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Sep 20
Forming Formative Assessment

Last week we profiled Robert Funk - Construction Electrician Instructor and this year's recipient of the Mervin Maxwell Award.

One of the key improvements that Robert identified in his evolving teaching practice is the use of more formative assessment.

Formative assessment is ongoing feedback to the student about progress and to the teacher about the effectiveness of instruction. It is no/low marks, low stakes, and should take place all throughout a lesson.

Consider formative assessment in contrast to summative in this table:

Formative Assessment

Summative Assessment

Assessment FOR LearningAssessment OF Learning
“A Moving Picture"“A Snapshot in Time"
Essential Question: How can I help my students learn more?Essential Question: What have my students learned already?
Purpose: To improve learningPurpose: To prove learning

Essentially we want to be asking ourselves: How will my students and I know if they are taking in new knowledge and skills? How will I give feedback as they practice?

Good questioning is an excellent place to start. Here are a few tools and techniques that I have used to help give feedback to students and gather it for myself: 

How do you incorporate formative assessment into your lessons? Click on the “sign in" button on the top right of the screen. Enter your RRC credentials and then share a comment. Join the conversation!

Sep 13
Award Lights Up Life-long Learner

Robert Funk.jpgRobert Funk, Construction Electrician Instructor, is this year's recipient of RRC's Mervin Maxwell Award. He earned this recognition for completing the Certificate in Adult Education (CAE)  program in a manner that demonstrates a commitment to life-long learning and professional development, and that supports the distinctive ideals of adult learning.

This award was established in February 2009 to honour the memory of Mervin Maxwell, a dedicated long-term Instructor and the first Coordinator in the CAE program at Red River College. 

Mervin was a well-respected adult educator who spent his career educating teachers. His passion for his work stemmed from the belief that knowledge and skills related to teaching and learning are as equally important as subject area expertise.

I asked Rob about the impact the CAE had on his development as a professional educator. Rob pointed to three key changes:

  • “I use more formative assessment now. Regular, low stakes assessment gives students feedback on their progress, and cues to me on the effectiveness of my teaching. This allows me to adjust as necessary.
  • I'm more responsive to the learning needs of the students in my class. I consider their varied needs, backgrounds, learning styles and ensure I plan accordingly.
  • I'm more reflective. I constantly re-evaluate my teaching methods to see how I can better meet the needs of my students".

Well said, Rob. Congratulations!


Please join us in congratulating Rob on this recognition. Click on the “sign in" button at the top right, enter your RRC credentials, and join the conversation. What positive impact has the CAE had on your development as a professional educator?

Photo: Robert Funk (center) with Kurt Proctor, Chair of Teacher Education and Judy McGuirk, CAE Program Coordinator.

Sep 06
Learning & Using Students' Names

In June, Amanda Le Rougetel and I attended and presented at the Teaching Professor Conference in New Orleans.

I attended a session on Universal Design for Learning (UDL) that was presented by Chris Lanterman from Northern Arizona University. As each participant entered the room, he asked us to share our name and, when I said “Janine", he replied, “Oh right, you're from Canada. Welcome." I was surprised that he knew something about me, and I thought I was an anomaly. However, he then proceeded to greet each participant with something specific about where they were from or what subject they taught.  

Chris Lanterman is blind, so he was working entirely from memory.

I was so impressed by the effort he invested in creating an inclusive learning environment for each participant. Greeting each of us as he did made us feel welcome and it helped build a collegial atmosphere from the very start.

For many Instructors it's the start of a new term. An essential part of our job is to build relationships with and among our students. And for that, we must know their names.

What are your best practices for learning and using students' names? Sign in above and join the conversation.

Aug 30
Support for New Faculty

When I first started teaching at RRC, I was completely new to the teaching world: I didn't know how to write a lesson plan, I had never heard of the word 'rubric', and had not considered how significant instructor-student relationships were to student achievement, nor did I understand the range of student learning needs. 

This all changed when I participated in RRC's first-ever Teaching Essentials Program (TEP). 

