I have the opportunity to hear Simon Bates discuss the theoretical framework underpinning Laurentian’s approach to faculty development. We opened by looking at the barriers to empowerment. The barriers to empowering educators shared here were similar to ones he has seen at other institutions, I see at mine, and were shared at TESS. the notes below are not a summary of his talk as it is similar to the video at the bottom of this post. Instead, I share my thoughts as I listened to him discuss this important issue.

Technology is a Double Edged Sword

He and I share a love for Mentimeter. He introduced us to it at TESS and I have been using the paid version ever since. I recently did a survey of students after using it for one term and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive (Adapted from Richardson, Dunn, McDonald, & Oprescu, 2014).

However, as discussed yesterday, technology can pose some barriers for educators. Yet, technology is being integrated into daily life at an exponential rate.

After openly licensing his framework eCampusOntario improved it and it has now been adapted for use at Laurentian. It has also been transformed into badges and “getting empowered is now a thing.”

I still think the notion of labeling some educators as empowered and others as not based on if they have these badges is problematic.

How can Institutions Empower Educators?

Be Concise

We are busy. Yes, the books like How Learning Works are incredibly valuable. However, in an era where no one will read 5 pages. Creating infographics is an extremely useful communication tool. We do a lot of that at Cambrian in our teaching. It is hard to do, but incredibly important. What we do for students works for faculty too. Concision in communication is important.

Remember to chunk information for both faculty and students.

Paired Teaching

I loved this idea when I first heard it at TESS. Since then, I have tried floating the idea at Cambrian. It has not been adopted (yet) but administrators like the evidence supporting the idea. The evidence is in the video at the end of the post as well as in this blog post.

As Cambrian’s Innovation Champion I have been given the ability to work on a scholarship project where I am working with other teachers in helping to problem-solve how our courses can work better together. In the future we have plans to share a course by assigning one teacher one section and the other another section. It will not be as effective as paired teaching, but it is a resource-friendly adaptation that relies heavily on the commitment to excellence in teaching and volunteer hours from the team of teachers. I have faith that it will work because of who is involved. However, funding paired teaching for new faculty would exponentially improve the experience for new educators.

I have limited experience supporting new faculty with no teaching experience over the last year. It takes a lot of time and effort to do it correctly. Paired teaching would be an ideal way to mentor and retain new faculty. Retention, in my reading, is important because the cost of training new employees is costly. Simon talks about how the safety net of paired teaching is what makes the difference. Just-in-time help from the mentor is essential for the professional growth of faculty.


That is me. Cambrian has been supportive of innovation by allowing me time to have time to be innovative and support innovation across the College.

Collaboration Hubs

We have one of those. Working together is definitely the best way to improve faculty development. We need to bring people together with a little bit of structure and watch the magic happen. I have definitely seen that in my own experiences working at Cambrian’s Hub. The most impactful opportunities have come from talking to other faculty who are often not Hub team members. I talked in my OEFellows reflection about this idea. Also, I have a blog post I am hoping to do about my biggest lesson from the year, which happened because of talking to Sidney in an informal space. For me the impact of the Hub extends beyond the physical walls. Their online presence and connections they foster are what means the most to me.

Food brings people together. Want them to come? Feed them.

Random Ideas

These ideas are elaborated on in the video.

  • Simon talked a lot about how food promotes collaboration.
  • He also talked about the need to rapidly respond to faculty needs. That is so so important.
  • I still love the idea of the rapid response teams he talks about in the video as well. Using students has worked in BC.

Largest Challenges

What are the biggest challenges he has experienced in engaging faculty?

  • Time.
  • Digital literacy and flexibility.
  • Software will not allow faculty to do certain tasks.

My outstanding question: How do you respond to faculty who want to do things that are pedagogically sound but limited by policies or technology? I am thinking about ungrading, consulting students in the development of syllabi after the course has started, etc.

This afternoon we will discuss:

The TESS session can be found here:


Richardson, A. M., Dunn, P. K., McDonald, C. & Oprescu, F. (2014). CRiSP: An instrument for assessing student perceptions of classroom response systems. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 24(4), 432 – 447. doi:10.1007/s10956-014-9528-2

Bates at LU
Bates at LU


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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