Challenging my practice: Five tools from STLHE 2015

By Amber Shaw posted on August 20th, 2015

This year’s Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE) conference was entitled, “Achieving Harmony: Tuning into Practice,” which I felt reflected my individual experience at this conference well. While many conferences leave me with one or two big take-aways, I felt that I left STLHE this year with many smaller (but no less transformative) tools for my teaching toolbox. Some of these take-aways challenged my core teaching beliefs, while others were “that’s so cool” ideas for new teaching tools. I realize that everyone at the conference took different paths through different streams, but I would like to share the path that I took as I reflected on my own practice. I’m not sure that my path was the proverbial road less travelled by, but here is what I learned nonetheless:

    1. One of the biggest new teaching tools that really pushed my core beliefs about the classroom is called Team-Based Learning. My new understanding of TBL came from two different sessions; the first entitled “5 High Impact Teaching Practices” by Dee Fink was captured by the amazing graphic note-taker Giulia Forsythe here. The second “Team Work that Works: An Introduction to team-based learning” by Jim Sibley and Ernesto Ocampo Edye was a hands-on demonstration that challenged my eclectic beliefs about learning and teaching. Take-away: Team-based learning is awesome. If there is one thing that you google today, please let it be this. Or better yet, check out this video on TBL. Or, of course, Wikipedia.
    2. Flipping: it’s not just for classes anymore. That’s right, there are some brave T.A.’s at McGill University who are flipping their tutorials (with great success I might add). Why hadn’t I thought of flipping my tutorials? With some basic videos and online quizzes, my students could be getting a lot of bang for the tutorial buck.
    3. Speaking of making some basic videos, I had the privilege of going to a workshop on Lightboards. Too cool, you have to watch this. I have already booked a session to go in and record on one at UBC. If your institution doesn’t have access to a lightboard, you can make one for under $200.00. Instructions here.
    4. Creativity and fun! With all of the digital flipping, master planning, and team building going on, when do I get to just bring in cool stuff to the classroom? I’m glad that I went to the 2014 3M National Teaching Fellows’ workshop on how to remember that I like teaching because it can be so imaginative and just plain fun. Here is a neat summary of some of the fun they shared.
    5. The ultimate challenge for me came on the last day. Outside of teaching, facilitating the ISW (Instructional Skills Workshop) is one of my favourite things to do. I believe in the grassroots approach of the ISW with every fiber of my teaching being. The ISW is a workshop that is a way for anyone that has to do any type of instruction to gain some new skills using a peer feedback model. It has been near and dear to my heart for many years now, so the thought of going to a workshop to hear about how some people are changing it was well….my knee jerk reaction was primed.

Rest assured though, the ISW is in great hands, as I left the “Incorporating flexible/blended learning into the ISW” workshop feeling like a blended model for the ISW actually offers some incredible advantages without losing any of the transformative “ah-ha” moments.

The STLHE conference this year was truly a practice-changing experience for me. I look forward to pushing my teaching into new designs and spaces this fall. I have also marked my calendar for the STLHE 2016 conference, which will be held in London, Ontario next June.


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Amber Shaw is a faculty member in the Academic English Program at UBC’s Vantage College and a recipient of one of BCcampus’ Faculty Bursaries to attend STLHE 2015 in Vancouver. This blog post originally appeared on the BCcampus website. To learn more about BCcampus, sign up for the BCcampus Newsletter or follow @BCcampus on Twitter.

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