TEP is a 3-day program designed to equip new faculty to be confident, well prepared and comfortable in their new role as an Instructor. It certainly helped me get my first term off to a good start.  

Fast forward six years and, over the summer, I accepted a position in RRC's Teacher Education department, which delivers TEP. I'm so excited to be working with faculty, particularly new faculty, as we seek to build our teaching for learning culture at the college. 

IMG_1087 (1) - TEP August.jpgSo, in this week's post, I'm inviting you to meet the August 2019 TEP group! 

Together with Judy McGuirk and Robert Cordingley, I spent three days with these new colleagues last week facilitating activities to support their success in three areas:

  1. Assisting in the transition from industry or business to Instructor.  
  2. Providing opportunities to be socialized into the college and become familiar with the procedures and policies that impact college, program and classroom cultures.
  3. Assisting in the development of skills related to teaching adults.

Would you join me in welcoming these – and all – new colleagues to RRC? What advice would you share with our brand-new teaching peers? Sign in above and comment below. 

​If you're a new instructor at RRC and interested in benefiting from TEP, another offering will take place in December. Contact me for more information.​

Aug 23
Welcome Back to the New Teaching Year!

diting Tools group. Tab 3 of 3.

welcome back.jpegWelcome Back!

We hope your summer was what you wanted and needed — maybe some downtime, some outdoor fun, some extra time with family and friends, maybe even some personal reflection time.

We're delighted to be back for our third year writing Faculty Fridays. Our goal with Faculty Fridays is to celebrate and nurture good teaching at RRC. Good teaching, as we define it, is teaching for learning. If you're new to our blog, take a few moments to check out the content from the past two years. We're confident you'll find a healthy dose of inspiration and ideas to support good teaching.

As Instructors we set the classroom and learning climate. For your first day, consider some of these questions:

  • How will you build relationships with your students and among your students?
  • How will you introduce the course, expectations and procedures?
  • What will you do to help motivate your students to learn your subject? 

Sign in above and share some of your plans. Here's to a great year of teaching for learning!


Amanda and Janine

Jun 14
Reflections on Another Year of Teaching for Learning

I'm currently coaching both of my daughters' soccer teams: one team is 7- and 8-year-old girls; the other is 5- and 6-year-old girls and boys. For the younger team, the children are playing soccer and chasing butterflies and watching planes and picking dandelions. Think of my role as herding cats.

But, I love it! The interesting thing about coaching this age is that I can't do it effectively from the side line. I have to participate. I have to demonstrate and model each skill and drill; I have to run with the kids when we play the game. And, that's how I develop relationships with the kids.

The same is true in the classroom. The same is true of this blog.

For the past week we have been privileged to share some lessons learned from this blog at two conferences. However, we are ever mindful that this blog would have little impact without you – those who read it, think about it, discuss it, and comment on it. Some, we hope, even try out the shared practices.

So, here is just a sample of things we've learned from our colleagues this year:

Thank you for another year of teaching for learning. Have a wonderful summer! We'll see you again on Friday, August 23rd.

Sincerely, Janine and Amanda

Jun 07
Greetings and Congratulations from New Orleans!

Amanda and I arrived safely in New Orleans last night (amid a flooding advisory and a tornado watch)! We are looking forward to presenting on Sunday morning at the Teaching Professor Conference about our blog, Faculty Fridays.

When we began this blog two years ago we envisioned a community of Instructors helping each other become better Instructors. Our specific mission was to celebrate and nurture good teaching – which we define as teaching for learning.

So, let's do some celebrating!

Cathy Skene.jpgWe're thrilled to highlight the recipient of the 2019 Red River College Students' Association Teaching Award of Excellence.

Congratulations to Cathy Skene! Read more about why her students nominated her for this prestigious award here.

I particularly appreciated this reminder from Cathy: “As adult learners, they (our students) bring a great deal of knowledge with them. It's necessary to acknowledge and incorporate what they already know. We all learn from one another."

