Teaching Circles at Mohawk

This term Mohawk College Faculty are invited to participate in a Teaching Circles Project, Beginning during the week of February 2nd.
Teaching Circles are a widely used and recognised way of bringing faculty together for mutual support and development.

Kick-off meetings will be held at each campus during the week of February 2nd, to establish the Circles, and the process will take six to seven weeks to complete.

What are Teaching Circles?

The Teaching Circles Project attempts to improve teaching and build community through a structured, non-evaluative process of classroom observation and shared reflection.

A Teaching Circle consists of a small of group faculty participants (ideally from different disciplines) who:

  • Observe at least one class taught by each Circle Partner
  • Reflect on the class observation experience
  • Share reflections with Circle Partners
  • Share Circle observations with Project participants as a whole

Your Teaching Circles experience offers you the opportunity to improve your own teaching by observing your Circle Partners in an actual classroom situation.

By participating in the Teaching Circles Project you will have an opportunity to:

  • observe, analyze and celebrate good teaching
  • increase your understanding of and appreciation for the work of colleagues
  • experience the joy and confusion of being a student
  • formulate a plan for enhancing your own teaching based on your observations and reflections and the shared reflections of your Circle Partners.

Cornerstones for Participants
Teaching Circles is unique in offering a classroom visitation process free from evaluation.

The Cornerstones of Teaching Circles are the positive attitudes and behaviours that create a mutually supportive, energizing environment for sharing the joys and challenges of teaching.

Cooperation and shared responsibility facilitate a team effort and a team result.

Reciprocity Appreciation Reflection Respect

For more information or to register please email ctl@mohawkcollege.ca
Or call Leslie Marshall at extension 3449

Add comment January 20th, 2015

Space Design Pedagogy

Constructivist Learning Spaces
There has been a shift in learning pedagogy for teaching practices to follow student-centred, constructivist methods (Long,& Ehrmann 2005). Constructivist methods, and more specifically, social constructivist methods advocate that knowledge is constructed through the active participation of individuals and crowds. If we compare what we know now about learning to our current institutional infrastructure, one can recognize that they often do not parallel each other; the infrastructure we have now is a legacy of what we didn’t know about teaching.

Mohawk is leading the way in space design pedagogy. Yes, there are classrooms that still need to be updated, but that takes time. If we consider our collaboratory, student learning commons, and alternative gathering spaces, our students, faculty, and staff are fortunate to have access to such spaces.

The Mohawk Collaboratory

Mohawk Collaboratory Source Mohawk College 2014

Mohawk Collaboratory: Source Mohawk College 2014

Lomas & Johnson (2005) have offered an alternative design method to the traditional approach to space design. They have propose the CDIO process (conceive, design, implement, operate), in which the learning environment is not viewed as space that needs to be redesigned but rather a “product” which needs to be developed. Following this CDIO process, we can ask the questions, “What kind of a space will produce creative and innovate thinking? What kind of space will support social constructivist learning pedagogy?”

Our learning collaboratory is just that. The traditional library has gone through a transformative change as students are less likely to browse the stacks for books when research and articles can be accessed digitally. Conversely, the modern library “speaks not of books, but of information: pellets of useable data, as smooth, precise, and indistinguishable as the screens themselves”. Yes, books still play an important role and will always have a space in our institutions. However, the modern idea of individual and collaborative learning space is considered to be just as critical. Bennett (2005, as cited in Bailin, 2011) notes that “flexible and responsive space
among students”. This idea is reflected in our learning Collaboratory as the space accommodates a variety of uses and learning styles.

The Mansueto Library, Chicago

Mansueto Library, University of Chicago: Source University of Chicago

Mansueto Library, University of Chicago: Source University of Chicago

Mohawk College is not alone in their thinking. The Mansueto Library at the University of Chicago is a state-of-the-art facility that epitomizes the modern library. It combines learning space and print resources on site. The learning space, which holds up to 180 users, is designed for quiet study and consists of fifteen four-person tables, four long rows of reading tables, and seven interconnected four-person tables. The books are housed in an underground storage facility; students make a digital request, the automated book retrieval system locates the book, and the user is notified that the book is ready for pickup. The process is designed to take less than five minutes. A video explaining the process can be found here.

Considering all of this, Mohawk is in fairly exalted company and is at the forefront of space design pedagogy. We are putting students first and are on our way from moving from good to great.

