TRU Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching

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Mental Health on Campus and in the Classroom

By Chelsea Corsi (she/her), Senior Wellness Coordinator

In my role as Senior Wellness Coordinator, it feels like I use the term mental health all the time, so… what exactly is mental health?  “Mental health is the state of your psychological and emotional well-being. It is a necessary resource for living a healthy life and a main factor in overall health” (Government of Canada, 2020, para 1). Positive mental health allows us to build resilience, develop and utilize coping skills, and enjoy life. Mental health can flourish when we are able to develop strong connections with family, friends, and community members; set realistic goals for ourselves; and accept ourselves and others. Our mental health is also boosted if we have access to opportunities that allow us to create a sense of meaning and purpose in our lives (engage in activities we enjoy, volunteer, etc.).

The status of our mental health can be influenced by many factors, including but not limited to, our life experiences, relationships with others, work/school environment, physical health status, our community connectedness, structural conflict, and the social determinants of health, which include the personal, social, environmental, and economic systems in society that can create inequities in health, such as one’s gender, income, educational status, experiences of/structural racism, culture, access to health services, food insecurity, etc. (CCSDH, 2015; Government of Canada, 2020; WHO, 2024).

I have been in my wellness role on campus for the past 20 years, and in that time, I have felt a palpable erosion in student and faculty mental health at both the individual and community levels. I started to sense a real shift about eight or nine years ago, however, the recent COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented global mental health reckoning, that is directly impacting the lives of students, faculty, and staff at campuses across Canada.

For example, a report entitled The New Abnormal: Student Mental Health Two Years Into COVID-19 commissioned by the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) and the Mental Health Commission of Canada (2022), identified key findings about students’ experiences of mental health and well-being:

  • 3 in 4 students reported experiencing negative mental health during their studies.
  • More than 1 student out of 4 reports their mental health as poor.
  • Three-quarters of students reported that their mental health has been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, on par with 2021 levels.
  • 70% of students reported their ability to maintain social connections has been negatively impacted.
  • Students who identified as a visible minority, 2SLGBTQ+, Indigenous, living with a disability, or living with a pre-existing mental health concern were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
  • 68% of students indicated that the pandemic has worsened their overall health, negatively impacting their physical activity levels, diets, and ability to maintain social connections (p.7).

While available research on faculty specific mental health needs is limited compared to that of students, in a narrative review of the literature related to faculty well-being, Hammoudi Halat (2023) pointed to a myriad of intersecting and complex factors that can significantly impact faculty mental health. High expectations of faculty work in academia which requires rigor, scholarship, publishing, grant acquisitions, collaboration with peers, teaching, mentoring, leadership, service, and innovation, as well as tenure, promotion, and a culture of competitiveness, can contribute to a pressure-filled environment that has the potential to result in negative mental health symptoms for faculty. Also, being seen as responsible for ‘student success’ and required to continuously provide extra support to students who are struggling with their academic and personal wellness, can be exhausting for many faculty, who might start to feel overwhelmed with their own work-life balance. In multiple studies reviewed by Hammoudi Halat, (2023), faculty reported feelings of “depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, unfulfillment, frustration, isolation, difficulty concentrating, lack of motivation, irritability, and sadness” (p.4). These symptoms can influence how faculty members are able to navigate their multi-faceted roles and how they contribute to the academic/work environment. Sprinkle in a little global pandemic, and faculty are struggling too.

Considering mental health is influenced by numerous intersecting factors, and we as faculty are not immune to the global mental health crisis, is there a way we can endeavor to create classroom environments that are conducive to well-being and contributes to a caring, compassionate, and flourishing campus community?

Before I provide my insights on this, let me be totally transparent – I am an instructional support faculty member who does not spend as much time in official ‘classrooms’ compared to those of you who are in teaching faculty roles. I honour the work you do every single day and acknowledge many of you are leaders in creating environments that support mental health and wellbeing (if that is you, let’s talk so we can collaborate!). With my background in health and wellness, I know a few things about a few things, so I will offer some ideas for your consideration and a few resources that might support and enhance the work you are already doing.

1. Let’s start with a little self-reflection – how is YOUR wellness? – I say this with true kindness and compassion – no one can draw water from an empty well; if we are not nurturing our own health, it will be very challenging to support others. Research finds that faculty often do not come forward to seek support with their own mental health due to lack of awareness about resources, shame, stigma, and fear of discrimination and negative career impacts (Hammoudi Halat, 2023). I personally know how hard it is to prioritize our own wellness as faculty when there are individual, family, and systemic barriers at play, so no judgment here if you are struggling to make yourself a priority. I might suggest that a baseline action could be spending time reflecting on how you are feeling. Are you feeling joy? Do you feel like you have energy? Do you feel overwhelmed a lot of the time? Are you ready to make a change to support your wellness? Here to Help BC has some great self-screening tools on mental wellbeing, anxiety, depression, body image, and substance use, etc., you can easily access online if you are interested in a personal wellness assessment.

2. Learn more about the mental health and wellness resources available for you and for students – Knowledge is power. The more you know about what resources are available, the better chance you have in accessing those services and supports. I do acknowledge, however, that based on one’s own level of privilege and positionality in society, some faculty and students may still experience barriers when attempting to access resources. Also, based on what I already mentioned about the social determinants of health, there are oppressive systems at play that can have more impact on our overall wellness than any individual choice we make. With that being said, if there are barriers impacting your access to resources, I might suggest that you contact Sam Nielson, TRU Campus Wellness Advisor (, or Megan Gerow, Disability, Wellness & Accessibility Advisor (, as it is within their roles to support you in navigating the health and wellness information, education, and engagement opportunities you are entitled to as a TRU employee. TRUFA is also available to support you if you are experiencing work-place conflict, harassment, harm, or any breaches in the collective agreement (

For student-related resources, the various offices under the Faculty of Student Development (FSD), TRUSU, TRU World, etc. have numerous faculty and staff available to support students struggling with personal or academic related issues. FSD provides direct mental health supports for students such as counselling, accessibility services, student affairs, and the medical clinic. You can call 250-828-5023 or email if you are concerned about a student and need support. Don’t forget about the spaces and places that have been designed with student health in mind – the Wellness Centre (OM 1479), Cplul’kw’ten (House 5), and the Intercultural space (House 4) which all offer a variety of supports and people connection points for students. Students can also access a 24/7 mental health service called Keep Me Safe by downloading the Telus Health Student Support App. Keep Me Safe provides counselling supports as well as a plethora of prevention and wellness information.

