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Updated: 28 min 50 sec ago

BC Campus Festival of Learning: key messages

Wed, 07/11/2018 - 01:00

Thank you to Stephanie Chu and the Teaching and Learning Commons for supporting my attendance at the recent BC Campus Festival of Learning.

BC Campus is becoming a teaching-learning support for BC ( I attended the first day key note, a session on creating an inclusive classroom, and a session on Open Education.


The keynote address was by Jesse Stommel ( of the University of Mary Washington, Virginia.

Jesse Stommel researches pedagogy: his research shows that only 12 percent of instructors report having teacher training, which makes it hard to teach effectively and compassionately. Instructors are assigned classes and enter into what he calls “the bureaucracy of learning” with norming of behaviour/scoring tests/neat metrics. Instructors don’t know how and/or don’t have time to listen to individual students.  In fact, instructors are “pitted against” students in the post-secondary system. He says to advocate for and show care and compassion for students. He states, “Rant up”. He means don’t blame students for the stressors of the education system. Instead, push issues up to senior leadership.

Jesse Stommels’s slides are here:

Workshop on Inclusion

In the workshop by David Geary and Ki Wight, Capilano University instructors, we practiced some ways to be more authentic ourselves as teachers in the classroom thereby encouraging and protecting diversity. We tried the Maori practice of introduction (state your mountain, river, tribe, song, ancestors before your name when introducing yourself) since David Geary is a Maori person originally from New Zealand. That way of introducing oneself was just an example of an inclusive classroom practice. (Ki Wight introduced herself as queer.) The message of the workshop was that we instructors can figure out ways to bring our own lives, culture, and so on into the classroom as a way of encouraging the students to do the same. (Many faculty at KPU already do this and I look forward to hearing more ideas.)

The workshop leaders shared this definition of “diversity”:

The concept of diversity encompasses acceptance and respect.
It means understanding that each individual is unique,
and recognizing our individual differences.  These can be along
the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs,
political beliefs, or other ideologies.  It is the exploration
of these differences in a safe, positive, and nurturing environment.
It is about understanding each other and moving beyond
simple tolerance to embracing and celebrating the
rich dimensions of diversity contained within each individual.

Our KPU policy on diversity is here:

Workshop on Open Education

For me, there was one memorable item which arose in the session on Open Education / Open Resources run by BC Campus. It seemed that teachers were concerned about student privacy. If we use open pedagogical tools such as getting students to write real, publicly available blogs, then we need to consider if students are compromising their privacy. We also need to consider what the impact is on students with disabilities of being out on social media as part of class projects. We could be encouraging students to be too exposed in public.

Upcoming External Conferences, Workshops and Events

Mon, 07/09/2018 - 09:15

July 12– An Innovative Approach to Universal Design Learning: Engaging All Learners (Live webcast)
Join this live webcast to learn how inclusive education practices remove barriers and engage students of all learning styles.
Free | Offered through Academic Impressions membership. Any KPU employee can create their own individual account.

Sept 17-21 – Creating & Using Rubrics Micro Course (Online)
Well-designed rubrics are very effective assessment tools. Create a rubric that will clarify course expectations, guide your learners, and assess their progress. Learn what goes into the process then do it.
Free | Info and registration at

Oct 1 – Nov 2 – Facilitating Learning Online (FLO) Fundamentals (Online)
Facilitating Learning Online (FLO) helps instructors develop and enhance the skills needed to effectively facilitate learning in online environments. This five-week course stresses the importance of mini-facilitation sessions to give instructors an opportunity to practice online facilitation techniques and receive feedback geared towards growth and improvement.
$250 | Info and registration at

Oct 22-28 – 2018 International Open Access Week.
This year’s theme is “Designing equitable foundations for open knowledge”
Details at

Oct 24 – Scholarly Teaching & Learning in Post-Secondary Education Symposium (SFU Vancouver)
The Symposium is an annual one-day event presented by the BCTLC and BCcampus that brings together speakers, presentations, discussions, and networking with colleagues who share an interest in scholarly teaching and learning in post-secondary education.
$95 | Registration is now open at

5 things I am taking away from the 2018 Festival of Learning

Tue, 07/03/2018 - 12:25

I had the pleasure of attending the Festival of Learning hosted by BC Campus at the end of May.

