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Nov 16
Advice to New Instructors
Can you believe it's the middle of November already? If you're a new Instructor teaching your first term, perhaps you're wondering, “Is it the middle of November yet?"

Hang in there. The end of the term is in sight.

Today we want to crowdsource just what new Instructors need: support and encouragement.

If you've been at this for a while, how did you make it through your first term? What do you wish you had known when you were just starting out? What constructive advice would you offer?    

Please sign in above and share positive suggestions with our new colleagues.

And to the newbies: Thank you. Thank you for the work you are doing to teach for learning.

Nov 09
Introducing the Centre for Learning and Program Excellence

By Nadine Ogborn - Director, Centre for Learning and Program Excellence

The Centre for Learning and Program Excellence exists to advance teaching and learning excellence at RRC to build our communities.

The Centre is still a new entity – established in 2018, we haven't even celebrated our first anniversary. The Centre for Learning and Program Excellence is located at NDC in FM28 (with eTV just a quick walk down the hall in GM32). In the three months since I arrived at RRC, I've gotten to know the current units that make up the Centre:

  • CLPE.jpgProgram and Curriculum Development
  • Teaching Learning Technology Centre
  • eTV
  • Recognition of Prior Learning
  • Staff Learning and Development

The varied skills, passions and investment the individuals in the Centre bring to their work is inspiring. Based on this, I was very excited for the Centre to come together for a full day in October to define our purpose that will help us move forward with greater integration and alignment of our units and services to support academic transformation at Red River College.

A few takeaways from the day:

  • It is DIFFICULT to get everyone in the same room on the same day. :)
  • We are continuing to learn more about each other and how we can integrate what we do.
  • Despite varied roles within the College and diverse experience and backgrounds, we were able to agree on the idea for our purpose quite easily:

The Centre for Learning and Program Excellence exists to advance teaching and learning excellence at RRC to build our communities.

This purpose is a first step in defining the Centre's vision, values and strategies to serve RRC faculty, staff, leaders and (OF COURSE) students. We will be providing support and working closely with instructors, staff, programs, chairs, and deans to develop, design and deliver high quality, innovative academic courses and programs that keep pace with the changing needs of our students, an evolving work-force and an ever changing economy.

Faculty Fridays is a great initiative to engage faculty across RRC's campuses (keep it up Amanda and Janine!). Please sign in above, then post a comment to share what you would like to see the Centre offer to support teaching for learning.

Nov 02
Introducing Nadine Ogborn

This summer Nadine Ogborn joined RRC as the Director of the new Centre for Learning and Program Excellence.

Next week Nadine will share a guest post in Faculty Fridays to introduce the Centre, but today we'd like to introduce her.

Nadine Ogborn.jpgBefore joining RRC, Nadine was the Manager of Teaching and Learning at Manitoba Institute of Trades and Technology (MITT). She returned home three years ago to Winnipeg from Hamilton, Ontario, where she worked at Mohawk College for eight years. She started at Mohawk as an Instructional Technologist and online instructor before moving into the role of Manager of the Centre for Teaching and Learning. 

Nadine holds a Master of Education in Administration and Leadership in Education (Brock University), Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration (U of Winnipeg), and a Certificate in Adult and Continuing Education (U of Manitoba).

Nadine's interests include blended and online learning, work-integrated learning, 21st century skills, instructor development and lifelong learning opportunities. These dovetail nicely with the focus of the Centre, which is to support the current and future learning needs of staff, faculty and students.

Nadine is married with two kids and two dogs that never run in the same direction. She enjoys cooking, watching HGTV and spending time with her family.


Please sign in above, then post a comment to share what you would like to see the Centre offer to support teaching for learning.

Oct 26
What Does Good Help Look Like?

Those motivated by teaching for learning want to help students be successful learners. But sometimes the process of doing that can be tricky. At least, that's how it felt recently to us. We have both been giving some thought to the amount of advance feedback we give to students on work that will be graded. We are feeling a bit confused about responsibilities and advantages.

Janine: I had a student email me his assignment to review before the deadline, but he had skipped my class that day. I decided to provide some high level feedback, but did tell him that in the future I would expect him to attend class to receive extra assistance. Is providing advance feedback a benefit to students who are done early or is it an unfair advantage? Should there be conditions to get extra support on graded work? 

Amanda: A student asked me recently to proof their resume. I'm not sure they always know what proofreading really entails (Hint: It means finding all the errors and correcting them!). Regardless, how much feedback is fair and how little is shirking my responsibilities as an instructor?

Now we're turning to our RRC network of support and asking you for input and advice: Can we sort this out together?

