University of Calgary

Helping teachers to be their best

UToday HomeApril 15, 2013

By Sarah McGinnis

Department of Geoscience professor Leslie ReidDepartment of Geoscience professor Leslie Reid looks forward to having support for exploring new skills. “Faculty would have a place to go where somebody has thought about this, or who has a resource to help us move our teaching forward without us having to go it alone,” she says. Photos by Riley BrandtWhen Leslie Reid, who held the Tamaratt Teaching Professorship in Geoscience from 2007 to 2012, tried to free up time in her lectures for more collaboration with her students, she turned to podcasts to provide the background material they’d need to participate in class activities.

But sitting alone in her basement every Saturday morning, awkwardly talking at a blank computer screen, she realized translating her relaxed lecturing style into a digital form wasn’t going to be easy.

“This is something I could see the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning helping to support people with,” says Reid.

“Faculty would have a place to go where somebody has thought about this, or who has a resource to help us move our teaching forward without us having to go it alone,” she said.

The University of Calgary is launching the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning, in part, to better support faculty in becoming the best teachers they can be, says Dru Marshall, provost and vice-president (academic).

The new facility will offer a place where professors can find technology-rich learning spaces and investigate their own teaching styles with the best educational tools available anywhere in the world.

It will conduct ongoing research into teaching practices, and provide seminars, guest speakers and coaching to instructors in the Alberta post-secondary community and beyond. It will also act as a hub for faculty members from all disciplines to come together and figure out how best to engage their students.

The way students learn today is significantly different than they did 10, 20, and 30 years ago.

“Right now we have some excellent teachers, and pockets of excellence. This is really going to put a lens on how we teach students,” says Marshall.

“The Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning will offer a place professors can come in and experiment with their teaching. Once we have these leaders, we can translate lessons learned from their experiments to the rest of campus,” Marshall said.

Robert Kelly, associate professor in the Faculty of ArtsRobert Kelly, associate professor in the Faculty of Arts, sees the facility as a creative incubator for educators. “The Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning will serve as a living lab for creativity and innovation in educational practice,” he says.For Robert Kelly, associate professor in the Faculty of Arts, and editor of the recent book Educating for Creativity: A Global Conversation, having a physical space on campus dedicated to promoting teaching and learning excellence will serve as a creative incubator and generator for educators across the university and beyond.

“The Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning will serve as a living lab for creativity and innovation in educational practice. It will also serve as a source of creative energy across faculties, across disciplines, and across the entire university community,” says Kelly.

Reid is excited that the teaching questions that often plague instructors behind their office doors can come out into the public. Thanks to the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning, those who want to take their teaching to the next level no longer have to go it alone.

“Let’s be scientists about our teaching. Let’s think about teaching and learning from an evidence-based perspective, from a perspective of the practice of teaching,” says Reid.

“We want to help our faculty members develop their teaching skills over time. I’m talking about over a career, not three workshops. The institute is a place where faculty members can start to develop that expertise in teaching,” she said.

 

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