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October 24, 2002 CTLS celebrates 30th anniversary



Concordia’s Centre for Teaching and Learning Services is collaborating with the School of Graduate Studies and the Department of Education to develop a new non-credit graduate course for PhD students.

“The proposal is going forth this month and we hope that we will be able to run a pilot next September,” said Director Olivia Rovinescu. The title of the course will be University Teaching & Learning: Theory into Practice.

Graduate students interested in pursuing an academic career would do well to take this course, because hiring institutions now look for good teaching skills, she said.

“Faculty searches are attracting large numbers of applicants, and search committees are able to concentrate their attention on those applicants with teaching experience and with evidence of effectiveness,” Rovinescu said.

“Increasingly, faculty members are expected to do more than simply cover the content of their fields.” This means developing specific goals and using a variety of methods to cultivate and assess learning.

As envisioned now, the new graduate course will be offered in two sections to respect the disciplinary differences between science and engineering on the one hand, and the fine arts and humanities on the other.

There will be no prerequisites, but students will be expected to complete a formal or informal internship while taking the course, so they will need either a teaching assistant contract, or written agreement by a faculty member to teach part of their course, in order to gain experience in teaching, grading, lab supervision, and/or tutoring. They will also begin to develop a teaching dossier.

Originally, the CLTS was called the Learning Development Office, and primarily administered course evaluations, but it has become much more proactive, working with individual departments and the four faculties on the full range of teaching and learning.

Just before classes start in the fall, the CTLS co-ordinates four orientation days for all newly-hired tenure-track faculty, one for each faculty.

Then there’s the popular three-day Instructional Skills Workshop (ISW), which enables faculty to experiment and strengthen their teaching skills together. It’s always good to know you can talk to others about the challenges of the classroom.

Some faculty members prefer to improve their teaching skills in private, and take advantage of the CTLS’s consultation service, which is confidential and voluntary.

Each year, CTLS gives a half-day orientation for new teaching assistants, followed by a week-long series of lunchtime workshops. Here, TAs can meet their colleagues, and become acquainted with the university’s resources, rules, and regulations regarding teaching. This year, a record number of 120 graduate students attended.

The new CTLS Web site at http://ctls.concordia.ca includes many resources, and the CTLS is working with graduate students from the educational technology program to produce a series of videos on teaching at Concordia, which can be viewed on the Web site.

Janette Barrington, teaching consultant at the CTLS, was hired as part of the McConnell Pedagogy Technology Project, and is co-ordinating this video project, among others.

“The scope of our involvement has changed as well over the years to encompass issues that go beyond pedagogy, such as the issue of academic integrity,” Rovinescu added.

“This month, Concordia will take part in a North-America-wide study of academic integrity in higher education co-ordinated by Advocacy and Support Services.

“As part of the study, Concordia students and faculty (possibly teaching assistants as well) will be surveyed about their views and experiences. The results of the surveys will be made available, and the issue of academic integrity will be explored at a special symposium planned by CTLS on May 8.”

The workshop will present recent research on academic misconduct, and provide participants with the chance to reflect on what steps they might take in both their own courses and in the university as a whole.

The person conducting the workshop is Julia Christensen Hughes, who recently undertook a study on academic integrity at the University of Guelph, where she is an associate professor and director of teaching support services.

Workshops entitled Fostering the Climate of Academic Integrity will be held on May 8, and Graduate Student Supervision, on May 15. Register online at the CTLS Web site, http://ctls.concordia.ca.

-Barbara Black