If at any time you or a student need mental health crisis supports, there is the new national mental health crisis line you can access 24/7 by calling or texting 988. You can also try the local Mental Health and Substance Use Line by calling 310-MHSU from anywhere in the Interior of BC.

3. Enhance your literacy and understanding about wellbeing in learning environments – Classrooms are vital mini-communities within the campus context, and as such, are the perfect place to nurture health and wellbeing. Luckily for us, Simon Fraser University’s (SFUs) health and wellness team worked with faculty over the course of a few years to create an award-winning model that connects classroom faculty’s engagement with campus wellbeing. In their research they found 10 key classroom practices that boosted wellness: social connection, optimal challenge, civic engagement, instructor support, inclusivity, personal development, services and supports, positive classroom culture, flexibility, and real-life learning (SFU, 2024, p.1). An example of instructor support could be telling students that you care about them and their success, while validating their concerns and lived experiences. Inclusivity can look like prioritizing universal design, using inclusive language, and creating a classroom that honours diversity and respects differences. Through these intentional strategies, a reciprocal wellness relationship is fostered between faculty and students. If you are interested in accessing SFUs model and vast resource library, please see this link:

4. Look no further than our own backyard! – The hardworking folks at TRU’s Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) continue to provide fulsome education, support, and engagement opportunities to nurture and enhance faculty’s growth and development. I am amazed at the breadth and depth of workshops and engagement CELT provides that directly connects to the creation and enhancement of classrooms conducive to wellbeing. For example, they offer workshops on decolonizing and Indigenizing the classroom and curriculum, universal design for international students, supporting international student’s academic success, wise practices in collaborative work, etc. Check out their on-line guide to see what upcoming learning opportunities await!

If I can leave you with one last thought it is this, if you are struggling with your mental health and wellness you are not alone. Life is really hard right now, however, please remember that you and your health do matter. Because our mental health and wellbeing directly impacts our ability to find joy, peace, adventure, and engagement in life, if you find yourself wanting to improve your mental health, starting with one small shift you can control can be very powerful. Small changes can equal big impact to our overall wellness; a total life revamp isn’t necessary. If we have the capacity to engage with our wellness and take steps to integrate even one of the aforementioned strategies into our lives and in the classroom, it could truly shift the wellbeing of our community for the better.



Canadian Alliance of Student Associations & The Mental Health Commission of Canada (2022). The new abnormal: Student mental health two years into COVID-19.

The Canadian Council on the Social Determinants of Health. (2015).  A Review of frameworks on the determinants of Health.

Government of Canada. (2020).  About mental health.

Hammoudi Halat, D., Soltani, A., Dalli, R., Alsarraj, L., & Malki, A. (2023). Understanding and fostering mental health and well-being among university faculty: A narrative review. Journal of Clinical Medicine, 12(13), 1-28.

Simon Fraser University (2024). Creating conditions for well-being in learning environments.

The University of British Columbia (2024). Wellbeing in teaching and learning environments.

World Health Organization (2024). Mental health.

Incorporating Cave Microbiology Research Stories into My Teaching

Two people wearing outdoor gear and headlamps navigate tight spaces in a cave

Photo credit to Klaus Thyman (2018 Iron Curtain Cave)

By Naowarat (Ann) Cheeptham, Professor, Biological Sciences, and 3M National Teaching Fellow

For me, there is no one particular way to incorporate cave microbiological disciplinary research activities into my teaching. I have no rules when I tell stories. My passion is to share with students and to tell them stories about our research team–the progress of the research projects, the failed experiments, the accidents, my and my students’ struggles, and the fun and the excitement of discovery–both in the field and the laboratory, often come naturally and organically. I love using narrative pedagogy (Avraamidou & Osborne, 2009; Landrum, Brakke, & McCarthy, 2019) in my teaching to bridge the gap between real-world application and experience, and the specific content introduced in classes. Bringing in the human side of scientific teaching (Beardsley, 1992; Elmesky, 2021) and discovery is a critical part of my teaching philosophy. As I reflect on my past teaching, I have used storytelling in my classes for a long time dating to before I even knew the term “narrative pedagogy” in education and pedagogy terminology.

I strongly believe that stories, when linked intentionally and purposefully, can bring about humanity, humility, and intricate interconnections with all lives. Such relational teaching practice (Hickey & Riddle, 2023) can help our students make sense of what is taught in class: it has also been shown that the relation to emotional level enhances information retention (Kensinger, 2009; Landrum, Brakke, & McCarthy, 2019; Tyng, Amin, Saad, & Malik, 2017). Through stories from my personal and professional experience, I can connect with my students in a meaningful way. The students can also tie their reality and the world around them through their narratives. With the stories of my research experience, my urge to link and close the full circle–the students, the contents covered in classes, and the real-world experience–is untiring. Throughout my teaching career, anecdotally students often remember a story I told them more than the specific content of lectures. I believe that relevancy is critical for students to retain knowledge throughout their courses. That is one reason I have always tried to self-improve and am continually experimenting with what I can and cannot do in classes to help my students connect and stay curious.

In addition to stories about my research and when I go to the caves and collect cave samples with students I draw to get students’ attention before launching into related lecture topics, I also draw upon the failures and mistakes I have encountered during my career, and great stories about my students’ success through their discoveries/research activities. I do not shy away from making fun of myself and self-deprecating acts, and my experience learning applied microbiology in my master’s and doctoral programs in Japanese, my third tongue.

