Last week we introduced our current series in Faculty Fridays on support services for students. Today, we begin with our first spotlight on the
Academic Success Centre (ASC).
Sue Narozniak is a Program Coordinator in the Early Childhood Education (ECE) diploma program. Together with her colleagues, Sue has partnered with the ASC to offer a broad range of supports to their students – supports students require to be successful in the program and their career, but that are beyond what can be offered in the classroom.
For example, working with Instructors, the ASC has designed workshops for ESL speakers to assist ECE students transition successfully from the classroom into their practicum placements. In addition, the ASC offers a student Success Series that is directly related to the needs identified in a diagnostic writing assessment that ECE students participate in at the outset of their program.
Sue describes the impact of the ASC's workshops: "They give students practice with ECE-related language and oral communication, so they gain both competence and confidence. In turn, their improved speaking skills enable them to build deeper relationships with the children, and this directly influences our students' success with curriculum planning and guiding. The results of the diagnostic shape the workshop content, but two standard components of support are offered weekly: a mini-talk at the start of each session focusing on skills (such as APA use and critical thinking reviews) that help students be more successful in the program, and a group tutorial during which students can get help with individual work or group projects."
Lauren Phillips is the Manager of the ASC. We asked her for some key tips for faculty looking to partner with the ASC in the future.
"Our most popular service is individual content tutoring, but we are limited in how much we can offer. To meet student needs, we try whenever possible to partner with Instructors and Chairs to actively integrate supports into program plans. This allows us to serve groups in a targeted and timely way," she explains. "We recommend instructors contact us to talk about their program's specific support needs, and to engage in a conversation aimed at generating creative, high-impact services."
The ASC also offers Academic Coaching and workshops that use research-based strategies to increase study skills and personal management. Lauren added, "While many students benefit from the content reviews tutoring offers, often a student's greatest need lies in their approach to learning and self-management," she concludes.
To increase study skills, Lauren asks instructors to encourage students to attend the research-based
Brain Bites workshops, held at noon at EDC and NDC throughout January and February.
To connect with the ASC to see how you might be able to partner with them to help your students succeed, email Lauren.
Do you have a positive story of how your program or a particular student has utilized the support of the ASC? Please sign in to share it in the comments below. If you prefer, email
"We don't teach subjects, we teach students". Teresa Menzies, the President of our Local #73 and our Union Officer once shared this with me. It's one of the things that makes this job so challenging – and so rewarding.
And those students sometimes need help to succeed – help that goes beyond what we can provide in our classroom. Thankfully, Red River College provides valuable support services to assist students in working through concerns that might impact their academic and personal success.
Over the coming few weeks, we will be sharing a series on the specific supports available to students at RRC. But today, we begin with a brief introduction video to the Student Support Services department. We hope you'll watch it. Better yet, show it to your students. They can't take advantage of the support if they don't know it exists!
Please sign in and leave a comment or contact us directly at
Happy New Year! Amanda and I hope that each of you had a wonderful holiday!
Whether you are starting a new term, wrapping up an existing one, or perhaps right in the middle, we wanted to start 2018 with some inspiration.
As you dive back into the rhythm and routine of teaching, we asked some students to share with us what, in their words, makes a good teacher.
Notice our emphasis on good teaching. That has been and will continue to be the focus of Faculty Fridays: To celebrate and nurture good teaching at RRC. Specifically, we define good teaching as teaching for learning.
Bernard Cansino, Technology Management program, NDC
Marlos Arantes, Aircraft Maintenance Engineering program, Stevenson
Jameson Ade, Business Administration program, NDC
Loveleen Sodhi, Technology Management program, NDC
We were struck by a few key "C's" in the student responses. Their attention appears to be caught by Instructors with strong communication skills, who are caring, creative and willing to collaborate when addressing learning challenges.
Are you surprised by this input from students? How would you define a good teacher?
