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Classroom Time Management: Strategies in Response to Over/Under Planning

A mug that says Keep Calm and Carry on Teaching sits on a desk in front of a notebook and a pair of glasses.

Photo by Seema Miah on Unsplash

by Mahtab Nazemi, Education

Over 15 years of teaching experience in K-12 and Post-Secondary combined have taught me a few useful things, to say the least. In my current role, working with Teacher Candidates (otherwise called Pre-Service Teachers), I have been very lucky to make my teaching practice visible as it contributes to my students’ and my own learning and improvement. It’s such a relief to be able to stop myself in the middle of something and exclaim: “Please don’t do what I just did! That could have gone more smoothly – any ideas of what I could have done differently?”

Recently when grading student lesson plans, I remembered a couple of important strategies that I would like to get back to consistently implementing. Like many conscientious teachers, I over-plan. I do this time and time again, even if it’s the fifth year in a row that I’m teaching the course. I know better. Every time I teach a course I have already taught, it still feels like a new prep. I re-plan because I want to do things differently all the time, and I want to bring in new materials, readings, and activities that I didn’t get a chance to use in prior iterations of the course. Because this is blog post and not a full-length paper, I will focus on only two strategies that have helped me, and I hope that they can help you with your time management.

I take notes on my lesson, right in Moodle. We all have an idea of how long something will take, or at least how long we hope it will take, so what about when it’s all done? So, here’s what I do in Moodle to help me with time management in the classroom. I will add a few lines about how the lesson went that day (and keep it hidden from students). I will write something like this:

  • “This lesson was too long. Would be best to happen over the course of two
  • “Cut this part of the lesson because they didn’t need this much introduction
    and background knowledge. (First make sure that future groups of
    students also already learned about this in prerequisite class)”
  • “Next time, do a jigsaw activity for this reading. It’s super dense and long,
    but luckily something that can be broken into smaller chunks.”

If you’ve never done a jigsaw activity, but would like to try, here are a few more words about it. Oh, and by the way, it can work well in Mathematics class too!!! Assign this reading as 5 sections, assigning each random group of 5 students one of the sections. In class, have section-groups meet to discuss the specific part they read and feel ‘as expert as possible’ on that section. (If the reading or mathematics problems, etc., were not assigned in advance of this class, then this would be time for them to first read/solve the problems, then have a discussion about being an expert on the section.) Then arrange students in new groups made up of one person from each section – so that all 5 parts are represented in each new group. This second group arrangement will meet for longer than the first one did, to discuss the whole reading, part by part, now with expertise from each section.

With the above notes captured in your Moodle site, when you import this course shell next time you teach the course, you now have some self-assessments that will help you do a version of the same lesson, but so much better!

The second piece I’d like to mention, in regard to time management in the classroom, has to do with the “ordre du jour,” or the agenda for the day. If my class runs from 8:30am to 9:20am, for example, rather than having estimates for time in minutes, I include the actual time, like this:

Instead of: Try this:
Attendance                                             5 mins

Group Discussion                                15 mins

Lecture & Notes                                    20 mins

Questions & Next Lesson               10 mins

Attendance                                  8:30-8:35

Group Discussion                       8:35-8:50

Lecture & Notes                          8:50-9:10

Questions & Next Lesson          9:10-9:20

Having the actual time, rather than the expected minutes, makes it much easier to glance at the clock or your watch and know that you’re on track for finishing all the things in your lesson within the allotted time. I know this might seem simple, but it’s super helpful! Even as a Mathematics teacher, it takes me too long to see 20 minutes in my lesson, and then figure out what time that corresponds to, and then decide if I’ve being yapping too long or if I’ve left enough time for the rest of the activities that day. Now relatedly, this is something you can adjust for future lessons, based on making a note (in Moodle or elsewhere) if something took more or less time than you had originally planned.

Hope these tips are helpful for you! If you would like to chat about this post, or any other thing related to teaching, please reach out.