Taken together, I do not have a particular itinerary, the lecture topics often lead me to share stories that tie to such knowledge with students. Besides narrative pedagogy, driven purely by the desire to connect and make microbiological content relevant to my students’ daily lives, I often use TEDTalks and short videos from sources such as National Geographic to draw students’ attention to the lesson topic of the day. At times, I also use short letters to editors, commentary, and/or short communication types of peer-reviewed journal articles as reading assignments. For example, I have used the Tokyo Metro Subway map to start microbial metabolism in the BIOL 2160 Introductory Microbiology class. More to the point, besides grants and teaching scholarly findings, I have always kept a personal journal to keep quotes, thoughts, books of interest, ideas, and people’s names and what they do that I could include as stories to augment my classes.

One recent example of how I spearheaded, conceptualized, and co-designed to develop a course to meet with what is happening in the world was my International Field School in Thailand in the spring of 2023. The field school theme was on microorganisms, human impacts, and climate change. We centered the course on the “One Health” concept and the impacts of climate change within the certain context of microorganisms and climate change.

Formally, I also now augment courses I teach (BIOL 3800 Fermentation, BIOL 2160 Introduction to Microbiology, and BIOL 4130 Molecular Evolution) with mandatory course exit reflection essays on climate change and its consequences (positive, neutral, detrimental, unknown) related to the context and topics covered in the courses.

Curiosity is naturally intrinsic to all of us: we remember how good we all were at being curious when we were younger. When and how did we lose that natural ability to just be curious? Curiosity is the key fuel that drives scientific thinking and the discovery process. The scientific methods are composed of making observations, formulating questions, using hypotheses to predict the outcome and/or guide the experimental design, testing the research questions/conducting experiments, and analyzing and interpreting the data. I aim to bring back the natural curiosity that some of my students may have lost throughout the rigid and prescriptive educational system–one class at a time.



Avraamidou, L., & Osborne, J. (2009). The role of narrative in communicating science. International Journal of Science Education, 31(12), 1683–1707.

Beardsley, T. (1992). Teaching real science. Scientific American, 267(4), 98–109.

Elmesky, R. (2021). Humanizing science education, wellness and a more just world. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 16, 857–866.

Hickey, A., & Riddle, S. (2023). The practice of relationality in classrooms: beyond relational pedagogy as empty signifier, Teachers and Teaching.

Kensinger, E. A. (2009). Remembering the details: Effects of emotion. Emotion Review, 1(2): 99-113.

Landrum, R. E., Brakke, K., & McCarthy, M. A. (2019). The pedagogical power of storytelling. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology, 5(3), 247–253.

Tyng, C. M., Amin, H. U., Saad, M. N. M., & Malik, A. S. (2017). The influences of emotion on learning and memory. Frontiers in Psychology, 8: 1454. .

Dimensions of Scholarly Teaching

A coffee mug with the phrase "Keep Calm and Carry On Teaching" sites in front of an open book with a pair of reading glasses sitting on its pages.

Photo by Seema Miah on Unsplash

By Wei Yan, CELT

This post was also shared internally via TRU Connect.

The center for Teaching and Learning at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis published a Scholarly Teaching Taxonomy on their website after extensive review of the literature on teaching and learning. I found this to be a useful tool for professional development and growth. The taxonomy comprises five dimensions of scholarly teaching, including 1) evidence-based practice, 2) reflective practice, 3) course/curricular design, 4) ethics and responsibility, and 5) subject-matter expertise and pedagogical knowledge. As faculty members, this tool provides a great concept map for us to reflect on current practice and set new goals and make improvements for our teaching practice.

In each of the above five dimensions, three levels are clearly defined with examples. Take “evidence-based practice” for example, this dimension focused on the use of evidence from research on teaching and learning in teaching practices. At Level 1, faculty should demonstrate application of research findings in their course materials. Faculty who achieve Level 2 should be able to adapt their evidence-based practices to fit their instructional contexts and student needs. Student learning outcomes, student feedback and peer review should be viewed in the context of research literature to make improvements on teaching. At Level 3, faculty become the experts in this dimension. They should be able to create new ways in their practice to improve student learning. Their practice would have impact beyond their classrooms and reach community partners. They would conduct and disseminate their research and be recognized by fellow faculty. All five dimensions compliment each other and help us grow as scholarly teaching faculty.

On our pathway from a good scholarly teaching faculty to a great one, “Student as Partners” in higher education teaching and learning has become more and more important particularly after the COVID-19 pandemic (Walker and Prosser, 2023). Student learning experiences are first-hand essential evidence for our teaching practices. A student survey at the end of the course does not provide enough information for the rapid change and growth students experience during the course. Inviting student as partners and learning their experiences throughout the course will better help faculty make instructional decisions and changes and at the same time increase student engagement, motivation, and agency. If you are interested in incorporating students as partners in SoTL activities, Healey et al. (2014) describe a number of examples and its conceptual foundations, which could be helpful: .



Center for Teaching and Learning at IUPUI (2024). Scholarly Teaching Taxonomy. Retrieved from

Healey, M., Flint, A., & Harrington, K. (2014). Engagement through partnership: Students as partners in learning and teaching in higher education. Higher Education Academy. Retrieved from

Waller, K.L., Prosser, M. (2023). The rapidly changing teaching and research landscape: The future of SoTL and the teaching-research nexus. In: Coleman, K., Uzhegova, D., Blaher, B., Arkoudis, S. (eds), The Educational Turn. Rethinking Higher Education. Springer.

Introducing Dr. Alexis Brown, Newest Faculty Member of CELT!

Image of a woman with brown hair, a white shirt, and navy jacket seated on a bench

Photo courtesy of the author

By Alexis Brown, CELT

My name is Alexis, and I just joined the CELT team in January as a Learning and Faculty Development coordinator. I have always been passionate about teaching and learning, determined I would become a teacher in grade 10 after two days of ‘job shadowing’ my favorite elementary school teacher. I spent 9 years in the high school classroom teaching English Language Arts and Social Studies. I had the privilege of working with youth in rural, urban, and alternative school settings.

