“Our conversations, in and outside of the classroom, not only affirm but also challenge our thinking about teaching and learning,” says Jennifer Lock, associate dean of teaching and learning at the Werklund School of Education. “Sometimes it is through these conversations that we gain new insights or are pushed to reconsider or reflect more deeply on what we do and believe in terms of our teaching practice.”
Lock and her colleagues — Dawn Johnston, associate dean of teaching, learning and student engagement at the Faculty of Arts and Leslie Reid, associate dean of teaching and learning at the Faculty of Science — will form the opening plenary at the 2017 University of Calgary Post-Secondary Conference on Learning and Teaching hosted by the Taylor Institute from May 2 to 3, 2017. The conference theme this year is Creating a Learning Culture, Conversations that Matter.
Making space for support and productive discomfort in teaching
Sometimes meaningful conversations can be uncomfortable, or what Johnston, Lock and Reid would refer to as productive discomfort. "In the teaching environment, productive discomfort might mean inviting a colleague in to observe our teaching when we are actually struggling with something, instead of just when we think we are doing really well," says Johnston. "It might mean introducing topics and questions that aren't in own comfort zone in the classroom, and engaging students in discussions on important issues where we don't have the answers. For me, it means acknowledging and even embracing our own vulnerability in the classroom — recognizing that we may fail, but that we will come out on the other side of having learned something ourselves. The sense of support from colleagues, students and mentors is key.”
In the opening plenary, Making Space for Support and Productive Discomfort in our Teaching Practice, Johnston, Lock and Reid will focus on the significant relationships and networks that help develop and enhance teaching practice. Participants will explore the importance of ensuring a diverse and challenging network to foster their growth. “Learning and growth often happen when we are at the edge (or just past the edge) of our comfort zone. When we feel a sense of dissonance about our beliefs and ideas, we push ourselves to see things from a new perspective and from that new perspective we grow our teaching practices. I love being pushed outside of my comfort zone because it reminds me of how my students feel, which helps me build empathy and understanding for their experiences,” says Reid.
About the 2017 Post-Secondary Conference on Learning and Teaching
The Taylor Institute invites all members of the academic community to share their experiences, practices and research in our collective journey of exploring how, why and when conversations with colleagues, students and leaders can influence our learning and teaching culture. Session formats include 90-minute workshops, 45-minute interactive sessions, conversation cafés, digital poster presentations and an ignite session that is new to this year’s format.
In addition to the opening plenary, the conference will feature Katarina Mårtensson from Lund University, Sweden as the keynote speaker. Mårtensson's presentation Who do you talk to? Significant Conversations in Campus Microcultures, will highlight some of the sociocultural factors that influence the academic workplace, in particular the role of significant and collegial conversations.
"The 2016 Postsecondary Conference on Learning and Teaching was a really good experience because, being at my home university, it felt really supportive," says Brit Paris, a graduate student and sessional instructor from the Werklund School of Education. "I was able to try out my voice as a graduate student. It gave me the confidence to say I can be here as a graduate student and I have something to contribute to the community."
Even seasoned academics can benefit from the opportunity to reconnect with colleagues from across campus. "This is going to be an exciting, rigorous and invigorating conference, and it's happening on our doorstep,” notes Johnston. “I always find that teaching and learning conferences energize me — I walk away with a dozen great ideas (both large and small) about how to do things differently in the classroom.”
Early bird registration for the 2017 Post-Secondary Conference on Learning and Teaching is open until April 2. General registration closes on April 25. To register for the conference, click here. For full conference details, click here.