How will you ensure your teaching meets the learning needs of your students? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. We'd love to profile you in an upcoming post.
By Paul Vogt, President
Teaching is not just the heart of what we do at Red River, it's the reason our College exists at all.
I make that point all the time in meetings with RRC staff and I find that those (like me) who aren't directly engaged with students never take offense. Even if most of their time is spent on administration or managing the facilities, RRC people are proud to be associated with our teaching mission. And they are aware of the unique challenges and rewards that come with being an educator.
I began my career as a teacher, picking up sessional assignments at the U of M and U of W back in the 90s. After six years in the classroom, mostly teaching political science classes, I thought some hands-on experience in the field might improve my teaching – so I took a job at the Manitoba Legislature. Well, one thing led to another and it was 17 years before I returned to the classroom (for another one-year stint at the U of M).
One thing I've learned from this checkered career is the very deep gratification that comes from teaching. I worked on many projects in my years at the Legislature but I don't recall anyone telling me that my contributions to government policy made a real difference in their life. From the comparatively shorter time I spent as a teacher I got a few comments along those lines – and, as many reading this will know, they left a warm and fuzzy feeling that's hard to beat.
Another lesson I've learned is that teaching is damn hard work. I'm not ashamed to admit I wasn't any good at it when I started. Fresh from grad school and probably a little full of myself (and with no real experience in the workaday world to ground me), I made the classic mistake of imagining that every student in my classes had the same learning style as me – and that the activity of teaching was more or less like pouring the knowledge out of my head (which I had greatly overvalued!) into theirs.
I would like to think I got better over time, although the process was long and sometimes painful and I never became that "great" teacher I aspired to be. Knowing now how much effort and experience it takes just to be a "good" teacher, I am somewhat in awe of those who get the highest accolades from their students. And nowadays, when I'm meeting with RRC graduates (some of them years or decades into their careers) it seems the one thing they always want to tell me about is "that teacher" who made the difference for them. It's a good reminder of what really counts.
Thank you so much for reading Faculty Fridays today and throughout the past four months. Our goal with this blog is to celebrate and nurture good teaching at RRC. We define good teaching as teaching for learning.
It takes a critical mass of committed professionals to nurture a culture of teaching for learning, so we've been pleased with the positive response the blog has received. We thank every person who has contributed to it – by allowing us to feature you in a post, by providing an idea for a post, and also for leaving a comment on a post.
Culture is built through vision, commitment and conversation, and also through symbols that represent the essence of that culture. The blog symbolizes the essence of what we understand a professional teaching culture to be: thoughtful sharing and discussion of ideas, practices and possibilities that bring people together in pursuit of good teaching and meaningful learning.
We have one more special post planned next week, and a few things up our sleeves for next year, too. We hope you will continue to read Faculty Fridays, and we look forward to your input and comments. Don't be shy about suggesting your own teaching practices as the basis for a post. We would love to hear from you.
Together, we can continue to build a teaching culture at RRC that supports Instructors in the challenging and rewarding work we do every day.
We wish each of you a truly lovely holiday season.
Amanda and Janine
Colleagues, how is the stress level?
For many of us, we are wrapping up a term. It's a busy time for students, and for faculty. Faculty are working hard to cover all the learning outcomes; we're buried in mounds of marking; and, we're working on preparations for a new term.
Today's post features a couple of ideas for a strong start in January.
Maria Vincenten, Business Administration, Roblin Centre
After covering the course outline, Maria collaborates with students to create a classroom contract. Maria has some non-negotiables like plagiarism and food in the labs, but the class decides what else is important for a respectful learning environment. The final contract is signed by all students, and herself, before it is posted on LEARN. She finds that allowing students to help craft the classroom environment makes them more likely to police themselves and others.
Maria also teaches the Canadian Investment Funds Course. As a course with third party accreditation it is really important that students understand all requirements of the course as well as for achieving certification. So she has created a course outline quiz in LEARN for students to self-assess all the details from the first week. Since it is technically "open book," if students did not know the answer, looking it up allows them to obtain the critical certification knowledge they need.
