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Project supports student and educator engagement

By Sandy Woolfrey-Fahey

A three-year pilot project is supporting educators at Memorial to enhance their teaching skills. Project Engage in Teaching supports participants by assisting with redesigning their courses. A redesign involves research-informed teaching strategies to improve student engagement and learning. Many participating educators teach in lecture halls, which can make active student engagement a challenge.

To begin, project participants identify a course they teach to a large class, as defined by their departments and faculties. A baseline assessment of student engagement within their course is then obtained through classroom observation and assessment by graduate students using a standardized instrument. Faculty members receive their assessment and are then assisted through workshops and input from instructional development staff in DELTS (Distance Education, Learning and Teaching Support) to redesign their course for maximum student engagement and learning.

Faculty members deliver the revised course in the following semester and the level of engagement in their classrooms is then re-assessed, using the same standardized assessment tool originally employed.

“There are over 20 years of pedagogical research supporting the benefits of active learning,” said Anna Hicks, teaching consultant with DELTS. “Through this project we are focusing on the learner as we encourage opportunities for educators to engage their students and foster relationships with their students.”

Geoff Rideout is one of the educators participating in Project Engage in Teaching. He teaches an undergraduate course to 165 students in a lecture theatre. He wants to stimulate discussion and connect with students in the classroom even though he acknowledges the challenges.

“I am curious to learn about, and apply, pedagogical research to improve engagement in future offerings,” said Dr. Rideout. “Through this project, I hope to discover I’m doing some things right and also that there are opportunities to improve the student experience in my classroom. I want them to learn more, and retain more.”

Dr. Rideout feels if students can receive additional benefit from lecture time, then managing their own time outside of class should be easier. This project continues ongoing work to support the recommendations of Memorial’s Teaching and Learning Framework, which supports further development of teaching expertise for educators teaching undergraduate and graduate students.

At Memorial, organizers welcomed the first cohort into the program during the 2013 fall semester. In total, 30 educators will participate in the project. The first cohort will teach their newly redesigned courses in the fall 2014 semester. To get involved or for more information, please contact