Course Development and Curricular Innovation

Social Sciences Curriculum Project

From 1994-1998, I co-developed and taught Introduction to Social Sciences (03.100) with a colleague from the Department of Geography, Dr. Shelagh Squire. Dr. Squire was the director of the project and lecturer in the course. I was responsible for the development of weekly course workshops, as well as the training of teaching assistants to facilitate these sessions. This course is an interdisciplinary first-year course in the social sciences. The course theme is "community." Based on this theme, we integrated multiple perspectives from the social sciences to introduce students to social scientific concepts and methods. The workshops provided a small-group forum for the students to extend material covered in the lecture theater into hands-on activities. Included here are such things as: data interpretation, worldwide web research, active reading strategies, writing and writing conferencing, as well as frequent opportunities for both informal and formal oral presentations.

As a new initiative in the Faculty of Social Science, the course was under a thorough review annually. Some of the student comments compiled by the Associate Dean of Social Science (1995) included:

We presented our curriculum to colleagues on campus as part of faculty development and at meetings of learned societies (see "Publications"). The course was a model for the implementation of First-Year Seminars in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences with the renewal of the B.A. in the fall of 1998.

Seminar in University Teaching

As part of my responsibilities as a Teaching Scholar with the Teaching and Learning Resource Centre, I co-developed and co-taught (with Carole Dence, Director, TLRC and Alana Hermiston, Ph.D. candidate, Sociology) a new graduate seminar. The seminar is part of a larger, ongoing curriculum project with the creation of a certificate in university teaching for graduate students. In the development of this course, I collaborated with a doctoral student in the Department of Sociology, Ms. Alana Hermiston, to create a research-based course reader for the course. In addition, we created a format for the seminar which involved a wide variety of guest speakers from various faculties and numerous small-group learning activities. The course culminates in the development of a teaching dossier and course syllabus that each student presents to colleagues in a simulated "hiring committee." This course was well received last year when it was taught for the first time. We are currently in our second year with the course. The course enrollment now includes three faculty members who are interested in getting more formal background and training in teaching in higher education.

First-Year Seminar

I am one of five faculty in our department who have created a first-year seminar for the B.A. program. This course has been my very best teaching experience to date. Drawing on my work from Introduction to Social Sciences (discussed above), I have created a very motivated, small group environment where student interest drives research and learning. Students in the course have created personal web sites for the course on which they have posted research summaries, annotated bibliographies, as well a their group projects.

As we are studying human motivation, a group of students in the class became interested in what might be the "best kind" of motivation for the first-year seminars, performance or mastery oriented motivation. To explore this hypothesis, they used existing research on motivation and the first-year experience to design a survey which they are currently distributing to over 1,000 undergraduate students who are enrolled in the first-year seminars. This is a very exciting project for first year students. It has certainly been a high point in my teaching of the seminar.

Within the First-Year Seminar Instructors' Group, I have provided leadership with presentations about the use of technology to enhance learning and curriculum design, as well as presentations to colleagues about student motivation in the first year. These presentations are included in the "Presentations and Publications" section of my dossier.

Teaching Assistant Training

When I was given the responsibility for coordinating the workshops for the first-year interdisciplinary course, Introduction to Social Sciences (03.100) at Carleton University (see previous page), I became interested in teaching assistant training. To this end, I traveled to the University of Western Ontario (London) in August of 1995 to participate in their Teaching Assistant Training Program. I was impressed by the program, and with their permission, I brought back copies of their training modules for use with the teaching assistants for 03.100. I then extended my use of these modules by offering a series of "Brown Bag" Seminars for interested teaching assistants during the fall and winter of 1995-1996.

Based on this experience, and with assistance from Ms. Susan Smith (a teacher consulting for the Teaching and Learning Resource Centre), we then began to extend these "Brown Bag" sessions into a series of teaching assistant training modules of our own. These sessions are now being offered throughout the academic year as part of the ongoing TA training at Carleton. Topics include: managing discussion groups, evaluation, providing effective feedback to students, strategies to engage more students in their reading, and learning styles. In addition to these modules, we are currently developing modules on effective lecturing, ethical considerations of being a teaching assistant and cross-cultural issues in teaching.

Copies of the completed modules can be obtained from The Teaching and Learning Centre, Carleton University (613-520-2600, ext 4433 or

itv teaching When teaching Foundations of Development (49.250) (1994-1998)

I worked in a classroom in which my lectures and our class interactions were taped for broadcast to a second section of students who did not come to campus for the course. This was a challenging and interesting experience. Although this technology often leads to the "talking head" format, with the instructor simply lecturing with the camera in his or her face, I used the technology to enhance my teaching. For example, I regularly had students bring their own children to class to demonstrate aspects of development. This was particularly exciting for the students and their children as the lectures are broadcast on a local cable channel, so students were "on tv" in the community. I also made effective use of video segments to demonstrate course concepts. On the whole, this has been some of the best large-class teaching I have done, as the technology actually enhanced my ability to present material and involve students in the class. Over the latter years of my itv teaching, I also began to integrate web-based technology for the class. Aspects of this work are described below.

CHAT and the World Wide Web

Over the course of the past six years, Carleton has been developing and refining a system known as CHAT. This system provides computer communications for all undergraduate students including email, course newsgroups, internet newsgroups, access to the Worldwide Web and other internet resources such as FTP and gopher.

As a sessional lecturer and assistant professor at Carleton, I have been actively involved in the pilot testing and development of this system. I have given numerous invited talks on the use of the system for teaching, and I have been an innovator in its use in the classroom. For example, in my graduate seminar, I posted all of my course materials on the Worldwide Web (www), and my students use the www to disseminate their work in the course. This not only provided them with access to each other's work, it also allowed us to connect to similar graduate seminars in Israel and the United States for discussion.

Another example of innovation in the use of this technology for teaching and learning has been in my undergraduate course in developmental psychology. Here, in the context of a very large distance-education course, we used the CHAT facility to link to students in another college to collaborate on a course assignment. Students at Fanshawe College (London, Ontario) who have a field-experience as part of their course in human development, collaborated with students in my own class via email to "figure out" what their field observations meant in terms of human development. This was further extended with the use of a video conference at the end of term so that students could meet their computer assignment partner "face-to-face." Representative students from the respective campuses, the college faculty collaborator and I presented the results of our project at the annual meeting of the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education in June, 1996 (see Presentations and Publications for a list of this work).

More recent collaboration with other instructors, our Instructional Television Division (itv) and the Faculty of Engineering involves the broadcast of itv lectures on the internet. This is known as the MBone Project (see the "Teaching in the Electronic World" section of the dossier).

Finally, in the appendix, I have provided the text of an article which I wrote for our Teaching and Learning Supplement to our campus newspaper - "This Week at Carleton" (now called "This is Carleton"). This article summarizes some of my philosophy of education with respect to the use of computers and similar information technology in education.

Return to Dossier Index