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Voices from the Classroom

Voices from the Classroom: Reflections on Teaching and Learning in Higher Education

Janice Newton
Jerry Ginsburg
Jan Rehner
Pat Rogers
Susan Sbrizzi
John Spencer
Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 374
  • Book Info
    Voices from the Classroom
    Book Description:

    Voices from the Classroomwill have a broad appeal to the university teaching community across North America, facing common challenges in the twenty-first century.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-0305-9
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-x)
  3. Introduction: Responsibility, Respect, Research and Reflection in Higher Education
    (pp. 1-4)
    Janice Newton

    Founded in 1959, York University is situated in one of the largest cities in North America. With a reputation for innovation in both teaching and research, York attracts students from a wide social spectrum to its two campuses. Many students are the first from their families to attend university; many are first-generation immigrants or refugees. All social classes are represented, as are a variety of groups with different disabilities. The diversity extends to different languages, sexualities, ages, religions and cultures. With more than 50,000 students in ten faculties, an ongoing challenge for faculty and teaching assistants at York is finding...


      (pp. 6-6)

      This section is devoted to exploring the pedagogical implications of teaching a diverse student body. How can we teach in a way that promotes learning forallstudents? To do this, we must consider who the students in our classes are. What knowledge and experiences do they bring with them? How does this shape the balance of power in the classroom? In what ways does this enhance or interfere with the learning process? How should this knowledge influence our teaching practices?

      We open this section with three articles reflecting students’ perspectives on their learning experiences. In the essay by Markita...

    • Part One: Student Voices

      • Gender‚ Power and Silence in the Classroom: Our Experiences Speak for Themselves
        (pp. 7-17)
        Markita Fleming, Nadia Habib, Tina Horley, Sabynthe Jones-Caldwell, Marla, kathie Moules, Lori Waserman and Samantha Wehbi

        The impetus to write this article arose out of our experiences as sixteen women and one man completing an assignment on gender in the classroom for a fourth-year seminar on feminist thought. Sharing our work revealed that our individual experiences were not isolated, chance incidents.

        Although we had known that, for the most part, the classroom is not a neutral place, theorizing these experiences uncovered the deeply systemic character of discrimination. Depending on our gender, race, class and sexual orientation, we discovered that we are heard differently and hear differently; as a result, we take away with us more lessons...

      • Fog and Frustration: The Graduate Student Experience
        (pp. 18-20)
        Jackie Buxton and Teaching Assistant’ Resource Group

        At York University we have a Teaching Assistants’ Resource Group, which works closely with graduate students from the wide range of disciplines and departments within the university. Operating in contradistinction to the assumption that teaching is learned through osmosis, the group provides a mechanism for confidential peer consultation and discussion of pedagogical issues. As well as attending to teaching strategies and techniques, the group offers assistance in understanding individual student differences and promotes sensitivity to human rights and equity issues. While the group provides a forum to foster teaching assistant development, it also offers a forum for the discussion of...

      • “Dissertation Dementia”: Reflections on One Woman’s Graduate Experience
        (pp. 21-24)

        For long periods during the writing of my dissertation, I consoled myself with the comfort that — even if I was making no headway on my thesis — I had produced a definition ofdissertation dementia.I imagined that dissertation dementia is that peculiar affliction located at the precise centre of three different sets of contradictions. The malady is created in the mad space between delusions of grandeur and the imposter syndrome, between fear of success and fear of failure, and between fears of abandonment and persecution mania. If this definition of dissertation dementia is humorous, the experience of it is anything...

    • Part Two: Teachers’ Voices

      • Power in the Classroom
        (pp. 25-39)
        Linda Briskin

        “I have a problem with the notion that there is huge power imbalance in the classroom,” he [Michael Bliss, a University of Toronto history professor] said. “It’s not the reality. Professors are not doing their duty if they give bad grades (to an outspoken student) and students are not contributing if they don’t speak up, if they hide behind what they think is a power situation.” Mr. Robinson, on the same panel, disagreed. “That’s a surreal view of the classroom,” he said. “The reality is that there is a significant power imbalance. The professor has tremendous power.” But others argued...

      • The University Classroom: From Laboratory to Liberatory Education
        (pp. 40-44)
        Teferi Adem

        The Ontario Human Rights Code recognizes the “dignity and worth of every person” and provides for “equal rights and opportunities without discrimination.” This legislation applies to all teachers, students and staff at any university in Ontario. Anyone who feels that they have been targeted or disadvantaged because of race or ethnic affiliation has the right to seek recourse under the law. York University’s Centre for Race and Ethnic Relations interprets this legislation as thesine qua nonand an essential pillar of the academic and scholarly freedom to discuss, explore, criticize and create our collective understandings of who we are....

      • Diversity in the Classroom: Engagement and Resistance
        (pp. 45-53)
        Carl E. James

        The diversity to be found among today’s university student population in terms of social class, gender, race, ethnicity, language,¹ sexuality and dis/ability poses significant challenges that require us to examine our pedagogical approaches if we are to make university education relevant and equitable to students. Much of this diversity in the student body is brought about by conscious efforts to remove barriers to university education. As a result, the new population of students enters with the expectation that the principles of access and equity will be reflected in the pedagogical approach to their education, and that their cultural interests and...

      • Responsibility and Respect in Critical Pedagogy
        (pp. 54-57)
        Leslie Sanders

        Certain issues in critical and feminist pedagogy trouble me, even though these approaches have had a profound impact on my own teaching practices. It seems to me that critical and feminist pedagogy both operate with a somewhat contradictory set of assumptions about students. On the one hand, they emphasize the knowledge and experience that students bring to their education, whether acquired from schooling or from life. On the other hand, they seem to assume that students need to be shaken out of ignorance and complacency, challenged in a way that disturbs their most deeply held assumptions about the world. However,...

