- CEE Home
- About CEE
- Events for TAs, TMs and ITAs
- Inclusion in the Classroom Week
- Remote Teaching Forum 2021
- Instructional Skills Workshop
- CEE Anti-Racist Pedagogies Program: HRJ
- Certificate Program in University Teaching and Learning
- Symposium on Teaching and Learning
- Special Events
- Rethinking Course Design
- TA Day
- Decolonization and Indigenization
- Teaching Matters Seminar Series
- Tea and Teachings
- SFU's TA Hub is proving to be a valuable resource for teaching assistants
- CEE instructor needs survey
- Linguistically Responsive Classrooms Instructors Series (LRCIS) returns for a second year
- Blended learning: spotlight on SFU’s newest course designation
- A one-stop teaching resource for TAs now launched: introducing the TA Hub
- Healing from Racism Journey's first year comes to a close
- Inviting TAs to share their teaching strategies
- 32nd National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women
- Teaching and learning with chat tools
- Learning from remote instruction
- Lecture recording and AV support for in-person instruction
- 813,000 Zoom meetings: How IT Services handled the move to remote instruction
- National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women
- Reflections on Inclusion in the Classroom Week
- Welcome to your new Zoom classroom
- Kevin Lam: “Students appreciate every little thing we do that shows that we care”
- Sheri Fabian: “I embraced a flexible approach”
- Sarah Johnson: “The biggest change I made was to switch to asynchronous delivery”
- Nicky Didicher: “I’m finding my job less exhilarating”
- Mark Lechner: “You have to be OK with things going sideways”
- Nienke van Houten: “They really valued my clear and upfront approach”
- How can we support remote instruction at SFU?
- Crowdmark: A more efficient way to grade student assessments
- The unexpected benefits of a shorter syllabus
- Photo gallery: Talking shop at Teaching Matters
- Watch the video: Faculty members discuss SFU's new instructor-led online course model
- Bridges and booster rockets: CEE's new senior director talks about teaching support
- Meet the Centre for Educational Excellence leadership team
- A biology instructor rethought her students’ role—and her own
- Photo gallery: SFU’s 24th Annual Spring TA/TM Day
- Photo gallery: SFU's 9th Annual Winter Warm-up
- If you build it, will they come?
- “My students didn’t look like they were having fun”: Three additions to the TA/TM Stories podcast series
- An upgraded Canvas Gradebook is coming in January
- Share your thoughts on the furniture in SFU classrooms
- DEMOfest presenter slides
- Photo gallery: 5th Annual DEMOfest
- Teamwork needs to be taught
- TA/TM Stories: Three new podcasts explore the teaching experiences of grad students
- Can it be done? A math instructor attempts to indigenize her course
- Answers to your questions about SFU's new approach to online education
- Photo gallery: The CEE Open House
- Do you know your faculty teaching fellow?
- Instructor-led online courses: How one faculty member prepared for the new model
- Photo gallery: SFU's 34th Annual Fall TA/TM Day draws a crowd
- Connecting people and crossing artificial divides: An interview with Elizabeth Elle
- Don't say this to your class—a student shares his experience
- How one lecturer is using podcasts to make course concepts more real in her online course
- Photo gallery: Rain, burgers and smiles at the 2019 President's Employee BBQ
- Five questions and answers about the creation of CEE
- A redesign made this course more engaging for students—and the instructor
- CPUTL: A graduate student describes her experience
- CEE Staff Login
A biology instructor rethought her students’ role—and her own
By Jackie Amsden
Biology lecturer Megan Barker organized a poster event, complete with guest judges, so that her students could share the results of their in-class research projects with each other and the SFU community.
In Megan Barker’s Fall 2019 BPK 408W course on cell physiology, students worked together on lab-based research projects to investigate questions they themselves defined.
It was a powerful combination of teamwork and agency that led to deeper understanding and the acquisition of essential skills.
It was also a carefully considered approach resulting from Barker’s reflection on how instructors can best promote student learning.
“We throw a lot of content at students in universities, but until they have the opportunity to integrate and apply it, they really don’t own any of it … I mean, what am I doing here if I can be replaced by a YouTube video?”
Teamwork through coffee
For Barker (lecturer, biological sciences) and course co-authors Damon Poburko (assistant professor, biomedical physiology and kinesiology (BPK)) and Nadine Wicks (lecturer, BPK), one of the important parts of teaching students how to turn knowledge into action is helping them learn how to work in a team.
“There are no longer any single-author papers. Science is about communities of people troubleshooting experiments and talking through the data. Students need to know how to contribute to a group process and support others to contribute.”
After dividing the class into groups of two or three, Barker fostered her students’ team management skills by providing them with “structured prompts” throughout the course.
“One of their first assignments was to go for coffee with their partner and talk about what is working great in their relationship and what they can do better to improve it. To me, it’s important to signal to them that group process is integral to their progress and that it takes work.”
Barker also cut out course content to allow for in-class project time, so that students wouldn’t feel overburdened by the additional time that collaborating with others can require.
Giving students the power
Ensuring that teams had the freedom to direct and own their own projects was also essential, notes Barker.
“I provided feedback to the groups at various stages in the process, but I had to be really careful that I stayed in a consultant role and not in a management one. As soon as I take over their experiment, I take their agency away, and then the team loses its purpose. For me, it’s more important that they are in control of the process than that they get perfect-quality data.”
Nasim Abrisham, one of Barker’s recent students, says the opportunity to take charge was exciting.
“Instead of having an instructor feeding us articles, we got to learn through a real-life setting that involved lots of hands-on learning—it was really fun.”
Adjustments to maintain instructor sanity
In addition to cutting back on content and allowing students the freedom to make decisions, Barker notes that one of the biggest shifts she made to accommodate the self-directed nature of the assignment was to build in lots of peer-to-peer feedback.
“In a lot of ways, this course is like running 48 directed studies all at once, which could make you go insane if you try to take on all the support yourself. Instead, my approach is to leverage the knowledge in the room by getting students to give each other project feedback.”
“MEGAN LET US HOLD THE REINS OF OUR PROJECTS, BUT WAS THERE TO GUIDE US, SO THAT WE STILL FELT SUPPORTED. I’M IN MY FOURTH YEAR, AND THIS WAS ONE OF MY TOP THREE COURSES OF ALL TIME.” – Irene Choi
Even so, Barker notes that she, her TA and a lab instructor spent a lot of time in the lab providing hands-on support during the two-week period allotted to the experimental portion of the students’ projects.
“It is much more work for me running the course this way, but I wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t worth it.”
Irene Choi, a student in Barker's BPK 408W class, presented the findings from her group's in-class research project at a poster session held at the end of the semester.