Lauren Soluk - CTL


  • Bennett, S. (2007). First questions for designing higher education learning spaces. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 33(1), 14-26.
  • Mohawk College. (2014). Collaboratory. Retrieved from http://collaboratory.mohawkcollege.ca/.
  • Doorley, S. & Witthoft, S. (2012). Make space. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
  • Lomas, C.P. & Johnson, C. (2005). Design of the learning space: Learning design and Principles. EDUCAUSE Review, 40 (4), 16-28. Retrieved from http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ERM0540.pdf.
  • Long, P. D., & Ehrmann, S. C. (2005). Future of the learning space, breaking out of the box. EDUCAUSE Review, 40(4), 42-58. Retrieved from http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ERM0542.pdf.

For further reading:

  • Doorley, S. & Witthoft, S. (2012). Make space. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
  • OWP/P Architects, VS Furniture and Bruce Mau Design. (2010). The third teacher. China:Abrams.
  • Moore, A.H., Watson, E. & Fowler, S.B (2007) Active learning and technology: Designing change for faculty, students and institutions. EDUCAUSE Review, 42 (5), 42-61. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ero/article/active-learning-and-technology-designing-change-faculty-students-and-institutions
  • Lomas, C.P. & Johnson, C. (2005). Design of the learning space: Learning design and Principles. EDUCAUSE Review, 40 (4), 16-28. Retrieved from http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ERM0540.pdf.

Add comment January 13th, 2015

Creating a Blend: Enabling Virtual Learners by Design pt 4

It’s been a while since we started this series, but we’ve come back to it.
In the fourth of her blog posts on Enabling Virtual Learners by Design Jennifer Hofmann discusses getting the right blend in blended learning.

We have many options available to us when creating blended training programs. We can build self-paced programs using learning portals, websites, and e-learning. We can develop moderated discussions using social media, discussion boards and email. Finally, we can create real time events using traditional classrooms, videoconferencing, and virtual classrooms. The trick is learning what technologies to use and how to facilitate the blend.

Hoffman points out that while everyone is talking about building the right blend, achieving it requires work; specifically instructional design work; and time to facilitate successful blended learning experiences.

With traditionally delivered courses we often short-cut Instructional design because we feel familiar enough with the medium that we can anticipate how exercises will go, how the audience will respond and what instructional strategies to use; and how to adapt rapidly if the unanticipated occurs.

The online environment doesn’t allow for that.

Instructional Design Basics
Hoffman says designing online learning starts with the basics of Learning Outcomes and assessment techniques.

Once you’ve identified the performance objectives and assessment techniques, think about how you would assess that objective in the online environment. A multiple-choice test? Written essay? Oral feedback? Group application? If the assessment technique is individualized and objective in nature, such as a graded test, then that objective may be effectively delivered asynchronously. If performance is best assessed in an oral or group situation, such as giving effective feedback to a peer, a synchronous delivery method might be most effective for that part of your program.

Keep to the point
A really interesting point she makes is that it is tempting to put background, historical “nice to know” information into the online content. This is a bad idea; if you’re not going to test it, don’t teach it is the rule for online. Why? Maintaining motivation and engagement is a major challenge online. Students need to feel that what they are doing online is directly relevant to what they are trying to achieve or they will lose interest.

There’s a lot more to her challenging and thought provoking article so check it out at this link

Add comment January 5th, 2015

How to Read Student Feedback on Teaching

It’s that time of the semester again when the results of Student Feedback on Teaching Surveys are coming out. Most faculty, no matter how long they have been teaching or how confident they are of their abilities dread them; few, if any, look forward to them with enthusiasm. So how can you read them and use them constructively?

Read Them
Seems fairly obvious, but what teacher has not been tempted to not read student feedback sometime? We don’t want to read negative things about ourselves; who does? But you have to start by reading them, and not just a casual glance through them.
They will provide useful information to improve your teaching practice. Keep that in mind and start positive.

Put Them Aside
Negative comments sting, exuberant praise makes us elated (and those who leave comments are most likely to be those who hate you or love you as a teacher). You need, in the words of Kipling to “…meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two imposters just the same.” The best way to do that is to give yourself some distance; go for a walk, a coffee or an ice cream and come back to them later. If you can leave them for a day or two or a week, so much the better, and you can then come back to them in a more objective frame of mind.

Look for Trends and Outliers
What are the general trends in the feedback? Identify categories that they fall into; they might be related to the course structure, assessment strategies or with the teaching style. What are the positives? What are things that work well that can be used to strengthen the areas that are weaker?
Look at the outliers. It’s tempting when overall data and comments are positive to ignore the outliers, but they do provide useful information. Perhaps your teaching style is not meeting the needs of all students’ learning styles, perhaps you need to be clearer in managing student expectations. Do you have underlying assumptions about your students that are no longer true about all of them?