My work in the K-12 system within the various settings and communities has informed my education and research practices today. I have an MEd in Language and Literacy practices that focused on ways to incorporate students’ identities, interests, and cultures into developing critical media literacy. My PhD in Curriculum and Instruction was focused on ways educators can develop culturally sustaining and revitalizing curriculum with/for Indigenous learners.

Over the last eight years, I have also been fortunate to teach and learn from undergraduate and graduate students in BEd and MEd programs, instructing courses such as Social Studies Methodologies; Adolescent Learning and Development; Equity, Diversity and Inclusion; and Curriculum, Teaching, and Learning. My current research projects continue to be in partnership with colleagues and school programs focused on supporting Indigenous learners, and ways we can continue to develop more culturally inclusive, sustaining, and revitalizing teaching and learning practices.

I am looking forward to learning and developing new skills with all faculty as I step into my new role. It is my hope that we can all continue to learn and incorporate best teaching and learning practices into our curriculum that increase the success of all our students; as well as create welcoming environments that prospective students will choose. If you are interested in individual discussions, strategies, or group workshops on creating curriculum with/for all students, increasing student participation, increasing active learning, decolonizing practices, and culturally relevant/responsive/sustaining practices, please contact me:

Using Sustainable Assignments and Open Educational Practices to Promote Active Learning

Panoramic landscape of mountain tops from the summit of a mountain, with a very blue sky

Photo courtesy of the author

By Alana Hoare, Assistant Professor, Education

This post was also shared internally via TRU Connect.

A significant portion of my time at TRU has been helping to enact and embed our values into planning and educational policies and practices. Our shared value of sustainability sits dear to my heart. I’ve been a long-serving member of the Environmental Sustainability Advisory Committee where our conversations frequently centre the improvement of sustainability in terms of the built environment and efficient use of resources. But I’ve often wondered: How does sustainability translate into the classroom?

I found an answer to my question while exploring the literature on open educational practices (OEP). OEPs refer to the use of open pedagogy and technology to support learner-centered environments through social networks and co-creation, use of open educational resources (OER), renewable assignments, and technology. As Clinton-Lisell (2021) summarized so neatly, when faculty adopt OEPs, it provides an opportunity “for students to be knowledge creators rather than only knowledge consumers” (p. 256).

Put another way, faculty that utilize OEPs cultivate classrooms where their students are engaged and active contributors to the learning process.

Now, when I think about sustainability in the classroom, I envision a thriving community of learners creating educational resources that have ongoing value, allowing the efforts of one group of students to benefit those who come after them.

To facilitate this style of active and sustainable learning, faculty may need to explore and adopt alternative assessments. My interest was piqued by the practice of sustainable and scalable[1] assignments, which contrast with disposable assignments that have no purpose once a course is over (Wiley and Hilton, 2018). The concept of renewable, sustainable, or scalable assignments – where student work has value beyond the life of a course – represents a pedagogical shift (Grush, 2014; Seraphin et al., 2019).

Some scholars argue that sustainable assignments have the potential to support representational justice through the equitable expression of historically undervalued and underrepresented voices in educational materials and resources (Lambert, 2018). For a more in-depth discussion on the relationship between renewable assignments and representational justice, I encourage you to read Clinton-Lisell and Gwozdz (2023) article titled Understanding Student Experiences of Renewable and Traditional Assignments.

If you’re wondering, like I was, what a sustainable assignment might look like for supporting active learning in your classroom, here are a few examples:

  • editing Wikipedia articles,
  • co-creating open textbooks,
  • producing video tutorials,
  • interviewing local experts on a podcast,
  • collaborating on community engagement projects,
  • writing test bank questions or case studies, or
  • developing course assignments for peers.

Members of the TRU community have become increasingly engaged in open education and open research, contributing their knowledge and expertise to develop OERs (with support from BCcampus), creating and embedding collaborative tools and educational technologies into the classroom (e.g., WordPress, Pressbooks, podcasts, free range Edtech, zero textbook cost courses). The Learning Technology and Innovation Showcase highlights several inspiring examples of TRU faculty and students practicing and promoting non-disposable assignments.

What I appreciate most about the adoption of sustainable assignments is the idea that the role of the instructor is to facilitate discovery through co-creation and the role of the student is to become “increasingly autonomous and to develop critical social consciousness in an open ecosystem” (Smyth et al., 2016). Students are invited to be an active and integral part of the teaching process, and to become open scholars who critique, adapt, and validate open content. This shift moves us closer to the learner-centred environment that is emphasized in our Mission Statement.



Clinton-Lisell, V. (2021). Open pedagogy: A systematic review of empirical findings. Journal of Learning for Development, 8(2), p. 255-268.

Clinton-Lisell, V. & Gwozdz, L. (2023). Understanding student experiences of renewable and traditional assignments. College Teaching, 71(2), p. 125-134. DOI: 10.1080/87567555.2023.2179591

Grush, M. (2014). Open pedagogy: Connection, community, and transparency. Strategic Directions, Feature.

Lambert, S. R. (2018). Changing our (dis)course: A distinctive social justice aligned definition of open education. Journal of Learning for Development, 5(3), p. 225–244.

Learning Technology and Innovation. (n.d.) LT&I Showcase. Thompson Rivers University.

Seraphin, S. B., Grizzell, J. A., Kerr-German, A., Perkins, M. A., Grzanka, P. R., & Hardin, E. E. (2019). A conceptual framework for non-disposable assignments: inspiring implementation, innovation, and research. Psychology Learning and Teaching, 18(1), 84-97.

Smyth, R., Bossu, C., & Stagg, A. (2016). Chapter 11: Toward an open empowered learning model of pedagogy in higher education. In S. Reushle, A. Antonio, & M. Keppell (Eds.), Open Learning and Formal Credentialing in Higher Education: Curriculum Models and Institutional Policies (pp.205-222). IGI Global. DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8856-8.ch011

Wiley, D. & Hilton, J. L. (2018). Defining OER-Enabled Pedagogy, The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 19(4), p. 133–147.


