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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. 

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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? ​​


May 10
RED Forum Today!

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May 03
PD: The Corner Pieces of the Learning Puzzle

Sometimes the table is turned and the teacher gets to be the student. For most of us, that is professional development (PD): An opportunity to improve skills, grow our network, and gain confidence. PD is part of the puzzle hans-peter-gauster-252751-unsplash.jpg

At Red River College, a lot of professional development takes place in May: RED Forum takes place at the Notre Dame Campus next Friday, May 10th. We've been profiling sessions we are looking forward to in the past three editions of Faculty Fridays. The Prairie Region Great Teacher Seminar takes place the following week from May 13 to 16 at Elkhorn Resort in Riding Mountain National Park.

However, PD is not limited to formal seminars, conferences or gatherings, of course. In fact, we like to think of Faculty Fridays as a form of professional development, too. Any reading you do to help prepare for your classes contributes to your own professional development, as does learning through Lynda.com and training on teaching tools such as LEARN, etc. 

Teaching can be as rewarding as it is exhausting, so we think that any opportunity for PD is worth taking advantage of, as a way to recharge yourself while expanding your professional practice. PD is like the corner pieces of a puzzle: put those in place and it's easier to build the bigger picture.


Tell us about your own PD priorities or what sessions at RED Forum you're looking forward to attending. And speaking of RED Forum, please introduce yourself to us sometime during the day. We'd love to meet you face-to-face!

​CREDIT: Photo by Hans-Peter Gauster on Unsplash

Apr 26
Future Lesson Planning...

For me, the semester is winding down. I have some exams to grade and then marks are due next week.

It's time to start preparing for future terms. Book orders and course outlines are due. Collaboration with teaching colleagues is planned and spending time learning about industry updates is booked.

I'm also starting to thinking about the 'what' and 'how' of my future teaching. In other words, revisions to lesson plans.

When I really understood a solid lesson plan, I had more success in the classroom. And by success, I mean more teaching for learning.

When I first began, a lesson plan was some notes on the back of an envelope.

I've slightly evolved now. I use PPT to lay out my lesson plan by having slides as placemarkers for each component of the day's lesson, not just content. I keep extra paper in my binder with my instructional schedules so I can make notes of possible revisions for next time.

Several months ago, Oliver Oike who teaches in Graphic Design shared in Faculty Fridays how he works on his lesson planning: “For every Course Outline and Assignment that I write, I create a duplicate file for myself and call it "FileName-NEXT YEAR.doc." Whenever something comes to me throughout the semester, I open the file and make a note. This could be an adjustment to assignment criteria, wording that needs to be improved, ideas for new lessons, etc. I've found that this workflow smooths out the planning process for the following year."

Aubrey Doerksen, Cabinetry Instructor, shared in Faculty Fridays: “I keep my test keys and assignment rubrics, and I write on them in bright ink as I'm using them to highlight things that I can improve for the next time.

I know this is an area I could improve upon. That's why I'm looking forward to a session at RED Forum called Lesson Planning in a Digital World. It is led by Luis Reis and Shannon Derksen from Teacher Education. I'm particularly interested in how tools like LEARN, OneDrive and Planboard can help save me time and make lesson planning more effective. Join me!


How do you keep track of your lesson plans? How do you keep revisions for the future?

Apr 18
Falling in Love with Lynda

When the College launched Lynda.com for students, faculty and staff last fall, I was intrigued.

I was more intrigued as I read profiles in Staff News of those who had success learning with Lynda. I've also been regularly reading, What's Watson Watching". 

So, I decided to give it a try for my role as an Instructor.

I was looking for resources on a module in the Entrepreneurship course on project planning; and for mediation examples for the Conflict Resolution course that I teach.

The result? While I found interesting resources for my own equipping, I found it a challenge to find appropriate classroom resources for two reasons: 

  • Time Commitment – it takes time to preview videos and there is no guarantee of a successful find. Would my prep time be better spent on something with a guaranteed return I could use in the classroom?

  • Connection to Learning Outcomes – I don't want to use Lynda for “filler". It has to support existing learning outcomes. I had trouble with this piece too. Sometimes, even the terminology was so different that I thought it would be more of a distraction for students.  

I'm not a negative Nelly. And, I'm not giving up on Lynda.

It's why I'm particularly interested in a RED Forum session led by Jo-Anne Spencer, Senior Instructional Designer. The session, Active Blended Learning with Lynda.com will address some of these issues. Join me there!


Have you used Lynda.com in the classroom? Any best practices? Any challenges?​ Sign in above and join the conversation. 

Apr 12
The Challenge of Academic Integrity

The end of term is in sight for many instructors, but first there's that pile of final assignments to mark! And then there's that sinking feeling you get when you realize that you may have found 'academic misconduct' among the students' work.  

Whether it's copying between students, a lack of citations, incomplete references, or blatant copy-and-pasting of source material, it can all be considered academic misconduct. We preach against it. Teach how to avoid it. Hope the students don't do it. And yet, they do it.  

At RRC, we have a policy that lays out our commitment to a high standard of Academic Integrity. You can check it out here. While the policy also lays out the expectations on us as professionals, in our experience, sometimes the situation is a bit gray.

For example, Janine recently read a paper by a group of students. While the majority of the eight major sections were excellent, in two sections she found passages that were plagiarized. The students did include a list of references at the end of their submission, but they were not highly credible sources and there was little paraphrasing and no in-text citations. Janine chose to give the students zero on those sections. Then, she invited them in to meet with her so she could explain the significance of their error and ensure they know the expectations moving forward.

When we have encountered academic misconduct, our responses have ranged from disappointment to outrage to straightforward discipline. Taking it personally doesn't solve anything and following procedure takes both time and effort. So, we're wondering about your experience:

  • When you suspect academic misconduct, how do you respond?
  • How do you verify the misconduct?
  • What tools/techniques have worked for you? 
  • How do you deal with the students?

Please join the conversation to share your challenges and best practices. 

If you'd like to delve deeper into this topic, consider attending the session on Academic Integrity at RED Forum on May 10th. A panel will lead a discussion on this important subject.

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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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