August 2018 | View the web version of this newsletter

Electronic devices in the classroom: What students told this instructor

Ivona Mladenovic

Senior lecturer Ivona Mladenovic (Biology) was aware of the ongoing debate about electronic devices in the classroom: “I kept seeing research … that claimed these devices were a source of distraction for students and that they should be outright banned.” She decided to explore the question by surveying 680 first-year SFU biology students about their use of laptops, tablets and smartphones in settings such as lecture halls and labs. Respondents did confess to being distracted occasionally, but 40 percent reported using laptops for note taking during lectures and 46 percent reported using their smartphones to take pictures of curriculum materials during labs. The results have encouraged Mladenovic to try new approaches in her classes: “I’m very happy about these findings because it gives me permission to explore how I can harness the power of laptops and smartphones and tablets.” Read more about her investigation.

A redesign made this course more engaging for students—and the instructor

Atiya Mahmood

In Fall 2014, Atiya Mahmood (associate professor, Gerontology) inherited Introduction to Gerontology, a first-year Breadth course that hadn’t been updated since its design in the 1990s. ”The student evaluations were pretty mediocre,” says Mahmood. “The format of the course needed a major revamp.” To facilitate the process, she chose to participate in Rethinking Teaching, a four-day, peer-led course (re)design workshop for faculty members presented each year by the Teaching and Learning Centre. With input from teaching colleagues, she developed a course concept map that helped her streamline the course content and eliminate some non-essential material. That exercise freed up room for a new experiential activity: the “persona project,” in which student teams developed a “fictional older adult character [with] unique physical, social and psychological traits” to serve as a frame for engaging with the curriculum. Students reported that the changes deepened their enjoyment and learning. Mahmood has also benefited: “Redesigning the course in this way has made the course actually fun for me to teach.” Read more about the redesign process she followed.

Resources to support the well-being of your students

SFU Health and Counselling has launched a new service to support student well-being. It’s called My SSP (Student Support Program) and it offers 24/7 counselling support in multiple languages, by phone or app, to all graduate and undergraduate students. More information is available on the My SSP page. Health and Counselling has also launched a Mental Health at SFU page showing multiple support options for students, and there’s an Info for Faculty and Staff page with information and resources for supporting the well-being of students and the campus community. Take a look—student well-being can have a major impact on academic success, and instructors and support staff can play an important role in fostering student well-being.

Tap dancing, bees and teaching—a few things you didn’t know about SFU’s new associate VP, learning and teaching

Elizabeth Elle

She’s an expert on bees and pollination ecology, she sings, acts and tap dances as a member of North Vancouver’s Burstin’ with Broadway show choir, and she has a passion for teaching. That last detail will be especially relevant in September when professor and former Biology chair Elizabeth Elle begins her five-year term as SFU’s first associate vice-president, learning and teaching. Elle disclosed her interests in a recent interview with the SFU News and also talked about the priorities she plans to address in her new role, including educational goals, more flexible course structures, and increased collaboration around teaching and learning initiatives. She’s eager to get started: “I’m very excited. It’s going to be a lot of fun.” Read the full interview.

Check these dates and mark your calendar

NEW FOR YOU: Check out the full schedule of Fall 2018 teaching and learning events on the TLC website. TEACHING IN COMMUNITY: Two teaching-focused series for faculty and instructors kick off in September—Teaching Matters (Introducing SFU’s First Associate VP, Learning and Teaching, Sep 17) and the Effective Teaching Series (Teaching Large Classes, Sep 28). FOR GRAD STUDENTS: The full program for TA/TM Day (Sep 7) is now available online. So are six videos by students who attended last year—watch them here. And if you are an experienced teaching assistant, submit your proposal to be a paid presenter at the Spring 2019 TA/TM Day (Jan 4) by October 5. WALK, RUN, SKiP: The Sketching in Practice (SKiP) Symposium (Oct 5) explores how drawing impacts the way we think—submit a presentation proposal by August 31.

This month in pictures

Vancouver 1 Laurie Anderson Vancouver 3 People and places at the Vancouver campus >>

Bonus Points Challenge. Win a $10 coffee card!

The Honda Celebration of Light took place recently in Vancouver. Which country did NOT participate in the fireworks competition?

a. South Africa    b. Sweden    c. South Korea    d. Sri Lanka

SUBMIT YOUR ANSWER BY AUGUST 27 for a chance to win a $10 Starbucks or Renaissance coffee card. The correct answer to last month's question was Williston Lake. Congratulations to our July winner, Min-Ni Sharpe of Student Services/Undergraduate Records.


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View all scheduled events


Aug 31 Submission deadline | Call for Proposals: Sketching in Practice (SKiP) Symposium (Oct 5)
Sep 7 Application deadline | Instructional Skills Workshop (Oct 6–8)
Oct 5 Submission deadline | Call for Proposals: 23rd Annual Spring TA/TM Day (Jan 4, 2019)
Oct 19 Application deadline | Spring 2019 Certificate Program in University Teaching and Learning (Jan 11–Apr 12, 2019)


Teaching Practice

In-class Observation | By appointment | Email for details

Fall 2018 TA/TM Day: The Teaching Orientation Program | Sep 7 | Details

JUST POSTED. Teaching Matters Seminar Series (next session: Introducing SFU’s First Associate VP, Learning and Teaching) | Sep 17, Oct 1, 15, 29, Nov 19, 26 | Details

JUST POSTED. Effective Teaching Series (next session: Teaching Large Classes) | Sep 28, Oct 12, 26, Nov 16, 23 | Details

NEW SESSION. Instructional Skills Workshop | Oct 6–8 | Details

Teaching Dossiers for Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Fellows | Nov 6 | Details

Spring 2019 Certificate Program in University Teaching and Learning | Jan 11–Apr 12, 2019 | Details

Technology & Media

Canvas Training and Consultation | By appointment | Email for details

Creating and Using Graphics | By appointment | Details

Designing for the Blended Learning Experience | By appointment | Details

JUST POSTED. Drawing for Visual Communication | By appointment | Email for details

NEW SESSION. Going Visual I: Cut Through Complexity with Drawing Basics | Sep 25 | Details

NEW SESSION. Going Visual II: Convey Visual Content with Media | Oct 2 | Details

JUST POSTED. Sketching in Practice (SKiP) Symposium | Oct 5 | Details

DEMOfest 2018: Flexible Education | Nov 21 | Save the date

Voice & Presentation Skills

NEW DATES. Private Voice Sessions | Sep 17–Dec 3 | By appointment | Details

JUST POSTED. Breath Power, Posture and Pauses: Your Secret Allies for Public Speaking | Oct 11 | Details

JUST POSTED. Expressive Speech: Vocal Dynamism in the Classroom | Oct 25 | Details

JUST POSTED. Better Presentations: Building Confidence and Connections | Nov 8 | Details

Click to find out how the Teaching and Learning Centre can support your work

Course and curriculum planning    |    Canvas and learning technology support    |    Educational media creation and training    |    Workshops and programs    |    Voice and presentation skills    |    Teaching practice and discipline-specific consulting | 778.782.3910 | Education Building, EDB 7560 | TLC on Twitter | Teaching and Learning News blog