné que lesattentes sur le plan de la mobilisationestudiantine, de la réforme des programmesscolaires, de l’accessibilité, des mécanismeset des mesures de reddition des comptespour évaluer la qualité ne cessent de prendrede l’ampleur, sur toile de fond de pressionsbudgétaires sans cesse plus fortes. LaSociété continue à se mobiliser auprès desgouvernements fédéral et provinciaux ainsique des associations afin que ces questionsimportantes soient étudiées sous tous leursaspects.

    Poste de présidenteEn outre, cette année apportera un certainnombre de changements majeurs au sein dela Société pour l’avancement de la pédagogiedans l’enseignement supérieur (SAPES).Nous sommes impatients d’accueillir en juinJoy Mighty, de l’Université Queen’s, au postede présidente. Pour effectuer une transitionen douceur, Joy et moi discutons depuis uncertain temps déjà de ce qui doit être fait aucours des prochains mois. Joy et MargaretWilson, de l’Université de l’Alberta,s’emploient en particulier à la rédaction denos statuts constitutifs et espèrent avoirterminé le tout d’ici le congrès du mois dejuin. L’un des aspects les plus importants dela constitution en société est l’occasion quinous est donnée de réfléchir sur notrestructure et notre organisation. À mesureque les activités de la Société gagnent encomplexité, en visibilité et en étendue, il nousfaut reconnaître, plus que jamais, combien ilest indispensable de faire les choses de labonne manière.

    ComitésC’est dans cet état d’esprit que nous nousapprêtons à élargir l’un de nos comitéspermanents, celui des Publications, en plusd’en créer plusieurs autres. Ces comitésseront indispensables à l’atteinte des objectifsde la Société et auront aussi pour vocationd’offrir des débouchés aux membres de laSAPES qui souhaitent s’engager plusdirectement dans les activités de la Société.

    Poste de rédacteurL’un de ces débouchés se présentera au seindu Comité des publications. Après 3 annéespassées comme rédactrice de notre bulletind’information L’avancement de la pédagogiedans l’enseignement supérieur, Erika Kustra seretire. Erika a fait un travail tout à faitexceptionnel, apportant un regard nouveau etbeaucoup de professionnalisme. Merci, Erika,pour tout ce que vous avez accompli! Noussommes actuellement à la recherche d’un oudeux membres intéressés à assumer cesfonctions très importantes. En raison denotre engagement sur le plan du bilinguisme,l’idéal serait que l’une de ces deux personnesmaîtrise parfaitement le français. J’invite doncles personnes intéressées à me le faire savoir.

    Représentantes régionalesÉgalement, tous nos sincères remerciementsà Teresa Dawson ainsi qu’à Eileen Herteis,dont les mandats en tant que représentantesrégionales ont pris fin cette année. Teresa ajoué un rôle-clé dans le démarrage de notreprojet La mission professorale etl’enseignement et l’apprentissage ainsi quedans l’organisation du colloque national sur lemême sujet qui s’est déroulé en 2005 àl’Université de Toronto à Scarborough.Teresa a également été l’un des organisateursdu congrès 2005 de la SAPES à l’Universitéde Toronto.

    Quant à Eileen, c’est de main de maîtrequ’elle a assumé le rôle de responsable denotre portefeuille des adhérents. Le succèsretentissant qu’a connu la campagneinstitutionnelle d’adhésion de l’annéedernière peut être attribué en grande partieaux efforts qu’elle a déployés. Merci, Teresa

    et Eileen! Nous sommes ravis de souhaiter labienvenue aux deux nouvelles représentantesrégionales qui les remplaceront--NicolaSimmons de l’Université Brock, représentantle centre de l’Ontario, et Shannon Murray del’Université de l’Île-du-Prince-Édouard,représentant Terre-Neuve-et-Labrador, leNouveau-Brunswick, et l’Île-du-Prince-Édouard. Un grand merci à celles et ceuxd’entre vous qui ont participé à noscyberélections régionales au cours desderniers mois!

    Campagne institutionnelleNotre campagne institutionnelle derenouvellement des adhésions est l’autretâche importante qui est actuellement encours. Les activités de la Société dépendentdes efforts spontanés de nombreusespersonnes, avec l’aide de notre merveilleusecoordonnatrice administrative, Sylvia Riselay,et les recettes générées grâce aux adhésions.Sans ces fonds, la Société ne serait toutimplement pas aussi efficace dans l’exécutiondu mandat qui est le sien. Nous voussaurions gré de vérifier si votre institution enest membre, ou si le moment est venu derenouveler son adhésion, et s’il y a lieud’encourager les dirigeants de votreinstitution à adhérer à notre organisation.

    CongrèsEn terminant, je voudrais remercier, au nomde la Société, celles et ceux d’entre vous quiont fait parvenir des propositions pour lecongrès de la SAPES qui aura lieu en juin, àl’Université de l’Alberta à Edmonton, ou quitravailleront à l’examen des propositions aucours du prochain mois. Merci encore pourtous vos efforts au profit de la Société.

    Mes meilleurs vœux pour un trimestred’hiver couronné de succès!