SAILing Forth! Faculty-Led Assessment of TRU’s Institutional Learning Outcomes

Three sailboats representing different institutional learning outcomes and different disciplines from TRU

Image courtesy of the SAIL team

By Lorry-Ann Austin, Faculty of Education and Social Work
Jamie Noakes and Tara Bond, Career and Experiential Learning
Oleksandr (Sasha) Kondrashov, Faculty of Education and Social Work
Lian Dumouchel, Faculty of Adventure, Culinary Arts, and Tourism
Carolyn Hoessler, Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching
Alana Hoare, Office of Quality Assurance 

We set SAIL! Specifically, we launched and collaborated on the 2021 SAIL, the Strategic Assessment of Institutional Learning, pilot of TRU.  

Through SAIL we aimed to pilot a faculty-led approach to assessing student achievement of TRU’s institutional learning outcomes (ILO). In Winter 2021, we chose an ILO and joined faculty colleagues in a small group that we called an ILO Pod. Together, we co-created a shared rubric for the ILO. After the end of the term, we assessed student assignments from each others’ courses to provide ratings and a report to each other for reflection. This first pilot focused on Lifelong Learning, Social Responsibility, and Critical Thinking and Investigation, which are the ILOs that we taught. We will continue with these ILOs in Winter 2022. Later SAIL-ings (pilots) will focus on the remaining ILOs.

Through our cross-disciplinary collaboration via SAIL ILO Pods, we valued the opportunity to deepen our understanding about the ILO of focus. Our colleagues provided a fresh set of eyes on our assignments, and the discussions about how we assessed the ILOs prompted great insight and revisiting of our courses. The collaboration offered new conceptualizations of ILO application and inspiration for assessment. We also valued the opportunity to share our exciting work on campus and at an international conference. SAIL additionally confirmed student learning around the ILO and increased student understanding of the benefits of general education. 

We built on the work of colleagues across TRU including the ILOs created by the General Education Taskforce, and the Principles for learning outcomes and assessment from the Learning Outcomes and Assessment Taskforce. 

Our discussions and post-report debrief provided insights that informed the SAIL report, the recommendations being consulted on across campus, an Assessment Institute presentation, and a recent CELTalk. Our adventures can be found on the SAIL websiteWe look forward to continuing with the ILO Pods that we enjoyed, trying a new consent process and platform, and selecting assignments in late fall for a winter term SAIL-ing. Carolyn and Alana are also gathering feedback on the SAIL Recommendations and the Learning Outcomes and Assessment Principles. 

Recommendations & Next Steps – Come SAIL with us! 

Two recommendations arose from the research findings of our pilots, which the Learning Outcome and Assessment Task force is actively seeking feedback on through Faculty Council and curriculum committee presentations, as well as engaging with TRUSU Student Caucus this Fall. We are recommending the continuation of the SAIL research pilot, which includes the establishment of ILO Pods for TRU’s eight ILOs. The ILO Pods will be coordinated through the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) and supported by faculty learning and development coordinators. We will continue to explore the value of interdisciplinary rubrics to provide ratings of a subset of student assignments in ILO courses. For more details about the recommendations see the SAIL 2021 Pilot report and Fall 2021 feedback survey. 

We are about to start Season 2 of SAIL with the ILO rubrics for Lifelong Learning, Social Responsibility, and Critical Thinking and Investigation. If you are teaching an ILO course, come SAIL with us! 

Navigating Late Fall with Radical Acts of Caring-Listening

A woman holds up a compass on a foggy landscape

Photo by Denise Jans on Unsplash

By Carolyn Ives, Coordinator, Learning and Faculty Development, CELT

We are nearly two-thirds through the fall term, and I’m wondering how you all are doing: Has the fall term been energizing for you? Has it been challenging? Or has it been a bit of both?

If you’re happy to be back on campus but still struggling sometimes with the transition, you are not alone. For many, this has been a challenging fall term: just as we all had to learn to work remotely, and students had to learn to study remotely, we have all had to re-learn how to work together in person, sometimes while still integrating virtual interactions. For students who in previous terms could leave cameras off and listen anonymously, this semester of being visible in the classroom context may leave some feeling exposed and vulnerable. For faculty who spent many hours creating and delivering online content, some are now wondering if those hours were lost as they are considering whether the materials they created are still useful and useable. The ground is still shifting for some.

The nature of face-to-face work has changed, also. For example, even though I’m back on campus, my days are a mix of interacting and connecting with colleagues in person and online—and still mostly online. The transition back to face-to-face may never fully happen, as we now realize the value and convenience of online meetings, especially for including colleagues who might otherwise not be able to engage. There are definitely both pros and cons to our new reality.