      • Feminist Pedagogy: Paradoxes in Theory and Practice
        (pp. 58-62)
        Kathryn McPherson

        Over the past twenty-five years, feminist scholars and activists have challenged teachers to create a curriculum in which women’s experiences and actions play a central role. Feminist pedagogy, as it came to be called, included more than just making course content gender balanced; it involved transforming how that content was transmitted, thereby making the classroom a site of social change. This article outlines three major elements of feminist pedagogy and, using examples from my own teaching of Canadian history, will consider some of the theoretical and practical strengths and limitations feminist pedagogy offers.

        Early proponents of feminist pedagogy envisioned teaching...

      • Teaching “Women and Men in Organizations”: Feminist Pedagogy in the Business School
        (pp. 63-67)
        Pat Bradshaw and Catherine Ng

        This article describes some of the experiences and insights gained from an attempt to use feminist pedagogy in a course entitled “Women and Men in Organizations.” It was written as part of an ongoing dialogue between the course director and one of the students in the course. We evaluated the success of this teaching approach according to Carolyn Shrewsbury’s three dimensions of empowerment, community and leadership.

        At the beginning of the course, the instructor advised students of the course objectives:

        to examine critically the growing literature on women and men in organizations

        to help students explore the personal implications of...

      • Empowering Students Through Feminist Pedagogy
        (pp. 68-74)
        Rae Anderson

        One of the key concepts in feminist pedagogy is empowerment, which in much of the literature has been related to giving individuals a sense of control. Ideally, the feminist classroom provides students with control over the processes of their own education. More importantly, however, this individual empowerment is fostered within a climate of collective interdependence and responsibility for the integrity of the classroom. One of the greatest strengths of the feminist classroom is its potential to become a place where students are able to debate in a relatively protected sphere and work through issues together.

        The practice of feminist pedagogy...

      • Heterosexism in the Classroom
        (pp. 75-78)
        Leslie Green

        Heterosexism is to sexual diversity what racism is to ethnic diversity. Whether rooted in hatred, fear or ignorance, whether overt or covert, heterosexism devalues the lives of lesbians, gay men and bisexual people. Unlawful discrimination, violence, harassment, etc., raise serious issues beyond the scope of this article, though, sadly, not always beyond the experience of our students. Here, however, I want to consider how instructors might satisfy more than just our legal obligations to ensure that the classroom is a secure learning environment for all, one that respects diversity while allowing for vigorous debate.

        Owing to their authority, instructors must...

      • DisABILITY in the Classroom: The Forgotten Dimension of Diversity?
        (pp. 79-84)
        Sarah Clarke

        I’m a perpetual student — or so they tell me, and with three degrees under my belt and a fourth on the way they could be right! My studies, punctuated by five years in full employment, span two continents, three disciplines and undergraduate through postgraduate education. I have experienced the highs and lows of a multitude of teaching formats: lectures, small groups, research seminars, “live” projects, laboratory work, simulations and case studies, and a variety of assessment methods: essays, reports, individual presentations, group projects, research papers, articles, reviews, dissertations and theses.

        After all this I think I can put my hand...

      • Teaching Students with Learning Disabilities
        (pp. 85-88)
        Marc Wilchesky and Margaret Willis

        Individuals with a range of intellectual abilities who receive, process or express information in ways that are different from those used by most other individuals are described as having “learning disabilities” (LDS). University students with LDS can have average or above-average intellectual abilities, yet experience difficulties in one or more of the following areas: perceiving, listening, speaking, reading, writing, calculating or spelling. They might lack skills in organization and some can experience problems with social interaction. However, to succeed academically, many students with LDS have had to become expert problem solvers, compensating for the obstacles to their learning by being...

      • Avoiding the Retrofitted Classroom: Strategies for Teaching Students with Disabilities
        (pp. 89-92)
        Nancy Johnston

        For nearly two decades, advocacy organizations, students and university teachers have been working to remodel post-secondary institutions because they agree that equal access to education for students with disabilities is a right, not a privilege. The inclusion of persons with disabilities under human rights codes and under employment equity legislation has prompted institutions of higher education to improve the physical access to campuses for students with disabilities, particularly for those with mobility impairments, medical disabilities and visual impairments. Guaranteeing that students can enter a library or lecture hall has been, and continues to be, a primary focus of human and...

      • Adult Students
        (pp. 93-94)
        Leslie Sanders

        What constitutes good teaching? What attitudes, strategies and methods best promote student learning? These are matters for inquiry and debate. It is clear, however, that generic approaches can disadvantage certain groups of students who might have particular needs. Addressing these needs most probably will also assist all your students; however, the experience of “adult” students will certainly be enhanced if you keep a few things in mind.

        Adult students come to university with a variety of educational experiences. Many have had rigorous and very traditional early schooling; others might have had their schooling prematurely or even severely disrupted. However, their...

      • English-as-a-Second-Language Students
        (pp. 95-96)
        Leslie Sanders

        Like other large urban universities, York University is fortunate to have a large number of students from all over the world. Some have come to Canada for their education; others have recently settled here. Some students, whether born in Canada or elsewhere, speak French, Canada’s other official language, as their native language. These students for whom English is a second language (ESL) have a broad range of educational backgrounds and their English fluency varies. Often very good students, they might have difficulty expressing what they know, especially in courses that require essays and essay-type examinations. Some, accustomed to a more...


      (pp. 98-98)

      Another crucial dimension of student diversity involves differences in learning styles or stages of intellectual development. The four articles in this section draw attention to the research on student learning and intellectual development and the ways it might inform university-level teaching.

      The article by Clarkson focuses on different psychological types and how these influence ways of learning. Why does one learning strategy work best for some students, but not for others? How can you encourage particular kinds of learners to improve their learning? The Ginsburg article directs our attention to the different ways people process information. Each person tends towards...

    • Teaching Styles/Learning Styles: The Myers Briggs Model
      (pp. 99-104)
      Austin Clarkson

      The differences among students in their responses to my teaching has always been a matter of interest and concern to me throughout my career as a teacher. Why is it that some students respond so enthusiastically, while others can be so indifferent? I became more aware of the one-sidedness of my style of teaching when I began to teach in the Atkinson Faculty of Liberal and Professional Studies, which provides evening degree programs to part-time students. Many of my students were themselves teachers in elementary and secondary schools and challenged my preconceptions about how best to organize and present a...

