Throughout the 2015-2016 fall and winter terms, Trent University’s Centre for Teaching and Learning will be offering an array of sessions aimed at further enhancing teaching at Trent. With more than 35 interactive sessions scheduled throughout the year and over 70 hours of content, the Professional Learning Events will provide educators with an opportunity to share experiences in collaborative learning environments.

The Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL) is dedicated to fostering innovative teaching methods and providing teachers with the resources and skills required to create dynamic learning spaces. “We want the CTL to be viewed as the hub of where teaching is celebrated, where innovative teaching practices are developed,” said Robyne Hanley-Dafoe, the Educational Developer for the Centre.

The Professional Learning Events are designed to uphold this mission.

“We want to improve the ability for people to be able to access resources,” said Hanley-Dafoe, continuing, “We want to promote active and collaborative learning, we want to enhance the student learning experience and what it feels like to be a student in a classroom at Trent, we want to make sure our Trent faculty continue to be leaders of responsive, active and
collaborative teaching and learning opportunities, and we want to make sure [that] we are inspiring and rewarding excellence in teaching.”

The sessions are divided into five categories depending on the nature of their content and they span a wide array of topics. Various session formats are used, but each is interactive and designed to engage the attendees, a key element according to Teaching Awards Coordinator, Adam Guzkowski.

“There are conversations going on about active learning and they are going on in a space that is engaged in active learning,” Guzkowski explained. “I think the way that the practice and the philosophy are integrated in the sessions themselves is an important part of what’s being done.”

Philosophy Professor and Chair of the Department, Byron Stoyles, who will be facilitating one of the sessions, agrees with Guzkowski, stating, “I hope to get
something out of this, too — it’s a genuine sharing of ideas.”

Events that fall under the Teaching and Learning Skills heading are designed to promote knowledge mobilization through focus on specific instructional skills. Here, the session list includes Moving from Classroom Management to Student Engagement, which focuses on strategies for creating learning environments that encourage cognitive investment, active participation, and emotional commitment.

Student Learning Experience sessions focus on the implementation of instructional strategies that directly impact student learning. One session called “Easing the Bumps: An Instructor’s Role in Facilitating Student Success in Transitioning to University” will include a discussion about some of the best practices to foster student independence and confidence, even in large first-year classes. Another session, “Incorporating Indigenous Knowledge into Student Learning”, seeks to incorporate indigenous teachings and knowledge systems into the classroom environment.

The other event categories are Curriculum and Course Design, Connecting Campus Communities, and “Ed Tech,” the last of which is a partnership series between the Centre for Teaching and Learning and Information Technology which deals with the use of educational technology both in and out of the classroom.

The broad range of topics should offer fresh inspiration that teachers of any discipline will be able to bring to their classrooms, but the offered sessions don’t end there! The Spotlight Series is a set of themed discussions revolving around an important note in the world of teaching. This year, three presentations will be focused on the theme of teaching sensitive and controversial topics.

On September 23, sociology professor Momin Rahman reflected on the difficulties that surround presentations on issues of sexuality, gender, violence, and exploitation and encouraged discussion on useful guidelines for such topics. In November, Stoyles will share some of his strategies for helping students engage with subject matter that they may find controversial, upsetting, or even offensive. In December, another sociology professor Gillian Balfour discusses means to bring students together to actively engage in provocative topics such as sexual violence, addiction, racism, and mental illness.

“I think it’s really helpful to share our strategies because most of us have been in situations where teaching these subjects has not gone well and, I suspect, most of us have been in situations where teaching these topics has gone extremely well,” Stoyles observed. “Sharing information really helps. It makes us better at what we do and helps the students by allowing us a more comfortable environment to address the issues.”

For his session, Stoyles hopes to encourage others to “walk students through hard issues.”

“I think there are really positive ways to do that,” Stoyles stated. “The overall message is that nothing should be off the table in terms of what we discuss in our classrooms.”

If inclined to attend one – or more – of the sessions, please be sure to register in advance. You can find out more about the CTL and find a complete schedule of the Professional Learning Events with descriptions and registration links at this website link: trentu.ca/teaching/events.

“At the end of the day, CTL views this opportunity as a privilege that we get to work with all of these people and bring them all together to have these rich discussions. […] We know it creates a positive learning culture but it also creates an amazing experience for our students,” said Hanley-Dafoe. “We’re providing an opportunity to [celebrate and support] teaching.”

This is a series of discussions that is very much in line with Trent’s identity, remarked xHanley-Dafoe. “Trent is renowned for its quality of teaching and its quality of education and for staying at the forefront of education that is unparalleled.  Because of the nature of our seminars, our tutorials, our labs, and the interaction that we have with our students, we have opportunities to push our teaching practice father than probably most other institutions, just because of the very nature of what Trent was established on.”

Guzkowski echoed this, saying that the Professional Learning Events were structured around “an institutional vision about engaging, active, collaborative teaching and learning.”

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Zachary is a first year student in the Trent/Loyalist Journalism program, who has a wide range of interests from sports to politics to alpaca sweaters. He thinks Trent University and Peterborough are pretty neat and enjoys writing about the community for the Arthur. Other ventures that he is or has been involved with include the likes of the Youth Advisory Council for the Toronto 2015 Pan/Parapan Am Games and Rotary Interact. Down the road, Zachary can see himself working somewhere in the world as a field journalist, or perhaps trying his hand at intellectual property law.