Rerun season nostalgia and course planning

In the era of Netflix, TiVo, and Internet downloading that has given rise to binge-watching an entire TV series in a weekend, my childhood appreciation for summer rerun season is distinctly absent.

For those of a certain generation, summer was the time to catch-up: on sleep, on reading, on those episodes of your favourite TV show that you missed because of basketball practice or drama rehearsal (or because your brother got to pick his favourite show alternating Tuesday nights).

While reruns may be absent from your television set, the concept of reruns can be helpful in your course planning for the fall. As you review your teaching, consider these things:

  • What were the highlights? (80s Rerun Parallel: A great episode you want to see again)
  • What did you include but didn’t cover as closely as you wanted? (80s Rerun Parallel: That awesome episode you half-watched while playing Candy Land while babysitting)
  • What got dropped by accident? (80s Rerun Parallel: The special episodes you missed because you just couldn’t get to the TV at the right time—see reasons, above).

These rerun-inspired reflection prompts can get you thinking of areas where you can improve or enhance your teaching plan. And, in the spirit of retro TV-rerun season, here are four of my previous blog posts you may have missed that give you some tools for planning or revising your teaching after your reflecting is complete:

Now, excuse me while I try to figure out the scheduling of binge-watching six seasons of Game of Thrones so I can get caught up. I seem to be one of the only people around who hasn’t watched a single episode.

But, seriously, I’m always available to talk through your UG teaching challenges. Email me: theresa.suart@queensu.ca

 

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When teaching isn’t fun anymore…

People come to teaching through a variety of paths. That’s especially true in medical education.

One thing that most educators – at any level – have in common is a sincere desire to teach. And, generally, most educators get some enjoyment out of it. But what happens if that’s not the case? What if you’ve been told you must teach, or (perhaps more disheartening), what if you’ve enjoyed education assignments to this point, but teaching just isn’t fun anymore?

Even if it’s something you have been passionate about, it can be a challenge to stay engaged year after year. Even the most dedicated educators can lose steam along the way. (These suggestions aren’t focused on the level of burnout. That’s another very serious topic for another day. This is more about a “general malaise” – you know there’s something not working, but you’re not quite sure what that is.)

If your enthusiasm for your teaching assignment is on the wane, and it seems more chore than challenge, here are five possible interventions to consider:

  1. Re-focus on what attracted you to teaching in the first place. (Or, if you’ve been assigned to teach, think about what you enjoyed about learning).

What brought you to teaching in the first place? Is it sharing knowledge and expertise? Working with future colleagues? Exploring new technologies or teaching methods? Is it the place, the people, the content? Sometimes we drop our favourite things by accident. Is there something missing now that you can reintroduce to your teaching practice?

  1. Team up with a colleague.

Despite the many faculty we have, teaching can seem a lonely enterprise. Preparation is very often done solo and it’s you standing alone with the class or group of students. Consider partnering with a colleague to prepare together and compare notes after teaching. You don’t have to be teaching in the same course or area – it’s staying connected and sharing viewpoints that can help.

  1. Swap assignments.

If you’re able to, consider swapping teaching responsibilities with a colleague: if you’ve always focused on pre-clerkship teaching, maybe trade with a colleague who has focused on clerkship instruction. If you’ve been an FSGL tutor, swap with a Clinical Skills one. The shift in perspective could help you both (and enrich students’ experiences, too). If you pair this with #2, you can help each other through the transition. When you swap back the next year, you’ll each have new tools and a fresh outlook.

  1. If you can, step away for a little while.

While this is not always possible, if you can take a break from teaching, it can reawaken your enthusiasm. Time away can help you remember exactly what it is you love about teaching and give you space to address those areas that have become chores. Sometimes absence truly does make the heart grow fonder.

  1. Come talk to me or other members of the Education Team.

We may be able to help pinpoint specific areas of your teaching assignment that are dragging you down and brainstorm some solutions. Sometimes talking it out can provide its own insight. We don’t have all the answers, but we can certainly help look for them. Reach me here: theresa.suart@queensu.ca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Teaching, Learning and Integration Committee Summer Update

By Lindsay Davidson, Director of Teaching, Learning, and Integration

As classes (at least in years 1 and 2) have now ended, and teachers are perhaps thinking about courses that will resume in the fall, I wanted to provide you with an update of items from the TLIC. Some of these may already be familiar to you, but perhaps some are “new”. If you need any further information, please feel free to contact me directly or one of our Educational Developers (Theresa Suart from Years 1 and 2 and Sheila Pinchin for Clerkship and the “C” courses).