January Luczak, Technical Communication, NDC
When meeting a new group of students, January gives each student a "name card" (an 8 ½ by 11 inch sheet of paper cut in half) and asks them to write the name(s) that they commonly go by; three things that they'd like her to know about themselves; and the reason(s) they chose their current career path.
And she gets more than answers, she says.
"I read not only the words but also the content 'between the lines', which is sometimes quite rich. In a space of 5 ½ by 8 ½ inches, the students provide an insightful window to their personalities and working habits. For example, a student who prints with tiny font and uses minimal space on the card might be a "silent type"; a student who writes 'i' rather than 'I' after I've just advised students not to do that (because it's my pet peeve!) might be careless, inattentive, or cheeky (how delightful!)."
What works for you on day 1 in your classroom, shop or lab? Please sign in and leave a comment below or email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
By Christine Watson, Vice President, Academic
In the last few weeks, Janine and others have been sharing
their stories, techniques and tips for integrating the four A’s of a good
lesson plan: Activate,
Acquire, Apply, and Assess.
When reading the new “A” posts each Friday, I was
reminded of another “A” that I learned very early on in my teaching career. It
may be a familiar one to you, but it was one that I had to learn the hard way:
the importance of adapting our lesson plans or teaching styles to meet our
My first teaching position was as a faculty member at
First Nations University of Canada, a federated college of the University of
Regina. In my very first term of teaching, I was asked to travel each week from
Regina to teach students from three First Nations communities at a community
center at Cote First Nation every Monday morning.
One of my most significant lessons about needing to
adapt happened in the second class. My lesson plan included group work to
discuss a short story. I asked the students to number off around the room and
then 1s would work together, 2s would work together, etc.
When I asked the students to get into their groups, no
one moved. No one.
So, a little confused, I gave the instructions again,
thinking that perhaps I hadn’t been clear about the activity.
Again… no one moved. They looked at me without any
glimmer of defiance or negativity. I could tell they weren’t just trying to
“test” the new teacher. I was completely
So, I suggested that it was perhaps time for a break
(for me more than them!). When I stepped outside the door, one of my students
came up and quietly explained that there were three different families in the
class and these families did not talk to one another. She suggested, instead,
that I invite the students to form their own groups. It was that simple. I was
so grateful for her generosity in sharing that information with me.
And it worked. We did lots of great group work
activities for the rest of the term. But I had to listen, adapt and be ready to
change my plan to meet the needs of my students and the realities of their
As a non-Indigenous teacher working with Indigenous
students in an Indigenous community, I was completely out of my comfort zone.
Every single week at Cote was an incredibly humbling experience that taught me
the importance of staying open and adapting my plans, sometimes at a moment’s
I am grateful to those students that term for being
patient with my learning, and for reminding me that the best teaching plan is
also the plan that has enough flexibility to allow for learning to happen in
different (and sometimes better!) ways when we listen closely to our students
and honour their needs.-----------------------------------------
Have you had experiences when you have had to adapt your
lesson plan, your teaching style, etc. “on the fly” as an instructor? What did
you learn from that experience? We would love to hear your stories! Please sign in and leave a comment below.
This past spring I had the privilege of attending the Great Teacher Seminar. If you have an opportunity to attend in the future, I would highly recommend it.
It was my pleasure to meet RRC Instructor, Pamela McLeod, with the School of Indigenous Education.
At one point she shared, "I don't love every student, but I love the learner in every student."
Wow. Read that a few times and let it sink in.
Do you have some students who, for whatever reason, are a challenge? Of course. We all do. But I can love the learner in every student. From that perspective, I can support each student's journey to success.
Thanks for the encouragement, Pamela.