Think Ahead
Use the questions in the Student Feedback survey to plan changes to your course. Not to ‘teach to the test’ or skew the course top get better ratings, but use them as a checklist for course design and teaching. For example: could you make it more explicit how the course connects to job requirements? Can you build in more opportunities for active participation?

Close the Loop
Record what you plan to do; not just to respond to specific issues that have been raised; but to improve your course and your teaching, because we can all always improve.

Links for further ideas on Interpreting student evaluations

Add comment December 16th, 2014

How about a side order of PD with your holiday lunch?

In the sharing and giving spirit of the season, the CTL and Library are teaming up this month to offer two professional development sessions for faculty at each of the campuses. The sessions will be offered around the holiday lunches at each campus.

The morning library session entitled Keep up with Keeping up will be facilitated by Cynthia Williamson. Cynthia will walk faculty through ways to find and save professional development resources that are readily available in the library.

The afternoon CTL sessions at IAHS and Stoney Creek, entitled How Can You Measure That They Can DO It? will be facilitated by Leslie Marshall and will focus on assessing psychomotor skills. Leslie will take you through methods of evaluating skills that can reduce subjectivity while ensuring that students receive the feedback that they need to develop competence and be successful in workplace settings that demand safe, skilled practice.

For the afternoon session at the Fennell campus Christine Boyco-Head will address Creative Problem Solving. She will share methods to recognize and overcome obstacles to creativity, discover, discuss and practice the CPS process, and identify ways to use it in the college classroom.

The sessions and their locations are as follows:

  • Monday, Dec 15th – IAHS Rm 243A: Library 10:00 – 11:30 | CTL 1.30 – 3.00
  • Tuesday, Dec 16th – Stoney Creek Rm A127: Library 10:00 – 11:30 | CTL 1.30 – 3.00
  • Wednesday, Dec 17th – Fennell Rm i102: Library 10:00 – 11:30 | CTL 1.30 – 3.00

Visit the CTL Calendar and reserve your spot today!

Add comment December 5th, 2014

From the CTL Newsletter: Professional Development for Mohawk Faculty

Profile: Leslie Marshall

The Centre for Teaching and Learning is thrilled to welcome Leslie Marshall as a permanent member of the team. Leslie began his new role as Learning and Development Consultant on September 2 after working on contract as Curriculum Development Specialist.

Leslie, a native of Scotland, has been part of the Mohawk family for almost 20 years. He joined the college in 1997 as a professor in Medical Radiation Sciences. After 12 years in the role, Leslie took on various secondment appointments, supporting his fellow faculty members both as Faculty Development and Curriculum Development Specialist.
As a Facilitator and Planning Team member, Leslie is deeply involved in the College Educators Development Program (CEDP) and has developed a number of Professional Development workshops for Mohawk. He has an MSc in Lifelong Learning and holds research interests into the working identities of both educators and students.

We sat down with Leslie to discuss what he has learned about teaching over the years and how he hopes to use this experience to support his fellow faculty members:

Q. What is one thing most people don’t know about you?

As a teenager, I dropped out of university after a year and was fortunate enough to find my way into a two-year program in radiography. It wasn’t until ten years later, after becoming a clinical teacher that I started a degree again. I’ve been involved in both sides of education - learner and teacher, ever since.

Q. What is the most important advice you were ever given when you started out teaching?

“Don’t Panic!” sticks out. Actually, the best advice I received as a new teacher was that the first year is just about getting through each class and each day. You quickly discover that knowing about a subject on a professional level is quite different to being able to teach the subject, you will feel overwhelmed at times but it gets better.

Q. What lesson did you have to learn the hard way in your tenure as a Faculty member?

Managing expectations is huge; be very explicit about what you expect from students and what students can expect from you.

Q. What are you most excited about in your new role as Learning and Development Consultant

Being able to meet with program faculty across all the campuses to find out about what Professional Development, and Teaching and Learning mean to them; and to begin building a range of PD offerings and activities that meets their needs.

Q. What can you help new and seasoned Faculty with?

My own skills are in curriculum, assessment and active learning. I’m in this role as faculty member and I will be working with other faculty on a peer-to-peer basis. I don’t pretend to be an expert in everything; there is a wealth of knowledge skill and expertise in teaching and learning in our college. Our faculty members are doing new, creative things in teaching, learning and assessment all the time. I see part of my role as to build connections to help share that knowledge with our wider college community, to enrich the quality of teaching and learning for faculty and, ultimately for students.

