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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:

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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.

Apr 05
Kudos to Colleagues

When I worked in industry, our VP of Human Resources used to remind me, “Janine, catch staff doing something right. See it and then acknowledge it.”

At this time of year, a lot of Instructors are running on empty. So, Amanda and I thought we could get some “cheers for peers” going by acknowledging the good teaching we see our colleagues doing with their students every day.

It can feel challenging to put the spotlight on just one colleague, but we’re hoping to start a chain reaction with our two cheers in today’s post. Whose teaching practice do you want to celebrate?

Amanda: I popped into a classroom last week and, unexpectedly, found my Communication colleague Arlene Petkau there. She was waiting for a student to arrive, with some friends, to do a catch-up presentation. The student had found the assignment challenging, so Arlene provided an alternative delivery option to enable the student to earn the marks. Now, that’s what I call ‘teaching for learning’. Kudos to you, Arlene!

Janine: Recently, my colleagues Maria Vincenten and Stephen Hill mentored a team of Business Administration students to prepare for a case competition from the Canadian Institute of Financial Planners. The students won first place! In February, two other colleagues, Ilija Dragojevic and Harv Mock trained another team of students for a marketing case competition from Vanier College. Supporting these additional opportunities for students is definitely ‘teaching for learning’! Way to go!

Sign in above, then post a comment below to shine the light on a colleague. Let’s celebrate each other’s teaching for learning today!

Mar 29
When Students do the Teaching

Preparing an effective lesson plan takes time and focus, and it's part of our daily work as instructors. So, is it a blatant cop-out when we ask the students to do some teaching in the classroom? Do their classmates lose out or gain something in the process?

Today, we are profiling a couple of instructors who are using peer teaching in their classes – and the results indicate it's an all around win. 

LINDSAY MULHOLLAND in Business Administration assigns the students in her Ethics class a 'leadership project' that requires them to teach their classmates key concepts from the textbook. She asks them to prepare a lesson plan and provides them with a detailed rubric to help them prepare.  Lindsay.Mulholland.Photo.jpeg

Beyond the explicit content that the students have to master and then teach their classmates, the gains fall into the realm of the less tangible but vital 'power skills'. Lindsay discovers this learning from the students' journal entries. 

The value of reflecting 

“Through their journals I learnt that assigning something as intimidating as a 40-minute class engagement assignment was a true boost of confidence for students, even those that stuck to a traditional lecture," she says. “I also learned that students felt much more comfortable voicing opinions and perspectives when working with a classmate. They were more motivated to contribute, since participation supported their friends and classmates." The activity encouraged robust discussions, something that's essential in a class about ethics, says Lindsay.   

JOCELYNE OLSON in Communication has been experimenting with peer teaching combined with group work in a term 1 Communication course in the EET program. In assigned groups, Jocelyne asks the students to teach each other different ways to improve their written and verbal communication.   Jocelyne Olson.JPG

“I introduce the overall concepts and discuss big picture ideas like knowing your audience and establishing a purpose, and then I put them to work. Each of the six groups is assigned an aspect of good communication already discussed in class, then they have to come up with some methods to ensure written and verbal communication can meet that standard. Each group becomes the expert on their assigned aspect and prepares a worksheet for use by their peers."

Low-stakes presenting, F2F feedback

The groups present their research and worksheet to Jocelyne for feedback during an informal meeting with her, then revise their work before testing it with their peers in newly assigned groups. The students also keep a logbook throughout the process to track their work and reflect on the process and learning. Their entries indicate that they enjoyed the process and, maybe surprisingly, enjoyed the team-building aspect of the assignment.

“Many wrote how they normally don't like group work at all," explains Jocelyne, “but found that talking about the methods with their classmates was helpful and informative." A bonus was much greater mixing among the international, immigrant and Canadian students.

The bottom line

“The students understand the core concepts of knowing your audience, defining a purpose, and communicating to your audience's needs better than any group I've had before, which I'm going to consider a win!" says Jocelyne.

Both Lindsay and Jocelyne say they will use these assignments in future classes; the big difference they both say will be their own increased confidence in the process!


Do you ever turn the teaching over to the students in your classes? Sign in above and comment below to join the conversation.

Both Lindsay and Jocelyne shared far more details about their assignments than we can easily share in a blog post, so we've prepared a pdf you are invited to download. FF post When Students do the Teaching DETAILS of JO and LM assignments.pdf


Mar 22
Our news. Your input.

It's been two years since the idea of Faculty Fridays was born. Our intent was, and is, to nurture and celebrate good teaching at RRC. We're proud that the blog has been a tool that helps to make collaborating on teaching for learning easier, more common, and certainly more fun!

Thank you

Back in August 2017, we took a chance that, if we started the blog, readers would find it and contribute to it. That happened and we thank you for your commitment to this ongoing conversation about teaching at RRC. While we may have initiated the blog, and continue to lead it – it would be nothing without you. We are grateful to you for reading it, contributing content, and joining the discussion through comments.  

Our news

We've learned a thing or two about the important role of Instructors in helping to create and nurture a teaching for learning culture at a college, and we think others from PSEs across North America might be interested in our model and the unique lessons we have learned. 

So, earlier in the teaching year, we submitted proposals to present at two conferences: the Teaching Professor conference in New Orleans June 7-9, and the STLHE conference​ co-hosted by RRC, the U of M and Universite de Saint-Boniface in Winnipeg June 11-14. ​

And, we were accepted for both conferences! 

At the beginning of June, Janine and I will present in New Orleans and then a few days later in Winnipeg to showcase Faculty Fridays. We're looking forward to sharing and learning… and then sharing that back again with you, via the blog.

Your input

As we prepare our session, we want your help: Tell us what you like best about Faculty Fridays and how it could be improved in the future. All input wanted – and welcome! 

Please sign in above and 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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