    • The Gregorc Model of Learning Styles
      (pp. 105-109)
      Jerry Ginsburg

      Several years ago I attended a talk at my daughter’s high school concerned with learning styles. The theoretical model the school counselor chose to develop – the model used in the school to advise both students and teachers – was the one devised by Anthony Gregorc. After describing the four learning styles delineated by Gregorc, the counselor gave members of the audience a test to identify which style best characterized their approach to learning. The results were surprisingly satisfying and illuminating. Most people found that the learning style ascribed to them “fit” in an intuitively satisfying way and shed light on the...

    • Student Development: From Problem Solving to Problem Finding
      (pp. 110-117)
      Page Westcott

      Faculty members are usually hired for their subject-matter expertise, and for many of us, commitment to our discipline looms large in our identity. It is not surprising, then, that we may focus on subject-matter content goals more than on student development or the processes of liberal education goals, such as critical thinking, understanding of others, tolerance for ambiguity, and ethical responsibility.

      The past twenty years have produced important empirical research to guide university practices and the student’s involvement in subject matter is now recognized as providing conditions that can also support social, intellectual and ethical development in adulthood. (Pascarella and...

    • Using Theories about Student Learning to Improve Teaching
      (pp. 118-126)
      Pat Rogers

      A typical challenge at the post-secondary level is finding ways to respond to the tension between students’ desires to “get the grades” and the teacher’s wish that they would “get learning” (Weimer 1990). It is not uncommon for faculty to be frustrated by students’ insistence on a recipe-book approach to teaching and by their resistance to engaging in critical dialogue about the material they are asked to learn. Faculty try to meet students’ questions with more questions, but students want answers and they want them immediately. As instructors, we know that if we submit to this kind of pressure, students...


      (pp. 128-128)

      This section is devoted to course design. The first two articles raise issues that can be applied to course planning in any discipline. The article by Rehner and Spencer provides a practical outline of steps to take in designing a course, emphasizing the need for clear, reasonable course goals to guide the planning process. The range of issues to consider extends beyond content goals to include critical skills and attitudes you also want students to learn, and how to design activities to meet those goals. This article is useful for first-time teaching faculty, but some of its insights also might...

    • Course Planning: From Design to Active Classroom
      (pp. 129-132)
      Jan Rehner and John Spencer

      As critical skills coordinators, we are often asked to provide guidelines about course design that will help integrate content, skills, assignments and classroom activity. There are no magic formulas or rigid rules for course design, but we hope these guidelines might make the link between content and skills more explicit. Essentially, teaching critical skills is not a discrete activity, but a means of teaching content in active and student-centred ways.

      To design an effective course, you need to consider a full range of issues, all of which should be interrelated with your course goals. Thus it is best to clarify...

    • Developing and Teaching a Science Course: A Junior Faculty Member’s Perspective
      (pp. 133-135)
      Dawn R. Bazely

      When I taught my first upper-level biology course, I realized the limited practical use of my prior, extensive experience preparing tutorials, laboratory demonstrations and short field courses. Planning and delivering a half- or full-year course demanded a breadth of vision much greater than that required for, say, planning eight one-hour tutorials in animal behaviour.

      I found it helpful to break down the process of course planning into three basic components, which are presented in the following diagram.

      Judgements must be made about all three areas. With regard to “course curriculum,” one must decide on the body of academic information to...

    • The Dialectic of Course Development: I Theorize, They React...and Then?
      (pp. 136-138)
      Jerry Ginsburg

      I am not a dialectical kind of guy. I don’t like to learn on the fly, to grow through experimentation and interaction. I prefer to attack problems in a sequential fashion, moving logically from premises to conclusions. Given my temperament, I naturally hewed to a deductive procedure when I set out, two sabbaticals ago, to develop a new third-year course in nineteenth-century American political history. I carefully identified my teaching goals and pedagogic assumptions. Then, with Cartesian elegance, I derived a perfect course structure. Unfortunately, it survived only three weeks of class. Perhaps recounting why it had to be modified...

    • Beyond Bare Facts: Teaching Goals in Science
      (pp. 139-140)
      M. Brock Fenton

      To students and non-scientists, science seems to be dominated by a multitude of facts that must be retained to demonstrate one’s grasp of a topic. Challenging students to recall facts or use them to solve problems provides a convenient and objective way of assessing student performance. This approach is particularly attractive when classes are large and students expect prompt return of graded material. Scientists justify their emphasis on “facts” by comparing scientific facts to the vocabulary one needs to learn a language. There is some truth to this, but reality is a bit more complex. Most scientists are not in...

    • “Why Didn’t He Just Say It?”: Getting Students Interested in Language
      (pp. 141-144)
      Robert Adolph

      It is your Tuesday 10 o’clock in “Intro Lit,” and the reading is selections fromWalden.The lecture seems to go well. First a summary of the high points of Thoreau’s life: the stifled romance, the journeys to Cape Cod and Maine, the fateful night in the Concord jail, the relationship with Emerson and the Transcendentalists, the support of John Brown, and finally, to liven things up, the deathbed zinger when, on being asked by a pious auntie if he’d made his peace with God, Brown replied that he never knew they’d quarreled. The students like it; at least, they...


      (pp. 146-146)

      Often overlooked in thinking about university-level teaching and learning are the issues that relate to graduate teaching. Here we consider two dimensions of that experience. Graduate students learn as students in a discipline, but at the same time, they are also apprenticing to become teachers. In each case, much of that learning hinges on successful relationships between faculty members and graduate students. Leyton-Brown’s article addresses the relationship between graduate student and supervisor, offering guidelines for a successful supervisory relationship. The next two articles focus on teaching apprenticeship relationships. As a graduate teaching assistant, Dionne discusses how teaching assistants can have...

