(L To R) Sarah Dench, John Craig, Kate Ross and Paul Budra. (Missing: George Agnes.)

SFU's Mission: Teaching and Learning

November 04, 2010
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A work in progress: That’s how team leader Sarah Dench, SFU’s director of university curriculum and institutional liaison, describes her Teaching and Learning theme team’s approach so far to implementing the academic plan and shepherding the accreditation process.

Dench’s team includes graduate studies associate dean and chemistry professor, George Agnes; arts and social sciences associate dean and English professor, Paul Budra; registrar Kate Ross, who’s also on the Student Experience and Success team; and arts and social sciences dean and history professor, John Craig.

“We were given a draft of the core theme document with some tentative objectives and indicators and the first thing we did was revise it into something we could stand behind and really work well from.”

Like the others, Dench’s team was already helping faculties implement the academic plan when they were handed the accreditation selfstudy project.

But she says the two tasks have been organized to complement each other so when the selfstudy is complete, “we will have a platform from which we can then continue the work prescribed in the academic plan.”

For the academic plan, Dench’s team is assessing SFU’s progress in developing new programs in areas such as the environment and health sciences, reviewing curriculum for learning outcomes and faculty research linkages, and increasing student exposure to research, particularly at the undergraduate level.

The work ties in nicely with the accreditation process, which she aptly characterizes as “taking a snapshot of where we are in the university right now and assessing with some hard and fast metrics how we’re doing on certain key performance indicators.”

That assessment will portray the university’s efforts to:

  • Offer a wide spectrum of quality programs.
  • Provide programs in areas of strength and strategic importance.
  • Offer high-quality undergraduate and graduate teaching.
  • Graduate students who are better writers with superior quantitative reasoning skills and a wider breadth of knowledge.

The accreditation process will “sharpen our thinking about a lot of things we do and probably take for granted,” says Dench.

“There are many ways we collect data about what students think of SFU, but there are other things we perhaps don’t collect enough data on, which it would be helpful to know if we’re going to improve.

“We are, after all, a research institution. We shouldn’t exempt ourselves from that sort of analysis.”

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