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Jun 08
Teaching Excellence & Next Steps

Eileen Oleski.jpgHere it is. Our 39th post. Our final Faculty Fridays post of the year.

Today we want to introduce you to Eileen Oleski. This week the RRC Students' Association named her the 2018 recipient of its annual coveted Teaching Award of Excellence.

Eileen is the coordinator of the Health Information Management program. Check out more about why she won on the RED Blog.

What an honour to be recognized by students for excellence in our craft – the craft of teaching for learning. Congratulations Eileen!


What is next for Faculty Fridays? The truth is we don't exactly know. We're still exploring options.

What we do know is we have loved the journey. We have met so many amazing colleagues. Colleagues inside the classroom and out who are committed to teaching for learning. We have learned from you and been inspired by you. We've had a ball along the way too.

We're going to enjoy a break over the summer. We'll assess what's next and circle back to you in the fall.

Our sincerest best wishes for a wonderful summer. May it be filled with friends, family and good health. And maybe, some reflection on how you are going to up your game next year.

Sincerely, Janine Carmichael & Amanda Le Rougetel

Jun 01
By the Numbers

Teaching Quote.jpgThank you to everyone who participated in our survey about Faculty Fridays. In today’s post, Amanda and I would like to share with you what we heard.

When we first got started on this initiative just over a year ago, we created a mission statement to guide our efforts: To celebrate and nurture good teaching by putting a face on teaching for learning at RRC. Sixty-eight per cent of respondents said the blog is very or somewhat effective at achieving that mission.

Fifty-seven per cent of respondents said they read the blog each week, while another 32 per cent said 2-3 times per month.

Most respondents first learned about the blog and accessed the blog via the teaser in Staff News.

Respondents liked the variety of posts with teaching tips leading the list.

Ninety-five per cent said it is very or somewhat important that the blog continues to be published.

There is also an appetite for more professional development opportunities to refine our craft as educators.

Together, Amanda and I published 37 posts. We did not miss a single week! We have profiled 27 Instructors, one program and five areas of Student Support Services. We showcased comments from four students and had guest posts from three senior leaders in our organization.  

We sincerely thank every person who was involved in the blog. Thank you to those who helped us on the technical side. Thank you to those who contributed content, or who allowed us to feature a best practice or accomplishment from your practice. Thank you to everyone who read a post, liked a post or commented on a post. And a special thank you to those who encouraged Amanda and I along the way too.

Together, we have indeed put a face – many faces – on teaching for learning at RRC!

Next week will be our final post for the year. Stay tuned!

May 18
Summer Reading Ideas

​It's almost summer! As we dream of long summer days, consider adding some reading related to teaching and learning to your plans. Here are a few possibilities:

Shop Class as Soul Craft.jpgShop Class as Soulcraft became an instant bestseller, attracting readers with its radical (and timely) reappraisal of the merits of skilled manual labor. On both economic and psychological grounds, author Matthew B. Crawford questions the educational imperative of turning everyone into a "knowledge worker," based on a misguided separation of thinking from doing. Using his own experience as an electrician and mechanic, Crawford presents a wonderfully articulated call for self-reliance and a moving reflection on how we can live concretely in an ever more abstract world.

Faculty Focus. Subscribe to a regular blog with new research and techniques for teaching effectively in higher education. Click on this link to subscribe. The blog is written largely by Maryellen Weimer. Amanda and I are huge fans of her work. Amanda even got to meet her at a conference years ago! If you like her blog, you may also be interested in her books:

Inspired College Teaching challenges teachers to be responsible for their professional growth and development as an ongoing, career-long quest. The book explores the journey and growth of college teachers, and provides goals best positioned for beginning, mid-career, and senior faculty as well as activities faculty can use to ignite intellectual curiosity from both students and themselves. This book presents a way for faculty to obtain and sustain teaching excellence throughout their career. Here's the link to the ebook from our RRC library.

Learner-Centered Teaching shows how to tie teaching and curriculum to the process and objectives of learning rather than to the content delivery alone. Here is the link to the resource from our RRC library. It's an oldie, but a goodie.