The theme of the conference was care in higher education—care of students; care of teachers; care in practice; care in technologies; and more—and the conference organizers did a fantastic job of embedding care into all aspects of the conference. There were quiet, reflective spaces and multiple yoga classes each day. There were walking tours led by volunteers. The food was the most delicious (and healthy) I’ve ever had at a conference. There were gender-inclusive washrooms and there was child care. On top of all that, the conference volunteers and staff were incredibly welcoming.

While I was inspired by all of the sessions I attended, here are the top five sessions (in no particular order) that resonated with me:

1. Jesse Stommel’s keynote presentation

If I were to describe Jesse Stommel’s opening presentation in one word, “wow” would be fitting.

Jesse talked about how teachers can centre their teaching around care and compassion for students. He explained that learning happens in tangents, diversions, and interruptions, and it is not a linear process. What students need are thoughtful, critical, and skillful teachers who centre the specific needs of students in their courses. In order to understand the needs of students, we as educators need to ask students—and listen to the answers! Jesse stated that this compassion and care are rooted in trusting students. Furthermore, he said that “fairness” is not an excuse for a lack of empathy. Students are not machines, and they are not interchangeable. Their needs are unique, and teachers need training, institutional support, and collegial support in order to effectively meet the needs of students.

Review Jesse’s slides >

Watch Jesse’s presentation >

Follow Jesse on Twitter >

2. Ki Wight and David Geary’s session on accessibility and diversity

From the interactive session by Ki Wight and David Geary, I took away two practices I will incorporate into my classes.

When thinking about course accessibility, it’s important to think beyond learning accommodations. Creating a document shared by the entire class and encouraging students to add their class notes throughout the term helps make the course content more accessible to everyone in the class, not just those who may require a notetaker. Any student who misses a class now has on-demand access to a collectively curated set of course notes.

Asking your students to provide examples and stories from their experiences that are relevant to the course material and then sharing/using these (with permission) in future classes is a great way to increase the diversity in the examples you use in class.

Follow Ki on Twitter >

Follow David on Twitter >

3. Student panel discussion

At the beginning of the second day of the conference, four incredible students participated in a panel discussion. One thing I took away from that moving conversation was that it can be a very, very fine line between surviving and thriving for students—and this is an important perspective to bear in mind.

4. Peter Arthur’s session on critical thinking

Critical thinking is a skill that takes continued practice to build. Self-reflection is another skill that also takes continued practice to move beyond the “grocery list” approach. Critical challenges, which are structured opportunities to help students develop interpretation, analysis, and evaluation skills, can be applied and adapted in many ways. From Peter’s session, I took away a critical challenge activity for developing critical thinking AND self-reflection skills and which I’m excited to try in my classes.

The critical challenge begins by asking students what makes a good reflection. The class collectively brainstorms and then clusters the criteria. Given a prompt, students then try writing a short self-reflection that uses the criteria the class curated [interpreting]. Students then exchange and peer assess their papers [analyzing] and discuss how they could make their response more powerful/better using the criteria [evaluating]. The activity concludes with students sharing what they learned from the activity.

Review Peter’s slides (including critical thinking questions to ask, more critical thinking activities, and rubrics) >

5. Monique Gray Smith’s keynote presentation

On the last day of the conference, Monique Gray Smith gave an inspiring presentation. Monique said that a teacher’s words can be medicine for students–or not. She explained it’s important to look for the gifts our students have and to name them because we, as teachers, can change trajectories. Her presentation was a good reminder about the emotional impact that teaching and learning can have on students (and instructors).

Follow Monique on Twitter >

Watch Monique’s presentation >


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