[1] The literature uses the term renewable assignments. However, to avoid misinterpretation with the practice of submitting the same assignment (e.g., essay) in more than one course without the prior approval of the course instructors, Dr. Shannon Wagner and I propose the terms sustainable and scalable.


Creating AI literacy in the world of Generative Artificial Intelligence and ChatGPT

A microchip with the label "AI" sits on a motherboard.

Photo by Igor Omilaev on Unsplash

By Diane Janes, Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT)

This post was also shared internally via TRU Connect

So, I have been around the classroom for a while…I can remember as a child when calculators were banned in K-12 (it would ruin mathematics understanding), when the internet was a novel thing and a daunting concern (how do we navigate the digital citizenship needed to ensure that media literacy was understood by our learners; we’re still working on that one!), cell phones (distracting), and now generative AI has arrived.  Don’t get me started on the issues raised (before my time) of the dangers of publishing to the common folk via the Gutenberg press (Jarvis, 2023), and the dangers of the radio, telephone, and television (all destined to ruin family and learning lives). Did they disrupt? Yes, they did. Do we still need to find ways to navigate some of the older technologies I have mentioned? Yes, we do.

What all of the technology that I mentioned from Guttenberg to ChatGPT today have in common, is that within that disruption came things we wished to retreat from (my cell phone is sometimes the bane of my existence), and things we need to think about and find solutions to potential issues that arrived with them, all the way, to the benefits and wonders of that technology (I hold in my hand technology that far exceeds the sophistication of the technology that led to the moon walk; an event that I was able to watch with curiosity, as a child, on my grandmother’s black and white television, bought just for the occasion).

Sometimes what is disruptive can be useful to learning by pushing educational boundaries and entrenched beliefs; that disruption can change the way we think about education and take us out of our comfort zone. From that can come opportunities that allow us to move our learners even closer to the world they will live in and away from the one we were born in. Educators throughout all of history have understood this.

The Center for Teaching Innovation (CTI) at Cornell University defines Generative Artificial Intelligence as “…a subset of AI that utilizes machine learning models to create new, original content, such as images, text, or music, based on patterns and structures learned from existing data” (Center for Teaching Innovation, 2023, para. 4).  We know that Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) in education is not new. According to Woolf (1991), work in this area appeared as early as the 1950s (John McCarthy, Arthur Smauel, Oliver Selfridge, and Alan Turing, to name a few, were engaged in this field) that led to ELIZA, SHAKEY and STUDENT in the 1960s (Karjian, 2023), while by the 1970s projects like SCHOLAR, and SOPHIE were created “…to parse student questions” (Woolf, 1991, p. 7) and GUIDON and MYCIN advanced AI in medical education for medical students, around the same timeframe.

In trying to see how generative AI might fit into your classroom, CTI suggests that educators might wish to consider how AI could potentially impact their teaching by thinking through the following (Center for Teaching Innovation, 2023, para. 9):

  • Reflect – what is your reaction? What do you need to know more about to make an “…informed decision about whether or not to incorporate it into your courses?” (para. 9).
  • Try it out – what would it look like if you picked “…a tool, then ask[ed] it to complete an assignment you’d give your students” (para. 9); what are the possible academic integrity issues or are there prospects for new learning?
  • Predict and inquire – if your students use this, how do they use it? Do you need to modify, redirect, or change outright, current assignments? How can you identify areas in your class where AI might “…encourage deeper or more critical thinking?” (para. 9).
  • Learn more – have you talked to colleagues, students, or others, “…about the impact generative AI is having” on your discipline or classroom? (para. 9)
  • Set your parameters – do you want your learners to use AI? Then “Clearly communicate your parameters and expectations with them” (para. 9). Do you and your colleagues want to consider a departmental perspective on AI usage? Does your syllabus need some updated statement and/or guidance on its use by learners? Might this be an opportunity to redesign your course vs just your assessments or syllabus?

Clearly there are issues here – social justice, academic integrity, and inaccuracies (or complete fabrication) in the information produced by these tools, are just a few of the ethical considerations that are currently being discussed. Universities, faculty, and learners have some real concerns on how to go forward. These are early days, and the conclusion that this will benefit, or hinder, learning remains unseen.  Like all other new technology that is introduced, approach it carefully, with an open mind; and become engaged and informed.

I encourage you to explore the CTI Cornell website, as they have some ideas on how you might use AI in your classroom.  Finally, I leave you with this thought: “…developing AI literacy will be an ongoing process, but one that is vital to helping you and your students become more informed and responsible users and creators of AI technologies” (Center for Teaching Innovation, 2023, para. 18). If you want to have a conversation about AI, and your teaching and learning practice, reach out to CELT at

Want to discuss generative AI with colleagues? Join our TRU Faculty Reading Group, co-hosted by CELT and LTI faculty. Click here to register!



Center for Teaching Innovation. (2023). Generative Artificial Intelligence. Cornell University. [website],structures%20learned%20from%20existing%20data

Jarvis, J. (2023). The Gutenberg Parenthesis. Bloomsbury Publishing.

Karjian, R. (2023). The history of artificial intelligence: Complete AI timeline. TechTarget. [website]

Teach Democracy. (2009). Gutenberg and the Printing Revolution in Europe. [website]

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology. (2023). Artificial Intelligence and Future of Teaching and Learning: Insights and Recommendations, Washington, DC.

Woolf, B. P. (1991). AI in Education. In Shapiro, S.C., (Ed)., Encyclopedia of Artificial Intelligence (2nd ed). NY: New York, John Wiley and Sons. Retrieved from

Not Just Supporting Students: Adapting Program Learning Outcomes for the TRU Library

A chair sits by a shelf of books

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

By Amy McLay Paterson, Co-Chair, Library

This year, the library has been asked to complete its first program review since 2007 and the first overall to use the process developed by the Office of Quality Assurance for academic program review at TRU. Being faculty-led, the review process has presented opportunities to have a lot of interesting, and sometimes difficult, conversations about the overall focus and direction of our programs in a changing academic and information landscape. However, with the review process geared toward teaching faculty in degree programs, we’ve had to make a number of adaptations to the process along the way.