Four Tendancies.pngThe Four Tendencies During her investigation into understanding human nature, Gretchen Rubin realized that by asking the seemingly dry question "How do I respond to expectations?" we gain explosive self-knowledge. She discovered that based on their answer, people fit into Four Tendencies: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels. What are you? How do you see the Four Tendencies in your students?


Do you have a favorite book/article related to teaching and learning? Please sign in on the top right and share below in the comments sections.

On May 29, Amanda and I are meeting with Dr. Christine Watson, VP Academic to share the results of our questionnaire on the future of Faculty Fridays. If you have not done so already, please share your views here.

May 11
Your Teaching Wish List

No matter where you're at in your teaching year, we would like to provide a bit of inspiration for you to contemplate expanding your teaching-skills repertoire. Maybe an activity didn't quite work out in the shop the way you thought it would when you dreamt it up at your desk. Or maybe an assignment that seemed totally straight forward to you at your keyboard became a muddle of misunderstandings once it reached the students via LEARN.

Regardless, the summer months can offer a slower pace of professional responsibilities and, thus, a bit of time to reflect on something in your bag of teaching tricks that you'd like to improve for the next teaching term.

To kick start your own process, here are some contributions from a few colleagues who have already put on their thinking caps:

Jocelyne Olson.JPGJocelyne Olson, Technical Communication instructor, has assessments on her wish list: "My biggest thing right now is that I'd like to improve my informal formative assessments. I can do a decent worksheet and assignment, but I'd like to get better at the types of activities that allow me to see where students are at on a more informal (ungraded, low-stress, low-stakes) level. I'd like to use my tablet and phone more to do effective in-the-class informal assessments." 

Roberta Mack.jpgRoberta Mack, Medical Laboratory instructor, would like to find more time in her day! "I'd like to figure out a way to streamline my marking and change my assessment methods, so as to free up time for me and my other teaching-related work. I'd like to devise ways to give participation marks for active class and lab discussion, for example. I need more time to prep for my classes and I want to spend less time passively grading students' work." 

Cordt Euler.JPGFor Cordt Euler, Technical Communication instructor, it's not so much a radical change he's looking for as it is finding new ways to tie classroom learning to real-world work: "I'd like to improve in motivating students to engage more with what I'm teaching, so I'd like to get better at encouraging them to see the relevance of what they're learning in my classes."  


Do you have a wish list of your own or maybe some tips for these colleagues? Please share! Sign in (top right corner) and post a comment below. Thanks!

May 04
RED Forum - Sesssions on Teaching & Learning

By Arnold Boldt, O.C. - Executive Director, Academic

RED Forum is almost here! I'm looking forward to it. Are you? It's our third annual day focused on Relationships, Education and Direction.

Arnold Boldt.jpgI hope the day provides a healthy dose of information, networking and inspiration for your important role. You will find that in any of the terrific sessions that colleagues are working hard to prepare. Today, though, I would like to share a few specific sessions under our Strategic Theme of Elevating Student Success. Consider adding one or two of these to your day.   

Faculty Scattergories – Ever wish you had more time to talk to your teaching colleagues about teaching? This session is for you.

Embracing Direct Digital Access – What is Direct Digital Access? And how can you use it in your classroom to support students? Come learn more.

Creative Leadership – How creative do you feel? When and where are you most creative? How can you use creativity? Learn a variety of tools and techniques that will engage your senses and enhance your creativity toolbox. Come prepared to have fun!

Academic Transformation – Senior college leaders will share about the Academic Transformation taking place at RRC - the single largest structural organizational change in the College's history.

20/20: Educators' Insights – Experience the impact of the dynamic PechaKucha method. Consider this the death of "death by PPT."


For more details on all RED Forum sessions, click here. Look forward to seeing you there!

Apr 27
Diversity in the Classroom

The research is clear. Diversity makes us stronger[1]. When we work with colleagues and students who bring diversity through race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and more, we are rewarded with improved creativity and innovation.

Taiwo Soetan, Instructor in Business Administration, knows this first hand and uses it to his advantage in his classroom.