    • Graduate Supervisory Practices
      (pp. 147-152)
      David Leyton-Brown

      The research experience is the heart of graduate education and the supervisory relationship is essential to the quality of that experience. Recognizing and respecting the differences among practices in different disciplines, and among individual learning and supervisory styles, the relationship between the graduate student and the faculty supervisor is perhaps the most important academic determinant of the quality of the graduate student’s education. Especially at the doctoral level, the quality of supervisory practices can facilitate or discourage successful completion of the degree program, can accelerate or delay progress towards completion of that program and can have a powerful influence on...

    • Working Together: The Teaching Assistant – Professor Relationship
      (pp. 153-156)
      Annie Dionne

      This article aims to help teaching assistants (TAs) and faculty members maintain good working relationships. It combines insights gleaned from other TAs as well as from my own teaching experience. Typically, TAs work on a course that a professor has designed. The professor lectures to a large number of students, while the TAs work with students in smaller groups as tutorial leaders and marker/graders. But not all of us work in ideal circumstances – teaching what we like and working with people we like. I will discuss the four aspects of the TA – professor relationship that are most significant in keeping...

    • Working with Teaching Assistants
      (pp. 157-158)
      Leslie Green

      Tutorial sections in a large course have the potential to be among the best or the worst learning experiences of our students. A good tutorial engages their interest, stimulates discussion and exploits the tension between the course director (CD) and teaching assistant (TA) in a productive way to broaden the perspectives of the students. A poor tutorial alienates them and plods along with dwindling attendance and discussion, and the tension between course directors and teaching assistants degenerates into rivalry or even open conflict. The following suggestions might help ensure that tutorials work well.

      1. Plan Your Division of Labour


    • Issues for International Teaching Assistants
      (pp. 159-160)
      Nick Elson

      Most advice that is relevant for teaching assistants (TAs) in general is also relevant for international teaching assistants. This article provides some additional suggestions for international TAs who may not be familiar with Canadian cultural assumptions and experiences, or with the language. Some attention to these areas will make the experience of teaching and working with students more rewarding.

      If your educational experience was in a formal and disciplined context, you may find the situation here in Canada somewhat different. Teachers and students in Canadian classrooms often have quite informal relationships, and the forms of address are sometimes quite casual....


      (pp. 162-162)

      Academic honesty can be one of the neglected elements of course planning, yet when a problem arises, we might deeply regret not building this consideration into our overall teaching goals and strategies. The five articles in this section offer quite different perspectives on the issues of academic honesty that one might consider during course planning. The first, by Parry, outlines the classic arguments for the importance of academic integrity in an academic setting, primarily emphasizing the unfair advantage it poses for dishonest students. Parry also outlines steps one can take to prevent academic dishonesty, including ways of informing students of...

    • Academic Dishonesty
      (pp. 163-165)
      Hugh Parry

      Academic dishonesty refers to cheating of any kind that secures for the student an unfair advantage in his or her academic career. The most prevalent forms are receiving illegal help on exams or in-class tests, and plagiarism. Plagiarism means trying to pass off – in an assignment, an essay, a thesis or an oral report – someone else’s work as one’s own. A bought essay is the clearest example. But if students borrowanywords verbatim or merely paraphrase an argument from a book or any other source, they are guilty of plagiarism if the precise extent of the debt is unacknowledged....

    • Plagiarism and Student Acculturation: Strangers in the Strange Lands of our Disciplines
      (pp. 166-170)
      James Brown

      I was walking back from a meeting about the revised procedures for academic dishonesty when I ran into one of my students from the Faculty of Arts Center for Academic Writing. She was interested in talking about plagiarism too, but her perspective was so different from mine that I experienced a kind of culture shock.

      She was one of about forty students whom I had seen last semester at the centre. The only commonality among these students is that they are all highly motivated. To book a one-hour appointment with me or one of the other instructions at the centre,...

    • Plagiarism and the Challenge of Essay Writing: Learning from our Students
      (pp. 171-176)
      Janice Newton

      Most of us have encountered plagiarized essays at some time in our teaching careers, and we might assume that dishonesty leads students to do this. In one common form of plagiarized essay, the student has done the research and written most of the essay, but leaves out crucial quotation marks or footnotes. In contrast to other forms of academic dishonesty, such as a purchased essay or submission of someone else’s work, this type of plagiarism always strikes me as especially curious. Invariably, I can discern some measure of intelligence in students’ selection of the unacknowledged facts or ideas they copied....

    • Honesty in the Laboratory
      (pp. 177-178)
      Paul Delaney

      I usually try to work on the principle that everyone is basically honest. Yet it seems that I am forever needing to remind students (and myself) about academic honesty and the penalties involved when this code of conduct is broken. I have been involved in only a few serious (read that to mean prosecuted) cases, but for the laboratory courses in which I am involved, rarely a week goes by without reminding some students of the definition of plagiarism.

      Perhaps laboratory assignments are more open to plagiarism than other assignments are. It would seem to me very simple to see...

    • Electronic Plagiarism: A Cautionary Tale
      (pp. 179-180)
      Elizabeth Watson

      I recently underwent an electronic epiphany while working at a public workstation in the library. A student next to me was searching a database that indexed articles and included an extensive abstract in the record. He downloaded the information onto a disk, plugged in his portable PC and called up an essay he was in the midst of writing. He then copied the complete abstract into the text of his essay. I remarked upon how well he was adapting to this technology. I also asked how he was planning to cite the abstract. He admitted that it had not occurred...


      (pp. 182-183)

      This section focuses on strategies that one can use in a course to enhance learning. Since there is such a variety of contexts in which one can teach, we have divided this section into three parts: 1) Lecturing, 2) Class Participation and 3) Seminars, Tutorials and Small-Group Learning. However, this division is somewhat artificial because many of the articles are relevant to more than one context. For example, the articles on class participation could be relevant to a lecture-based course or a small seminar. Readers are encouraged to seek out relevant ideas from all the parts, rather than focus exclusively...

