111.1 Teaching and Learning

Preamble

 

 

A university has at its heart two goals: the creation of knowledge, and the dissemination and preservation of knowledge. Research -- the creation of knowledge through exploration and discovery -- represents in its broadest sense the learning component of university life. The dissemination and preservation of that knowledge is the teaching component. Within a university, what is taught and how it is taught depends upon research, and the impact of research depends upon its communication. This interdependence and integration of research and teaching is what distinguishes a university from other educational institutions. Although the balance between these activities may vary, all members of the university, whether scholars or students, are learners who extend the range of their knowledge through exploration and discovery, and they are teachers who communicate that knowledge to others. (EXEC 01 MAY 2000) (GFC 29 MAY 2000)

 

The context of teaching and learning at the University of Alberta

The University of Alberta is a large research-intensive university. Research and teaching, and the important bond between them, are central to our mission, and they are carried out in a multitude of disciplines. This context has significant implications for any discussion of support for teaching and learning.(EXEC 01 MAY 2000) (GFC 29 MAY 2000)

As a research-intensive institution, the University of Alberta emphasizes the seamless relationship of scholarly activities. More than simply recognizing that what we teach flows from the work of scholars, we are convinced that post-secondary and graduate curriculum development and delivery are best accomplished by dedicated researcher-teachers and scholar-teachers. We are committed to providing the best and most appropriate environments for student-instructor and student-student interaction.(EXEC 01 MAY 2000) (GFC 29 MAY 2000)

Within this context, graduate students serve a multifaceted role during their studies: as students, teachers, researchers, mentors and grant or scholarship holders. The need to strike an appropriate balance among their responsibilities gives graduate students a unique perspective in the university community, especially with respect to teaching.  (EXEC 14 JAN 2002) (GFC 28 JAN 2002)

The University of Alberta is committed to developing the teaching expertise of graduate students. The involvement of graduate students in the educational process is a vital and important resource for education and they make a significant contribution to the University?s mandate. The University recognizes the importance of the teaching of its graduate students, in terms of participation in curriculum design and course development, didactic teaching, laboratory instruction, class discussions, the provision of ongoing feedback, the preparation and assessment of assignments and examinations and the evaluation of courses and instruction.  (EXEC 14 JAN 2002)
(GFC 28 JAN 2002)

The University of Alberta is a multiversity. A wide range of disciplines is professed, various research models followed, and numerous types of teaching are required within its walls. There is no one teaching model, no one answer to serve all disciplines. Development of new teaching models should emphasize appropriate use, should be derived from within the discipline concerned and the final arbiter should always be academic excellence.(EXEC 01 MAY 2000) (GFC 29 MAY 2000)

The principles of good teaching/learning

Our primary teaching roles are to educate students to the baccalaureate level, and to educate and mentor graduate students and post-doctoral scholars. The University of Alberta is also an intellectual resource for the general and professional community, and we make our faculty and courses available to that community.(EXEC 01 MAY 2000) (GFC 29 MAY 2000)

Most major University of Alberta documents of recent years discuss teaching from two points of view: strong affirmation of the University?s commitment to the importance and centrality of good teaching, and varying approaches to quality assurance in teaching. These two themes are consistent throughout the corpus of the staff agreement, strategic planning documents, reports of student and faculty surveys, and official documents of various faculties. Interestingly enough, between these two poles of, on the one hand, asserting the importance of excellent teaching in the University and, on the other, explicating a range of questions, opinions and policies about how to ensure teaching excellence, there is a large and evident gap which only becomes clearly visible when the documents are scanned as a group: nowhere, in any document, is there a clear and complete statement of what constitutes excellent teaching. It is taken for granted that we all know.(EXEC 01 MAY 2000) (GFC 29 MAY 2000)

The principles of good teaching that underlie all successful learning are applicable to all fields of study whether the arts or the sciences, whether pure or applied. They apply equally for all modes of instruction whether didactic or self directed approaches are used and whether a blackboard and chalk, hands-on demonstration or the most sophisticated technologies support instruction. They apply for all students whether undergraduate or graduate, whether on-campus or at a distance. Four such principles are intrinsic to effective teaching and learning.(EXEC 01 MAY 2000) (GFC 29 MAY 2000)

I. The teacher is a scholar who has, and can share with the student, a rich knowledge of the discipline and its place in the larger intellectual community. In his 1990 book Scholarship Reconsidered, Ernest Boyer characterizes four sorts of scholarship: teaching, integration, application and discovery. The scholarship of teaching means a professor is widely read, intellectually engaged, and has the ability to transmit, transform and extend knowledge. The scholarship of integration means that a professor can interpret and draw together insights within and between disciplines and fit those insights into larger intellectual patterns. The scholarship of application enriches teaching and intellectual understanding through the very act of application. The scholarship of discovery, which includes creative work in the visual, literary and performing arts, may engage the professor and student together in increasing the stock of human knowledge and adding to the intellectual climate of the institution. The sort of intellectual engagement implied by these scholarships is essential to good university teaching. It leads the student well beyond the acquisition of a body of knowledge and into the domain of active learning, curiosity, and insight.(EXEC 01 MAY 2000) (GFC 29 MAY 2000)

