The Open Chair Project opens doors in teaching

After a successful pilot run during the fall semester, the Centre for Teaching and Learning is preparing for the second instalment of their Open Chair Project.

This initiative launches Feb. 22, and encourages instructors at Trent to experience the teaching practices of their peers.

With 16 sessions taking place throughout the semester, at both the Peterborough and Durham campuses, there are plenty of opportunities for Trent instructors to take part in an innovative pedagogical experience.

“It was a new idea to try and break down the isolation of teaching,” said Robyne Hanley-Dafoe, the Centre for Teaching and Learning’s leading force behind the initiative.

With teaching typically done behind closed doors, Hanley-Dafoe sought to find a way to encourage interaction and the sharing of teaching practices and experiences between instructors and across disciplines. Thus, the Open Chair Project was born.

The premise is simple: instructors who are willing to be a host have a scheduled lecture where there is an ‘open chair.’

The Centre for Teaching and Learning will then arrange to have another instructor who is interested in experiencing the teaching practices of someone else sit in on the lecture to observe. Rather than an evaluative process where the guest is grading the instructor, the project encourages self-reflection.

“It’s really driven with the spirit of learning and community learning as opposed to in any way evaluating,” said Hanley-Dafoe. “It’s to give people the opportunity to see teaching in action.”

Following the session, guests are encouraged to take some time to speak with the instructor to further inspire self-reflection and consideration of pedagogy.

The first project involved eight host instructors. This time around, some host instructors are returning and some new ones are on board. A diverse range has been selected in order to showcase pedagogy across a variety of disciplines.

Currently, the project operates in six-week blocks that fall during the second half of the semesters. This is so that host instructors have a chance to get settled in their class environments before having guests.

Hanley-Dafoe suggested that future iterations may open up the full semester, but for now the Open Chair Project will operate in the six-week segments.

The initial series of sessions received some tremendous feedback. One guest described it as “an incredible opportunity,” while another said that “[the instructor] had me hooked right out of the gate. I find myself wondering how to learn more. Thank you for this rare opportunity to have a window in. I learned a great deal from [the instructor’s] excellent modeling.”

For both this session and future iterations of the Open Chair Project, Hanley-Dafoe encourages anyone interested to get involved.

“An open invitation goes out to all instructors and faculty who would be interested in serving as a host.

“It’s an open call to anyone who would like to take part and then anyone, any faculty member, instructor, graduate student or demonstrator – anyone is absolutely welcome to attend,” she said.

The Centre for Teaching and Learning takes care of the administrative work so there is little burden on either the host or guest.

A full list of the second session’s dates and more information about the project can be found on the Centre for Teaching and Learning website,

About Zachary Cox 29 Articles
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.