Like many departments undergoing program review, we found ourselves in the position of developing learning outcomes (PLOs) for the first time. These learning outcomes needed to account not just for our explicit teaching activities, but for all library resources and services: collections, inter-library loan, research data management services, etc. We decided to base our PLOs on the six frames identified in the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education, which is already the basis for much of our teaching and reference services. The PLOs we settled on are the following:

  1. Learners will be able to analyze the politics of information and information infrastructure to critically evaluate claims of authority.
  2. Learners will be able to engage with interconnected knowledge communities and systems, recognizing the differing roles and responsibilities in various stages of the information cycle.
  3. Learners will articulate how TRU Library values (e.g., accessibility, decolonization, sustainability, ethic of care) are enacted through their encounters with Library resources, systems, services, spaces.
  4. Learners will be able to acknowledge the contextual value of information as it pertains to resource impact, cost, ownership, and intellectual effort.
  5. Learners will be able to apply iterative and exploratory methods to formulate increasingly nuanced questions, critically analyze complex subjects, and plan towards achieving a novel research or creative outcome.
  6. Learners will be able to participate in specific knowledge communities by engaging in contextually appropriate practices of acknowledgement, evaluation, sharing, and discourse.
  7. Learners will be able to navigate deliberately chosen information systems, platforms, repositories, databases, tools, services, and spaces in the pursuit of suitable information.
  8. Learners will be able to identify information needs and create strategies to fulfil those needs.

As an example, learners will be able to engage with interconnected knowledge communities and systems… has always been one of the explicit goals of the library instruction program, but when we viewed this goal from the lens of curriculum mapping, we were able to realize that this is also a key goal of our acquisitions policy, our scholarly communications services, and the Makerspace, to give just a few examples.

However, completing the curriculum map left a lot of us feeling like there was something missing. It showed us a piece of our work, but not all of it. My own (and many others’) research into librarian labour has previously discussed the problem that established metrics of library value often traffic in superficial numbers, while much of the essential labour remains invisible. For many, both in libraries and in education generally, the amount of invisible labour increased during the COVID-19 lockdowns, when much of education moved from happening directly in the classroom to creating and maintaining asynchronous learning objects while continuing to support students synchronously. Though classroom teaching has largely returned to in-person, many of the videos and tutorials, as well as support for virtual research consultations has remained, without new staff or funds to help maintain these new services.

When I am called upon to explain the difference between librarians and other faculty members, I generally sum it up as such: librarians support and educate students, but we also support a massive amount of educational infrastructure that is essential to the programs and services we provide. This infrastructure is maintained by our faculty because the choices we make in configuration and support are tied to the learning outcomes we want our students to achieve; they are also tied to our philosophy of service, informed by values, such as promoting access and operating with an ethic of care for our community. Technology alone cannot support learning outcomes, because technology is a tool whose ends are determined by those in control. In response to this gap, I developed an Infrastructure mapping tool, to show that aspect of our work and to demonstrate the ubiquity of the technological infrastructure we provide.

Of course, the tragedy of the library PLOs is that we don’t have a direct way to measure their impact on students. All and none of the TRU community are students of the library, and we rely on our partnerships with other faculties and the relationships we build to see the bulk of our impact.

First Day at a New School: A Reflection on My First Year as a New Faculty Member

A notebook site beside a mug of freshly sharpened pencils

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

by Jessica Allingham, Assistant Teaching Professor, Chemistry

As I look back on my first year as a new faculty member at Thompson Rivers University, I have a mix of emotions and reflections on the journey, including the excitement and eagerness as I embarked on a new chapter; the frustration and sense of overwhelm as I faced challenges and learning curves; and the confusion in navigating new administrated processes, understanding the dynamics of my faculty and department, balancing teaching, service and other responsibilities that overwhelmed me at times. I hope to share my thoughts and reflections with you, a new faculty member, in hopes of letting you know that your feelings and struggles are normal and perhaps even to offer some advice on how to cope; however, I promise nothing, since I am still trying to figure that out for myself.

My first year was hard yet fulfilling. I had some great successes, but I also experienced some huge flops. The year felt like one big oxymoron full of contradictory things all packaged together, but in the best way possible. There were several times throughout the year when I questioned my ability to do this job, or that I felt like moving to Kamloops was a mistake, but there were so many more times when I felt so unbelievably blessed to have landed my dream job, to live in such a beautiful part of the world, and to be surrounded by such amazing people. Throughout your first year, I am sure you will feel such a mix of emotions and you will face a variety of challenges, but remember that this, too, shall pass, so push through the hard stuff and sit in the good stuff. Take the time to enjoy, appreciate. and be grateful for the good parts of your job, because they, too, will pass.

Some of the main takeaways and learning I have from my first year as a new faculty member are these:

1. Build relationships. Build relationships with colleagues, staff and students. You do not need to embark on this journey alone. TRU is a community of amazing individuals ready and willing to support you. Participate in as many social events in your department, faculty, and community as possible. I know that it always feels as though there is never enough time but making time to build relationships will pay dividends in the end.

Build relationships outside of the TRU community as well. I moved to Kamloops from Thunder Bay, Ontario, knowing no one here. It is so important to build a circle of friends separate from your job to help you establish balance in your life. One of the most important things I did during my first year at TRU was to participate in extracurricular activities outside of the university, like joining a slo-pitch team and participating in fitness classes weekly. I have made some amazing friends in both these arenas, which helped to combat the loneliness and isolation I felt throughout my first year. Starting a new job, especially in a new city, is a huge change, and it can be lonely. Taking care of your social and emotional needs by building relationships outside of work is so important, I am not sure I would have made it through my first year as successfully without them.