"There are differences between and amongst students in the classroom on the one hand," he says, "and there are also differences between students and their instructors. I sometimes openly acknowledge the diversity in the room to allay the fears and concerns that are natural for us to have, but often I only ensure that I'm aware of it and teach with that diversity in mind," he says.

Tai teaches a lot of international students, from a wide variety of home countries. He begins his courses by asking students to introduce themselves and talk about their background and country of origin. He then teaches with this information in mind. For example, in his Economics classes, Tai ensures that he knows "about the macroeconomic system of these students' countries, including the type of political system and, if a democratic system, whether they practice parliamentary style, as we do in Canada and they do in India, or presidential, as they do in the U.S and Nigeria."

Tai confesses that "it's not always a smooth road, but by openly acknowledging the diversity in the classroom, I can create a safer space for the challenges and benefits of difference to be experienced.  And students tell me that group work in my courses provides them a medium of interaction and communication through which they learn beyond the strict learning objectives of the course."

Tai will be diving deeper into this topic at RED Forum on May 25th. Our post next week will give you an overview of other interesting sessions scheduled that day. 

[1] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-diversity-makes-us-smarter/


How do you use the diversity in your classroom, lab or shop to advantage in your teaching? We'd love to hear from you: Sign in (top right corner), then post a comment as part of the conversation. Thanks!

Apr 20
Final Grades: To Bump or Not to Bump?

Janine and I were talking recently about end-of-term duties, and we started discussing how we assign final grades. It didn't take long for the thorny question of bumping up marks arose. I said yes, and Janine said no. In this week's post, we each lay out our best arguments. To bump or not to bump.pngWhere are you on this issue? Have we missed some important considerations?

I dislike entering final grades. It's the least fulfilling part of my job. I work with these students all semester and in the end, it comes down to just a letter. I'm jealous of my friends who teach in the school system and can, at least, add comments. I want to say so much more than a letter as students leave my class. And then there is the inevitable case of the student whose final grade is 74.4, for example. Should I round up to 75? In my personal practice, I don't do it. I ask Excel to round to the nearest whole number and then the grade is the grade.

I do this for a couple of reasons. First, while I am a slow marker I am a very thorough marker. Every student receives meaningful and defensible feedback on everything they hand in. So, I feel pretty confident in the marks throughout the term. Second, I fundamentally think that marks should be earned, not given. Third, it's a slippery slope. If you could make a case to bump up 74.4 to a B+, what about 74.3? What about 74.2? Is that also "close enough"? Finally, those of us who have completed our CAE probably enjoyed some robust discussion about the college phenomenon of "grade inflation". It's a real issue. The final bumping of marks contributes further to this challenge.

In my early days, I agonized over assigning marks to students' work; I found it uncomfortable to 'judge' their efforts. Fortunately, over the years, I've come to terms with this important part of my responsibility. I teach communication skills, and the assessing of students' ability and learning in this field is equal part art and science. Sure, some assignments are obviously right or wrong. But frequently, my own judgment comes into play – for example when assessing oral presentations: Was their body language worth 8 or 9 points out of 10?  When assessing written assignments: Is the grasp of grammar and punctuation at a 3/5 or a 3.5/5 value? 

My approach to marking throughout the term tends to be more holistic than atomistic; in other words, I don't deduct a 1/4 mark for this or that here and there. I believe my approach is fair and accurate in relation to the learning outcomes associated with communication skills. That is why, at the end of term, I can find myself adjusting a student's mark upward to put them at the next letter grade: I ​round up at X.5 or higher and round down at X.4 or lower. But, in addition to that, I am not opposed to bumping up further.

I have moved at least one student to an A+ whose mark was a very high A but not within that 0.5 margin. I did so because of the overall quality of the term-long work. My rationale is that any one assignment that got a (relatively speaking) lower grade was an exception; that one assignment caused the student to land on a very solid A but robbed them of an A+. Because the overall quality of the work achieved throughout the term was at an A+ standard, I feel my approach is defensible.


Next month Janine and I are meeting with Dr. Christine Watson, VP Academic, to share the results of our survey on the future of Faculty Fridays. If you haven't already done so, would you please complete this short questionnaire?

