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Welcome to the KPU Teaching and Learning Commons Blog!

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Contributions by KPU Teaching & Learning Community members for the broader community. KPU educators, students, staff and administrators are invited to post your T&L stories, experiences, resources and events. “Login” (bottom right) using your KPU credentials to post. N.B. Postings are moderated to ensure tagging consistency and will appear on the main TL Commons page 15 minutes after approval.

A New Perspective on Exams: Congratulations to KPU’s School of Horticulture Landscape Students!

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As KPU’s Spring exam semester comes to a close, the Teaching & Learning Commons sends our congratulations to School of Horticulture Instructor, Michelle Nakano, and her Sustainable Landscape Design II students for a fantastic example of experiential learning and assessment!

Michelle’s students finished their semester with a landscaping exam that involved the design and installation of four townhome patios at West Coast Gardens in Surrey. Students completed the design and installation of their patio and then received feedback from the experts at West Coast Gardens. Students were then able to adopt and integrate the feedback they received into the final end product. This is a wonderful instance of experiential learning and unique assessment practices!


This video showcases the students’ experience during the exam process and their feedback.

How might you add experiential learning or a new assessment practice to your course?


The Second Pan-Canadian Conference on Universal Design for Learning

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Are you interested in sharing UDL practices across sectors and disciplines? Would you like to learn more about current Canadian UDL initiatives?

Registration is now open for The Second Pan-Canadian Conference on Universal Design for Learning from May 31 to June 2, 2017 at the University of Prince Edward Island in Charlottetown, PEI. This year’s topic is Bringing User Experience to Education: UDL and Inclusion for the 21st Century.

UDL poster jpeg

For more information or to register, please visit www.udlconference.ca.

New Resource on Open Education

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Interested in learning about open education? KPU has leadership in this area. Suggested reading of a new, freely available book, “Open: the philosophy & practices that are revolutionizing education & science”, which can be found at http://ow.ly/rQaO30aJT65. Edited by Rajiv Jhangiani & Robert Biswas-Diener (eds.), the book includes a chapter by Farhad Dastur on, “How to open an academic department”. Congrats and kudos to Rajiv and Farhad!

Pedagogical Ailments Common in Undergraduate Systems

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When a student fails a course one may attribute that failure to any number of personal or pedagogical variables. All educators have encountered the personal ones – a death in the family causes an absence, heavy out of school work hours, etc. – but these things are typically outside of our control. On the pedagogical side there a number of variables only an institution can control. These are things like class sizes, available equipment, out of class support, and so forth. Take out the personal variables, and the institutional ones, and you are left with those things an educator might directly alter to improve success rates.

Of those variables that faculty members can control, the one we seem most able to discuss is academic prerequisites. When too many students fail a course, the first question at the curriculum committee is often whether we ought not to raise the prerequisite grade to get into the course in the first place. Allowing students to enter a course when we know there is a significant failure probability is irresponsible, it is said. This is surely true. We ought not let students take classes they are ill-prepared for, but this isn’t the entire story. It is merely one variable within it.

To say that raising a prerequisite for a course would increase success rates is actually quite misleading when you consider the second-order consequence of that decision. I could dramatically increase the success rate in my courses by making the entry grade A+. If I only accept the most gifted of liberal arts thinkers I am unlikely to fail them in large numbers, but I have obtained this benefit at the cost of leaving those persons who would benefit most out of the conversation entirely. It is as if a hospital lowered its fatality rate by deciding to treat only persons with the common cold. Little is gained by leaving those in need of public service outside of that service.

So the grade one needs to get into a course is only one part of a very complex picture. Sometimes we do need to raise the entry requirements, but (as an open access institution, in particular) these instances should be quite rare. We should, rather, ask what variables might be addressed that don’t involve excluding more people. What other diagnoses are possible? Here are a few.

  1. Assignmentus Disconnectus – In some classes the assignment given is only loosely related to what was actually done in class. If you have spent the semester in open dialogue and debate, a multiple choice test will likely produce results lower than the true achievement levels the students have attained. One can’t measure oranges by the standards of apples. The reverse is also true. If you give an essay test after a semester of keyword memorization, you should expect poor performance.
  2. Formativitus – At the first year level, in particular, universities tend to spend the first few weeks dumping knowledge-level outcomes into students minds. Somewhere around the one month mark a multiple choice test is given. That test is sometimes worth a significant chunk of the students’ grades. They had no chance to fail and correct themselves before that moment – no formative feedback. The first time a student performs a task (cognitive or otherwise) should not be their only shot at it. If they were able to be good at something the first time the need for educators would be dramatically reduced.
  3. Officia Absentia – Students are busy, and sometimes overwhelmed, anxious or under far more pressure than is healthy. They have an unprecedented number of reasons to never avail themselves of office hours. The great virtue, though, of going to a small university is that we have more time. This applies outside of the classroom as well as in it. We need to be available, in person or online, for multiple points of contact with each person. One can’t tailor a strong learning experience without normal human contact. We need to push for it.
  4. Ambiguous Rubrication – If students don’t know what excellence looks like (through rubrics, examples, and modelling) it is entirely unreasonable to expect them to manifest it. They should know, on day one, what the class is aiming at. This means providing not just learning outcomes, but also marking guides and (if possible) exemplars for the upcoming assignments. When people know what they need create, they can attend to their development much more effectively.

Other diagnoses are possible, but these are a good start.

(not a real) Dr. Burns

Upcoming External Conferences, Workshops & Events

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March 29 – Logic Models and Indicators workshop through Fraser Health: KPU is a partner institution and these workshops are available to us. More info.