  • 11Number 45, Winter 2007

    Acadia UniversityUniversity of AlbertaUniversity of British ColumbiaBrock UniversityUniversity of CalgaryCarleton UniversityConcordia UniversityConcordia University College of AlbertaConestoga CollegeDalhousie UniversityDurham CollegeFanshawe CollegeFleming College

    University College of the Fraser ValleyUniversity of GuelphKwantlen University CollegeLakehead UniversityLambton CollegeMalaspina CollegeUniversity of ManitobaMcMaster UniversityMemorial University of NLMohawk CollegeMount Allison University

    Mount Saint Vincent UniversityUniversity of New BrunswickNiagara CollegeNorthern Lights CollegeNova Scotia Agricultural CollegeNova Scotia Community CollegeUniversity of Ontario Institute of TechnologyUniversity of OttawaUniversity of Prince Edward IslandUniversité du Québec à MontréalQueen’s University

    Institutional Members: Renewal CampaignFounding and New Members

    Ryerson UniversitySaint Jerome’s UniversitySaint Mary’s UniversitySheridan CollegeSimon Fraser UniversityThompson Rivers UniversityUniversity of TorontoTrent UniversityUniversity of WaterlooUniversity of Western OntarioWilfrid Laurier UniversityUniversity of WindsorUniversity of Winnipeg

    Julia Christensen HughesSTLHE PresidentUniversity of Guelph

    President’s Report

    The year 2007 will likely be both excitingand challenging for all of us in highereducation as expectations for studentengagement, curriculum reform, accessibilityand accountability/quality measures continueto rise, along with escalating budgetarypressures. The Society continues to engagewith federal and provincial governments andassociations in exploring these issues.

    New PresidentThis year will also bring a number ofimportant changes to STLHE. In June, welook forward to welcoming Joy Mighty fromQueen’s University as President. In supportof a smooth transition, Joy and I have beendiscussing what needs to be accomplishedover the next several months.

    IncorporationJoy together with Margaret Wilson of theUniversity of Alberta, have been workinghard on our articles of incorporation andhope to have this process concluded by theJune conference. One of the most importantaspects of becoming incorporated is theopportunity to reflect on how we arestructured and organized. As the work ofthe Society continues to grow in complexity,visibility and volume, we recognize, morethan ever, how essential it is to get this right.

    CommitteesWith this in mind, we are in the process ofexpanding one of our standing committees -Publications - as well as creating several newones. These committees will be essential inachieving the goals of the Society and will alsoprovide opportunities for STLHE memberswho want to get more directly involved in theSociety’s work.

    Call for Newsletter EditorOne immediate opportunity is on thePublications Committee. After three years atthe helm as Editor of our newsletter, Teachingand Learning in Higher Education, Erika Kustrais stepping down. Erika has done anabsolutely tremendous job, creating anentirely new look and level ofprofessionalism. Thank you, Erika, for all youhave achieved! We are currently seeking oneor two members who are interested in takingon this very important role. Given ourcommitment to bilingualism, ideally one ofthese individuals will be fully fluent in French.If you are interested please let us know.

    Regional RepresentativesHeartfelt thanks also go to Teresa Dawsonand Eileen Herteis whose terms as regionalrepresentatives concluded this past year.Teresa was instrumental in getting ourscholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL)initiative off the ground and hosting theNational Symposium on the SoTL at UTSC in2005. She was also one of the organizers oflast year’s STLHE conference at theUniversity of Toronto.

    Eileen played a masterful role as head of ourmembership portfolio. The tremendoussuccess of last year’s institutionalmembership campaign can be attributed inlarge measure to her efforts. Thank you,Teresa and Eileen!

    In their place, we are delighted to welcomeour two newest regional representatives -Nicola Simmons from Brock University,representing Ontario Central, and ShannonMurray from UPEI, representing NL, NB, andPEI. For those of you who participated in ourregional electronic elections over the pastseveral months, thank you so very much!

    Institutional Membership RenewalAnother important task that is currentlyunderway is our institutional membershiprenewal campaign. The work of the Societyis dependent on the volunteer efforts ofmany people, supported by our wonderfulAdministrative Coordinator Sylvia Riselay, andthe revenue generated throughmemberships. Without these funds, theSociety would not be nearly as effective inachieving its mandate. Please do inquire asto whether or not your institution is a(renewing) member, and if not, encourageyour senior administration to join.

    ConferenceFinally, to those of you who submittedproposals to STLHE’s June conference at theUniversity of Alberta in Edmonton and/or willbe hard at work vetting the proposals, thankyou so much for your efforts on the Society’sbehalf.

    Best wishes for a successful term!

    En français à la page 10

  • 12Number 45, Winter 2007













    Engaging Students Through Active Learning

    Recent Publications

    Forming Small Groups

    Council of National 3M Teaching Fellows

    Sharing Successful Learning Strategies Putting learning to use: Experiential Education Sharing food and thought: Course Redesign

    Piloting an Undergraduate Course-Based Peer Mentoring Program

    One Approach to Student Engagement: Strengthening the nexus between research, teaching and learning

    Creative Problem Solving: Review

    Learning through Inquiry: Review

    EDC Corner/La chronique du Réseau

    Message de la présidente

    President’s Report

    Temporary Building 13, Room 124