Funny story: A member of the Faculty of Science once ran into a former student in a public bathroom.
The student approached him and said, looking back, he was the best professor the student ever had while in university and, though he didn’t appreciate it at the time, he certainly did now.
That was just one of the anecdotes shared at a recent teaching and learning retreat held for the Faculty of Science. The event, which took place April 28 at the Johnson GEO Centre, gave faculty, sessional instructors and contractual employees the chance to talk about their discipline and relate some of their best teaching experiences, while sharing tips and tricks.
“Ultimately, if we would like to see things change, we need to change them. People have to want to change.”
Dr. Danny Dyer, the Chair in Teaching and Learning in the Faculty of Science, co-ordinated the event with Dr. Christina Thorpe of the Department of Psychology. He says one of the goals of the retreat was to remind people that they have a love for their discipline.
“Most academics have found something that they love and have decided they want to do that for the rest of their lives. If we can pass some of that passion and excitement on to students, that’s a big win and I think it makes the teaching job a lot easier.”
Dr. Dyer says sharing positive teaching stories such as the one above can also become a source of strength when professors have a negative teaching experience in the future.
“These things have a very delayed reaction,” he said. “Some might not immediately benefit, or might not be aware they’ve benefitted from these experiences, until years down the road. So, when we get these positive affirmations, it’s very nice. It’s nice to hear that our teaching is appreciated.”
Another goal of the event was to bring people together to start a conversation about teaching in the Faculty of Science. Dr. Dyer believes that while many feel teaching is secondary to research, it’s a major part of an academic’s life and those that do have a strong interest in it should be able to find others who share that value.
“It’s called a community of practice and we now have the advantage of knowing who else out there is trying interesting things,” he said. “They may now become a resource to others or inspire them to try something new. I think it’s important to have that support network.”
He is now working with Drs. Thorpe and Amy Todd, the Faculty of Science embedded teaching consultant, to co-ordinate a regular lunchtime teaching and learning seminar series and hopes this is just the first of many teaching retreats to come.
Spotlight on teaching
“Ultimately, if we would like to see things change, we need to change them,” said Dr. Dyer. “People have to want to change. My hope is through events like this, we can increase the spotlight on teaching and support people who want to further develop their own teaching.
“It’s going to be an incremental process, but as long as we start moving in the right direction, we can build up some momentum and keep moving.”
As the chair in teaching and learning for the Faculty of Science, Dr. Dyer is one of 13 academics from across Memorial appointed to support teaching and learning at the university. This involves collaborating with colleagues to advance the objectives of the Teaching and Learning Framework, promoting the scholarship of teaching and learning and developing strategies to address common challenges.