I can hear you right now saying, “but Jess, I don’t have enough time.” I said the exact same thing, but believe me, taking the time to do things that bring you joy with people who foster your peace will make doing your job so much easier.

2. Balance and boundaries. Find a balance between work and life and set boundaries to maintain it. This was a big struggle for me. This job is very demanding, especially in the first year, when all your courses are new to you. It is hard to take time to yourself or to spend with family and friends when you feel like there is always something to do. But burnout is a very real and prevalent issue, especially in academia. Finding that balance is the best way to combat burnout.

I am sharing this advice to remind myself to find balance as much as I am sharing it with all of you. Schedule time for yourself and your family; block it out in your calendar so people know you are unavailable; don’t respond to emails at all hours; set a reasonable window of time where you will be accessible via email; take your weekends; and plan fun things outside of work. It is so important to set boundaries to protect your peace and maintain your work-life balance. Boundaries are hard for me; I don’t like to say no or to inconvenience other people. I think Brené Brown said it best, though: “Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.”

3. Take it slow. You do not need to do everything in your first year. I have mentioned not having enough time several times already, and it’s true: there is never enough time. We need to use our time as effectively as possible, so pick a few things you would like to implement or goals you would like to achieve in your first year and focus on those. Be realistic. I know I came into this job with so many cool and fun ideas, and I implemented probably two of them this past year, and that’s okay, because I survived my first year and that is accomplishment enough! No one is expecting you to reinvent the wheel or to have spectacular, fully developed new courses in your first year, so neither should you. Implement a few of your ideas at a time, especially if you are in a tenure-track position, as you will have plenty of time to implement all your ideas, so there is no need to do it all at once.

4. Celebrate the small things. Celebrate your achievements no matter how small you may feel they are. A successful quiz with a decent class average is worth celebrating. Putting together a nice slide-deck you are proud of is worth celebrating. A really engaging lecture is worth celebrating. An appreciative student email is worth celebrating. So often we focus on the negative aspects of our jobs and our lives that we simply drift right by the good stuff. Take time to acknowledge the wins just as much as the losses. I am not saying you need to get a cake for each of the events listed above–I mean, you can if you would like and I will gladly come and celebrate with you if you would like the company–but simply taking a moment to say to yourself, wow I did a good job, makes a big difference.

5. You belong here. Imposter syndrome is not just for students: it can carry on into our careers as well. If you are feeling like you don’t deserve this job, or you don’t belong here, trust me when I say you are not alone. I had those thoughts and feelings a lot throughout my first year. I promise you: you do belong, and you are good enough. You wouldn’t have been hired for the job if your department and faculty did not believe in you, so you need to believe in yourself. I know, easier said than done. Celebrating the little things can help you to build confidence in your ability as a faculty member. Reach out to the people you have built relationships with as well. As I said, you are not alone; we have all had these feelings, and we can help each other to work through them.

6. Ask for help. If you are stuck or not sure about something, simply ask for help. TRU is full of so many amazing resources and wonderful people who would love to help you succeed. Asking for help can be hard because you are admitting that you don’t know something, but you are not expected to know everything, especially in your first year. Use your resources; consult your colleagues; lean on the relationships you have built. Asking for help is much easier than struggling on your own.

7. Keep growing and learning. Life-long learning is so important for personal and professional growth. It helps us to adapt to change, stay relevant, cultivate curiosity, and foster our creativity. I got my job at TRU around the same time I successfully defended my doctoral research, so I thought my new job meant I was done being a student, but was I ever wrong. I learnt so much in my first year as a faculty member, and I know that my learning will continue. I recommend you take advantage of all the amazing learning opportunities TRU provides its faculty members, especially those offered by the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT). I am a chemist by trade, not an educator; however, I found myself in a job that predominantly required me to teach. CELT workshops and programs provided me with so many amazing tools to enhance my teaching. So stay curious; approach this job with an open mind; ask questions; and look for opportunities to learn new things.

8. Have fun. Yes, this is a job, but that does not mean that it cannot be fun. I am grateful every day that I get to do what I love. Keeping the element of fun in this job ensures that I continue to enjoy it. The fun can come from cool activities with your students, enjoyable interactions with colleagues, memes and jokes, trying new things, participating in social events, helping with a club, and so many other things. Don’t forget why you wanted this job and why you love it. Lean into those aspects and enjoy yourself. Don’t take yourself too seriously–at the end of the day, we’re all human.

Remember the first year is just the beginning of your journey as a faculty member. Embrace the challenges, learn from experiences, and remain open to new opportunities for growth and development. You will crush your first year, and the entire TRU community is happy to have you here.

A woman with blonde hair wearing glasses and a pink short smiles in the foreground; Thompson Rivers University campus is in the background.

Photo courtesy of the author

Introducing Dr. Wei Yan, Newest Faculty Member of CELT!

Image of a man with black hair wearing glasses and a button-down shirt

Photo courtesy of the author

By Wei Yan, CELT

My name is Wei, and I am the newest Learning and Faculty Development Coordinator with CELT. When I was a child, I always wanted to become a teacher. The first real step towards my teaching dream was when I started my undergraduate in English Language Teaching in a small multicultural university in China. My passion for teaching then led me to pursue graduate degrees – first in South Korea, expanding my life-long passion for languages and culture, and then in Canada because of my heart for education. I thus have experience studying and working in multiple contexts and in different educational systems across the globe.

These experiences are reflected in my research during my graduate studies at Queen’s University. For my master’s research, I studied the determinants of international students’ academic success, with a focus on their language proficiency. For my PhD work, I studied students’ grades – the most important admission criteria for those who would like to further their education both within and across educational systems.

I have been an educator for more than 18 years. Most of my work experiences involve teaching, research, curriculum design and implementation, and educational administration at postsecondary institutions. I have taught English, Mandarin Chinese, and Korean as a foreign language to various age groups, and trained teacher candidates on practical teaching in China and how to work with English Language Learners in Canada. My recent work also involves using design-thinking for curriculum development and program evaluation and implementing evidence-based decision-making for quality assurance and accreditation.