  1. Resources attached to learning events – these include lecture notes, classroom slides, required pre-class readings and optional post-class readings/resources. MEdTech is enabling a new feature for the upcoming academic year. Teachers will be required to review and “publish” each resource every year – with the option of adding in delayed release if appropriate. The goal of this is to provide students with an up-to-date, curated set of resources, deleting old files. Please direct any questions about this to Dr. Lindsay Davidson.
  • Remember: “less is more”: Students report that when there are an excessive number of files, they often read few/none of them in advance.
  • Clearly designate what is MANDATORY to review PRE-CLASS by indicating this in the “Preparation” field on the learning event, and checking the appropriate boxes on the menu when you review the resources.
  • AVOID using dates on your slides/slide file names – students are sometimes disappointed to see that the file dates from 2009 or prior.
  1. The Curriculum Committee has approved a new learning event type – “Games” – reflecting several sessions already existing in the curriculum. This is defined as “Individual or group games that have cognitive, social, behavioral, and/or emotional, etc., dimensions which are related to educational objectives”. This type of activity might include classroom Jeopardy or other similar activities designed to allow students to review previously taught knowledge (content delivered either independently or in the classroom) and to provide them with formative feedback on their understanding. The instructional methods approved by the Curriculum Committee include:

Please direct any questions about this to Theresa Suart.

  1. Workforce – The Workforce Committee has recently adopted some changes including the following:
  • Addition of credit for teachers who grade short answer questions or team worksheets
  • Doubling of credit for teachers who develop new (or significantly renovate) teaching session
  • Limit of one named teacher per DIL event
  • Limit of one teacher per SGL event (gets additional credit to reflect session design, learning event completion, submission exam questions); additional teachers credited as tutors (credit for time in the classroom) – the Course Director may be asked to clarify who is the “teacher” and who is/are the “tutors”
  • Reduction of credit for large classroom sessions (that are not new/newly renovated and/or do not involve grading)

Please direct any questions about this to Dr. Sanfilippo.

  1. Tagging of Intrinsic Role objectives. The TLIC and the Intrinsic Role leads recently held a retreat. One of the items that was identified was “overtagging” of sessional objectives with intrinsic role objectives such as communicator, collaborator, professional etc. by well meaning teachers. We are undertaking a comprehensive review of how these Intrinsic Roles are taught/assessed in the curriculum and would ask teachers/course directors NOT to tag sessions with these unless there has been a direct communication with the relevant Intrinsic Role lead.

Please direct any questions about this to Dr. Lindsay Davidson.

  1. DIL feedback from students. Over the past year, we have received useful feedback from students regarding the content and structure of Directed Independent Learning (DIL) sessions in Years 1 and 2. This will be collated and communicated to Course Directors shortly. Theresa Suart will be in contact with teachers/Course Directors should any sessions be identified for review/revision.
  2. Online modules. We have developed a process to facilitate the development of high quality online modules, often used as resources in DIL session. These are highly appreciated by students and are used for review in clerkship as well as pre-MCC exam. The current list of modules is available here: https://meds.queensu.ca/central/community/ugme_ecurriculum If you would like to create (or revise) a module for your course, please complete the linked intake form: https://healthsci.queensu.ca/technology/services/elearning/online_learning_modules/get_help
  3. New wording of learning event notices. You may have noticed this over the past year. The wording of the 3 email notices received by teachers has been revised. In particular, it has been streamlined and customized to provide specific, focused reminders prior to the scheduled teaching. We would appreciate any feedback or suggestions that you have about this change.
  4. Video capture In 2016-17, lecture sessions were video captured in select year 1 and 2 classes. We will be analyzing how these videos were used by students over the summer and will likely be continuing this into the fall. Please provide any feedback or comments that you have about this pilot to Theresa Suart.

Feel free to get in touch:

 

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Chill out, Zio

The sign on the door clearly said the store should have reopened at three. According to my watch, and confirmed by my cellphone, it was now 3:12. I’d been waiting a full 3 minutes.

