At the TI Research Associate Program’s third Lunch & Learn, we discussed navigating work at the TI. Our session began by acknowledging that regardless of our roles, we all operate within the context of the TI as a workplace. Therefore, we all: 1) contribute to achieving the TI’s overall vision “to lead a community of innovation, research and excellence in post-secondary teaching and learning” (Taylor Institute, 2015:7); 2) operate using the TI’s guiding principles (transparency, flexibility, and collaboration); and 3) support the TI’s educational development and scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) initiatives while reflecting on our practices with a commitment to continuous improvement.
To model the TI’s message of reflection, I will use the example I outlined during our session, Rolfe’s framework for reflective practice (Rolfe, Freshwater, & Jasper, 2001):
Level 1: “What?”
- What happened? We had a lot of material to cover! We followed-up on the Academic Blogging Roundtable, voiced a call-out for TA Orientation (Fall 2016) volunteers, contextualized the TI as our workplace, outlined strategies for working with educational development and SoTL research, experimented with Bernice’s project management task sheet on Excel, and considered the gains of cultivating a reflective practice in your role(s).
- As a facilitator, what was I trying to achieve? What did I expect? I went into the session knowing that many of the terms I was going to use are regularly reflected on and problematized by educational development and SoTL practitioners (especially by those who coined the terms/concepts!) At the beginning of our session, I communicated this with the RAs with the intention of putting our subject (the TI as a workplace) to the center or our attention and discussion. This approach was modeled off of Parker Palmer’s “The Community of Truth” (Palmer, 1998: 102), as kindly recommended to me by one of our RAs doing a PhD in Education. To provide us some additional structure, each section had five elements: 1) “Who does [SoTL]?”; 2) “How do they do [SoTL] and what questions do they ask of themselves and their work?”; 3) “What kinds of resources and expertise does the TI offer?”; 4) “What are important external resources?”; 5) a discussion question.
- What was our response? We had a very detailed discussion! As our subject became more nuanced and complex, so did the RAs contributions.
Level 2: “So what?”
- Why does it matter? I hope this session made the structure, organization, and operations of the TI more discernible for the RAs. All the concentration and thought RAs put into the session represent their deep commitment to their work and learning. As we learn more about what we do in our work role(s), we are also learning about how we work and why certain topics/questions/activities are so important to us. I hope that as we continue to discover more about teaching and learning in higher education in our work at the TI, such pieces will continue to take shape in our aspirations for ourselves and higher education more broadly.
Level 3: “Now What?”
- What am I going to do from now on? If I could do this session again, I would: 1) conduct it earlier in the Program curriculum than L&L #3; 2) reuse Palmer’s approach; 3) focus the content on educational development/SoTL work and practicing reflection, and assign a different L&L to project management/research tools; 4) invite TI staff/faculty member to be a guest speaker on one of the topics.
Educational Development Unit. (2015). Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning, Educational Development Unit: Strategic Plan, 2015-2018. Calgary, AB.
Palmer, P. (1998). The courage to teach: Exploring the inner landscape of a teacher’s life. San Fransisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
Rolfe, G., Freshwater, D., & Jasper, M. (2001). Critical reflection for nursing and the helping professions: A user’s guide. New York: Palgrave MacMillian.