I am excited to learn with TRU faculty and OLFMs in a Community of Practice during the fall and winter terms. It is my hope that each of us can increase our understanding of international students as a whole learner and better support TRU’s international students’ academic success. As a community of practice, together we will learn, reflect, and refine our practices. If you are interested, you can sign up for the community through the following link: Link to Community of Practice.

Instant feedback and much more: The multifold benefits of class worksheets

Sample worksheet

Photo courtesy of the author

By Mohsin Jat, Assistant Teaching Professor, Bob Gaglardi School of Business and Economics

A fresh Ph.D. graduate walks into a lecture hall to deliver the first 90-minute session of a business statistics course. He had thoroughly prepared for the lecture based on an established outline. The lecture, however, concludes within 60 minutes—this was the first lecture I had delivered in my academic career around eight years ago. Anxious about not filling the allocated lecture time, I started including more content and advanced concepts, confusing and overloading the students. Lecture plans were not working well, so I consulted my experienced colleagues. One suggestion was to solve more examples on the board while taking input from students. The suggestion made sense and covered the lecture time, but I found it disconnected. Solving problems on board interrupted direct contact with students, and only a small number of students gave their input on solutions.

A challenge with delivering quantitative courses in business schools is the wide variation in the quantitative competency of students (Kaighobadi & Allen, 2008). Business school intake is generally made up of students with diverse academic backgrounds. Pitching a quantitative course at an average level can result in difficulties for half of the class. Make the content shallower, and a significant proportion of students find it dull. A colleague with whom I discussed this introduced a worksheet approach to me in which students are asked to complete one or two lecture-related problems in the last 15 minutes of the session.

The worksheet approach worked surprisingly well, and I continually adopted and adapted it in various operations and supply chain management courses. My current approach is summarised as follows: Most sessions, depending on the nature of the course, are split into a lecture and a lecture-related problem-solving part. In the 15 to 20-minute problem-solving part, students are asked to perform problems, short case discussions, or computer exercises in groups of 3 to 4. Each group member must complete the task and consult with the group members about the solution approach and the final answer. I can help with any confusion, but not on an individual basis; the query should come from the group. This way, I assist 8 or 9 groups rather than 35 individuals. If confusion is common, I brief the whole class using the board. Participation credit is granted once all group members have completed the tasks satisfactorily. The worksheet participation credit typically accounts for 8 – 10% of the total grade.

Over time, with various teaching and learning trainings, I realized that the seemingly simple worksheet approach aligns with several pedagogical philosophies and objectives. I have highlighted some below:

A visual depiction of how worksheets increase student engagement

Image provided by the author

Instant feedback for students and instructors:

Students can immediately test and reinforce their understanding of the concepts covered in the lecture. They can receive help from their peers and instructor if their understanding needs to be improved. Instructors can use the performance on worksheets to gauge the learning outcomes. Performance observations can enable instructors to timely modify their teaching if needed.

Enhanced engagement and participation:

Seeking help from peers and instructors in small group settings can be easier. In my observation, even the quieter students participate in groups, and, in general, students actively assist their group members. Students can polish their concepts by explaining the solutions to their peers. Instructors can closely interact with students.

Better than homework assignments:

Traditional lecturing and demonstration approach is generally based on unidirectional content delivery. Written documents or videos can replace it. Critically speaking, the physical presence of an instructor is not necessary if the instructor is just a narrator. In other words, lectured content can be delivered through different media without any significant intervention from instructors. It is when students perform tasks that they may need assistance, confirmation, or reinforcement from instructors. Worksheets serve this purpose, while homework assignments don’t. That is, homework assignments create a situation in which the instructor is unavailable when needed the most.

Worksheets and the flipped classroom model:

Much has been written about the advantages of flipped classrooms (Akçayır & Akçayır, 2018). A challenge in implementing this model is ensuring that students are prepared in advance for live problem-solving exercises. The model doesn’t work if students are unprepared. The worksheet approach can be considered a modified version of flipped classrooms. Through worksheets, an instructor can flip the classroom in the last 15 minutes after discussing the required concepts.

Worksheet as an alternative grading tool:

Worksheets offer an alternative grading mechanism in which participation points are granted for demonstrating a minimum level of understanding of the desired concepts and skills. (Please read the “Alternative Grading Strategies” piece by Carolyn Ives, CELT). The participation score for completing a worksheet can be seen as a proxy for attendance, but it is not a credit for mere attendance; the score is for demonstrating the learning attained by attending the session.

Flexibility to pitch courses at a higher level:

Instructors can avoid overexplaining the concepts and mellowing down the lectures to ensure learning at the lower tail. The learning gaps can be covered during the worksheet phase.

Worksheets and the concept of mastery learning:

Mastery learning is a key theme in my teaching philosophy. The mastery learning concept is based on the understanding that students have different learning trajectories. A standard teaching approach with a large student group can result in learning gaps for some students. These gaps, if unaddressed, can hinder the understanding of the subsequent concepts and create further gaps. Hence, providing every student an opportunity to master each concept is desirable. I believe worksheets can facilitate mastery learning by providing opportunities to fill learning gaps in class.


So, what are the pitfalls and limitations? Worksheet tasks must be clearly stated, not lengthy, and not too challenging; otherwise, time management can be an issue. The student experience and confidence can be compromised if tasks are unclear or need longer than the designated time. I suggest starting with small tasks and then making them lengthier and more challenging if necessary. Regardless, be prepared to see many hands raised and walk swiftly—Have comfy footwear!

[This piece is based on my experience in courses having quantitative or computational components.]

Photo of Moshin Jat, a man wearing a black sweater over a blue collared shirt

Author Mohsin Jat



Kaighobadi, M, & Allen, M.T. (2008, July). Investigating academic success factors for undergraduate business students. Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education, 6(2), 427-36.

Akçayır, G., & Akçayır, M. (2018, November). The flipped classroom: A review of its advantages and challenges. Computers & Education, 1(126), 334-45.

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