The place where I was waiting wouldn’t really qualify as a “store” as we would understand the term. It was really a ground level room of a three-storey home on the main street of the small Sicilian village I was visiting for my niece’s wedding. It was attached to rows of similar buildings that lined the narrow main street where most of the other ground level

Photo courtesy Peter Sanfilippo

rooms had been similarly converted to a variety of businesses – grocery stores, flower shops, bakeries, espresso bars, and other purposes I couldn’t discern based on outward appearances.

This particular “store”, I was assured, was the only place I might obtain a media card, the object that was apparently preventing my cellphone from being able to store more pictures. Fabrizio, who operated the store, would know what to do.

Looking through the glass, I became dubious that I’d find any solutions among the apparently random collection of items in the small, cluttered space. It seemed more like a workshop than a place of business. In fact, I wasn’t sure how more than one person would even fit inside.

I turned to my niece who had come along to help me find the store. As the central figure in the aforementioned wedding, which promised to be the social event of the season, she certainly had better things to do. But here she was, remarkably calm despite the circumstances and lateness.

“Where is he?” I asked, with righteous agitation.

With an expression one might reserve for calming a hyperactive child, she turned her big brown eyes to me and said with barely disguised condescension:

“But Zio, he lives upstairs. He’s having lunch with his family”.

And there it was. Crystallized in those few words, expressed by this young and vibrant woman, all the differences between her world and mine came into sharp focus.

In her world, people were simply not ruled by any clock or regulation.

In her world, people choose to spend their time doing what is valuable to them, and are unapologetic in doing so.

In her world, people not only take time for lunch, but truly value that time despite what we might regard as greater priorities.

In her world, the choice to value private time over work is not simply tolerated, but understood and respected.

Her world has trust and comfort in its way of life, and regards our work-obsession with a combination of amusement and pity. It’s a world that says, without rancor, but in no uncertain terms, “you’re here now – chill out, because we’re not changing.”

This is not a new realization for me. The contrast between the lifestyles of my ancestral and birth homes becomes apparent whenever I visit, but my understanding has changed, perhaps matured, over the years. What I previously regarded as a quaint, anachronistic way of life out of keeping with the modern world, I now see as an explicit and insightful choice, particularly when made by bright young people like my niece and her fiancé (now husband) who are choosing to remain and begin their lives there.

There is, of course, a price to be paid for this less-than-compulsive approach to productivity. The Italian economy is a continual source of concern to both its leadership and the international community.

From The Italian Job. The Economist.com, July 9, 2016.

 

Despite this glum outlook, Italian health indices, life expectancy, quality of life and “happiness index” rank among the highest in the world. There appears to be a dichotomy between the collective economic health of the nation, and individual contentment of its people.

Surely there are lessons there. Our two worlds, it would seem, have much to learn from each other. On a personal level, I love being Canadian and am grateful for the choice my father made to immigrate to this country, as was he. I also recognize that the Italian diaspora resulted a certain natural selection process whereby the ambitious and driven were more likely to leave their familiar surroundings, and so these differences are not surprising. Nonetheless, I very much appreciate the values and family focus of my ancestral home and have come to realize that occasional inoculations of “la dolce vita” provide much needed perspective.

When Fabrizio arrived and opened, I found that the door actually rolled up so that the store completely opened to the street. It became an open-air kiosk where he did his business on the sidewalk. In fact, all the stores were similar so that the street became sort of an open- air market where proprietors, passers-by, street residents and, occasionally, customers like myself, mingled as business was conducted. It was crowded, noisy, confusing, but welcoming and very engaging. There was none of the structure and process we associate with the consumer experience but things seemed to get done. Fabrizio, once we finished introductions and after he had enquired about every detail of the upcoming wedding, was able to find exactly what I needed from among the debris that was his workplace and install it in my cellphone. He had to stop a couple of times as his children wandered down to the store with some domestic issue that always, immediately, took precedence.

The wedding, by the way, was wonderful but started a half hour after the scheduled time due to the bride’s late arrival. No one seemed surprised. No one minded – least of all me.