One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is the value of extending grace to each other and to students as we continue to navigate this new context together. I was reminded this weekend about the importance of what Valerie Palmer-Mehta (2016) refers to as “radical acts of caring-listening”—acts of humanity that bring us closer to professional humility, authenticity, curiosity, and collaboration. I was thinking about this in reference to a conference proposal that examines the work of educational developers and how they can work more effectively with other faculty members on both individual and institutional levels in light of shifting power dynamics. It occurred to me, too, that this kind of approach also works for faculty-student interactions. What would happen if we approached all our interactions with students and with each other in this fashion? What if we listened more and didn’t jump to conclusions or make assumptions about what our colleagues and students wanted, needed, or intended? This kind of work takes more time, and communication is often challenging at the best of times, but the result is absolutely worth the time and effort.

Writing the proposal reminded me that I can be more intentional about applying radical acts of caring-listening in my interactions. I appreciated this reminder, especially in the busy moments of a rapidly moving fall term.

Palmer-Mehta, V. (2016). Theorizing listening as a tool for social change: Andrea Dworkin’s discourses on listening. International Journal of Communication 10. pp. 4176-4192.

The Art of Story Telling Through Songs

Indigenous woman in red regalia

Photo credit: Maggi Woo

By Laura Grizzlypaws
Educational Developer, Indigenous Education CELT
St’át’imc | Ecw7úcwalmicw


Throughout Indigenous histories, since time immemorial, our ancestors’ lives were based on an oral cultural way of life and still is to this present day. Our Indigenous histories, lessons, life, and knowledge was passed down orally for countless generations to sustain cultures and our unique authentic identities. One of the greatest gifts that I believe I mastered was the art of storytelling through songs. The ability to sing, and to ability to compose songs that articulate and reflect the values and beliefs and even current issues we face as Indigenous peoples.

To me, singing, is a powerful tool and skill in the lives of Indigenous peoples. Singing songs is a strong part of a cultural heritage of people, family, and individuals. It embodies the spiritual relationship of the songs to the animate, inanimate, and natural phenomenon.  For example, when a child was born a song was sung; when a new day came, a song was sung symbolizing the relationship of a person to the star world. When a person passed onto the spirit world, a song was sung; when a couple united in marriage, a song was sung; when the people harvested, a song was sung; and, when the people danced a song was sung. There are so many songs sung by Indigenous peoples, happy songs, love songs, wailing songs, grieving songs, ceremonial songs, prayer songs, appreciation songs, and songs sung even for the land, the earth, the air, and the water. Within Indigenous cultures, being an oral culture, songs played and continue to play a huge role influencing others of storing and sharing information knowledge and wisdom.

Around campus, in and out of the community you will hear Indigenous peoples sing songs and share the role of their songs sung. These songs shared, are shared to reinforce the collective identities of Indigenous peoples. Many songs are sung and shared by a people and even between nations. Songs sung are ways of empowering, educating, bringing people together creating awareness of Indigenous wisdom through voice.  Singing songs was a way of transferring knowledge, providing support, and sharing information. Songs sung at events provide support and uplift the energy and spirit of the people and its purpose to honor past, present, and future generations.

Songs sung are sung with lyrics combined with a chant in a way that affect both emotional, social, and intellectual aspects of a listener. Indigenous people’s epistemologies are a way of honoring their connections to seven generations into the past (ancestral), current generations and seven generations into the future (including the ones not yet born).  Songs appeal to a people’s minds, hearts and spirits combining all four aspects of a human’s ability mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. All songs that are sung, are and or were created are based on the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual processes one’s experiences. Many songs sung using a hand drum, are old songs, that have been passed down orally for countless generations symbolizing community, family, and social responsibility to ensure the songs continue to be passed on to future generations.

However, Indigenous music continues to grow through the art of contemporary music. Most importantly the contemporary oral art of music still celebrates and honor the values and principles of sharing important knowledge, information, and education of Indigenous issues.