Add comment October 3rd, 2014

The Educational Support Program: FutureReady at Mohawk

People often talk about the difference between college and university, mainly discussing the difference in hands-on learning. After years of student and work experience at the university level, I have had the opportunity as an Instructional Designer in the CTL to see firsthand what Mohawk is doing right. This doesn’t mean that universities aren’t doing great things because they are! It’s just exciting to see these principles executed in the college environment with a high degree of competency.

You Learn We Grow

You Learn We Grow

Authentic Learning Experiences
Authentic experience is dynamic and engages multiple senses as it “aims to demonstrate the knowledge and skill within a real setting and allow the learner to make connections between the school setting and the demands of the broader communities” (Mantei & Kervin, 2009, p. 4). The balance between applied theoretical and applied learning varies from program to program with some having significantly more ‘hands-on’ and other more ‘theory.’ While theory plays an integral role in student learning, the combination of theory and authentic learning experiences provides a unique opportunity for learning, understanding, and application.

The Educational Support Program
The Educational Support Program (ESP) here at Mohawk is a prime example of the perfect blending of theory and authentic learning. Years ago, the program was mainly theory based, as are a lot of institutional programs. For example, my undergraduate teaching and education program was mainly theory based with placements until the later years. While theory and in-class learning still play a critical role in student learning, in the ESP, the students are carefully and methodically scaffolded into community placements starting in semester one. Karen Falls, a professor for the ESP, shares that students in semester one are paired with CICE students (great co-blending of programs if I might add) to experience educational support in an authentic, yet secure environment. This provides instructors with the ability to able to pop in and out and provide guidance along the way. In the next three semesters, the students experience three different types of placements in the community. They must work in an elementary school classroom, a high-school classroom, and a specialized classroom, which all offer unique experiences to develop their ES skill-set.

A Rich Student Experience
This opportunity aligns well with Jonassen, Mayes, and McAleese (1992) learning continuum where students’ experience unique introductory, advanced and expert learning phases (as cited in Keppell et al., 2002, p. 2). The students in ESP experience introductory learning through classroom learning, advanced learning through first semester CICE preparatory placement, and expert learning through authentic community placements. Combined, the theory matched with the authentic learning opportunities provide for a rich student experience that equally prepares them for the workforce.

Here are Mohawk, we strive to be great and FutureReady. The ESP, and many other programs here, do just that as our graduates are ripe with experience when they leave the college doors.

Alp, A. (2013). How to successful integrate technology into the 21st century classroom – part 1: Web tools. Retrieved from http://aysinalp.edublogs.org/about/

Keppell, M., Kan, K., Messer, L. B., & Bione, H. (2002). Proceedings from ASCILITE 2002: Authentic learning interactions: Myth or reality? Auckland: New Zealand.

Mantei, J. & Kervin, L. K. (2009). Proceedings from National Conference for Teachers of English and Literacy: “Authentic” learning experiences: what does this mean and where is the literacy learning? Hobart, Tasmania: Australia.

Lauren Soluk - Centre for Teaching and Learning

Add comment September 25th, 2014

Make the Most of The First Day of Class

Another September and a new academic year begins. A good time to revisit some ways to make that first class effective.
Incorporating the objectives listed in this article from  Carnegie Melon University are a sure way to start the class off on the right foot. 

The first class meeting should serve at least two basic purposes:
• To clarify all reasonable questions students might have relative to the course objectives, as well as your expectations for their performance in class. As students leave the first meeting, they should believe in your competence to teach the course, be able to predict the nature of your instruction, and know what you will require of them.
• To give you an understanding of who is taking your course and what their expectations are.
These two basic purposes expand into a set of eight concrete objectives:
1. Orchestrate positive first impressions
2. Introduce yourself effectively
3. Clarify learning objectives and expectations
4. Help students learn about each other
5. Set the tone for the course
6. Collect baseline data on students’ knowledge and motivation
7. Whet students’ appetite for course content
8. Inform students of course requirements

To read more about each of the eight concrete objectives, click here.

What are your strategies for that first day?

Add comment September 2nd, 2014

Cooperation, Coordination, Collaboration: Enabling Virtual Learners by Design. Pt 3

In the third of her blog posts on Enabling Virtual Learners by Design Jennifer Hofmann expands on the subject of collaboration in online learning, and how we can make online learning a collaborative experience.

“The Learning & Development community has realized that simply using technology to create training isn’t enough. Instead, we need to design virtual and blended programs that encourage participants to collaborate. That’s all well and good, but what is online collaboration really? Why is it important? How do we achieve it? “

In try to answer this question, she identifies a clear goal for online collaboration.

