Author Archives: Rachel Braun

Congratulations, Galicia!

A HUGE congratulations to Galicia on completing her guide on cognitive development!! As Nancy stated on the TI email, “[The] idea is that the more we know about how our students think about knowledge (what it is and who has it), the better equipped we are to help them learn, to recognize where and why they struggle, and to identify ways of helping them move through struggle toward greater understanding.  This is the fundamental idea of the research on students’ cognitive development.”

Read the Guide on the TI website here:  http://www.ucalgary.ca/taylorinstitute/guides/cognitive-development.

Excellent job, Galicia!

 

Lunch & Learn #3: Navigating Your Work at the TI

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.

Bibliography

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.

Lunch & Learn #2: Mapping RA Development

Overview

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This was the first (and messiest) whiteboard we created together. All misspellings are mine.

On July 12, our Lunch & Learn focused on mapping RA’s development – the knowledge, skills, or abilities transferable across academic and workplace contexts that RAs bring to and gain from their roles. After a brief overview of the definitions and examples from the tip-sheet, Identifying RA Knowledge Skills Abilities, we applied our reflective and critical efforts to this Worksheet – Mapping Your Development. However, after 10 minutes it was clear that RAs wanted to push the content and processes of this material even further. As everyone shared many questions and anecdotes, I took a whiteboard and mapped out what the landscape of “transferable” knowledge/skills/abilities might look like as we were talking. It was messy and scribbly process, but Tiffany was a great sport as we questioned, critiqued, unpacked, and evaluated her graduate and RA work as our common example! After reviewing our work, everyone grabbed their own whiteboards and engaged in the exercise for themselves. I went around the room offering any help I could, and made note of the guiding questions each RA found helpful for in their individual positions. In the last 15 minutes, everyone shared their work with the group, gave each other feedback on other ways to think about their points, or mentioned a knowledge, skill, or ability they had forgotten to write down.

Our Final Mapping Process

The final product of our mapping process was as follows:

  1. Draw a line across the middle of the whiteboard. Next, draw a large square in the middle of that line.
  2. Label the top half of the whiteboard “Grad school” or “Academics”, and the bottom half “RA” or “TI”. In the top right-hand corner, draw a box labeled “No”. This section helps you distinguish what you are doing from what you are not, e.g.: one RA is looking at theories of gender representation using the works of Erving Goffmann, but is not looking at the works of Judith Butler. Writing “Butler” in the “No” section therefore prompted them to think about what makes Goffmann ideal for their project.
  3. Use the following guiding questions to fill in your “Academics and “RA” sections: What am I studying and working on now? What theories and methods am I using to collect, organize, and analyze data? Where (and when) does the data come from? Which courses have been the most exciting for me? If I was pursue an MA or PhD, what would I study? Further questions and insights will arise in this process. The most important thing is that you write down all points that come to mind even if they don’t make sense or seem to connect to anything else. Add or edit anything in the “No” section as you go.
  4. Step back from the board, look at everything you have written, and ask yourself the following guiding questions: What stands out as most important? What are common titles, verbs, or pursuits? Write all common points in the center box, and reflect on it as a small representation of your many transferable knowledge, skills, and abilities in your current academic and RA roles.

Surprises

The first surprise was that this Lunch & Learn took an intense and exciting direction I had not planned. However, I was so thrilled at the hard work the RAs put into their tasks that I’m grateful for the detour. They were completely fearless, bold, and open!

Individual RAs also reported surprises regarding how they think about their work, e.g:

  • One RA realized she was a coach (in interest and in job title) in both her academic program and RA positions
  • One RA reflected on his interests in cosmology as abstractly reminiscent of institutional organization and campus outreach programs
  • One RA was excited to see his MA research align with his ongoing interests in educational development and user experiences of educational technology

Gallery

 

 

Lunch & Learn #1: Program Launch

The TI Research Associate Program officially launched on Tuesday June 21, 2016 at our very first Lunch & Learn! We began with a family-style lunch, and then introduced ourselves and the Program by saying our name, who we work with, and what we study in our home disciplines.

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“Lunch & Learn: Introductions” PowerPoint by Rachel Braun, 2016.

Next, we did a brief reflection activity asking: Imagine you get an email saying you have been selected to apply/interview for your biggest aspiration today! How would you use your current RA role at the TI to evidence your knowledge and capabilities? Once everyone had put their reflections on paper, I provided a brief overview of the Program’s priorities and current activities. This prompted much discussion, and acted as a springboard to our brainstorming activity.

In seeking to understand what makes a meaningful RA experience, I wanted to tap into what is important to RAs. To do this, we played “Brainstorming Basketball” to generate ideas and feedback about what RAs would like to gain from the Program and their roles at the TI in general. Participants were divided into three teams and three tables (“courts”). Each court had a stack of paper, and a question: How can we help you with…

  • …being part of the TI community?
  • …developing your knowledge, skills, and abilities?
  • …evidencing your experiences to future employers or educators?

    All the “basketballs” collected at the end of the Lunch & Learn. Photo by Rachel Braun, 2016.

    All the “basketballs” collected at the end of the Lunch & Learn. Photo by Rachel Braun, 2016.

At “GO!”, each team had 3 minutes to jot down as many answers to the questions as they could. At the end of three minutes, each team stood up, crumpled each individual piece of paper into a ball, and threw it into the “net” at the front of the room. Each ball successfully shot into the net counted as one point. At the end of each round, we tallied scores. Then, each team moved over 1 court and repeated this process until everyone had answered all three questions. At the end of the game, the team with the highest score received a prize. I collected all the “basketballs”, listed and summarized them in a report, and presented the results to TI staff and faculty at our monthly meeting.

All questions had three elements that RAs continuously referred to: publishing, increased and diversified collaboration with TI staff, and online presence.

  1. Publishing. RAs would like to learn how to go about academic publishing, collaborate with TI staff/faculty in publishing an article, and/or learn how to turn their work into independent publications/conference presentations.
  2. Increased/diversified collaboration with TI staff/projects. RAs would like to be included in TI events, and work with a variety of TI faculty/staff. RAs would also like to collaborate with each other both formally and informally.
  3. Online presence. RAs would like to have a formal online space to showcase their work and accomplishments both within and beyond the TI.

In light of this feedback, I am very excited to say that our first Lunch & Learn was a success! Everyone was friendly, energetic, and productive. Going forward, I seek to address as much of their feedback as possible, and collaborate with TI staff/faculty to consider what this feedback could look like in specific projects and broader TI initiatives and activities.