Teaching Advice Q&A

This page contains responses -- from UTM community members -- to frequently answered questions at UTM.

 

How do you increase student engagement in class?

How do you encourage student participation in class?

How do you foster good study practices with your students?

How do you create connections to the "real world" in your class?

How do you create a personal and meaningful learning experience for your students?

How do you foster a sense of community in large classes?

What advice would you give to incoming UTM students?

What advice would you give to graduating UTM students?

What advice would you give to junior faculty members?

What do you value about teaching & learning at UTM?


 

How do you increase student engagement in class?

 

 

Ulli KrullEngagement often derives from the ability to appreciate connections between topics and disciplines.  Material that is being taught will be better appreciated when it is both useful and surprising, and when the mind is stimulated to be active by making connections. I have found that explanation of concepts by drawing on facts and theories associated with different courses and different subject areas tends to create engagement of the mind – the mind resonates with analogies, and there is empowerment in the realization that one can be creative by aligning knowledge acquired in previous experiences.

 

-Ulli Krull, Professor, Dept. of Chemical and Physical Sciences

 

 

Katherine RehnerStudents in my classes are responsible for helping (in part) to determine, shape, and deliver the content. This level of responsibility naturally brings with it increased engagement and leads to greater participation.

 

-Katherine Rehner, Associate Professor, Dept. of Language Studies

 

 

 


 
 

 

How do you encourage student participation in class?

Jade AtallahI highlight an often forgotten aspect of science – ‘The human Dimension’. I always remind students that the material we are tackling has been discovered by individuals, just as themselves, carrying out research in laboratories next door to our classroom and at other institutions around the world. This encourages students to take responsibility, motivates them, increases their attention span, boosts their confidence in their abilities, fuels their critical thinking, and most importantly, energizes the classroom and increases participation in our collaborative problem solving efforts.

 

-Jade Atallah, Teaching Assistant, Dept. Biology

Marc Laflamme

I love to share personal anecdotes. I believe it breaks down traditional classroom barriers, and encourages students to share their own experiences. U of T is beautifully multicultural; we have so much to learn from one another. 

 

-Marc Laflamme, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Chemical & Physical Sciences

 

 

 


 

How do you foster good study practices with your students?

Aaron LeblancI try to help students understand concepts. There’s a difference between memorizing something and understanding it. Memorizing information means you can repeat it if asked to do so, but if you can understand it you can apply it to a problem, which is what most exams are really testing.

 

-Aaron Leblanc, Teaching Assistant, Dept. of Biology

 


How do you create connections to the "real world" in your class?

 

Shay Fuchs Sometimes we have world experts Skype into class, which humanizes the science we are talking about. It puts a face to the ideas they are learning. 

 

 

-Marc Johnson, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Biology 

 

 

 

Elspeth BrownI have the great pleasure of teaching History’s internship class. I work with advanced History students to identify research and learning interests, and find public history placements for them in the GTA. We’ve placed students at the Royal Ontario Museum, the Canadian Arab Institute, Heritage Mississauga, Peel Art Gallery, Museum + Archives (PAMA), and other sites. The students get a lot our of the program: they get to put their training to use in the public interest, while exploring post-graduate career options. Check us out here!

 

-Elspeth Brown, Associate Professor, Dept. of Historical Studies

 


How do you create a personal and meaningful learning experience for your students?

Paul PiunnoI do this by bringing in stories from my adventures establishing and working in start-up biotechnology companies (i.e. the “real world”).  I make connections between what I teach and that which lies beyond the doors of the University, which really seems to resonant with most students. I also keep my door open when in my office and welcome unannounced visits. In this way, students feel free and welcomed to contact me and communicate all things related to their learning experience.

 

-Paul Piunno, Associate Professor, Teaching Stream, Dept. of Chemical & Physical Sciences

 

Bachar AlabdullahI create a personal and meaningful learning experience for my students by taking a genuine interest in getting to know their stories and how they ended up in my lab/tutorial. I ensure that I also share aspects of myself with them so they don't see me as an intimidating-authoritative figure, but rather as supporter who has been in their shoes once upon a time. That creates a safe environment for my students to ask questions freely, which contributes to an overall more meaningful learning experience for them.

 

-Bachar Alabdullah, Teaching Assistant, Dept. of Biology

Michael PickeringI always encourage students to engage deeply with their passions and find ways to connect what they are learning with who they are becoming as individuals. No matter how theoretical the subject, I make sure that students understand the linkages between the skills that they are developing in the classroom and the practical applications that it will have in their own careers when they graduate.

 

-Michael Pickering, Teaching Assistant, Dept. of Geography


How do you foster a sense of community in large classes?

Jayne BakerIn other disciplines at UTM, a sense of community in large classes may be achieved in tutorials or labs. Most of our classes in Sociology, however, do not have tutorials. This includes Introduction to Sociology, where it may be particularly important to foster a sense of community for new UTM students. Instead, I try to do small things in the context of my lectures that I hope “add up” to a sense of community, like calling on students to participate in lecture as much as possible through Q & A; by referring to classmates as fellow peers or colleagues; and by doing “Pair and Share” activities or small group break-offs. I’ve also created voluntary tutorials in advance of a test where students work in small groups on a set of practice questions, using lottery scratch cards for immediate feedback. Anything that makes a student believe that they are more than just a student number in a sea of faces is worth doing.

 

-Jayne Baker, Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream, Dept. of Sociology

 

What advice would you give to incoming UTM students?

Anna Shahmuradyan

Do your best not to procrastinate. It is easier to keep up than to catch up.

 

 

 

-Ana Shahmuradyan, Teaching Assisstant, Dept. of Chemical & Physical Sciences

 

 

 

Mary Cheng

Students often ask me for tips on how to get better grades. (Un)fortunately, there are no shortcuts to academic success--just good, old-fashioned hard work, focus and determination. 

 

-Mary Cheng, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Biology

 

 

Mindy ThunaNever assume you already know how to do something in the most efficient and effective way. You have an underlying knowledge base from High School to start but try and remain opening to learning new ways to do things and think about things. The more you are willing to learn, the easier your UTM experience will be.

 

-Mindy Thuna, Science Liaison Librarian


What advice would you give to graduating UTM students?

Tracey BowenMy advice to graduating students is to always look for a different solution to a problem, one that challenges the status quo and makes the world a little bit better. New graduates need to take risks. They need to test themselves. Employers are looking for new ideas and they are looking for new grads to bring a few of those ideas to the table.  Embrace life-long learning and seek out opportunities for professional development. Graduating from UTM is only the first step – the rest of the journey has yet to be charted!

 

-Tracey Bowen, Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream, Institute of Communication, Culture, Information & Technology


What advice would you give to junior faculty members?

Chester Scoville

Get to know lots of people, including other junior faculty outside your discipline. You’ll probably have more in common with them than you might think!

 

 

-Chester Scoville, Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream, Dept. of English & Drama

 

 

Sophia BelloBe open-minded and ready to LEARN from your students. They are the ones who will help your pedagogical development and help you better yourself as a professor, a teacher and as a researcher. 

 

-Sophia Bello, Teaching Assisstant, Dept. of Language Studies


What do you value about teaching & learning at UTM?

Barb Murck

I am often blown away by the teaching skills, innovations, and professionalism of my colleagues. We have a lot of great, passionate teachers here at UTM and I am constantly learning from them.

 

-Barb Murck, Associate Professor, Teaching Stream, Dept. of Geography