April 6 – Evaluation 101: Conducting Evaluation for Decision Making workshop through Fraser Health: KPU is a partner institution and these workshops are available to us. More info.

May 1 to 5 – CU2Expo2017: For the Common Good. Hosted by SFU and its community partners. Limited registration available. Details & registration.

May 2 to 3 – Postsecondary Learning & Teaching Conference. University of Calgary. Details & registration.

May 3 to 4 – Engaging Every Learner Conference. UBC Okanagan. Details & registration.

May 6 – Investigating our Practices Conference. Offered by UBC’s Faculty of Education. Early bird registration until April 7. Details & registration.

May 11 to 12 – Vancouver Island University Teaching and Learning Conference. Registration is open until May 3. Details & registration.

May 17 to 18 – SFU’s Annual Symposium on Teaching & Learning: Voices of Diversity and Inclusion: Vulnerabilities, Tensions, and Opportunities. Details & registration.

May 24 to 25 – Open Textbook Summit. Hosted by BCcampus, located at SFU Harbour Centre (downtown). Details & registration.

May 27 to June 2 – Congress 2017: The Next 150 on Indigenous Lands. Canada’s annual Humanities, Social Sciences, and Education conference. Within are various discipline-specific streams such as CSSE (Canadian Society for the Studies of Education). Toronto, ON. Details & registration.

June 1 to 2 – Educational Technology Users Group (ETUG) Spring Workshop. UBC Okanagan. Early bird registration until April 16. Details & registration

June 20 to 23 – Society of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE) Annual Conference. Halifax. Early bird registration until April 30. Details & registration.

July 28 to 30 – Digital Pedagogies Lab. Co-hosted by Hybrid Pedagogy and KPU. Event at KPU Richmond. Details & registration. Any faculty members interested in attending, please contact open@kpu.ca

Teaching with Pizzazz! Easy eLearning Strategies

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KPU Faculty of Health is pleased to invite you to participate in a day of e-learning to focus on strategies for the classroom and online. This is a practical hands-on opportunity to discuss e-learning tools with others and to build a community of practice. Workshops will focus on technologies that are accessible, easy to use, low-cost/free, and can be used in any classroom or clinical setting.

We are all aware learning technology has reshaped how we engage students in teaching, learning and creativity. Various apps, social media and new technologies continue to transform how we share, communicate, network, collaborate, create and disseminate seamlessly online and in the classroom. This conference will focus on the practical applications of these types of technologies in relation to teaching and learning.


Scholarly Inquiry Grants (SIGs) now available!

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Are you a KPU instructor who’s interested in advancing your teaching practice? These new grants may be for you as they are intended to enhance KPU students’ learning experiences by encouraging faculty-led investigation of new or innovative teaching and learning practices. Learn more about this opportunity. Deadline: May 1.

Image Source: CC Image courtesy of gforsythe on Flickr

Digital Pedagogy Lab Vancouver

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Announcing Digital Pedagogy Lab Vancouver (July 28-30, 2017)

From July 28-30, KPU’s Richmond campus will host Digital Pedagogy Lab Vancouver, a three-day institute that explores the role and application of digital technology in teaching. Three tracks offer intensive peer-driven learning with and discussion of open education, new media, and critical digital pedagogy (participants work with a cohort in all-day sessions from Friday to Sunday). DPL Vancouver is open to teachers, students, librarians, and technologists at all levels of education experimenting with digital tools in hybrid or online environments. For more information about this exciting event (including the keynote speakers, instructors, and registration details), please visit: http://www.digitalpedagogylab.com/vancouver/

KPU faculty who are interested in learning more about or attending this event should send an email to open@kpu.ca

Invitation to Scholarly Activity Committee

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Balbir Gurm is sitting on the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC’s (FPSE) Professional and Scholarly Development Committee.  In order to represent as many voices as possible, Balbir has started a Scholarly Activity Committee that will provide advice to all stakeholders including the KFA and KPU. The committee would like to invite all departments to have representation on the committee. 

The information on the committee is below.  The committee will meet a minimum of 4 times per year and use technology so individuals from all campuses can participate. To join please send Balbir an email to Balbir.gurm@kpu.ca

Scholarly Activity Committee

The committee accepts Boyer’s Model of scholarship: teaching and learning, application, integration, creativity and discovery.

Purpose: to identify and assess the scholarly development needs of faculty, and promote means of enabling faculty individually and collectively to develop their own scholarly development activities. The Scholarly Activity Committee provides a forum for sharing information and creating space for scholarship.  As well, it will advise stakeholders on needs of faculty, resources and educational opportunities and ways to create equity in scholarship activities.

Call for Proposals for KPU’s 1st Symposium on Teaching, Learning, Scholarship & Research

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We are excited to announce KPU’s first Symposium of this scope. Our theme is: Where Thought Meets Action. Activities will take place primarily at KPU Surrey and other field trip venues (pending proposals) on Wed. June 7 to Fri. June 9. The Call for Proposals is now open to all KPU Community Members and closes on Thurs. April 13.

Alex Usher from Higher Educational Strategy Associates will keynote on June 7, on, Polytechnic education & skills for the future”. Join us and engage in lively discussions.

Colleagues at other BC post-secondary institutions are invited to attend our Symposium. Registration will open in April.

See: https://www.kpu.ca/teaching-and-learning/tlr-symposium

This event is a partnership between the Teaching & Learning Commons and Office of Research and Scholarship.