    • Part One: Lecturing

      • Effective Lecturing Techniques
        (pp. 184-187)
        Leslie Green

        Just as the lecture hall is a physical symbol of a university, the large lecture – one instructor addressing a room full of students – is emblematic of university teaching. And its special role is justified: a good lecture is an efficient and potentially inspiring way to teach. But lecturing also has its special problems. Unlike a seminar discussion, where the “chemistry” of the group influences its success, the large lecture depends much more on the instructor, who has greater control and thus greater responsibility. Lecturing can be one of the more theatrical modes of teaching, and not all academics do well...

      • Improving Large-Class Lecturing
        (pp. 188-196)
        Dalton Kehoe

        Universities everywhere are currently under pressure by funding agencies to stretch their resources and accomplish more with less. What this has meant for teaching is increasing class size and a growing focus on large-group lecturing as the mainstay in our repertoire of teaching techniques. This trend has met with resistance from many academics concerned about a decline in the quality of education that we are providing to undergraduate students. They contend that large-class lecturing is simply not as effective as discussion for teaching undergraduate students. I am not convinced that this is necessarily the case.

        Numerous comparative studies indicate that...

      • Improving Student Learning in Lectures
        (pp. 197-199)
        Pat Rogers

        The lecture is the most pervasive forum for student learning on university campuses. When you consider that the majority of classrooms and lecture halls are designed with masses of chairs and tables (usually bolted to the floor) all focused on a single location – the lectern – this is hardly surprising. Yet despite the constraints imposed by the physical environment, there are pedagogical advantages to lecturing as a mode of instruction. There are also limitations. In this article,¹ I offer suggestions for overcoming some of them. In practical terms, I describe the “One-Minute Paper,” a simple technique developed by a physics professor...

    • Part Two: Class Participation

      • Dead Silence... A Teacher’s Nightmare
        (pp. 200-201)
        Pat Rogers

        Fed up with asking, “Any questions?” only to be greeted by silence? Heard that students learn best when they participate actively in the class, but not sure how to make it happen? Want to begin group work, but not sure where to start? Tired of hearing from the same students every time you ask a question? Concerned about the students who don’t participate? Think-write-pair-discuss (TWPD) provides a solution to all of these problems and more. It is a simple and effective way to improve student learning and at the same time, according to Gareth Morgan of the Schulich School of...

      • Evoking and Provoking Student Participation
        (pp. 202-205)
        Pat Bradshaw

        When I reflect on how to encourage students to participate actively in classes, I realize that I use a combination of strategies ranging from subtle evoking to unvarnished provocation. Underlying these strategies is an awareness of group dynamics and stages of group development, a philosophy of power sharing and an enthusiasm for my subject matter. I would like to share some of my tactics in order to engage your participation in an exchange of ideas and reactions.

        Class participation and the energy and focus of class members are influenced by the stage of development of the group. Researchers who study...

      • Resistance in the Classroom
        (pp. 206-209)
        Paul Laurendeau

        Most of us consider being resisted as a traumatic experience. We feel it destabilizes our social image and jeopardizes our credibility. Consequently, we try to avoid such situations in ordinary social life. For example, to take friends to a movie we consider fantastic or to get them to taste a wine we see as the best vintage ever, only to discover our opinion questioned afterwards by the Françoise Truffaut or the wine taster of the group is very hard to take. It is quite unlikely that we would not fight back. It is natural to want to protect our self-image....

      • Computer-Mediated Communication: Some Thoughts about Extending the Classroom
        (pp. 210-214)
        Mary-Louise Craven

        For some instructors, the spectre of on-line communication conjures up images of the virtual university; others see it as an opportunity to augment face-to-face meetings with our students. With class sizes growing, and students working more, we need to look at ways to communicate with our students outside of the strict timetabling options of the university. While this is important now, it will be become more so in the future. Our pedagogical needs determine our communication choices, but the initial decision is whether and to what extent we will rely on computer-mediated communication (CMC). Can we be assured that our...

    • Part Three: Seminars, Tutorials and Small-Group Learning

      • Study Group Guide for Instructors and Teaching Assistants
        (pp. 215-224)
        Katie Coulthard

        Students learn best when they are actively involved in the process. Balacheff (1990) argues that mathematical knowledge is not learned passively by internalizing carefully prepared and organized material through lectures or texts, but is constructed by the learner or doer of mathematics through solving problems. Asking students to form small study groups fosters active learning and encourages them to go above and beyond what is being covered in lectures in order to develop their own understanding of course material. Studies reveal that students who work in small groups tend to learn more of what is being taught, retain it longer...

      • Warm-Ups: Lessening Student Anxiety in the First Class
        (pp. 225-226)
        Rachel Aber Schlesinger

        Alienation is a big issue for first-year students at a large university. Teachers need to find ways to reduce the impersonal aspects of this environment for new students and help them feel part of the university community. This process can begin on the first day the class or tutorial meets: warm-ups are an effective way to reduce student alienation (Nell Warren Assoc. 1991).

        What are warm-ups...not? They are not lessons in themselves; they are not set to fill a time block; they are not games without a purpose. They are, however, effective catalysts for promoting group dynamics by creating a...

      • Small Is Beautiful: Using Small Groups to Enhance Student Learning
        (pp. 227-230)
        Femida Handy

        At the beginning of the final examination in one of my courses last year, I noticed that one of my students was visibly distressed and unable to proceed. I asked her to leave the room with me and offered my help. She told me that she had been assaulted the night before and had, until this moment, been unable to find anyone to talk to about the assault. Shocking as it was to hear her story, what disturbed me more was her difficulty in finding anyone in whom to confide. She was a first-year student from out of town, living...

      • Integrating Group Work into our Classes
        (pp. 231-234)
        Jana Vizmuller-Zocco

        Any discipline has a central core of proven, basic “truths.” At the boundaries of these core areas there are always significant grey areas that constitute the exciting new frontiers of research. Studying alone, students can achieve an understanding of the core areas and might even glimpse the new frontiers. When called upon to discuss these newly learned ideas with other students, and to engage in a purposeful project to apply their knowledge, students are more able to integrate and master core knowledge and understand the excitement of scholarly inquiry into the new frontiers of knowledge. For this reason, I have...

