Western embracing ‘Change’ in the classroom

This summer, Western University will host the Times Higher Education (THE) Teaching Excellence Summit – the first time a THE World Summit Series event has been hosted in Canada.

Held June 4-6, the summit is dedicated to discussing teaching, celebrating achievement and exploring how to advance the practice towards greater success and impact in the 21st century. It is attended by higher education leaders, pedagogy innovators, edtech innovators and investors, and government policy-makers from around the world.

Titled Degrees of Change: Forces shaping the teaching and learning of tomorrow, the summit will explore themes of providing students educational opportunities beyond their borders; the impact and integration of technology and artificial intelligence on higher education; and the critical role post-secondary institutions must play in building a more inclusive society.

In celebration of the event, Western News presents the following series of stories highlighting teaching excellence at Western.

Zecevic: Teaching about learning together

Aleksandra Zecevic remembers it clearly. It was a Friday evening, around 6 p.m., the campus was eerily quiet as she headed home. A gentle snow was falling.

“I got the parking lot and I said to myself, ‘I am so happy. I am so happy to be here to have a job where I interact with young people all my life. I am surround by people who are 18-22 years old. What a beautiful energy and potential. What a fantastic way of seeing the future growing in front of your own eyes. Being part of creating that future is just an honour.’”

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Haffie and Wahl: Tapping into talent, technology

Tom Haffie has spent most of his career in front of “small towns.”

“I used to get this great idea of something I could do in class, then I would shut myself down because there are 800 students,” the Biology professor said. “But then again, it’s 800 people. What can you not do with 800 people in an hour?

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Sinclair: Technology only as good as the learning attached

For Barb Sinclair, technology – no matter how cool or cutting edged – is only as valuable as the teaching behind it.

“Although we really like technology in classrooms, as an instructor, you have to stop and think about it and look at it in light of your entire plan,” the Arthur Labatt Family School of Nursing professor said. “What is it you really want to accomplish? You cannot just want to use it because everyone else is and you want to be the coolest instructor in the building.”

At Western, technology has taken on a personal touch for Nursing students.

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Roland: Bringing teaching into the world

Sophie Roland stresses that all the world is a stage for her students.

“We teach applied music; we teach lessons; we teach opera. But I have tried to go beyond this direct and practical approach and add more experiential learning into the curriculum of our students, in particular international experiential learning,” the Don Wright Faculty of Music professor said.

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Dimitrov: Unlocking freedom that engages students

Radoslav Dimitrov just throws them in the deep end of some of the world’s most complex issues – and his students love it.

“It’s the glow in their eyes that signals to me how interested they are, how passionate they’ve become,” the Political Science professor said. “It’s that level of attention they give. When they are transfixed for hours on end, I know it’s working.”

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Solga: Making teaching both active and activist

Kim Solga is “kind of a weirdo” when it comes to her teaching.

“There are lots of ways to make lectures more dynamic. But I’m a fan of turning the tables and asking the students to participate in the learning process,” said the English and Writing Studies professor. “A lot of my colleagues love getting up and talking about historical ideas and novels. And everyone uses discussion tools as it’s a convenient way to convey knowledge. But I don’t think students retain much of lectures. I almost never lecture.

“It’s my job in the classroom to help shape students’ ideas of what it means to be a part of a group of people having a conversation about important ideas. The kinds of things we do in the classroom may shape new ways to think about stuff in the world.”

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Austin: Making a case for a different approach

Rob Austin makes a strong case for, well, cases.

“Students are on a journey of discovery and I’m the tour guide,” said the Ivey Business School professor. “Case method is an approach I like to call inductive. It starts with specifics of a particular situation and asks the students to extract some generalizable principals they can re-use in other situations. It’s discussion based; it’s the Socratic method; it’s engaging for the students.”

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