  • Do you offer to provide feedback on students' graded work prior to the deadline?
  • If not, why?
  • If so, is it a preliminary scan or a detailed evaluation?
  • Are there any conditions that the student has to meet in order for you to do it? (ie. actually come to class!)
  • Any other considerations? (ie. only if you have time?)

Thanks for helping us out!


Please sign in on the top right, and then add your comments to the discussion.

Oct 19
Using Reflection to Deepen Learning

Bloom’s Taxonomy graphically illustrates how learning increases in complexity as we demand more intensive work from our students. One of my favourite assignment types is reflective writing, which fits into the category second from the top. It is, arguably, more challenging learning, but that challenge comes with deep rewards – for both the students and the instructor.  Blooms newer.jpg

For example, in an assignment about their resume, I ask students not only to revise their document but also to write one paragraph about what changes they made and, importantly, why they made those changes. This causes them to justify their changes and, automatically, requires them to think critically and be reflective about their own work: “evaluate” on Bloom’s pyramid.

When I incorporate this activity into a course, I require that students use a claim + evidence pattern in their written response to demonstrate their critical thinking and their self-reflection. For example:

  • I improved my Skills section. [not acceptable]
  • I improved my Skills section by reducing the number of bullet points to 7 and tightening up the language of each bullet point to be more concise. [good]

I’ve used this technique successfully with students in a variety of programs and generally the feedback is positive. They appreciate that they are not simply completing a task for marks, but also reflecting on their learning and then describing it in a structured way. A bonus for me when facing a stack of documents to grade is that the assignments are much more interesting to read.

One important caveat: I give marks not for what the student says, but for their consistent use of the claim + evidence pattern in their statements. I’m not judging their thinking; I’m evaluating its rigour.


How about you? How do you incorporate higher levels of learning in your lesson plans? Do you have a specific assignment that others could use in their classes? Please sign in above and then post your comment below to share in the conversation.

Image Source: Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching

Oct 12
Where Are You on Cell Phones?

Last week Amanda and I initiated a conversation about the future of classrooms and teaching.

So, this week we wanted to circle back to an existing classroom challenge that will only become more embedded in the classroom of the future – technology.

Today we are keen to crowdsource your perspective and practices on cell phones in the classroom/shop/lab.

  • Do you allow cell phones in your classroom?
  • If not, why?
  • If so, do you have any parameters for students?
  • What are the consequences if students do not follow the rules?
  • How can cell phones be an effective tool for teaching for learning?


Please sign in on the top right, and then add your comments to the discussion.

Oct 05
Introducing the STTC!

This fall Red River College opened the new Skilled Trades and Technology Centre (STTC). Click on this picture to take a photo tour of the new facility.


Mark Blackner, Chair of Electrical, Mechanical and Manufacturing, shared with us examples of how the new building will contribute to teaching for learning - our focus in Faculty Fridays:

  • Labs have been designed to better prepare students for real-life working conditions and current industry trends/designs:
    • The wood floor in the Carpentry Workshop allows students to fasten structures directly to the floor to provide a stable foundation for the rest of the project. The floor is then easily replaced when needed.
    • The Innovation Lab/Smart Factory (to be completed by November) will expose students to Industry 4.0 processes, new equipment and machining techniques. 
    • New equipment in the Electrical, Robotic, Sheet Metal, Refrigeration, Heating/Cooling and Carpentry labs.
    • New spray booth in the Metallurgy lab for training on composite materials.
  • In addition, STTC includes state of the art computer labs with enhanced software to allow students easier access to complete projects and assignments. Classrooms are equipped with large windows, better lighting, idea boards, smart projectors, accessibility, instructor height adjustable desks, and better air quality. The STTC also includes more student breakout space for networking and collaboration.


We're so happy for students and staff that get to learn together in a state of the art facility like the STTC. The conversation about classrooms of the future will continue as the college begins building the Innovation Centre downtown. What are your priorities for a classroom of the future? Equally important, what do you think the future of teaching might look like? How can we prepare, individually and as an institution, for the future of teaching?

Sep 28
PechaKucha What?

My favorite session from RED Forum 2018 was PechaKucha.

If you're like me, perhaps you said PechaKucha, what?

PechaKucha is a presentation format devised by architecture firm Klein Dytham in Japan in 2003, where presenters prepare 20 slides that automatically advance every 20 seconds. So, each PechaKucha is 6 minutes and 40 seconds in total. Each speaker obviously has to be very concise.

It was my favorite session because I got to watch 7 colleagues – 7 Instructors – step out of their comfort zone and use a new technique to share a best practice from their teaching practice. It was awesome.

Oliver Oike.jpgOne of those who presented was Oliver Oike. He teaches graphic design and has been with the college for over 6 years. He is also the former City Host of PechaKucha Winnipeg, a position he occupied on and off since the first PechaKucha Night in Winnipeg in February 2009.

