Teaching Tools and Practices

Teaching Tools and Practices

When I first started working as an instructor at York University I used the typical lecture-style format, as I was just out of graduate school and had been taught that way. Fortunately, over the years, through my work experience, I had the chance to take workshops, experiment and learn the fine art of facilitation. When I arrived as a sessional instructor to develop and teach a graduate course at Simon Fraser University (SFU), I was encouraged to take advantage of/use various teaching tools and resources. Our educational consultant in the Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS), gave me invaluable help, and taught me how to lay the foundation and meet expectations of graduate teaching. She taught me the critical elements of developing a comprehensive syllabus, outlining clear objectives and learning outcomes. In addition, the consultant helped me understand how to design assignments congruent with the educational goals of the course.

The wide range of teaching approaches at SFU inspired me; I decided I would test some out in my classroom. Some of these approaches were successful and some not so much. During my second year of teaching as a sessional, I was so keen on ‘empowerment’ and walking the talk in my class that I asked my students to get back to me about when they wanted to submit assignments or how much to weigh their individual vs. their team work. That experiment failed because it ended up causing more stress for both the students and myself. I went back to the consultant and she recommended using a peer evaluation form, which I adapted. I now use the form in all my courses, giving a more structured way for students to have a say in how they are doing the course, as well as how they have been able to collaborate with others. I also have incorporated the use of grading rubrics in my courses to provide more clarity and transparency. I am constantly making changes to them as my course assignments can vary each year depending on the needs of the partners with whom we work.

I like to use a variety of teaching tools catering to different learning styles) including the Circle of Health toolkit and framework, which is based upon the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion as seen in the diagram above. This tool comes in the form of a handbook as well as pin-up wheel and a large puzzle and so I use it to get the class warmed up, explore specific elements of the framework or as a tool for gap analysis. This tool also helps students get on the same page, regardless of what backgrounds they come from. The tool helps me create inclusive and safe learning environments, which promotes wellbeing in the classroom.

Nowadays, my class schedule is usually a combination of an educational tool that fosters interaction and learning of a concept, plus an applied component that helps students put that learning into practice. One of my favourite tools to use these days to teach the strategies of the Ottawa Charter is the Frayer Model. This tool is a simple sheet divided into different quadrants that outline: definitions, description, examples, and non-examples. I often combine the Frayer Model with the Conversation Café style facilitation to get the students to have dialogue and interact with the 5 action areas (commonly known as health promotion strategies) of the Ottawa Charter.

I also really enjoy getting the students outdoors and moving. You might catch me and my graduate class in the courtyard of Blusson Hall doing some kind of physical activity that helps promote new thinking and social connection.

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