April 2019 | View the web version of this newsletter

Rethinking student assessment: "A test is really just a survey of student knowledge"


Dan Laitsch (associate professor, education) questions the value of tests as measures of learning, especially in isolation: "If you think about it, a test is really just a survey of student knowledge. And that means there can be challenges in collecting data and a substantial margin of error." In his undergraduate education courses, he has replaced the final exam with individual student interviews. The conversations allow him to assess "how their learning has progressed throughout the course" and give students the chance to provide context for his evaluation. Laitsch has also chosen to assess students on their own merit rather than in comparison to other students: "There is no bell curve in my class." According to Laitsch, the reflective, non-competitive approach to assessment has had a positive impact on student learning: "Because my students are given the freedom to focus on the journey instead of the end goal—such as an exam score—I see them creating products that they are proud of, products of a very high quality." Read more about Laitsch's approach to assessment.

Survey results: What 340 faculty members think about teaching and evaluation of teaching at SFU


Three hundred and forty faculty members—30% of SFU faculty—responded to a survey about teaching and evaluation of teaching conducted in Fall 2018 by the Teaching Assessment Working Group (TAWG). A summary of the results was released on April 17 in a report titled "Strategies to Value Effective Teaching: Results of Faculty Survey (2018)." The findings offer insights for decision-making about tenure, promotion and merit review practices at SFU. Among the findings: most respondents believe that formal student evaluations should carry less weight in tenure and promotion decisions and support the use of a host of proposed alternative measures; and although faculty members value student feedback very highly, many have concerns about SFU's formal teaching and course evaluation system. Read more about the results and download the full summary.

These pictures really are worth a thousand words


For the past year or so, the Teaching and Learning Centre's Jackie Amsden has been creating visual summaries of presentations and discussions at selected teaching and learning events. The visual summaries offer a quick way to capture key content, and the format is more appealing to many readers than a lengthy report or post. The images are also easily shareable on blogs, websites and social media and, says Amsden, there are tools that simplify production even for people without advanced drawing skills. Take a look at selected examples—you might want to try this format in your next class, meeting or presentation.

Webcast and slides: Ken Steele on the future of higher education


On March 19 and 20, higher education futurist Ken Steele spoke at SFU on, what else, the future of higher education. In three presentations, he identified key factors that will shape teaching and learning at Canadian universities in the next 20 years and highlighted the trends that he sees developing in response—from personalized student services to unbundled courses to performance-based funding. The slides for all three sessions, and a webcast of his main public session, are available for download or viewing. The slides are particularly relevant because they contain examples of cutting-edge practices at various universities in North America and beyond, along with input collected from SFU participants at the sessions.

Three days in May to celebrate teaching and learning

May 14: Discover how to design feedback into courses at Rethinking and Redesigning Feedback for Greater Impact on Learning, a special Pre-Symposium workshop at SFU's 17th Symposium on Teaching and Learning.
May 14: SFU academic leaders: You play a key role in developing a culture of teaching excellence. Learn how to foster good teaching practice at Using Mentorship and Coaching as a Lens to Support Academic Growth in Teaching and Learning, a special Pre-Symposium workshop at SFU's 17th Symposium on Teaching and Learning.
May 15–16: This is the big one! SFU's 17th Symposium on Teaching and Learning will happen over two days at the Vancouver campus. This year it's all about Assessing and Celebrating Teaching and Student Learning. The program schedule has just been posted—check out the sessions and register now.

This month in pictures

ugrs-4.jpg ugrs-2.jpg ugrs-3.jpg The 2019 Undergraduate Research Symposium >>

Bonus Points Challenge. Win a $10 coffee card!

Last week a massive fire damaged Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. Who wrote the classic novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame with its climactic sequence set in the cathedral?

a. Alexandre Dumas    b. Honoré de Balzac    c. Victor Hugo    b. Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette

SUBMIT YOUR ANSWER BY APRIL 26 for a chance to win a $10 Starbucks or Renaissance coffee card. Congratulations to Kevin Chiang (communications), winner of the March bonus draw. The correct answer to last month's question was standard time to daylight saving time.


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View all scheduled events


May 10 Registration deadline | 17th Symposium on Teaching and Learning (May 15–16) and Pre-Symposium (May 14)
May 24 Application deadline | Fall 2019 Certificate Program in University Teaching and Learning (Sep 13–Dec 6)
Jun 14
Application deadline | Instructional Skills Workshop (Aug 14–16 OR 19–21)


Teaching Practice

FULL. Rethinking Course Design Workshop | Apr 25–26, 29–30 | Details

REGISTRATION OPEN. 17th Symposium on Teaching and Learning: Assessing and Celebrating Teaching and Student Learning | May 15–16 | Details
Pre-Symposium Morning Workshop: Rethinking and Redesigning Feedback for Greater Impact on Learning | May 14 | Details
Pre-Symposium Workshop for SFU Academic Leaders | May 14 | Details

NEW DATES. Instructional Skills Workshop | Aug 14–16 | Aug 19–21 | Details

Technology & Media

JOIN THE WAIT-LIST. Basic Screencasting and Video Editing | May 2 | Details

Voice & Presentation Skills

NEW DATES. Private Voice Sessions | Jun 6–Aug 29 | Details 

Consultations by Appointment

Canvas Training and Consultation | By appointment | Email for details

Creating and Using Graphics | By appointment | Details

Drawing for Visual Communication | By appointment | Email for details

EdMedia Program | By appointment | Email for details

In-class Observation and Consultations for SFU Faculty Members | By appointment | Email for details

Find out how the Teaching and Learning Centre can support your work

Course and curriculum planning    |    Learning technology support    |    Educational media creation and training    |    Workshops and programs    |    Voice and presentation skills   |    Teaching practice and discipline-specific consulting

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