      • Scrapbook Presentations: An Exercise in Collaborative Learning
        (pp. 235-240)
        Katherine Bischoping

        In thinking over the strengths and weaknesses of my teaching in the first seminar course I taught, I identified two main problems. First, in leading class discussions I found it difficult to gauge students’ views on issues and consequently to pose questions that would produce meaningful debates. Small-group discussions sometimes fell flat, as groups reported back to the class that they’d concluded “the same as what the last group said.” Second, my expectations that students could make connections between course materials and current events were too high – not because the course materials were particularly difficult, but because students’ awareness of...

      • The Field Walk
        (pp. 241-243)
        Jon Caulfield

        Guided field walks can be an important component of courses for which on-site observation is suited. For example, in courses I teach that partly centre on the production of urban space, walks are used to illustrate modernist architecture, social housing, deindustrialization, gentrification and many other themes. Abstract ideas become tangible and the interests, values and sentiments immanent in urban forms are made visible.

        The tradition of undergraduate field observation in urban study originated in the early decades of the century at the University of Chicago, where students were often directed onto the streets of the city as their classroom. Generation...

      • Teaching with Cases
        (pp. 244-246)
        Deepika Nath

        In professional schools such as the Schulich School of Business, the case studies used are brief descriptions of real situations faced by organizations in day-to-day business dealings. These cases give students a simulated hands-on opportunity to apply their knowledge and experience to problems that arise in the course of business decision-making. They enhance the practical aspect of the program.

        This method of teaching works best with smaller groups. A group of twenty to twenty-five students is manageable and can generate a good discussion. Typically, groups large than thirty become difficult to facilitate, since some members of the group might not...

      • Stages in Group Dynamics
        (pp. 247-248)
        Rachel Aber Schlesinger

        Many things happen in a class that are related not only to teaching and learning, but to group process. Is a class a group? Yes, I am sure that the members of a class that meets with regularity are part of a group. Group workers (as teachers, we too are group workers) are aware that groups have a life of their own, where both process and product are important. People in a group react to factors that can interfere with learning. Groups provide support and resources to their members. In every group/class the following might be familiar: the monopolizer who...

      • The Joy of Seminars
        (pp. 249-251)
        Mary Lou McKenna

        As instructors, we frequently face disappointment in how students handle reading assignments, seminar presentations and examinations, yet often they receive little guidance in how to prepare for these tasks. While students learn by doing, there is nevertheless a tradeoff in class time wasted or lacklustre discussions and poorly presented seminars. Commercial handbooks are expensive and unlikely to address the precise concerns of students or your particular agenda of expectations. Some instructors solve the problem by eliminating seminar reports from their evaluation schemes, but this doesn’t really help the students and merely passes the problem on to future instructors.

        A better...

      • The Office Hour: Not Just Crisis Management
        (pp. 252-254)
        Molly Ungar

        The office hour is an ambiguous area in the teaching assistant — student relationship. Some teaching assistants (TAs) see the office hour as the best time to grade written work; others use it as an opportunity to socialize with other TAs; still others regard the office hour as something to be avoided altogether. The problem arises from the fact that this block of time is unstructured and traditionally has not been given a distinct function other than to ensure that the TA is “made available” to the student.

        As a result, the office hour is often associated with crisis occasions – some...

      • Negotiating Power in the Classroom: The Example of Group Work
        (pp. 255-266)
        Linda Briskin

        Despite teacher desire to focus on course content, especially at university, I would contend that power is always part of the curriculum.¹ Acknowledging the centrality of power to the teaching-learning process not only shifts attention away from the content, but also unsettles certain notions of what constitutes progressive teaching; at the same time, it opens up possibilities for reorganizing classrooms and creates the foundation for vibrant teaching and learning experiences. This article, then, argues in favour of proactive interventionist strategies to deal with power dynamics and demonstrates how the absence of such an approach can undermine even apparently progressive practices,...


      (pp. 268-269)

      While the previous section focused on teaching and learning activities during class time, important learning occurs outside the classroom, while students prepare for class, work on assignments or talk about course material during an office visit or with friends. How a faculty member designs these out-of-class activities can be crucial for student success.

      Part 1 of this section deals with reading. The first step, of course, is always the challenge of getting students to read. Broomhead’s article offers a number of strategies for encouraging students to read, including suggestions for how to respond if no one has done the reading....

    • Part One: Reading

      • When No One Has Done the Reading...
        (pp. 270-271)
        Janet Broomhead

        It can wreck classes. It manifests itself in class discussions when no one participates. It is apparent in essays and exams. If no one has done the reading, a tutorial drags on for a very long time.

        In preparing this article, I discovered that there are probably as many approaches to getting students to do reading assignments as there are teachers. While methods vary, our goal is common — we want students to want to read. Here, then, are a bunch of carrots (and a couple of sticks).

        Choose readings appropriate for your students. Select works that illustrate the main ideas of...

      • A Strategy for Encouraging Students To Do Readings
        (pp. 272-273)
        Ian Greene

        In several of my fourth-year seminar classes, I have experimented with what I call the checklist approach for encouraging students to do the required and suggested readings for each class. Each week at the beginning of the seminar, I pass around a checklist with the students’ names along the left-hand side and all the required and suggested readings for that week along the top. It is quite easy to generate each week’s checklist. I have a list of my students in my computer. (I usually download these from the university student information system, but someone without such a facility could...

      • Telling a Book by Its Cover
        (pp. 274-278)
        Barbara Godard

        “You can’t tell a book by its cover,” according to the old proverb. Many people do, however. In the 1950s, some women looked on paperback stands for covers featuring two women. This was the coded design of the lesbian pulp romance. Students also respond to titles, covers, dust jackets and prefaces when they decide how much time and effort to put into their course texts. I propose that we workwithstudents’ tendency to judge these overt signals, as a means to critically introduce controversial topics and engage students in how meanings are formed. My example here is lesbian material...