“When collaborating online, using asynchronous and synchronous online tools, participant groups should be able to get results (solve problems, create project plans, design projects, and so forth) that are better than the results they would have gotten working individually.
Participants can collaborate and help one another reach learning goals in a variety of ways, both synchronous and asynchronous. They provide feedback, answer questions, and work as a distributed group.”

Fundamentally, Hoffman states, we want participants to collaborate for two reasons:

    Collaboration to achieve participant engagement.

  • Using collaboration to encourage participants to learn is always necessary. When participants know that they’ll need to be able demonstrate what they’ve learned, they tend to stay more engaged. Interaction must include collaborative exercises that ask participants to do more than simply click on a poll answer or raise a hand.
    Collaboration to support learning outcomes.

  • Although all programs should offer some of level of collaboration in order to keep participants engaged, you also may need to create collaborative exercises that support the actual learning goals. This is necessary because online programs often focus on teaching people collaborative skills, such as project management, team building, problem solving and interpersonal skills. These skills are performed in a collaborative social context, so interactions and exercises need to be designed to support the ultimate collaborative goal.

Three Levels of Collaboration
Hoffman identifies three levels of collaboration: Cooperation, Coordination, and True Collaboration.

    Exercises that are cooperative in nature largely support individual learning goals, and participants tend to be concerned with the results of their personal assessments. If participants are asked to provide feedback or help someone else, they will–as long as it doesn’t affect their personal performance.
    Coordination occurs when participants start to work together as a group to achieve a common goal. They plan and assign tasks, create deadlines, and deliver a common product (presentation, report, set of answers, and so forth). Although individuals are still concerned with their own performance and assessment, they’re willing to work with a group when it supports their personal goals. If one group member starts to fall behind or fails to support the overall group effort, individuals within that group may decide to strike out on their own to ensure personal success.
    True collaboration
    When the success of the group is paramount and all individuals must contribute to that success, you have true collaboration. No group member can be left behind and everyone within the group will do whatever it takes to reach the common goal. This is a very altruistic form of interaction and strongly supports collaboration as a learning outcome.

Collaborative approaches are learner-centered and support the concept that learning is a process rather than an event. There is a hope that once participants become accustomed to collaborating, online, they may start to incorporate more collaborative techniques into their daily interactions. It’s conceivable that participants in online programs may continue to assist each other long after the initial learning experience; ultimately, creating a learning community.

The full blog post with examples of each can be found HERE.

Add comment August 26th, 2014

The Secret Sauce: Enabling Virtual Learners by Design. Pt 2

In the second of her blog posts on Enabling Virtual Learners by Design Jennifer Hofmann discusses what she considers to be the ‘Secret Sauce’ of virtual learning, and offers definitions of the key ingredients.

Hofmann considers that the ’secret sauce’ of the virtual classroom comes down to convincing participants to be fully present and engaged. But what are the ingredients of that secret sauce? The three keys she identifies are “Engagement”, “Interaction”, and “Collaboration”.
As these terms are often used interchangeably, she offers clear definitions in an effort to distinguish the three concepts, and create some guidelines as to when they should be applied.

Engagement is defined by Merriam-Webster as emotional involvement or commitment. When a participant is engaged, that participant wants to be involved in the event; he or she wants to hear what you have to say and wants to meet the objectives of the program. Interaction and collaboration are the engagement techniques used to ensure this success.

Interaction is communication between participants, trainers, and technology. The purpose of interaction in a virtual classroom is to keep the program moving, make sure participants are paying attention, and to clarify misunderstandings.
In the virtual classroom, interaction can be accomplished in many ways, including polling, web scavenger hunts, and Q&A sessions.
These types of interactive activities don’t include PRACTICE of a new skill or APPLICATION of new knowledge. They simply confirm KNOWLEDGE.

Collaboration builds on baseline information, and is one of the factors that, in my opinion, moves and event from being a presentation to being true training.
The purpose of collaboration in a virtual classroom is to ensure participants achieve the desired level of content mastery while working with other participants.
Collaboration is exemplified by the PRACTICE of new skills and APPLICATION of knowledge by the participants. We can achieve collaboration in a virtual setting by using breakout rooms, share whiteboards, and facilitated discussions. Generally, collaboration can best be achieved with small groups and supplemental participant materials to support the learning process.

The full post can be found HERE and we will be following the rest of the series over the next few weeks.

Add comment August 18th, 2014

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