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Feb 21
Using Video Content to Improve Teaching Effectiveness

Meet Rob Masi and Mariela Soifer. Rob Masi is a Coordinator in Carpentry and Woodworking Programs. Mariela is an Instructor in the Medical Laboratory Sciences Program.

They are both using video to support teaching effectiveness.

Rob Masi-rotated.jpgWhen teaching the safe procedures for using shop equipment, Rob used to gather the students around and demonstrate. The challenge was that if a student was missing that day, or distracted by the noise of other groups of students using the shop, they missed the demonstration.

Instead, he created short videos demonstrating how to use the equipment safely. He posted the videos on LEARN and required students to review them prior to being able to work in the shop. Using the metrics in LEARN he could confirm who had watched the videos.

Rob added: “An unexpected outcome: Many students watched the videos several times to become more confident. When I only demonstrated during class, this was not an option."

Mariela.jpgIn Mariela's medical laboratory courses, her ability to demonstrate key techniques is limited by the supply/cost of materials for labs. She too created videos so students could watch (and rewatch!) the techniques. This was particularly helpful when she was working as a clinical instructor.

Mariela added: “I actually got the idea from Colin Phillipot in Veterinary Technology during a CAE course we took together. It was pretty simple. I simply used my smartphone to create the videos and then posted to LEARN."

I'm currently teaching an exclusively online course and I'm trying to use videos to help develop my Instructor presence with my students. I want them to know there is a real person on the other side of the computer that is interested in them and their success.

Is video content something you could use in your courses? Click “sign in" on the top right, enter your RRC credentials and join the conversation.

Feb 14
Using Padlet to Collaborate

Michelle Lodewyks.jpgI recently learned of a new tool from RRC Instructor, Michelle Lodewyks. She's an Instructor in the Disability and Community Support Program.

She learned about it from Colleen Isfeld, who learned about it from a CAE Instructor, Eva Brown. I thought you might like it in your teaching toolbox, too.

The tool is called Padlet. It's a free tool for online collaboration.

Michelle uses it in a few different ways. If her class is preparing for a guest speaker, she may open a Padlet for students to share questions they would like to ask. Michelle then saves and shares the questions with her speaker in advance of the presentation. Or, if students have returned from visiting a community organization, she may open a Padlet for students to share a highlight or discuss their learning.

Michelle noted a few significant benefits for students and herself: “One of the features that is most helpful is that students and I can see all the comments at one glance. This makes collaboration more efficient. I can also save the completed Padlet as a PDF or image, which makes it easier to share and store."

I created a sample Padlet to show you what it looks like. Click on this link. To enter a comment, double click anywhere on the screen, or click the plus sign on the bottom right.

I'm currently teaching a course where half the students are with me at NDC, and the other half join via WebEx from the Roblin Centre. I used a Padlet this week for small group discussions so all groups could share their brainstorming in real time. 

I'm also considering how I could use a Padlet in my exclusively online course. I'm thinking I could use it for students to ask questions about an upcoming assignment.

Thanks for sharing, Michelle!

Click the sign in button on the top right, enter your RRC credentials, and join the conversation. Are you using any new tools in your teaching practice?

Feb 07
How Does a Group Become a Team?

As a student, I wasn't necessarily keen to work in a group with my peers, especially when the group was assigned by the teacher. It was always a risky undertaking and often an uncomfortable experience, if ​​my group mates' work style and work ethic did not match my own.  groups and teams (2).jpg

As an instructor, I certainly assign group work, but I do so with open eyes and a clear understanding of just how fraught the experience can be. Sure, my instructions are clear. The rubric is explicit. But still: It's not always successful, enjoyable or productive for the students.

I want to do group work in my classes better, so I'm here today crowdsourcing your answers to these three questions:

  • What are the building blocks for successful group work in your courses?
  • Do you actively teach group work dynamics, roles, responsibilities, etc.?
  • How do you encourage groups to become teams?  

I'm eager to hear from you, so please sign in above and then join the conversation below. Thanks! 

Photo by Perry Grone on Unsplash

Jan 31
What Makes a Good Instructor? Part 2

Thank you to everyone who contributed to our 100th post conversation last week. It was, by far, the most comments we have ever received to a post.

