STLHE returns to showcase teaching, learning

This summer, Western, in collaboration with Fanshawe College, will host the 35th annual conference for the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE), from June 21-24.

Many Western faculty have been long-time members of STLHE, Canada’s pre-eminent society devoted to enhancing teaching and learning, with many Western faculty members instrumental in the creation of the society. It has been more than 20 years since we last hosted the society’s conference on our campus, but it seems fitting to have it here this year as we will also be celebrating the 30th anniversary of the 3M National Teaching Fellowship.

The fellowship is awarded annually to the 10 most outstanding faculty in Canada and focuses on educational leadership and teaching excellence. Having the conference in London, the national headquarters of 3M Canada, a longstanding supporter of quality postsecondary education, allows us to bring the award home to its roots. Thirty years ago, then-3M President John Myser believed we needed to celebrate great teachers in Canada and instituted the award in collaboration with STLHE.

Western has the highest number of fellowship winners in Ontario, starting with Justice Eileen Gillese (Law) and James Erskine (Ivey Business School) in 1986 and, more recently, Mark Goldszmidt (Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry) in 2013 and Cameron Tsujita (Science) in 2014. We have a proud history of teaching innovation and leadership at Western. At the conference, 3M Fellowship winners will be highlighted in our Welcome to My Classroom sessions.

The STLHE 2016 conference has the theme of Empowering Learners and Effecting Change. We will explore the ways in which we contribute to the development of students who are motivated, confident and prepared to effect positive change in personal, professional, educational and civic realms.

The notions of Empowering Learners and Effecting Change are reflected in the visions of Western and Fanshawe College. Both institutions work toward the realization of this conference theme by seeking the best learning experience to unlock potential.

At Western, we strive to educate the whole person and build a culture of achievement that inspires all members of our campus community to succeed as engaged global citizens. At Fanshawe, key values include engaging each other and embracing change as we strive to promote pathways to student success with an international outlook cognizant of the needs of the modern workforce. These values resonate with the reality of the contemporary classroom and will enlighten and challenge conference participants.

The ideas generated at STLHE 2016 will help us to foster learning environments that reward creativity and productive risk-taking on the part of faculty, staff and students. Educators from both institutions will be able to showcase their practices and scholarship as session presenters, gain currency in higher education research and network across college/university and disciplinary boundaries.

Our first keynote speaker is David Helfand, past president of Quest University in British Columbia, who comes from a postsecondary institution renowned for its innovative and learner-centred approach to education. Quest has embedded unique mechanisms by which students can tailor their educational programs, allowing them to develop creative, entrepreneurial, collaborative and intellectual skills. He will speak to systemic changes that can empower students in our modern postsecondary system.

Likewise, our second keynote, Leslie Ortquist-Ahrens, Director of Center for Transformative Learning at Berea College in Kentucky, will discuss the challenges of empowering students within the context of a smaller college where many students come from economic need and will explore the possibilities of faculty-student partnerships to enhance learning.

No conference focussing on empowering learners would be complete without a plenary from students and this year’s 10 winners of the 3M National Student Fellowship will present an interactive closing plenary, which highlights their outstanding leadership at college or university.

Last year, two Western students, Justine Baek and Nicola Pavigliani, were awarded the student fellowship. Their cohort will present an interactive session where they discuss a virtual platform they created to capture students ideas about the potential for student growth and development within postsecondary education in Canada.

The pre-conference, held at Fanshawe, will begin with a lively panel discussion exploring the opportunities created for students and faculty through collaboration within and between postsecondary institutions. Specifically, the panel will discuss personal and professional success through their experiences with different kinds of institutions and modes of education.

Throughout the day, various interactive workshops will engage participants with topics such as creative pedagogy, student engagement, pathways and institutional collaboration.

Western faculty, students, staff and postdoctoral scholars will find STLHE 2016 a wonderful opportunity to engage in deep conversations about topics that really matter related to enhancing teaching and learning. More than 600 participants will have the opportunity to network with colleagues, experience active learning classrooms, participate in sessions facilitated by award-winning faculty, be inspired by the voices of our undergraduate students and hear about the current research on teaching that is occurring across the country.

Finally, with more than 90 presenters from Western, we will also have the opportunity to celebrate the many innovative teaching practices occurring on our campus. Western faculty, students and staff are giving sessions on topics ranging from community engaged learning in the social sciences to inquiry based learning in science. The conference will feature a combination of interactive sessions, including many in our own active learning classroom (WALS), research sessions and Pecha Kucha where presenters must deliver 20 slides in about six minutes.

Michael Van Bussel is co-chair STLHE 2016 organizing committee and works within faculty development at Fanshawe College. Debra Dawson is co-chair STLHE 2016 organizing committee and Director at Western’s Teaching Support Centre.

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Western and Fanshawe College will fully support all presenters to attend the conference. At Western, partial support is available for up to 150 faculty, staff, postdoctoral fellows and students. Fanshawe is also providing support for faculty and staff to attend. See your academic manager for details.

Register before April 30 using an institutional email address to receive the subsidy.

Visit the conference website for details.