Grants provide tools for better teaching

Every year, teachers try to find new ways to get data into students' heads, or inspire them to learn on their own, or explore issues related to course content. Sometimes these teachers need a little extra help, and that's where Faculty Teaching Development Grants (FTDGs) come in.

Administered by the Centre for Teaching and Learning Services (CTLS), FTDGs can make a real difference in the classroom, and in some cases, the influence of some techniques developed through these modest grants has spread beyond Concordia. Here's a sampling of recent projects approved for grants.

* Drama Therapy Professor Christine Novy is the principal investigator for a group of seven teachers from three related programs who are looking at "Personal Development and Professional Identity: Finding a Balance in Creative Arts Therapies Education."

While Art Therapy is 21 years old at Concordia and was the first program of its kind in Canada, Drama Therapy is only three years old, and Creative Arts Therapies, or CATS, is quite new. CATS, which is still evolving, combines theory and research with on-site experience. As part of the program, students must explore their own developing identities.

This raises the following questions for Novy and her colleagues: "How do we teach therapy without 'therapizing' the process? How do we help to contain personal issues when they arise in an educational setting? How do we balance personal development with the formation of professional identity?"

With their FTD grant, they plan to do a study of similar programs in Canada, the U.S., Britain, the Netherlands and Israel; conduct an anonymous survey of CATS students; and conduct interviews and workshops on the subject. They hope that the written results can be used not only in their program, but also by teachers in disciplines with similar issues, such as applied human sciences.

* Computer Science Professor Lixin Tao has a different pedagogical problem. He is faced with large numbers of incoming undergraduates who have difficulty with the intellectual concepts required for basic computer programs. (That's because computer programming is not required at the CEGEP level, even for students heading into university programs in the field.)

"It is a new subject covering a wide range of concepts, devices and techniques, and so there are a lot of semantic gaps in textbooks on the topic," Tao explained in his proposal. "A lot of the material is more easily explained through examples than with text explanations. For students with limited training in abstraction, the challenge is significant."

A key concept is "class inheritance," the organization of objects into an expanding series of classes according to their properties. Tao's simple-but-beautiful idea is to create animations of this concept that would be accessible to the students on a server. Tao will design the project and implement the main frame and example code, getting part-time student programmers to finish the job.

* Linguistics Professors Charles Reiss and Mark Hale are taking a two-pronged approach in applying their FTD grant to a required course called Language and Mind: The Chomskyan Program. They are going to hire two assistants to provide feedback for students' writing, and develop appropriate computer exercises for the students, many of whom are cyber-neophytes.

Faculty Teaching Development Grants, 2000-2001

* Arshad Ahmad (Finance), Designing and Validating an Online Course Evaluation Questionnaire

* Gary Boyd (Education) and Geza Joos (Electrical and Computer Engineering), Interactive CD-ROM-based Learning Environment

* Eusebius Doedel and P. Kamthan (Computer Science), Extensive Markup Language in Numerical Analysis

* Trevor Gould (Studio Art), Spatial Practice: Sculpture at Concordia the Last 10 Years

* Danica Jojich (Studio Arts), Instructional Video: Sculptural Practices

* Paul Langdon (Art Education), A Teaching and Learning Model for Gallery/Museum Educators

* Christine Novy (Creative Arts Therapies), Personal Development and Professional Identity: Finding a Balance in Creative Arts Therapies Education

* Sandra Paikowsky (Art History) and Nancy Marrelli (Archives), Interactive Web Site for Teaching and Research: Véhicule Art Gallery and the Montreal Cultural Milieu

* Charles Reiss and Mark Hale (CMLL/Linguistics), 'Real World' Skills and Intellectual Inquiry

* Latha Shanker (Finance), Course Development in Management of Financial Institutions

* Frederick Szabo (Mathematics and Statistics), A Web-Based Environment for Open and Distance Learning

* Lixin Tao (Computer Science), Internet Animation of Key Programming Concepts and Techniques

* Thomas Waugh (Cinema), Frances Shaver and Roy Higgins (Sociology and Anthropology), A Distance Version of 'HIV/AIDS: Cultural, Social & Scientific Aspects of the Pandemic'

Total amount granted: $56,178

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