Simon Bates at TESS / Photo by Laura Killam

Simon Bates at TESS / Photo by Laura Killam

As a participant in the first and many subsequent bits and pieces of Ontario Extend it was inspiring to hear from Simon Bates about the development of the framework we extenders and Hubbers (what I call users of our Hub) have come to recognize. I use it in my daily practice and admire what was developed through the openness and collaboration of these giants in educational excellence. Better yet, his talk was jam-packed with memorable good ideas that ranged from immediately actionable to aspirational.

The Empowered Educator

I for one, embrace the notion of being an empowered educator. As I have shared many times, eCampusOntario has been instrumental in promoting my feeling of empowerment. Being part of Extend in various ways over the past year and a half has changed my career and greatly improved my job satisfaction. While I have yet to earn my two final badges from the modules, I identify with having all of the attributes of the model (honestly it is just a matter of putting the criteria in writing). Regardless of if I have earned the “badge” or not, I feel that I need to continue working on all of these areas or I risk stagnation. To me, there really is no one end goal in these areas. I love how this framework reminds me to keep working on all of these areas instead of just a few. The world of education is constantly changing. As educators, we need to critically think about how to remain current in it.

PS: This framework wasn’t meant to be comprehensive.

 

Institutional Support

His talk was targeted at helping institutions think about how they may support educators using elements of this framework to prioritize interventions. His framework originated from conversations about how we may be able to prepare faculty to meet the needs of learners in ever-changing learning environments. Disruptive forces, like technology, change how teaching and learning happens. How do we keep current and effective?

Teaching as a Team Sport

Simon indicates that teaching can be viewed as a team sport. While some of us may identify as having some level of each of these attributes, it is not essential that all teaching and learning staff have them. The framework can be applied at an individual or team level. When building teams and institutions it is useful to consider if the team has these attributes. In a supportive environment, it is not critical that every educator have all the characteristics.

Teacher for Learning

Simon really likes the book about how learning works. While I have not yet read the book, I now feel like I need to. For now, I am thankful for the summary and short infographic in the slides. In addition, the memo below is an excellent example of a way to encourage students to take responsibility for their grades. These takeaways from the conference were appreciated.

Structuring of knowledge was another important consideration for students. The hands-on activity was a memorable way to demonstrate that students need to be shown the “key” to structuring knowledge in a way that they can remember. Novice learners have a difficult time remembering things because they are not used to chunking information. Helping them learn how to chunk information is more important than telling them what to memorize.

Paired Teaching Findings / Photo by Laura Killam / See embedded Article for more.

Paired Teaching Findings / Photo by Laura Killam / See embedded Article for more.

Experiential Learning (Paired Teaching)

Experiential learning helps faculty live the experience of going through the pain of experimenting with teaching through paired teaching. Instead of just reading about how learning works it is better to co-teach a course with an experienced educator. In his school the paired faculty truly work together, making all course decisions together – and they are paid (or loaded) as if they are teaching the entire course. It costs some money, but it is worth it. Simon talked about the outcome, which showed that there were more active learning components used in future course contexts. This example shows that the lived experience of paired teaching has an impact beyond the one experience. It was a tremendously valuable professional development opportunity for faculty. For more information please click here or see the embedded article below.

Educational Leadership Stream

Faculty in a teaching-focused leadership role get to have an impact on teaching and learning beyond their classroom. While I do not work at a University it sounds a lot like my role. These teachers get to focus on experimenting and innovation in their classes. They are the catalysts of change in a department. While there are still workload challenges, it is a necessary and empowering role for organizations to support. Experimenting and innovation should be viewed as a leadership practice. How can we support and recognize the work of these innovators?

I wholeheartedly agree. I am living the innovator’s role and it can be uncomfortable at times. Having a support network is helpful. Simon and many others at recent conferences an within my institution have been emphasizing the need to learn from experimentation and failure in the classroom. For this reason, I have prioritized blogging about my failures as I try radical assessment and course-delivery strategies. There are many things I could be blogging about but the failures are more meaningful than the successes so if I don’t have time for them all I will at least share the failures. This practice can sometimes be uncomfortable as it can feel like you are exposing your weaknesses. However, it is so important to share.

PS: If you happen to be in Sudbury please join our bi-weekly Failing Forward discussions in the Hub (currently on Mondays). We can all learn from the successes and failures of others.

Where does Learning Support Live?

At UBC they have a single front door where services are co-located so they are almost forced to collaborate. It helps technology people learn about pedagogy and teachers learn about tech. This Hub sounds a lot like the Hub at Cambrian. In both organizations, it has shown effectiveness. When faculty have a problem now they need help. The idea they have implemented that we have yet to do is employing students for rapid-response technology help. These students also end up discussing pedagogy with faculty. This breaking down of barriers territories and leveraging human resources sounds empowering. As a Hub team member, I think it needs some strategic planning to enable this kind of implementation. I would love to work on the integration of more effective collaboration with our IT department and students in our Hub.

Collaborator

TESS brings both educators from Colleges and Universities together, as we share a common purpose. It is so true that we need to work together. Working with people from various institutions is an enriching experience. At a conference (I cannot quite remember the name of right now) someone said that it is exposure to diverse views and experiences that fuels innovation. It is very important to break out of our institutional walls and network externally. However, internal networking and team building is also important. At conferences like this, it can sometimes be challenging to balance the two.

Concluding Reflections

Change is happening fast, everywhere. As educators, we need to adapt. Simon discussed that learning is becoming more and more of a team sport. I agree and disagree at the same time. I would like to see more collaboration, particularly in a program like mine (Nursing) where collaboration is something we tell our students is essential to survival. Unfortunately, many educators are not yet true collaborators. Past bad experiences, fear, and a lack of time or perceived administrative support are barriers that I have heard discussed or experienced. I should clarify that I have also worked with a lot of very open, nice, caring and collaborative nurses (I hope that is how others see me). Often times this high-level of collaboration is seen as the exception, not the norm. However, it is refreshing to come to an event like this and see the potential of large-scale collaboration unfolding.

After TESS I reached out to take collaboration to the next level in a few contexts and was pleased with the positive response. Someone needs to extend the invitation for collaboration to happen. Why not you? I often network at conferences only to have the connections die after sending unanswered follow-up emails. This time was different. Real collaboration both with people at the conference and not has begun. My advice is to be the one that takes the risk of offering to work together. Together we can achieve more. Thank you, TESS for bringing us together and reinforcing the need for collaboration.

Hearing about his hope for the framework being used to help institutions think about how they support educators was uplifting. Too often I, as a faculty member, leave conferences wishing that we could do what they are talking about on my campus. This was different. Simon managed to speak to me as a faculty member while sharing ideas that administrators could use to support educators. He gave us actionable tips for various roles. Thank you again for the empowering talk.

More About Simon Bates

After the Keynote I had the opportunity to talk to Simon briefly (click here for more about him). He is approachable and helpful. His insight into the need to empower educators through initiatives like the paired teaching model is innovative and gave us something to hope for. It is really quite amazing that he is an Academic Provost, still teaches classes and finds time to be such a 21st-century educator.


NurseKillam

Laura Killam is an experienced nursing educator from Northern Ontario with a keen interest in improving student learning through innovation. For more information please visit http://nursekillam.com/.

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