 

Anthony J. Sanfilippo, MD, FRCP(C)

Associate Dean,

Undergraduate Medical Education

 

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Discover, Examine, Commit: A New Way of Looking at Group Work

I’m back with another perspective on collaborative learning.  This time, I’m indebted to Jim Sibley at UBC for giving me permission to use Framework for TBL Application Activity Reporting Facilitation by Loretta Whitehorne, Larry Michaelsen, and Jim Sibley, reproduced here:

Our own Dr. Lindsay Davidson brought this home from the Team Based Learning (TBL) Collaborative’s Meeting this year.

or click on this:

framework for reporting

This framework is designed to help us facilitate reporting on activities in our TBLs (SGL’s for Queen’s)…The 3 stages of an activity’s progression, Discovery, Examination and Commitment are great terms for ways of looking at key steps in any activity—in other words:  get information, look carefully at the information and do stuff with it, and create a product. Specific tasks within each stage are extremely helpful advice for students and faculty to give reports on how they are doing in an activity.  They’re also very helpful prompts for actual tasks!

(Actually, for the physicians and medical students out there, you can also see the 3 stages of arriving at a diagnosis:  Gather information, Examine the information carefully and relate to experience, patterns, etc. and finally Commit to a diagnosis.)

However, these days I am focused on collaborative learning, and trying to go beyond the Norming, Storming, Reforming approach which many have often been taught.  I often hear from students, “I’m not sure what to do in the group, except report back.”

The framework that Whitehorne, Michaelsen, Sibley have developed immediately gave me ideas about roles a student could take on in a group.  In looking at the framework, I’ve grouped the 5 main roles and given them an attribute.  So following are several behaviours that students can adopt;  ideally the same person could adopt all 5 roles in one activity, depending on the group’s need.  In fact, if a person remains in one role too long, it may make the group less productive.  The idea is to recognize what is needed and move into that role to help move the group task along:

1. Sensor (Listens, shares, looks for consensus, is aware of others’ ideas)

2. Converger or Focuser (Focuses on specifics, probes, builds on others’ ideas, examines in depth)

3. Generalizer (Takes specifics to generalizations, expands, relates to frameworks or theory)

4. Summarizer and Synthesizer: (Puts it all together, supports and asks, “What if?”)

5. Maverick: (Looks for the different, the alternative, the unconventional, etc. Dare’s to differ instead of follow the crowd if it’s going “down the rabbit hole.”) Checks on things.

If you look at the Framework’s matrix, you’ll see that the Sensor’s role stays quite true throughout the different stages of an activity, as does the Summarizer-Synthesizer, etc..

Then there are great descriptions of behaviours a group member can adopt to move the group work forward based on the framework.

For example, looking at the framework, under the Discovery stage,

a Sensor can respect and listen actively to all contributions.  H/she can also be a person who moderates or facilitates so everyone gets their turn.  A Sensor can also unpack or explain in detail how a team arrived at a decision.

A person who is the Generalizer might restate the aggregated ideas of previous speakers, or link or combine, or put ideas together. S/he may articulate links between ideas or incorporate multiple sources into a single idea.

If your activity has progressed to Examining stage, the Sensor might compare or contrast by examining rationales to articulate similarities and differences.  The Maverick might redirect or park by gently guiding conversation away from non-productive directions, and refocusing to direct attention to other thematic elements.

Under the Commitment stage (and I like this term, because it symbolizes positive and concrete final steps), the person who is a Converger-Focuser may generate specific examples by applying concepts and incorporating personal experience.  The Generalizer may create general rules by drawing out the general principles and developing tentative “rules of thumb”.  The SummarizerSynthesizer may make predictions by considering what might happen as a result of particular idea in particular scenario.  What is the role of a Maverick at this late stage? Even as the group pulls together a product or a choice, or an answer, the Maverick considers to what degree the choice or answer fits into the context or the applicability.

All in all, I got very excited when I saw this framework—not only because it focuses on ways to extend tasks and activities for group work but because it adds to my thoughts on collaborative learning.  I also have to compliment the artist behind the figures in this framework (Angela Cunningham?)—they are extremely helpful when you work at grasping what the behaviours are!

So happy collaborative learning with a few more tips and strategies for our students working in groups and teams.

 

P.S. I’m also writing this on July 1…and so want to celebrate our country’s 150th with you by wishing you a Happy Canada Day!

Canada Day South Huron 2017

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