The song titled “Come Home,” sung by Grizzlypaws at the Indigenous Music Awards Festival recorded by, is sung through Indigenous Languages of Canada and the United States (English, Carrier – Dakelh, Cree, Sahaptin, Nlha7kapmecw, Dine-Navajo, and St’at’imc). This is an example in which Indigenous peoples have used music to become a part of social movements based on the values and principles of their identities as Indigenous communities.  This song was created and dedicated to the Missing Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) Come Home, Come on Home, This is the Land You Call Home, Come Home, Come on Home, This is the Land, You Should have Known Laura Grizzlypaws – 2019 Indigenous Music Awards – YouTube.

Re-examining our Pandemic Pedagogy

Stack of colourful books

Photo by Kimberly Farmer on Unsplash

Two women wearing masks working at a table

Photo by Raychel Espiritu on Unsplash

By Diane Janes, Coordinator, Learning and Faculty Development, CELT

As a new faculty member here at TRU (I arrived in late August) and in CELT (Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching) along with making the move between provinces in the middle of a pandemic, I have been thinking about how we ‘survived’ the past 18 months and what might our plans would/could be, to take what we have learned (pre and during the pandemic) and put it back into the classroom we left (post pandemic), in what feels like, so long ago.  This got me focused on an idea that is being used globally called pandemic pedagogy.

So, what is pandemic pedagogy? If you have never heard of it, you would not be alone.  For those of us with online and blended teaching and learning experiences, pre-pandemic, it would be some of the technology enhanced tools, activities, and engagement strategies that we employed both inside and outside of our physical classrooms. TRU’s faculty via the CELT blog ( was instrumental in offering multiple perspectives on this idea early in the pandemic shift.

This idea was first introduced to us in March 2020 when a global pandemic was declared and every one of us more traditional Face2Face educators found ourselves in what was then being called ‘remote teaching and learning’.  I personally called it a ‘duct tape and bandages’ approach to teaching and learning.  We had to ‘pivot’ in days, to remote teaching – remote from our classrooms, remote from our students and colleagues, and remote from our campus.

It was as strange to our learners as it was to us.  Suddenly learning management systems (LMS) such as Moodle (used here at TRU) became vital (beyond how some of us had been using this tool), we learned to navigate zoom and MS teams and started to rethink our pedagogy, by the fall, to become more asynchronous and less synchronous in our teaching (where this made sense); we started to look to see how we could blend the two and engage our learners from wherever they were and wherever we were!

While the pandemic did catch us off guard, and as a serious health care crisis globally, it did send us all home for 18 or more months; but did our pedagogy really change? Or did we simply see the value of the pedagogy we used and then look for a way to ‘translate’ it to our new learning environment?  My intent here is not to define pandemic pedagogy (lots of the current literature does that already) but to look to see how what we learned about teaching and learning at this time can be kept and nurtured as we move forward into post pandemic times.

For me, this translation is one of the keys to the whole question of what IS a pandemic pedagogy or any form of crisis pedagogy.

For many of us, I am not sure the pandemic changed the way we taught – the underlying pedagogy – but it did challenge all of us, even those of us experienced in the online and blended world, to ‘rethink’ how effective we could be in our classrooms (physical and virtual) and to look to translate content/ideas/ engagement where necessary and to rework content/ideas/engagement where necessary; and to find in technology (potentially) solutions to educational gaps or questions from our physical classrooms, that have been befuddling us for years!

It helped us think outside of the classroom ‘box’ we knew and had us looking for ways to create the classroom we needed, to help our learners move though the year in a way that was meaningful, useful, and enduring.  We needed to build not only our own techno-resiliency but foster and grow it within our learners.

And we did it…and we will continue to do it…until the pandemic is declared over. But what then?

The OTHER key to the pandemic pedagogy question, is how you keep what YOU learned about teaching and learning, the changes to your own classroom questions, present and accounted for in your physical (and virtual classrooms), beyond the pandemic.  The technology (mini lectures, simulations, video, podcasts, and beyond) can now be remediation tools; maybe the discussion boards can keep the classroom discussions beyond the boundaries of the physical classroom; possibly the next solution to a classroom gap or question can be found in some of the tools you learned to incorporate into your teaching in the past 18 months.

And perhaps even more critically, how do you keep what your learners have learned about their own resiliency over the past 18 months, part of your continued mentoring and guidance for them?

