When it comes to supporting teaching and learning at Memorial University, Jason Geary is a jack of many trades.
In his teaching consultant role with the Centre for Innovation in Teaching and Learning (CITL), he provides pedagogical support for educators, graduate students and entire faculties and departments.
But his background in special education and community health, and his diverse experience as an educator for nearly 25 years, is helping the university address some important issues and topics that impact students’ learning experiences.
Educator to practitioner
“I have taught in a variety of settings, including hospitals, correctional facilities and treatment centres, as well as in college and university classrooms,” said Mr. Geary.
“As a teacher, I am always looking to enhance my practice through engaging with the research, as well as continued reflection and professional development. I do this as a practitioner as well, and my current role simply provides the opportunity to assist other instructors and graduate students in doing the same thing.”
In addition to working with educators, graduate students and academic units at Memorial, Mr. Geary also works with non-academic units, such as the Student Wellness and Counselling Centre and the Blundon Centre.
“Collaborations with non-academic units are very rewarding because it allows me to interact with those that directly support students, and you can really see the impact of your work,” he explained.
“There are a number of projects that I am currently working on that are incredibly exciting.”
Accessibility and inclusivity
One example is his current collaboration with the Blundon Centre that focuses on promoting and enhancing equitable and inclusive educational spaces and experiences for all learners.
“The increased variability among our students requires us to rethink how we design and deliver meaningful educational experiences.”
As part of the project, Mr. Geary is helping to inform the teaching and learning community about accessibility and inclusive teaching practices.
“Focusing on the experiences of students who live with disabilities is a great place to concentrate some of our efforts that centre on equity, diversity and inclusion,” he said.
“Frameworks like universal design for instruction and universal design for learning, for example, do not rely solely on providing accommodations for students with disabilities. Instead, they utilize research-based approaches to providing equitable learning spaces for all students. The increased variability among our students really does require us to rethink how we design and deliver meaningful educational experiences.”
Another area Mr. Geary feels fortunate to be involved with is Memorial University’s efforts to indigenize the academy.
“CITL has been supporting the Office of Aboriginal Affairs as they lead and decide direction on this very important initiative. Indigenization is such important work, and is something I take very seriously as a settler-ally and teacher.”
In collaboration with the Office of Aboriginal Affairs, Mr. Geary has taken part in indigenization discussions with faculties and other key individuals to explore how to further support the ongoing Strategic Indigenization Plan that is currently underway.
He has also been working with the Aboriginal Resource Office to develop in-house Aboriginal awareness training for educators, have discussions on indigenizing the curricula and explore how to enhance cultural competence throughout Memorial.
Enhancing teaching practice
Aside from his consultant-related work, Mr. Geary is also busy with the regular programming for educators and graduate students for the 2018-19 academic year. Namely, CITL’s Teaching Skills Enhancement Program for both instructors and graduate students.
“The program introduces instructors and graduate students to a number of themes including adult learning theory, assessment and evaluation and the scholarship of teaching and learning, as well as cultural competence and learner variability,” he explained. “It is a very thorough program that gets rave reviews every semester.”
While Mr. Geary values his work with educators to enhance their teaching practice, ultimately he hopes his work will make a positive impact on the overall student learning experience.
“Whether it is working with a group of educators about how to teach critical thinking, or working with instructors to evaluate and encourage the use of a variety of assessment methods to draw on students’ strengths, ultimately the goal is to have a lasting and positive impact on student learning experiences.”