      • The Sherlock Holmes Approach to Critical Reading (Or How To Help Students Become Good “Detextives”)
        (pp. 279-281)
        Kenneth Golby

        Our culture worships speed and our breakneck academic pace mirrors this addiction all too well. One of the results of this is that the majority of our students read poorly; that is, they read to find out “what happens” (or in some disciplines to extract a few key principles) and ignore almost everything else they could learn if they read with greater awareness. McCluhan’s suggestion that the medium is the message goes largely unheeded by most of our students and consequently few of them read critically. What follows is a brief description of one exercise I use at the beginning...

    • Part Two: Research Essays and Other Writing Assignments

      • Sequencing Assignments
        (pp. 282-284)
        James Brown

        My tutoring of students at York University’s Centre for Academic Writing has made me very aware of the fact that writing assignments that seem relatively straightforward to us can be difficult for even bright students. The writing of an essay involves a very complicated series of processes. Students might perform poorly in the general task only because they run into some hurdle early in the process and just do not have, or know how to apply, the particular strategy that would allow them to overcome it. Sometimes the hurdle arises not so much because they lack a specific cognitive skill...

      • An Experiment in Writing and Learning Groups
        (pp. 285-287)
        Jan Rehner

        As teachers, many of us encourage our students to collaborate with each other to enhance their learning process, but sometimes overlook similar opportunities for collaboration ourselves. Happily, the experiment in student writing and learning groups that a colleague and I initiated in 1993 suggests that sharing resources and expertise across teaching units can lead to mutual advantage.

        The idea for the writing/learning groups came from a Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education conference session given by faculty and students from the writing centre at Trent University. They outlined a model for establishing small writing groups among students enroled...

      • Paper Chase: The Sequel
        (pp. 288-290)
        Betty Braaksma

        Each academic year, instructors and librarians see a new crop of students who arrive at university with few or no skills in library literature searching. Yet most instructors expect that their students will be able to do a literature search to find sources for essays or other assignments. The successful undergraduate literature search is a complex process involving several levels of skill and judgement. The widespread use of diverse information retrieval technologies complicates the process even more. For students whose only previous experience in library research might have been using the clippings files in their high-school library, an academic library...

      • Working with Students’ Writing
        (pp. 291-294)
        Miriam Jones

        Responding to students’ writing is among the most challenging tasks facing a teaching assistant or inexperienced instructor. We all know the intense frustration of trying to make sense of the fractured prose of students who we know are interested in the class and are doing the readings, yet who lack the skills to articulate their understanding. When facing their papers, how do we begin to address the tangle of difficulties that compete for our attention? Teaching assistants trying to complete a graduate program have probably all felt a conflict between the time spent on their studies and the time spent...

      • What Happens After You Say, “Please Go to the Writing Centre”?
        (pp. 295-297)
        Jan Rehner

        Many of my colleagues outside the York University Faculty of Arts Centre for Academic Writing sometimes confess that they have no clear image of what happens once their students enrol for one-on-one writing instruction. How, they ask, does one-on-one teaching differ from the individual conferences they often hold with students during office hours? Why, they wonder, do some students already enroled at the centre still hand in flawed assignments, and how can course directors and writing instructors work together to help students articulate their ideas in clear and persuasive ways?

        Perhaps context is the most significant difference between one-on-one tutoring...

    • Part Three: Grading and Evaluation

      • Evaluating Student Writing: Problems and Possibilities
        (pp. 298-302)
        Tom Greenwald

        For many of us, evaluating our students’ writing is a necessary but often frustrating task. Given the time and energy that we spend commenting on our students’ essays, it is understandable that we feel the reward should be greater, that our students should pay more attention to our advice than many seem to do. After all, it is in their own best interests to become better, more effective writers. However, the next batch of essays provides fresh evidence that many of our students possess a virtual immunity to our evaluation of their work. Their writing improves, at best, only marginally....

      • Fast, Fair and Constructive: Grading in the Mathematical Sciences
        (pp. 303-305)
        Alan Yoshioka

        Marking is not mechanical work, unless the format of the assignment is multiple choice. You do need to exercise good judgement. Even in mathematics, there are usually several ways to solve a problem and there could be more than one correct answer. In one workshop I conducted, I asked teaching assistants to mark several sample solutions to a test. Different teaching assistants gave very different grades for identical answers and they all had good reasons for doing so. There is no absolute standard for which you must aim, but there are strategies you can use that will enable you to...

      • An Individualized Approach to Teaching and Evaluation
        (pp. 306-315)
        Gary Bunch

        It is seldom that professors have the opportunity to reflect on the nature, organization and intent of their teaching. We often are too close to the task of teaching to see the “me” behind it.

        In this short reflection on my teaching I attempt to step back and see the “me” in what I do. I relate my beliefs about the teacher – learner relationship, examine the various roles I play as a teacher and probe the practical meanings of my view of teaching. In this last regard I focus on the evaluative process in teaching. I show why and how...

      • The Norwegian Motivator, or How I Make Grading Work for Me and My Students
        (pp. 316-318)
        Ken Carpenter

        There’s a story, perhaps apocryphal, about the introduction of medicare in Scandinavia. In one country, let us say Norway, the government gave doctors a range of different methods for receiving payment and all doctors were allowed individually to choose ones for themselves. Another country, let us say Sweden, announced one payment plan to be applied to all doctors alike. Only one country’s doctors went on strike. Which one it would be is entirely predictable.

        Perhaps the Norwegian doctors were too busy mulling over the various schemes to work up sufficient irritation to fuel a strike, but as teachers we can...


      (pp. 320-320)

      Part 1 of this section opens with informal tools for assessing and developing your teaching. The first four articles describe simple, informal classroom assessment techniques you can use to determine whether students have learned core material. The Newton article provides a brief overview of the nature of classroom assessment techniques and the different ways that they can be used. Following that is an article by Aldridge and Merrens that speak of the usefulness of the “One-Minute Paper” in different disciplinary settings. A second article by Newton urges faculty to use increasingly more challenging questions in One-Minute Papers to encourage higher...