“PechaKucha describes the format as “the art of concise presentations," which goes a long way toward pinpointing what makes the format so fun and unexpected. There is an art to delivering a presentation; it's a mix of compelling imagery, carefully chosen words, and a bit of performance."

It has some pretty cool applications for education, too.

“I use PechaKucha in my second year Editorial Design class. Students work on a semester-long editorial design project in three phases. The first phase is the presentation of their concept and plan for the remainder of the semester. The PechaKucha format is useful in two ways: practically, it ensures the presentations move forward in an efficient manner, but more importantly, the constraints of the format encourage the students to carefully consider what they want to say, which in turn encourages them to dig for a more nuanced understanding of their chosen subject matter."

The other colleagues who participated in the RED Forum session were: Teresa Menzies, Amanda Le Rougetel, Craig Dyer, Aubrey Doerksen, Darren Stebeleski, and Michael Whalen.

Thanks Oliver for introducing this new technique to our teaching community!


How could you use this technique in your classroom? Would you give it a try? Could it be a model for student presentations? Please sign in and share your thoughts below.

The next PKN (Vol.36) is on Thursday, November 22nd at The Park Theatre, and everyone is invited!

Sep 21
Lessons from the Summer - Part 4

The weather was wild that late-August day at our cottage on Lake Winnipeg, and by 7pm the power was out – and stayed out for almost 24 hours.

We quickly found the candles and opened the refrigerator only sparingly – but how to boil water for coffee or cook our dinner? Fortunately, we had a backup plan that involved a 3-burner propane-powered cook top that we had stashed away Backup plans from the cottage.JPGon the top shelf in the old shed. We would neither starve nor be caffeine deprived. Phew!

Pulling that backup plan together was fun, and it made me think of the times in my classroom when my oh-so-well-thought-out teaching plan…Did. Not. Go. Well. At. All. Teaching is all about the plan – the one that unrolls seamlessly, and also the one you have in your back pocket in case – for whatever reason – your plan falls apart in the execution. For example:

  • You plan to watch an online clip to kick start a class discussion, but the network cable is missing from the classroom, so you can't connect your laptop to the internet. Do you have a spare cable in your briefcase? Or do you have an alternative way of getting students to share their thoughts and ideas on a topic?
  • You have meticulously mapped out a group-based activity that relies on the particular makeup of the groups assigned, but, when you arrive in class, you see that three of the students you were counting on to be group leads are absent that day. What to do? Do you skip ahead to the next lesson and loop back to this one in the next class? Or do you quickly reassign the groups? Or…?

For me, the other day it was paper that saved my teaching butt. I arrived in the EDC classroom to discover that I simply could not retrieve the files from my laptop that I had created from which to teach. Fortunately, I had printed the PowerPoint to paper and, along with my always-to-hand whiteboard markers, I was able to teach my planned lesson using old-style tools. And it worked well; I don't think the students had a clue that I was pinch hitting with a backup plan. Phew!


How about you? Do you have a backup plan story to share? Please sign in above and then post your comment below to share in the conversation.

Sep 14
Lessons from the Summer - Part 3

When I was about 13, I said to my father, “I wonder how sugar cubes are made? Is it through pressure, or maybe it's through moisture?" Amanda young curiosity.JPG

I don't remember his specific answer, but I do remember – very clearly – that his response shut down my curiosity about the question. Instead of wanting to embark on a line of enquiry – going to the library, looking things up and wondering about sugar cubes, I cut my curiosity short and moved on to something else.

I was reminded of this anecdote this summer when I heard someone on a podcast say that arousing curiosity is a more powerful way to encourage learning than simply providing information. And I began to wonder how this might apply in my teaching.

In the classroom, instructors are guided in our work by course objectives, learning outcomes, and assessment requirements. When well designed and up-to-date, these building blocks of college teaching describe expectations and map a path for us and our students through the term.

But I know that I sometimes rely too heavily on those building blocks, instead of focusing on piquing students' interest. I need to nurture their innate curiosity not bury them in information.

Here are three techniques I'm going to give a try:

  • Assign students to lead off the class with a question for their peers that relates to the day's (or week's) topic, then have them lead a class discussion.
  • When starting a new module, ask students for examples of how the topic is relevant in their personal or professional lives. What do they want to know about it? Why? At the end: How does their learning in the classroom change their understanding or maybe even their behavior?
  • Be more intentional about sharing how the topic has influenced my own life.

I'll keep you posted on how well these ideas work in real time with real students this term! Stay tuned...

Join the conversation! Please sign in and post a comment about the techniques you use to pique your students' curiosity.
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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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