As I prepare for the fall, what a great reminder of my role as Instructor and learner. Thanks Cathy.


Sign in above and join us in congratulating Cathy!

May 31
Upping Our Game this Fall

​I'm already looking forward to teaching one of my courses in the fall, which focuses on the theory and strategy of human communication. I always enjoy seeing the development of the students' understanding as it relates to this core academic and career skill. What I don't enjoy so much is the mode of teaching I've come to rely on in this course — lectures and in-class activities.Fall planning.jpg

Therefore, my teaching wish list for this fall includes discovery learning and project-based learning: 

  • Discovery learning requires that I set out the framework within which the students will explore the topic or question that I've set. They will, to a large extent, be the drivers of their learning through active investigation and collaboration with their peers. 
  • Project-based learning can be planned to span the entire term, giving the students a chance to gain and implement knowledge, while developing and practicing skills tied to longer-term study of a central question or problem. 

My ideas are still in the early-forming stage, but I'm keen to work my way towards a more hands-on and self-driven learning experience for students in this course. Even if I succeed on only one front or even on a portion of one front, I will be making progress towards being less 'sage on the stage' and more 'guide on the side'. 

What about you? What are you looking forward to in your fall teaching? How are you going to up your game? 

Photo by Luke Porter on Unsplash


Sign in above, then join the conversation by commenting below.

May 24
Building a Classroom Community

Last week I had a special joy: I met a colleague who is a regular commenter in Faculty Fridays. We had never met in person, but as soon as I heard her name, I knew just who she was. 

Her name is Sherry Seymour. She teaches at the Language Training Centre. 

And, she shared a lovely technique for building a classroom community - one where each student plays an important part. Class Names.jpg

When preparing a test or a quiz, she occasionally ensures that each students' name in the class is found in the assessment. For example, if there is a question like, “Johnny is heading to Mexico for Reading Week. Which word is the verb in the previous sentence?" Sherry replaces Johnny with the actual name of a student in the class. Brilliant.

Imagine how fun for students to find their name in the assessment. Just one important tip – make sure that you do it for each student. 

Thanks for sharing this tip, Sherry. I'll definitely give it a try. 

Do you have any techniques for building a classroom community? Sign in above and then post a comment.

May 17
Summer Reading Plans

Summer time means reading time for me – in long stretches, when I want to rather than just when I’m on the bus or almost falling asleep at the end of the day. This summer, I’m looking forward to reading a few new books, and also revisiting a couple of tried and true good ones.

I plan to read one textbook; it’s a new edition of the core text I use in my teaching of communication principles, strategies and skills in a variety of courses. This 4th edition of Understanding Human Communication includes chapters on persuasion, leadership and power, and on social media use – areas I am always keen to read about. 

Amandas text summer.jpg

The rest of my reading plans are for personal pleasure, but they’ll boost my professional performance in specific ways:

Summer reading two.jpg

Ruth Reichl is a favourite food writer of mine. Her latest book tells the story of her time at Gourmet magazine and how she met the challenges of significant changes in the magazine industry, generally, and at Gourmet, specifically. I’m always up for stories about surviving change!

Papergirl is a fictionalized account of the 1919 General Strike in Winnipeg, as seen through the eyes of a young girl. I love learning about history from accessible sources, and this book promises to do that about the strike, which marks its 100th anniversary this year. Learning how people came together to effect social change is inspiring to me.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is an oldie and a goodie. The protagonist is a fierce and fearless woman, and I always need reminders of how to be that in this world.

Finally, I’ll continue to work my way through All the President’s Men, another oldie and goodie. I shook Carl Bernstein’s hand at a journalism conference a few years back and had him sign this book, so I really enjoy spending time with this edition. And the story of Woodward and Bernstein is inspiring for their persistence in unearthing the truth – a good reminder to me that some objectives take time, a lot of time, to achieve. 


What will you be reading this summer? Or what will you be listening to this summer? Any favorite podcasts? ​​


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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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