Moreover, teachers actively reflect upon, measure and innovate in their teaching practice. Teaching is both an art and a science. As an art, it progresses through critical review, study of masters, public documentation and celebration and continuous innovation. Like other sciences, teaching advances through development of theory, careful measurement and research design, continuing reflection and peer review and replication of findings.(EXEC 01 MAY 2000) (GFC 29 MAY 2000)

II. The teacher engages the mind of the student. This is perhaps the most difficult of the principles of teaching/learning to characterize. What is it that engages the student?s mind with the topic, the instructor, and the process of learning? Is it the passion of the instructor for the field of study, and his/her evident enjoyment in sharing it with the student? Is it the stimulus of curiosity cleverly awakened? Is it the glimpse through the mind of the scholar/teacher of the importance of the topic of study to that wider intellectual community? Is it the sense of accomplishment -- of the self empowered --gained by responding successfully to and beyond a teacher?s expectations? However it happens, it is rooted in the relationship between the teacher and the student, and it is essential to effective learning. (EXEC 01 MAY 2000) (GFC 29 MAY 2000)

III. The teacher respects the student and the student respects the teacher. We expect students will respect their teachers; it is surely a given. As teachers, we try to earn that respect by the way we conduct ourselves. But it is just as important, and perhaps not as much of a given, that teachers should respect their students. We must respect the state of their knowledge when they come to us. We must respect their goals for their study with us, even as we try to widen them. We must respect the circumstances of their lives -- work, other courses, family responsibilities. We must respect the fact they learn in different ways, at different rates, and eventually, to different levels. We must respect their ideas, their aspirations, their beliefs. We must make it evident we respect and value them as individuals if we are to be successful in engaging their minds.(EXEC 01 MAY 2000) (GFC 29 MAY 2000)

IV. The teacher ensures a good climate for learning. A good climate for learning starts with the institutional provision for the basic physical comfort of good lighting, heating, and ventilation, and the assurance all students can hear and see what they need to hear and see. It extends to such other organizational matters as having learning materials available on time, as needed, and without frustration; schedules announced and kept; appropriate assessment, and efficient and effective feedback. But above and beyond these matters, a good climate for learning is a climate in which the student is at ease with the teacher and with others in the class, and can risk questions and ideas safe in the knowledge that they will be welcomed, respected, and answered. In such a climate, the student can feel like a contributor rather than a consumer. In such a climate, engagement of the mind and intellectual growth can occur. (EXEC 01 MAY 2000) (GFC 29 MAY 2000)

 

 

What must students bring to the University teaching and learning environment?

 

 

To fully participate in and benefit from the teaching and learning programs at the University of Alberta, entering students are expected to arrive with a set of attitudes and skills that prepares them for academic study. These will be expanded and grow through participation in University community.(EXEC 01 MAY 2000) (GFC 29 MAY 2000)

These attributes/skills include:

 

- motivation to participate in an active learning community that challenges and stimulates intellectual, scholarly, personal and interpersonal growth

- a willingness to take a major responsibility for one's own learning

- curiosity about the discipline of specialization and the integration of specialized knowledge with other disciplines and in society

- tolerance and appreciation for diversity and multiple viewpoints

- a sense of responsibility and respect for self and other members of the university community

- oral and written competency in English or French, mathematical and reasoning skills, competent use of appropriate information and communication technologies

- respect and adherence to the ethical standards of scholarship including abhorrence of plagiarism, false representation and cheating (EXEC 01 MAY 2000) (GFC 29 MAY 2000)

What outcomes should be expected from a program of undergraduate study at the University of Alberta?

Generic outcomes include:

- critical thinking skills

- communication skills including oral, written and group work skills

- the ability to learn independently

- the motivation and ability to use personal, creative and entrepreneurial talents

- an informed understanding of and a desire to participate in the intellectual, cultural, social and political life of local, national and global communities

 

 

Specialized outcomes include:

- the ability to synthesize the core content in a disciplinary or professional field of study

- knowledge of some of the "big questions" in the field

- the skills to effectively find, synthesize and apply information in the relevant literature

 

 

- knowledge of and the ability to use the investigative and observational methods of the field

- interest in and an excitement for some aspect of the specialized field of study

- understanding of the relevance and application of the specialized field of study to every day life. (EXEC 01 MAY 2000) (GFC 29 MAY 2000)

If we are successful in helping students develop these attributes and skills we will have both disseminated and preserved the products of our scholarship and prepared them to apply the knowledge of their field in employment or to extend that knowledge through professional programs, graduate studies or continuing education.(EXEC 01 MAY 2000) (GFC 29 MAY 2000)