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Instructors share teaching approaches and practices with colleagues across campus

UCalgary Teaching Academy presents third instalment of Open Classroom Week March 6 -17

Cornelia Burian, a UCalgary Teaching Scholar from the School of Languages, Linguistics, Literatures & Cultures, first participated in Open Classroom Week as an observer. After integrating several of the teaching practices she observed into her own approach, she will open her German 317.4 class to colleagues from across campus during Open Classroom Week 2017. Photo by Adrian Shellard

By Jessica Snow

Instructors on campus are breaking the stigma of the isolated professor by opening the doors of their classrooms to colleagues from across faculties. “Teaching can be a very solitary experience but it doesn’t have to be,” says Cornelia Burian, a University of Calgary Teaching Scholar and one of the participating instructors. “I think instructors can really improve by opening communication and by looking at what other people are doing in the classroom, or opening their own classroom and inviting feedback.”  

From March 6 to 17, 18 Open Classroom Week instructors will invite their colleagues to observe their teaching approaches in 70 different classes. The week will wrap up with a themed conversation that will serve as a debrief opportunity for both instructors and observers.  

Open Classroom Week is an initiative of the Teaching Academy, a community of instructors who have received University of Calgary Teaching Awards. The Teaching Academy is committed to communicating the importance of teaching, modelling the potential for teaching and research integration, and investing in a positive teaching and learning environment on campus.  

Opportunities to learn as both observer and instructor  

Burian first participated as an observer in Open Classroom Week. “It gave me ideas for trying new things. First, I observed a large sociology course of 200 to 250 students that gave me some great ideas on how to incorporate interactive components into a large group lecture. Then, I watched a smaller history class of approximately 40 students. In that class, the instructor used excellent visuals during the lecture, had students discuss the material in small groups and report back to the class." 

Now Burian has changed roles and will be inviting observers to join her in her German 317: Gender and War class during Open Classroom Week. “I’m currently teaching a class where I’m doing something similar to what I observed in the history class and I find it works extremely well.” 

Reed Ferber, a member of the Teaching Academy who will be opening his KNES 260: Human Anatomy and Physiology II class, says, “The fantastic thing about OCW is that anyone can learn about new pedagogical techniques that will help improve their own classroom teaching experience.”  

Participants are encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity to observe teaching across disciplines and to choose classes based on class size/type, instructional approach, or a particular teaching challenge. Some examples of the classes that will be open to observers this year include:   

  • PHYS 271: How Things Work taught by David Feder is a physics course for non-physics majors. Highlighted teaching strategies will include: flipped approach, small group work, demonstrations, problem solving, class discussions and personal response systems (clickers, TopHat, Kahoot, etc.)  

  • BCEM 393: Introduction to Biochemistry taught by Isabelle Barrette-Ng, who will share her approach to flipped learning, small group work, problem solving, case studies and personal response systems (clickers, TopHat, Kahoot, etc.).  

  • ASHA 220: Quests and Questions taught by Nicole Wyatt. Observers can expect to see stimulation, student presentations, gamification and reacting to the past.  

Open Classroom Week supports the creation of a teaching and learning community on campus 

Open Classroom Week has quickly become an important teaching and learning initiative on campus since first being held in fall 2015 and winter 2016. Robin Mueller, an educational development consultant at the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning, has analyzed participant feedback and found that OCW normalizes the desire to see other people teach, raises awareness of common teaching issues and challenges, starts dialogue and helps individual teachers challenge assumptions, and explores new practices. Mueller will be opening the doors of her UNIV 201: Global Challenges Inquiry I classroom in March.   

"Open Classroom Week is beneficial because it helps instructors to see how a variety of approaches and styles have value in the classroom, and encourages teachers to view teaching and learning from the students’ perspective," says Mueller. "Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, it also encourages instructors to shift their view of teaching as a private practice to a shared practice that is situated within a community of interdisciplinary colleagues."   

For more information, visit the Open Classroom Week website.  

See a full schedule of participating instructors and register to observe classes.