These questions are not easily answered, but many of us have been writing about what some of these solutions might be.  Things we should put into place for the next pandemic, or climate change impact or unknown that might reconstruct our classrooms as we know them today.  This prepares not only us for future change, but also creates that mindset in our learners who will be the change in the future.


Here are a few resources curated to start the conversation:

Ahmed, V., & Opoku, A. (2021). Technology supported learning and pedagogy in times of crisis: the case of COVID-19 pandemic. Education and Information Technologies.

Bautista, J. (2021). Pandemic pedagogy: Teaching continuity in times of global disruption. Guest Editor, Kyoto Review of Southeast Asia, 29.

CELT Blog. (2020-2021). Pandemic Pedagogy Tips 1-4.

Cutrara, S. (2020). In conversation with Dr. Sarah Glassford (Pandemic Pedagogy convo 18).  Imagining a new ‘we”.

Janes, D. P., & Carter, L.M. (2020). Empowering Techno-resiliency and practical learning among teachers: Leveraging a community of practice model using Microsoft Teams. In Ferdig, R.E., Baumgartner, E., Hartshorne, R., Kaplan-Rakowski, R. & Mouza, C. (Eds). Teaching, technology, and teacher education during the COVID-19 pandemic: Stories from the field. Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE); p. 265-273.

Rippé, C.B., Weisfeld-Spolter, S., Yurova, Y., & Kemp, A. (2021). Pandemic pedagogy for the new normal: Fostering perceived control during COVID-19. Journal of Marketing Education, 43(2), 260-276. doi:10.1177/0273475320987287

Schley, S. & Marchetti, C.E. (2021). Pandemic transformation of teaching and learning: Designing pedagogy using the contents of Instructors’ “Pedagogical Pantry,” rather than “Established Recipes.” Journal of Transformational Learning (Special Issue: Disrupted Learning Amid the Pandemic), 8(1).

Schwartzman, R. (2020). Performing pandemic pedagogy. Communication Education, 69(4), 502-517, DOI: 10.1080/03634523.2020.1804602

Pivoting Learning Activities: Creating Online Debates

By Lindsey McKay, Assistant Teaching Professor, Sociology

Debates are well-known as live events full of strong arguments, heated controversy, nerves, and lively theatrics. They are a great way to achieve the critical thinking and investigation institutional learning outcome. In the 2020 pivot to an online mode of delivery, the successful team debates I held in my second year Medical Sociology course looked doomed. The standard individual essay would have to replace the interaction and critical thinking learned through debates. Before I jettisoned this effective learning activity, I reached out to TRU’s instructional designers. That is when everything changed.

When I met Instructional Designer Marie Bartlett, I recall her metaphorically rubbing her hands together, saying, “hmmm, I love figuring out these learning puzzles.” Several joint sessions later, after investing what felt like weeks improving my Moodle skills, out came a multi-stage, concurrent, asynchronous debate activity-assessment in Moodle!

What does it look like?

The online debate activity-assessment has four stages.

Step 1: Students form groups with 6-7 members; each group addresses a unique debate topic expressed as a proposition statement.

Step 2: Students research their debate topic. This is a graded assessment. (I use annotated bibliographies.)

Step 3: The debate! All debates start and end over the same two-day period in a discussion forum. It is asynchronous with a deadline for the first post and at least five back-and-forth posts responding to group members. All students must cite evidence (with permalinks to TRU library articles) and write a ‘pro’ and ‘con’ argument in a long first post in response to their proposition statement.

Step 4: Final graded product (final position and reflection on what they learned)

The following pictograph, created by Marie for the Makerspace event we hosted in May, illustrates the steps, and adds the Moodle resources and tools: Graphic of debate structure

How did it go?

Students liked this learning activity-assessment. Many remarked in their reflections that they had to stretch their way of thinking to write a ‘pro’ or ‘con’ argument, counter to their real position. Reading the research and responding to others’ points was appreciated. Anonymous feedback included the following comments.

  • “I liked how I was able to engage and interact with my peers. This was a very useful tool for honing in on our research skills. It is also great for critical thinking and challenging ourselves to view a problem from two different angles.”
  • “The debate is a great idea. I loved it but I think that it was a bit confusing too to understand how it was going to be made. Having to post in both sides (pro and cons) was hard and interesting but confusing to be able to think in both arguments.”
  • “I liked how we were able to have time to thoughtfully and respectfully respond to our peers with scholarly evidence without any pressure. I also liked being able to read back what others argued back with, being able to access their sources later to continue my own learning on the topic.”
  • “It really challenged me to consider all points relevant and ensure sufficient evidence to support me and to include alternative approaches.”