    • Part One: Classroom Assessment

      • Improving Student Learning Through Feedback: Classroom Assessment Techniques
        (pp. 321-323)
        Janice Newton

        In 1990, I had the good fortune of attending a week-long workshop on Classroom Assessment Techniques, based on the work of Patricia Cross and Tom Angelo.¹ Though I was familiar with many of the teaching techniques presented at the workshop, the logic of classroom assessment was new to me and I found it a compelling approach to thinking about teaching and improving student learning in my classes. After the workshop, I found myself thinking about teaching in entirely new ways and was inspired to adapt existing assessment techniques and develop some new ones for my political science classes.²

        Classroom assessment...

      • The One-Minute Paper...Two Success Stories
        (pp. 324-325)
        Keith Aldridge and Roy Merrens

        The two stories that follow were contributed to Core, York’s Newsletter on University Teaching, in reaction to the publication of an article describing the One-Minute Paper¹. Each story documents the unexpected nature of the feedback the technique can elicit from students and the power this gives the instructors to modify their teaching.

        What I’ve been reading recently about the One-Minute Paper finally convinced me I really had to try it. The notion of a cheap and simple tool that offered instant feedback, for both students and teacher, was irresistible. I decided to use a One-Minute paper during a two-hour class...

      • Developing the One-Minute Paper
        (pp. 326-329)
        Janice Newton

        In its most basic form, the question for the One-Minute Paper is usually brief and focused: “What was the most important point you learned in today’s lecture?”; “What was the muddiest point?”; or “Do you have any outstanding questions?” Cross and Angelo (1988,148–50) provide a good summary of the One-Minute Paper and argue that it is one of the easiest and most effective of classroom assessment techniques.¹ However, they also encourage faculty to “adapt” classroom assessment techniques such as the One-Minute Paper to suit their specific needs, and many faculty have done so.

        For example, Kloss (1993) varied the...

    • Part Two: Mid-Course Evaluation

      • Formative Evaluation Surveys
        (pp. 330-332)
        Bob Everett

        Although they are less common than other forms of course surveys, formative evaluation surveys can be extremely effective teaching aids. Formative evaluations conducted during a course provide instructors with opportunities to gauge progress towards course objectives, to encourage student feedback and to reinforce information communicated in outlines and classroom discussions. More than that, they hold out the promise of engaging students and instructors in a constructive dialogue that can advance teaching and learning aspirations while enriching shared experiences in the classroom.

        The formative evaluation is one of several types of course and instruction surveys. In some instances, students and instructors...

      • Facilitating Student Feedback
        (pp. 333-335)
        Reg Lang

        You design the course. You deliver the course. At the end, the students evaluate the course. Along the way, a few of them let you know how things are going. You ask for more comments but few are forthcoming. Result: you receive summative feedback, useful for redesigning the course for a future offering, but you lack formative feedback that will help you improve the current version on a week-by-week basis.

        Perhaps this experience is typical, perhaps not. It was for me until a few years ago. I found it difficult to find out, as the course progressed, whether and what...

      • Feedback Strategies
        (pp. 336-337)
        Mary Lou McKenna

        For many instructors, year-end evaluations provide the main source of student feedback on course content and on our own performance. Whatever the advantages or limitations of this exercise, two things seem clear: it does not always communicate what is really on students’ minds, and communication occurs at a point when opportunity for timely response to student concerns is obviated. Over the past few years I have come to rely on more informal strategies for student feedback, both as a complement to formal evaluations and as compensation in their absence. Though rather simple exercises, they elicit sometimes surprising responses.

        In the...

    • Part Three: Collegial Consultation

      • Peer Pairing
        (pp. 338-339)
        Sue Sbrizzi

        Peer pairing is a process by which two instructors are teamed for the purpose of providing each other with mutual support and feedback on their teaching effectiveness. It was developed by Joseph Katz and run successfully for several years through the New Jersey Institute of Collegiate Teaching and Learning at Seton Hall University (Katz and Henry 1988). The essence of peer pairing is that the partners take turns, for a set period of time, observing each other teach, conducting student interviews in order to deepen their understanding of how to help each other improve, providing constructive feedback and acting as...

      • Peer Pairing in French Studies
        (pp. 340-343)
        Karen Whalen, Louise Morrison and Myriam deBie Waller

        The peer-pairing observational model provides a framework on which to base enquiry into the complexities of teacher-student interaction. Regardless of discipline-specific concerns, there are general issues that can be shared by colleagues from any field. Although many peer-pairing experiences successfully involve paired colleagues from different academic units, the instructors in French studies felt that they needed to address specific teaching and learning issues related to second-language teaching. Given the complexity of our task as teachers, it is often impossible to evaluate the effectiveness of our delivery in the classroom. Inviting a colleague to regularly observe our classroom can provide meaningful...

    • Part Four: Teaching Evaluation Guide
      (pp. 344-360)
      Senate Committee on Teaching and Learning

      This Teaching Evaluation Guide is a companion to the Teaching Documentation Guide produced by the York University Senate Committee on Teaching and Learning in November 1990 and revised in December 1993 (see next article). It is aimed at providing teachers with advice on documenting the variety and complexity of their teaching contributions. This Teaching Evaluation Guide provides teachers with advice on how to document their teaching as part of a systematic program of teaching development. As well, it provides guidance on how teaching might be evaluated fairly and effectively, what characteristics of teaching might be considered and what evaluation methods...

    • Part Five: Teaching Documentation Guide
      (pp. 361-368)
      Senate Committee on Teaching and Learning

      This document is designed to provide guidance in assembling material to document an instructor’s teaching achievements for use in tenure and promotions submissions, teaching award nominations, applications for leave fellowships and teaching development grants, merit competitions and job applications and transfers. In addition, the guide can contribute to good teaching by stimulating self-analysis and self-development as a teacher.¹

      For tenure and promotion, this guide is intended to reduce the uncertainty inherent in compiling this documentation so that initiating units, working in close collaboration with the candidate, can assemble and organize the items for inclusion in the file. A file cogently...

  12. Contributors
    (pp. 369-372)