100 Post Word Bubble.jpgIf we were to paint a portrait of an effective instructor based on the comments contributed, the painting would show an individual brimming with energy and enthusiasm, filled with kindness and compassion, and demonstrating the willingness to engage with students as partners in the teaching and learning process.

We find this portrait inspiring!

Not a single comment focused on the subject matter expertise that we know underlies confident teaching; that is simply the base requirement for entry into the world of teaching. And this makes perfect sense to us: Teaching is not telling. It is about engaging with our students and collaborating with them to create meaning out of information and experiences in our classes.

The comments also demonstrate the significance of community in nurturing, supporting and celebrating good teaching. We are pleased to be a part of that community.

Keep it up, all!

Jan 24
What Makes a Good Instructor?

100.pngToday is a special day for Faculty Fridays: We've hit our 100th post and we want to mark the occasion with lots of conversation - with at least 100 comments, to be precise!

We have a simple (or is it complex?) question to spark the conversation: What is one thing that good instructors do to teach for learning?

We'll prime the pump with our two responses.

Now it's your turn. Click “sign in" on the top right, enter your RRC credentials and then comment below.

Duplicates are welcome.

Thanks for helping make Faculty Fridays a weekly touchpoint about teaching for learning at Red River College! 

Jan 17
Rock-solid Instructor Wins Award

Congratulations to Brian Gebhardt, RRC masonry instructor, for being named Instructor of the Year by Apprenticeship Manitoba. He received the award at a gala dinner in early December. Brian Gebhardt close up view.jpg

Brian has been teaching the skill of masonry to students at RRC for 30 years – and he still loves what he does. For him, it’s all about the students. 

“It gives me a great deal of satisfaction to take a ‘never before mason’, and give them the skills they need to be an accomplished, competent mason,” he says. “I have many students who have moved from apprentice to journeyperson, some to foreman, to supervisor, and some to masonry business owner.” Many of his students have also won awards at Skills Canada and at World Skills events: “I’m often told that Canadian masons can’t compete with Europeans, but yes we can!” he says.

Brian attributes his success in life to two opportunities that he was given. The first “is having someone believe in me to give me a bricklayer apprenticeship, and the second is that 30 years ago four people at RRC gave me the chance to be the masonry instructor at the College.” He has clearly never looked back – and his students are the fortunate beneficiaries of his skill and dedication.

Way to go, Brian! Your award is well deserved recognition. Thank you for the reminder that the important work of teaching is all about students.

To read more about Brian and his career, follow this link to the story posted on the RRC website: https://www.rrc.ca/news/2019/12/09/masonry-master-named-apprenticeship-manitobas-instructor-of-the-year/


Jan 10
What’s Your Plus One? Inspiration for 2020

Happy New Year! As we enter a New Year of possibilities, we want to inspire you with today's post to step into the influence we have in our role as instructors.

We invite you to kick start your teaching year by watching a video. It's a TED Talk by Aimee Mullins, an athlete, actress and model whose lower legs had to be amputated. In this TED Talk, Aimee reframes the word “disability" into “diversity". The full video is worth a watch, but if you're short on time, fast forward to the 17-minute mark for a direct connection to education and instructors.


When Amanda and I watched this video, we were reminded of a favorite quote about teaching from our own Teresa Menzies: “We don't teach subjects; we teach students," she says. And she is so right. Those faces in front of us in the classroom or the shop or behind the screen in an online course? Each one represents an individual who brings their own life experiences to their learning.

Let's embrace that diversity and strive for inclusive learning environments for all our students this year.

One way to do this is to adopt a “plus one" approach to your teaching practice. In other words, what is one additional thing you could do every time you teach a course to strengthen your inclusion practices? For example, you could:

  • Revisit your videos to ensure they all have closed captioning
  • Become more familiar with Student Supports at the College to be able to refer students more appropriately for the assistance they need to succeed
  • Provide more variety in your instructional techniques to better serve different learning preferences

The options are endless, but adopting a “plus one" attitude makes improving the inclusiveness of our teaching more manageable.


Sign in above, enter your RRC credentials, and join the conversation by sharing your “plus one". How do you commit to being more inclusive in your teaching for learning in 2020?

