Spring Perspectives

By | April 29, 2015

Yesterday, Tuesday April 28 was the Centre for Pedagogical Innovation’s annual Spring Perspectives teaching & learning day. This year, our former director Dr. Barry Joe is retiring after 35 years at Brock University. In 2013, Barry had launched a new initiative called the Last Lecture, based on a U.S. tradition of having a faculty culminate the end of term with one last lecture.

As such, we though it fitting to have Barry deliver the last lecture this year.  Barry gave an inspirational talk about the importance of transformation: of the learner, of teaching and of the university. You can see the newly uploaded video, if you like. His effect on students over the years has been quite profound, as well documented in many student blogs.

Dr Barry Joe gives the Last Lecture at our Spring Perspectives teaching day #BrockuLL

I have worked for CPI for over 13 years and Barry was my director for at least 9 of those years, so I was pleased to also deliver a little goodbye speech on behalf of all the staff. I tried to convince the 7 of us to dress up as the von Trapp children in hand-sewn drapery to deliver an interpretative dance of our gratitude but time and dignity prevented us on agreeing to the choreography. Barry would often send us JIB-JAB e-cards when he was director so I thought about creating a farewell one for him. Alas, Jib-Jab has discovered their revenue model and the variety and choice were just too limited for my imagination. As such, I decided to use my GIF-skills (using the new IMGUR-to-GIF method I just learned about) and photoshopped our heads directly onto the von Trapp children giving their “farewell” song. (Barry, Lianne and I had gone the Sound of Music sing-along and we boo, howl, sing, and laugh at all the right places.)


Apologies for the jittery and annoying jumps. I only had 15 minutes to make this baby, as I was also in charge of leading some reflective discussions to kick off the day.

Speaking of which, here’s a quick breakdown of the reflective activity I facilitated.
Reflections on the Term: Looking Back  and Looking Forward

I doodled my plan in my notebook and used these images as my slides to structure our discussions. My laptop lost its mind and I didn’t end up using slides (something a faculty member thanked me for, as she was very pleased to see someone technically competent suffer through technology failure)

In any case, the main goal of the session was to take a moment to think about our year, share the successes and challenges with colleagues and delve into the principles of learning.

Discussion groups were set up at round tables of 8. First I had the whole table take a quick moment to sketch an icon that represents their teaching/learning experience this past year. I used a couple faculty from the audience as examples. Dr. Basson tried using the Brock etherpads for a collaborative assignment to analyze primary documents, so perhaps he would draw two hands sharing a paper. Dr McCleary tried a wikipedia assignment, she could quickly sketch a globe similar to the wikipedia logo.

After each person took 30seconds to introduce themselves via their icon to the table, I asked people to dig deeper into what they tried that was new or different in the past year, what were the successes and what were the challenges.
#brockuLL spring perspectives

Then in groups of 4 I had half the table share their experiences from last year.

Next, I asked the whole table to discuss their successes and challenges based on a question framed around the 7 Learning Principles. Each table had a different theme, based on prior learning, organization of knowledge, motivation, mastery, feedback, development, social-emotional-intellectual class climate, and autonomy. I really do love this book and it also happens to be the book we are reading for our Teaching & Learning book club next month, so I figured it would be a good primer.

Finally I asked people to create an artifact that summarized their table’s insights and tweet it out at #brockuLL

I received fairly good feedback on this activity, especially given the fact that most people came to celebrate Barry’s retirement, not necessarily to participate a group reflective activity. So in fairness I totally realize that I also should participate in reflective practice, et voila, here is the blog at least documenting WHAT happened.

Update: I’ve had some requests for more information about the 7 principles of learning and the questions I used to spur discussion. So for the record, here they are, each question at different round tables:

  • How did students’ prior learning help or hinder learning?
  • In what ways did you help students organize their knowledge?
  • What values, goals, and expectations helped students’ motivation?
  • How did you provide students opportunities to integrate and apply their learning?
  • How did you provide students opportunities to receive feedback on their learning?
  • In what ways did you make uncertainty safe?
  • In what ways did you model inclusive language, behaviour, and attitudes?
  • What supports did you provide to allow students to monitor and adjust their approaches to learning?
  • How do you use metacognition with your students?
  • In what ways to you recognize students’ social identity development?

There is an inherent bias in these questions, assuming that faculty did consider any of these factors. This was intentional and apparently did a good job of getting people to talk about ways they try to approach these principles in their teaching. In some cases, definitions and explanations where required: “what IS metacognition? why is it important,” for example. This is also a useful conversation to have as a starting point before you can even consider implementing this as a learning strategy in your class.

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