It was during an impromptu reading of T.S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral, hearing the echo of student voices resonate in the shadows of the imposing columns of the Canterbury Cathedral, when Lisa Stowe realized that “students need to be taken beyond the classroom into moments where they feel things on a multidimensional level. So they feel things emotionally, cognitively, sensorially. So they can feel the echo, so they can feel the dampness of the stone walls, so their feet touch the floor where the playwright once walked.”
It was that moment during a travel study tour of England when Stowe — then a graduate student teaching assistant — embarked on her 20-year journey in integrating experiential learning and teaching in the classroom. A journey that was marked by a high point this year when Stowe — now an instructor in the Department of Communication, Media and Film — received the 2016 University of Calgary Teaching Award in Experiential Learning Initiatives.
A journey in self-reflection on teaching
The University of Calgary Teaching Awards program recognizes teaching excellence by individuals and groups, in diverse learning contexts. Nominees are required to prepare a comprehensive dossier consisting of nomination and support letters, a philosophy or rationale statement, as well as evidence from peers and students.
For Stowe, preparing her nomination package was an invaluable experience in teaching development, “It’s great that I received the award and that validation is really nice, but internally the whole process was amazing for me as a practitioner. If anyone is interested at all in self-reflection and they want to understand how they teach or their teaching practice, then go through the nomination process.”
The first — and often most daunting — step to preparing a nomination package for instructors is writing your teaching philosophy. A teaching philosophy statement clearly communicates your fundamental beliefs about teaching and learning, why you hold them and how you translate them into your teaching practice, within the context of your particular discipline.
Joe Kadi, an instructor from the Women’s Studies program and a 2016 Teaching Award recipient, says, “I had never tried to write about what I’m trying to do in the classroom and put it into a clear, presentable essay. Just knowing I wasn’t alone in the process meant the most.”
The Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning facilitates a series of workshops and drop-in consultation sessions to support nominees in preparing their packages. The TI website also provides resources and samples of teaching philosophies by previous recipients from across disciplines.
Another important resource for both Stowe and Kadi was peer feedback. “If you start talking and try to explain your philosophy to someone, it becomes very clear what you do know and what you don’t know. I would write a draft, look at it and get help from my program head and co-workers. They would then ask questions to keep me thinking,” says Kadi.
Beyond the award is a teaching and learning community
Receiving a University of Calgary Teaching Award is a distinguished honour for any member of the university community. Recipients are presented with their awards at the annual Celebration of Teaching hosted by the provost and vice-president academic, Dru Marshall, and their names are added to a wall of honour in the Taylor Institute.
For Kadi, “It was a huge boost. It was a hugely positive thing for me and for the Women’s Studies program.” Stowe notes that receiving a Teaching Award helps “put you on the map because your name becomes associated with the award you received.”
All award recipients are also invited to become part of the University of Calgary’s Teaching Academy. Academy members are invited to share their teaching and learning expertise by participating in monthly themed conversations, showcasing their teaching initiatives during open classroom week and engaging in a peer-to-peer mentorship program.
How to participate
The Taylor Institute is committed to the growth and integration of our teaching and learning community at the University of Calgary. Student, faculty and staff are encouraged to nominate individuals and groups who make outstanding contributions to teaching and learning. This year, the Teaching Awards are comprised of 13 categories:
- Award for Continuing and Professional Education
- Award for Curriculum Development
- Award for Educational Leadership (Group & Individual)
- Award for Experiential Learning Initiatives
- Award for Full-Time Academic Staff
- Award for Graduate Assistants (Teaching)
- Award for Graduate Supervision
- Award for Librarians, Archivists and Curators
- Award for Non-Academic Staff (Group & Individual)
- Award for Sessional Instructors
- Award for Teaching in Online Environments
- Award for Team Teaching
- Award for Workplace-Integrated Education
More information on eligibility, the nomination process, resources and adjudication can be found on the Teaching Awards program page of the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning website.
The deadline for nomination packages is Jan. 24, 2017. “Start early. Don’t leave it. If you want to engage in the process in a legitimate way, it takes some time,” recommends Stowe.
Further questions can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org