University of Calgary

Science profs share best practices in teaching

UToday HomeApril 5, 2013

Heather Addy from the Department of Biological SciencesHeather Addy from the Department of Biological Sciences hosted some 30 Faculty of Science professors and instructors for a Teaching and Learning forum, Strategies for Effective Feedback. Photo by Marie-Helene ThibeaultTeaching is both an art and a science in the eyes of some of the brightest scientific minds teaching at our university.

“As a student, I lived through a broad spectrum of learning experiences: both the exhilaration of performing well, and also the devastation performing poorly,” said Wendy Benoit, an instructor for the Department of Chemistry. “I try to remember all these highs and lows of student life when interacting with classes, especially large ones of 200-300 students,” she added.

To create an opportunity for faculty members to exchange and share ideas about teaching and learning, the Faculty of Science launched the Science Teaching Forum in January 2013. Held monthly, the program offers an engaging environment where ideas and best practices are discussed.

“We want to see the Science Teaching Forum build a community of instructors who are enthusiastic about teaching science scientifically; open to questioning and critique and constantly searching for empirically established principles to improve student learning,” explained Robert Edwards, senior instructor from the Department of Biological Sciences, who leads the initiative with Benoit.

On March 27, Heather Addy, a senior instructor from the Department of Biological Sciences, spearheaded this year’s third forum. Themed Strategies for Effective Feedback, Addy’s presentation focused on her experiences giving and receiving student feedback and offered participants a chance to discuss successful strategies adopted in their own classrooms.

“To ensure our students learn what we want them to, practice and feedback need to be interrelated and framed in the context of the goals we’ve set for a given course,” explained Addy, who received Faculty of Science Excellence in Teaching Awards in 2005, 2008, and 2009.

Among some of the ideas shared at the session were techniques used by instructors to assess students’ prior knowledge and progress on their learning.

“The topic was great and it was particularly useful for me to learn from and exchange with my colleagues on feedback giving,” said Rudi Meyer, a first-time forum attender from the Department of Geoscience.

Past Forums topics included Teaching Science Scientifically and Higher Order Thinking Skills. Upcoming presentations set for spring include Intended Graduate Attributes for Science Majors and Conducting Science Education Research.

For more information on the Teaching and Learning initiative, visit:


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