What I learned

In F20, I learned that it was challenging for many students to do teamwork online. I resolved this by switching to individual grading; replacing the word “team” with “group.”

In W21, I learned not to go too far in minimizing reliance on one another aspect of the activity. The two-day event is very exciting as students, organized into six different groups, start to post and engage with one-another. The flurry of posts create an exciting momentum. This worked really well for five groups but one group flopped. De-emphasizing group interaction was to blame. Next time, I will impose stricter posting requirements and ensure students know their group is counting on them.

What is neat about working online is the role the software plays in shaping the design of a learning activity. One Moodle feature key to the debates was using a discussion forum type called “QandA.” I posted a ‘question,’ in this case inviting responses to the proposition statements, and the students ‘answered’ by posting their first long arguments. Only after posting can students see other students’ posts. This means no one can lean on or be influenced by the work of other students.

From Online to Blended

Now facing the return to campus, how do I pivot back? My plan is to retain the online portion and add an in-class final round of debate. Groups will debate sequentially instead of concurrently. By blending online with face-to-face modes, I will not lose the greatest strength of the online debate: citing evidence! It is far more difficult for students to clearly articulate and share scholarship supporting their arguments with the speed and time constraints of a live debate.

Each mode supports different skills sets for learners. In addition to citing scholarship, online is a slower pace that allows for deep thinking and develops writing skills. In-person requires learners to be even more prepared, think on their feet and develops oral skills. A blending should be the best of both worlds.

Interested in creating or comparing how you do debates in your course? I’d love to hear from you. Please contact me at You can also download a debate OER Marie and I made from the CRICKET.trubox site, and, by request, import what I created directly into your Moodle shell.

Using Canoe Paddling as an Analogy to Reflect on the past 16 months of Teaching in the ESTR Program at TRU

Photo taken from

By Christina Cederlof

In outrigger canoeing, when your boat flips, it is called a huli. Hulis happen suddenly. There you were, giving it your all, paddling towards the finish line, and bam, all of a sudden you are in the water. The water feels shockingly cold; waves toss you about, and it is disorienting. Immediately, you must take stock of your team. Is there anyone trapped under the boat? Injured? With everyone accounted for, the paddles and bailing buckets need to be assembled as soon as possible, or you will literally be going down the river without a paddle(s).

The March 2020 pivot was a lot like a huli. And, because there was additional uncertainty—initially we were told practicums would continue—my students and I were in the water, treading for two weeks until it became clear the practicums could not continue as businesses were shutting down due to the pandemic. I was told to find a way to get us to the finish line of that academic year, and so I did. I assembled a rudimentary craft, and our binding material was the strong community we had built over the year. This kept us meeting regularly in the Big Blue Button, and our final class was a celebration during which everyone told each other what we appreciated the most about each other. The experience reinforced for me the importance and strength that comes from building community.

The summer of 2020 was, well, an exercise in boat building. Clearly, I needed to build a different boat. With my comfortable F2F boat not able to do the job, I started to build a new boat using a model about which I had limited knowledge. I did have incredible boat building guides, though, by the names of Carolyn Ives, Matthew Stranach, and Brenna Clarke Gray. I attended a lot of building seminars to get ideas and to start building my new boat. With a boat built enough to float, we started the year.

My first task was to teach my students how to get into the boat. This involved phone calls, individual video conferencing sessions, and sometimes a referral to IT Services to download the software they needed (Office 365). Once in the boat, very quickly the students (and I) needed to learn how to paddle this new boat. For the students’ fall practicum, this also involved getting parents or, in some cases, grandparents, to help coach their paddler to develop transferable skills while in their Covid-safe bubble. In the end, the students (and I) became comfortable with our new boat (Big Blue Button, Moodle, online Office 365, as well as some online courses in Customer Service); I want to acknowledge fully the continued support I received from my boat building guides (Carolyn, Matthew, and Brenna) throughout the year, a much-needed safety boat that motored alongside us. The past 16 months were very much a time of building the boat as we paddled, and had it not been for my support team and the dedication of the students and their parents, we would not have made it to the finish line.