Dec 13
'Twas the Weeks Before Christmas

'Twas the weeks before Christmas and all through the school

With grading and planning I was losing my cool


Students' final assignments show that some don't want to work

But giving low grades makes me feel like a jerk


I'm tired and cranky - the students have it coming

But I stop and think, what a scrooge I'm becoming


I focus on my work and try to be wise

So I can enjoy the last few weeks with these guys


But good teaching is hard, I remind myself still

It takes relationships, reflection, and loads of skill


Instructors need support - that's where Faculty Fridays come in

Because in the classroom we all want a win


Together we share, debate and discuss

Teaching best practices for all of us


We're focused on students and all that they need

So eventually our students will take the lead


Thanks for your contribution to teaching and learning

You're keeping the fire of skill and knowledge transfer burning


We wish you the happiest and merriest of holidays

From Janine and Amanda of Faculty Fridays


Enjoy your time off and spread some good cheer

In the New Year Faculty Fridays will again reappear


Adapted from: The Nerdy Teacher Blog, Amy Oelschlager

Dec 06
Death, Taxes and Marking

It's been said that the only constant in life is death and taxes. As Instructors, we might add marking to the list!

Carolyn Schmidt - Color.jpgWith many Instructors facing end of term marking, today we wanted to share an innovation from RRC Instructor Carolyn Schmidt that might help. Carolyn teaches Professional Development in Applied Computer Education.

With larger class sizes and many international students, she was struggling with the time required to mark a particular assignment that required students to demonstrate strong writing and formatting skills. Students were expected to submit a draft (worth 50% of the assessment), and then a final version based on her feedback (worth 50% of the assessment).

To improve the process, here is her three-step technique:

  1. Speed Review. In one class, she spent a minute or two with each student looking only at the format of their draft document, and suggested immediate revisions. This ensured students had a good foundation to work from even before submitting the draft.
  2. Peer Review. For this step, she created a specific marking guide and detailed checklist for what students were to review in their classmates' draft. Each student had to review the work of at least two other students. The first pairing was selected by Carolyn so she could match stronger writers with weaker writers. For the second pairing, students could choose someone they know and trust. As students used the tools to suggest improvements for the classmates, they were also discovering things to revise about their own drafts.  
  3. Instructor Feedback Meetings. This is where Carolyn provided individual feedback to small groups of students on their drafts. She then asked the groups to help each other implement the revisions.

Carolyn has noted many benefits of this multi-step process that uses more formative assessment: “The final versions are so much stronger. While it has taken some of the pressure off me to do it all, students are learning other meaningful skills like how to give, receive and use feedback. The multi-step process is focused not on a grade, but on mastery of the skill."


How do you work smarter, not harder when it comes to grading student work? Click the sign in button on the top right, enter your RRC credentials and join the conversation!

Nov 29
Is a Lecture Ever the Right Teaching Method?

Recently, I heard a student comment in the hallway about lectures. This student said, “Lectures are so boring. The information goes over my head." Yikes, I thought: I sometimes use lectures in my teaching, so her comment touched a nerve for me. 

Since that day, I've done some thinking about how lectures could be acceptable within the context of applied learning that we have at RRC. I'd love your comments and feedback on the guidelines I've drafted:

Effective lectures are actually 2-way conversations: No one likes to be talked at, so the key is to bring the students into the lecture by peppering the talk with questions that encourage them to respond and contribute to the evolving conversation. In addition, I intersperse activities – individual or small group – into the lecture to keep them engaged in the learning. 

Productive lectures are hard work: Lecturing is not just talking; it's planning and practising and revising. It must be designed for the specific group of students in the course, and those students must be taught how to get the most out of the lecture – this can include effective note taking, active listening, and probing questioning.  

Meaningful lectures go beyond the textbook: It's not about “speaking" the textbook; it's about bringing key concepts and ideas alive by talking about them as a first step in the learning journey. The next step is for the students to translate their new knowledge into applied skills and abilities. Animate the teaching with examples, stories and additional sources that expand the students' thinking and their sense of potential. 

Memorable lectures require personality: Every minute of teaching is performance art of one kind or another. Bring your best energy and most dynamic personality to it, and expect the same of the students in their role. Teaching and learning both take energy, focus and commitment.

What do you think? Am I just trying to make myself feel better or can lecturing be good and appropriate teaching sometimes?


Do you use lectures to teach? Have you sworn off them? Tell us about your experience as an instructor or as a student. Sign in above, then comment below to join the conversation. ​

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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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