Do you have a quote that motivates you to pursue good teaching? Please sign in and share it below. You can also reach us to directly: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Over the past three weeks, we've been looking at the components of a solid lesson plan: Activate, Acquire and Apply. Today we wrap up our series with Assess.
We are focusing on formative assessment – where the goal is not to evaluate student learning, but to monitor it so the feedback can be used by us to improve our teaching and by students to improve their learning.
Here are some examples of what our colleagues at RRC are doing:
Shannon Derksen: Teacher Education, NDC
After a lesson, Shannon prepares a list of key terms and a list of definitions. She cuts them out and puts all the terms in one envelope and all the definitions in another. She makes enough sets of these envelopes for the number of groups she has. Then students empty the envelopes and find the matches. When they are done, they invite another group to come and check their work. A great option for kinesthetic learners! Suggestion for adaptation: This could also be a great activity to assess prior knowledge before the main lesson.
Harv Mock: Business Administration, NDC
Harv leads his class in a game of "Sink or Swim". He divides the class into two groups and has them stand along either side of the classroom. He asks a student from one side a true or false question from the chapter they have just finished covering. If the student gets it correct, they can "sink" someone on the other team (ie. they have to sit down) or "save" someone from their own team that had been sunk previously. He keeps going back and forth until a team has only one person standing. A little healthy competition and lots of fun!
Lise Wall: Business Administration, Roblin Centre
Lise has had a lot of success in her accounting classes using kahoot. Kahoot is kind of like using clickers, but students use their smartphones to vote on various questions that Lise has prepared in advance. The site also provides analytics on each question – so if many students get a particular question wrong it is a great cue to circle back and explain that concept again. A great way to use technology in the classroom to support student learning!
This week I was walking down the third floor of E building at NDC. An Instructor (if anyone knows who – let me know!) put up a poster board at the back of the class. It read, "What stuck with you today?" The Instructor had, presumably, given students sticky notes at the end of class and asked to them to post "what stuck" from the class. What a terrific idea!
How do you monitor student progress to inform your teaching practice and students' learning? Please sign in and leave a comment below or email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Red River College of Applied Arts, Science and Technology. Red River College of Applied Arts, Science and Technology.
Applied. It's why I wanted to teach at RRC. And, it's why today's topic is so important. The third A of a solid lesson is Apply. Whether through activities or assessments, we must be creating opportunities for students to apply what they are learning.
And happily, I see it everywhere:
In the classroom, it might look like how Aubrey Doerksen, Cabinetry Instructor, designed an applied activity to help students identify fasteners. After first teaching about fasteners, she put students in groups of two. One partner had to reach into a bin and chose a fastener. Without showing it to their partner they had to describe it by any means possible: appearance, characteristics or use. Then the other partner had to go to the front of the class and try to retrieve the same fastener. In the second stage, it got a bit more competitive. Aubrey divided the class into two teams. After she described a key detail, each team had to send a representative from their team (a different person each round), in a race to the front of the class to find the fastener. She even made a classroom trophy that the winning team signed.
I have had success with a roaming workshop technique. Last week in Marketing Research we first learned about questionnaires – how to create clear, helpful, unbiased questions, and how to order the questions. Then the students participated in a roaming workshop. I set up four stations around the classroom. Each station had a unique questionnaire for students to assess. I divided the class into the same number of groups as stations. And then every 15 minutes the groups moved clockwise to tackle a different station.
I also used this technique in Conflict Resolution in the Workplace. I developed five scenarios of workplace conflict and posted them on flip chart paper around the room. In groups, students moved through the room and built on the previous group's response to questions about the scenario.
Role plays. Guided practice. Discussion. Case studies. What else do you use?
The 4As of a solid lesson plan: Activate, Acquire, Apply, and next week we'll look at Assess.
How do you create opportunities for students to apply what they are learning? Please sign in and leave a comment below or email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Faculty Fridays is a blog to celebrate and nurture good teaching. Together, we'll put a face on teaching for learning at RRC.