Now, as I look to July and August 2021, I am faced with the need to build another new boat. I am not convinced that this boat will be anything like the boat I had before the pandemic, even with the return to campus. For one, I have changed as a paddler.  And there were successes resulting from paddling the boat of 2020-21. Some of those involved the students needing to be more independent and, at times, digging in to learn a new stroke or enlisting others to also learn that stroke with them. I also appreciated that the craft held all our learning in it and thus it was easy to refer students back to a stroke development they needed more practice on. It was all in digital form, so we saved a lot in photocopying (cost and paper waste) and so helpful for all to say, “it is still in Moodle.”

What will the 2021-2022 boat look like? I cannot see it being anything but a hybrid of the two boats I now have some knowledge of how to build and paddle (F2F and online). We are preparing ourselves for a return to normal, but normal has changed. This summer I will build my boat again (and I will take a much-needed rest). The boat (Moodle shell) will look a lot like the boat of 2020-21, but hopefully I will be able to demonstrate the strokes and cheer my students on in person.

I am proud of the work that was accomplished in 2020-21, and while I knew I was a capable F2F boat builder and coach, I learnt that I could be a competent online boat builder and motivator as well. While this past year has been described as the one like non-other and the one that tested our resilience, this coming year will test our trust in is the danger really gone (?), and we will need to be brave.

Holding on to What We’ve Learned

By Matthew Stranach

Photo of Matthew Stranach

Matt working during COVID. Photo credit: Alicia Ashcroft

I would like to thank the CELT team for the opportunity to contribute to this blog, as well as for all the work they’ve put in to support our community over the past year and a half. While we are not out of the woods yet, the landscape in front of us does appear to be changing— particularly as we prepare to return to campus for the fall semester. I appreciate the opportunity to reflect on my experiences in this blog!

At one point early in my undergraduate years, I was looking at a potential career in journalism. I volunteered as a reporter with the local public access television station, and hosted a music show on the university radio station! While life and my career had a different path in store, I thought it might be interesting to frame this post in such a way as to answer the “five w’s + 1 h”; namely: who, what, when, where, why, and how. This will also keep me on track— I sometimes have a tendency to go on rambles, as readers of Mondays and Fridays might attest!

Who—  My biggest takeaway here is to be kinder to everyone. Without being twee about it, our lives have all been profoundly disrupted by this pandemic. Truly, you never know what somebody else has gone through or is going through. I am hoping we carry this sense of— looking out for each other— into whatever is next, particularly as we move back into a face-to-face situation.

What— I think the biggest “what” that I can think of would be “flexibility” and “innovation”. In my tech coordinator role, I’ve been inspired by the determination of colleagues on my team and across the university under all circumstances to make it work— even if the “it” was sometimes hazy! Again, I am hoping these habits of mind can follow us back to the physical campus. In many ways, I think we are going to need it!

When— This is tied closely to my next answer, but for me “when” speaks strongly to synchronous and asynchronous modalities. I’ve seen lots of amazing experimentation with virtual formats which try to make optimal use of time— and I hope that active asynchronous learning activities will still have a place after we have returned to campus.

Where— I think maybe above all else, our sense of physical locality as it pertains to teaching and learning has been thrown into flux since the pandemic began. I am as excited as anyone else at the prospect of physically interacting with colleagues and students again— but I hope that the physical classroom may be seen more purposefully as a tool in the teacher’s tool kit, rather than an a priori variable.

Why— I feel like we’ve all had occasion to question our purpose as educators over the past year. And I believe this is a good thing! I am looking forward to re-engaging with the physical campus with a renewed sense of purpose.

How— A huge question! And the answer will be highly personal to the individual teacher and students! The LTI team remains ready and available— and augmented with new faculty members!— to assist as you make decisions which are best for you and for you students. I am happy to engage with individuals further on this: please send me an email! CELT is also available to help; you can contact the team here!

Again, many thanks to the entire CELT team! I have personally benefitted tremendously from your programming and from the harder-to-quantify but incredibly important kindness and patience and creativity of everyone on your team! Kukwstsétselp!

