Looks like I was stumbling as I typed my title eh? Nope, I was thinking about the "scholars" I met at Simon Fraser University's downtown campus, who were part of a wide-ranging exploration of current inquiry and completed research at the Symposium for Scholarly Teaching and Learning in Higher Education.
Despite taking place on the dubious date of Friday the 13th, and ignoring the torrential rains the night before and the gloomy grey clouds massing over Vancouver's downtown, this year's Symposium was the first I've attended. The public gathering places were open and bright, the welcome was sincere and brief, the events were varied, and the food was well-presented, generous and delicious – thanks to the event organizers!
Although I found the plenary sessions somewhat interesting I wasn't inspired or excited as much of the content seemed to be hopeful rather than concrete and not really that new or insightful (at least based on what I've read about these topics over the past few years). I enjoyed the ability to choose sessions organized by research that was in progress or research that had been completed and to listen to stories from educators about their experiences, challenges and successes (Strand B).
I chose to participate in a session led by Marcella LaFever, University of the Fraser Valley on "Replacing Bloom with the Medicine Wheel". Marcella's work is interesting, particularly in terms of her trying to support the introduction of spirituality into our current approach to teaching/learning (e.g of four domains: physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual). She shared a handout with a diagram and brief reading list and list of verbs (similar to Blooms Taxonomy) as she tries to define different elements of the Spiritual Domain – mindful/ness, value/d, connect/ed, empowe/red, self-actualize/d
I would also have liked to attend:
- Games in Class: A Case STudy of Gamification in an Undergraduate Communications Course – Jaigris Hodson & Rob Bajko, Royal Roads University
- Integrating Metacognitive Curricular Interventions into the Undergraduate Curriculum – Peter Arthur, UBC Okanagan
- Life's a Lot Like Jazz – Better When You Improvise – Sherrill Rutherford, VIU
During the Session2 sharing of experiences, I chose Julia Hengstler's Tinkering with an Online Post-secondary Course. Her stories about her efforts to improve the delivery of her course and her students' learning experiences was detailed and thorough. While I've gone through similar efforts to improve my teaching, her "tinkering" efforts were better structured, broader and longer and hopefully will eventually achieve the outcomes she is looking for.
I would also have liked to attend:
- Direct Instructions vs Productive Failure Best Practices for Interactive Inclass Activities – Sunita Chowrira & Karen Smith, UBC
- Preparing Students for Self-Directed Learning – Gail Hammon & Alice Cassidy, UBC
- Moving from a Traditional to an Inquiry-based Teacher Education Program – Teresa Farrell, VIU
I think my favourite part of the day (besides meeting interesting people and having great hallway discussions) was the Research Bites presentations. Although many of the researchers were unable to tell their story in the 3 minute time allocated, it did mean that I got to hear an overview of what was going on, without having to spend the whole day listening to lengthy explanations.
While I enjoyed the opportunity to "pick and choose" and move around between tables and enter into discussions with the researchers about their projects, I was disappointed in the actual room, which had such a high ceiling that it was often difficult to hear what was said by someone sitting on the other side of the table. Too bad. However, I have contact details so I'll follow up on some of the research projects I found most interesting.
Overall, a great day for me. I had the chance to meet some of my former students and colleagues face-to-face (I'd only known them as online entities before). Despite my enthusiasm for online learning and teaching, there is still something about sitting next to the person you've had great discussions and debates with – like meeting an old friend. I enjoyed the chance to engage in "big picture" issues and to learn more about some of the exciting avenues of inquiry that instructors around the Lower Mainland are pursuing.