Celebrating teaching

(Edmonton) Excellence in teaching deserves to be celebrated; innovation in teaching needs to be shared.

With that, the celebration and the sharing of the fifth annual Festival of Teaching at the University of Alberta is underway.

“Teaching is at the heart of what we do at the university, said Colleen Skidmore, vice-provost (academic). “Taking time to reflect, to share and learn from others, is essential to excellent teaching.”

Skidmore says celebrating teaching reaffirms and honours the commitment of U of A instructors to students and their education. It also helps showcase the wide variety and quality of instruction as well as some of the new approaches being used. She adds, “at this point in the term, I hope the Festival of Teaching encourages and energizes both teachers and students.”

This year’s event will be held across multiple campuses: North Campus, Augustana Campus and Campus St-Jean. The festival began Monday with a Teaching Fair, where instructors gave presentations in a variety of media on new teaching methods recently introduced or being tested on our campuses. The fair was followed FoT Spots at the TELUS Centre atrium beginning at 4:30 p.m.

FoT Spots was a variation on last year’s TED-style Festival Talks. This year, three great U of A professors each appeared on stage with one of their students to talk about inspiration in education. Billy Strean, professor in the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation and 3M scholar; Janet Wesselius, professor in the Department of Philosophy, Augustana Campus; and Michael Kennard, professor in the Department of Drama, together with their students, answered questions about inspiration in the classroom. This event was hosted by Malcolm Azania, aka Minister Faust, a former high-school teacher and current author, talk show host, magazine editor and public speaker who deals daily in inspiration.

From there, the festival will be handed to the dozens of teachers who are opening their classrooms and laboratories to visitors, giving students and professors alike the opportunity to view great teaching and, in some cases, meet with the instructor to discuss the teaching strategies used in the class.

“To have an opportunity to learn from peers, to observe how others teach, allows instructors to gain new insights into their own ways of teaching, pick up some new ideas or approaches to teaching, reaffirm some tried and true methods, and be reinvigorated by the enthusiasm and excitement of others at work with their students,” said Skidmore.

The Festival of Teaching will conclude on March 15 with a keynote closing address and World Café, where festival participants will discuss the effectiveness of different styles of teaching.

The keynote will be given by Larrie Greenberg, a clinical professor in pediatrics at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. Among his many honours, Greenberg’s achievements as a teacher are particularly telling. He started one of the first office rotations for pediatric residents in 1974, started faculty development and the Master Teachers’ program, did the first randomized control trial research on teaching residents how to teach in the late 1970s and published on the use of standardized patients in the early 1980s to teach doctors how to give bad news to parents.