One Book, One Community: A Collaboration between TRU and TNRL

The photo depicts the cover of the book by Michelle Good titled Five Little Indians

By Catharine Dishke Hondzel

One Book, One Community is a collaborative community-wide reading project between the Thompson Nicola Regional Library (TNRL) and TRU. This is the first time that TRU and the TNRL have initiated a collaborative community project, and it’s an exciting time to be using reading as a means to gather people together once again. After nearly 18 months of social distancing and disruption, I appreciate that we have an opportunity to find a new experience that moves us toward place of shared learning.

I’m fortunate to have a bit of experience with a common reading program, as I’m sure others in the community and in the university have through book clubs and shared reading groups. Since the fall of 2018 CELT has been running a small faculty book club (A Bowl a Book and a Bun) where we discussed a teaching-focussed work. Last year when we moved our book club online the book club grew to over 30 faculty members who joined us in shared discussion of Flower Darby and James Lang’s book Small Teaching Online: Applying Learning Science in Online Classes. We discussed big ideas, struggles with the pivot to online learning, and together we grounded our work in care for students and thoughtful course design. This online book club was not only very fun, it also brought people together at a time when we were all craving connection.

You may also be familiar with other big ‘one book’ programs at universities or in communities. In my previous role before coming to TRU, I had the great fortune of being able to support the Huron1Read program where every incoming student received a copy of that year’s chosen book. Within that program, faculty built selected readings into their classes, students, faculty and staff hosted discussion groups, and the whole community attended author events and faculty talks. One of my most potent memories of being a part of that initiative was as a host for Thomas King when he came to Huron to meet with Indigenous students to answer questions about his book the Truth about Stories.  Hearing him talk about writing the book and answering questions from students about becoming a writer and author stands out in my memory a point of connection on such a personal work, and it added another deeper, more personal layer to his writing.

This year the book we have chosen for the One Book One Community initiative is Michelle Good’s Five Little Indians. Winner of many prizes, the book explores themes related to residential school survival, intergenerational trauma, community, the meaning of place, parenting, grief, and healing. It will capture readers in myriad ways. We think everyone will be able to relate to some of the complex experiences the main characters face while learning about the long-lasting impacts of the residential school system.

CELT is excited to be supporting TRU library and TNRL on this project, and we encourage faculty, students and staff to get involved. You can start or join a reading group, bring the book into your course, or attend an author event in the spring. More details are available on the OBOC webpage which will be updated regularly.

Reflections on Pandemic Teaching: Mining for the Silver Lining (with Captain Canada)

A man is dressed in a superhero costume with a Maple Leaf on the front.

Photo credit Dan Bissonette

By Mark Paetkau

Wow, what a year!  While “a positive test is a bad thing” punctuated 2020, I am mining for the silver lining…so here are a few nuggets.

Email greetings. I feel since the pandemic greetings of “I hope you are well!” or other such positive wishes are the norm.

Departmental Interaction/Support. Our department has had more email discussions about both important (pedagogy) and not-so-important (who will inherit a Captain Canada suit of a retiring faculty). These started with our department Chair just sending out a query “How is everyone today?” and concerns, support, as well as comic relief just grew from there.

Lecture Shake up. I adopted a flipped classroom approach: content consisted of short (15 min) video or reading and lectures dedicated to applying the content. The short video/reading was to spare me the hours of attempting to make LONG detailed videos, but more importantly to spare the students the task of watching me drone on. Lectures used clicker questions and problem-based learning. For the problem- based learning, I selected a student (or students) to work on the white board. One innovation was embracing “I don’t know” (idk). If a student did not know how to start a problem, a simple idk moved the class onto the next student. If a question resulted in three consecutive idks, then I reviewed the content.

Online white boards. Over the last few years I have been incorporating smart board technology, and this year I worked to leverage the shared white boards in Big Blue button and elsewhere. Imagine six students working on the white board at once (don’t try this on a smart board!): collaboration and engagement!  I also feel the online “anonymous” environment helped reduce barriers to engagement.

Online exams. I employed a quick-draw online exam for a portion of my exams. Twenty low-stakes Bloom’s level 1 questions provided a snapshot of student’s foundational knowledge. The best part: the exams graded themselves!

Online assignments. Electronic assignments have cleared my desk!

These are the positives I hope will survive—I hope you have a few of your own.

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