Apr 13
BRAVO! For Teaching Excellence

Did you happen to catch Paul's email a few weeks ago announcing this year's BRAVO Award winners?

The BRAVO Awards are the highest level of peer-nominated recognition at RRC. Our sincere congratulations to all 2018 winners. Today, we'd like to introduce you to the winners of the Award for Teaching Excellence – Blanche Kingdon and Roger Fitch.

Blanche Kingdon.jpgBlanche Kingdon is an Instructor at the Language Training Centre. Her career at the college has focused on English as a Second Language (ESL) – particularly for internationally-educated professionals. Blanche says, "It has been a privilege to interact and facilitate learning for students who have taken substantial risk and shown great courage to immigrate and settle in Canada. I have admired their determination to embrace change and undertake the necessary preparatory steps to be able to enter their professions in Canada."

Blanche says that the key to her success in the classroom is the use of self-assessment and self-reflection as an instructor:  "It has been instrumental in helping me to maintain perspective as an educator in a changing world and also helped me to garner insight for developing and facilitating classes and programs relevant to student goals for entering the workplace."

Roger Fitch.JPGRoger Fitch is an Instructor in the School of Continuing Education, who is guided by the following principles in his teaching:

  • Remember what it was like to be a student, and design engaging classes that would have resonated with that younger self
  • Make the material as easy and relevant as possible for the students
  • Incorporate humour whenever possible

Roger and Blanche – on behalf of your teaching colleagues, congratulations on this well-deserved recognition!


Next month Amanda and I are meeting with Dr. Christine Watson, VP Academic to share the results of our survey on the future of Faculty Fridays. If you haven't already done so, would you please complete this short questionnaire?

Apr 06
Crowdsourcing Solutions to Classroom Challenge – Part 2

Did you happen to catch last week's Faculty Fridays post? We crowdsourced some excellent suggestions for how to reinvigorate in-class discussions. Amanda and I felt so inspired, we decided to park our planned post for this week and crowdsource another one.

Here is a constant challenge in my classroom: effectively facilitating group work.

  • Do you assign the groups or do you let students make up the groups? Why?
  • If you assign the groups, what criteria are important to you? If you let students make the groups, what type of advice do you provide to choose well?
  • How much do you intercede to sort out group conflict? Do you teach preventative techniques to decrease the amount of conflict? Do you require that students assign each other marks for their participation in the group?
  • Or do you never use groups in your teaching? If so, why not?

I sincerely welcome your suggestions. Please click "sign in" on the top right, and then offer your suggestions through the comment box below the post.


Next week we'll meet the 2018 recipients of the 2018 BRAVO Award for Teaching Excellence – Roger Fitch and Blanche Kingdon. Stay tuned!

Also, if you haven't done so already, please complete our short questionnaire on the future of Faculty Fridays. It will take no more than five minutes. Thank you in advance!

Mar 29
Crowdsourcing Solutions to Classroom Challenge

Since Faculty Fridays began last fall, Amanda and I have had a weekly call. Each Tuesday we touch base to edit draft posts, discuss future posts, and so on. 

Recently Amanda also shared a classroom challenge. She's concerned about the quality of classroom discussions she is able to generate. She feels the discussions are falling flat and she's finding it difficult to engage students in more than a few basic contributions. She was curious if her skills as a facilitator could use a little tune up.

That got us thinking - why not crowd source some options through this week's blog?

So, today's post is a little different. What suggestions do you have for how Amanda could engage students in more meaningful and sustained classroom discussions? I have the same challenge so I can't wait to see the collective perspective of our readers. Please click "sign in" on the top right, and then offer your suggestions through the comment box below the post.


Do you have a classroom challenge that you'd like advice on? Please share below or email us directly at alerougetel@rrc.ca or jacarmichael@rrc.ca.  

Also, if you haven't done so already, please complete our short questionnaire on the future of Faculty Fridays. It will take no more than five minutes. Thank you in advance!

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Faculty Fridays is a blog to celebrate and nurture good teaching. Together, we'll put a face on teaching for learning at RRC. ​

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