April 2018 | View the web version of this newsletter

Students need to be taught how to read research papers

Nienke van Houten

Health Sciences senior lecturer Nienke van Houten (right) recently undertook a study to see how students read research papers. “What we found,” she says, was that most students are avoiding the technically difficult areas, instead looking to the introduction and discussion sections for comprehension.” In follow-up interviews, she discovered that “in only three out of the 19 interviews were students able to identify reasonable conclusions and cite the correct supporting data.” For van Houten, the lesson is clear: “Reading peer-reviewed articles is a very specific skill … We instructors need to be offering our students learning interventions explicitly focused on how to make sense of research papers.” She is considering strategies to do exactly that and has already implemented one useful tool. Read more about her study.

The new rank of university lecturer

The current collective agreement between SFU and the SFU Faculty Association defines the new rank of “university lecturer” for teaching-stream faculty, adding a third tier atop the ranks of lecturer and senior lecturer. Faculty deans are scheduled to forward their promotion recommendations for the first set of applicants to the VP Academic by mid-May. On April 10, a multidisciplinary group of faculty members met at a Teaching Matters session to talk about the new rank. Their discussion indicated strong interest, but also some uncertainty about the requirements and application process. Read more about the session and the perspectives of first-round applicants.

Engaging students with a “democratic approach” to teaching

Mark Leier

Mark Leier, a professor in the History department, employs what he calls a “democratic approach” to teaching: he gives students the freedom to engage with the course content in creative ways in the hope that they will make connections between the past and their own experiences. One tool he has begun to favour is the learning portfolio. Learning portfolios are collections of artifacts put together by each student, but Leier explains that he emphasizes the process as much as the product. The learning portfolios take the place of a final exam, and Leier says his students appear more motivated and engaged than previously. In the words of one student: “So far in my experience of post-secondary, your classes have been the most fundamentally impactful.” Read more about what takes place in Leier’s classroom

A video and a report: What the working groups have been up to 

A number of institutional working groups have been active on initiatives related to teaching and learning. Here are two new resources to bring you up to speed.

  • A video of the March 9 presentation on peer review of teaching by Isabeau Iqbal (UBC), sponsored by SFU’s Teaching Assessment Working Group (TAWG), is now available on YouTube.
  • A report on “Developing a Teaching Assessment Framework for SFU” with recommendations for policy and practice has just been released by the Student Evaluation of Teaching and Courses Working Group (SETCWG). The report was produced by a subcommittee of the Senate Committee on University Teaching and Learning (SCUTL). Download your copy.

Add these dates to your calendar

SPECIAL PRESENTATION: Guest speaker Philip B. Stark (University of California at Berkeley) will present research indicating that “Student Evaluations of Teaching (Mostly) Do Not Measure Teaching Effectiveness” (Apr 26). BE CREATIVE: Learn to use visual tools to create teaching and learning resources in Going Visual II (Apr 25). GRAD STUDENTS: The Fall 2018 Certificate Program in University Teaching and Learning (Sep 14–Dec 7) is starting to fill up! Apply by May 25.

This month in pictures

Karen Munro Aiofe Mac Namara Paul Budra Photo gallery: Faculty and staff members pitched in at the 2018 Undergraduate Research Symposium >>

Bonus Points Challenge. Win a $10 cash card!

“Remember that failure is an event, not a person.” Who said this?

a. Robert Allen    b. Zig Ziglar    c. Helen Keller    d. Malala Yousafzai

SUBMIT YOUR ANSWER BY APRIL 20 for a chance to win a $10 Renaissance Coffee card. The correct answer to last month's question was Robert Menzies. Congratulations to our winner, Katie Knorr!


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May 25 Application deadline | Fall 2018 Certificate Program in University Teaching and Learning (Sep 14–Dec 7)
Jun 8 NEW. Application deadline | August Instructional Skills Workshops (Aug 15–17, 22–24, 27–29)


Teaching Practice

Student Evaluations of Teaching (Mostly) Do Not Measure Teaching Effectiveness | Apr 26 | Details

FULL. Rethinking Teaching: A Four-day Course Design Workshop for Faculty | Apr 26–27, Apr 30–May 1 | Details

NEW DATES. Instructional Skills Workshops | Aug 15–17 | Aug 22–24 | Aug 27–29 | Details

Certificate Program in University Teaching and Learning | Sep 14–Dec 7 | Details

Technology & Media

Canvas Training and Consultations | By appointment | learntech@sfu.ca

Creating and Using Graphics | By appointment | Details

Designing for the Blended Learning Experience | Upon request | Details

Going Visual II: Convey Visual Content with Media | Apr 25 | Details

NEW. Screencasting and Video Editing: A Simple Way to Create Engaging Videos | Jun 14 | Details

Voice & Presentation Skills

NEW DATES. Private Voice Sessions | May 31–Aug 30 | By appointment | Details

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