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Promoting Professional Development Through Evidence-Based Teaching

A quick look at Lumen Circles professional development experiences demonstrates how evidence-based teaching practices and self-reflection might help faculty throughout the province improve their ability to create effective learning environments. 

Post by the BCcampus editorial team

Earlier this year, BCcampus saw an opportunity to leverage a generous offer from the Lumen Learning company to participate in its new Lumen Circles Fellowship program, a nine-week virtual community of practice focused on building capacity and confidence for faculty. Lumen offered two positions in its fellowship program, and BCcampus elected to match the offer through our Professional Learning Grant, enabling four professionals from different institutions in B.C. to attend the learning experience. 

“We like to support a variety of options and opportunities for faculty to learn more,” said Leva Lee, manager, Teaching + Learning at BCcampus. “We support evidence-based teaching practices as part of our formal research programs, and this was a way to help people learn and bring their new knowledge back to our community.” 

Lumen Circles

“Starting in June 2020, we had the opportunity to build on a fellowship program initially offered by Faculty Guild focused on evidence-based teaching,” said Julie Curtis, vice-president of Lumen Circles. “We chose this approach to partner with the higher education community to support faculty and help them be more effective, resulting in this great program for faculty across disciplines.”

“This year was my first year of actively seeking the traditional style of professional development,” said Mandy Newcomb, an instructor for the Professional Cooking program at College of New Caledonia. “Previously, I’d look for opportunities within my industry, like culinary tours. This was a big departure for me to focus on the scholarship of teaching and learning, but I felt it was important, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow.”

“I found a ton of value in this program. In my group, there were people from many disciplines, so I was able to see different perspectives and teaching styles. They weren’t familiar with teaching cooking, but they were excellent educators for their own topics. I learned something valuable from each of them. 

“It’s easy to fall into the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ comfort zone,” continued Mandy, “but we must challenge ourselves to push our boundaries and find new ways to communicate our subject matter and create an effective learning experience.” 

Learning On Your Schedule

“The Lumen Circles program invites faculty to connect with peers in virtual communities of practice that extend for nine weeks,” said Julie, “with regular activities planned to take a few hours per week. Most of the work is asynchronous as faculty explore and try out teaching strategies, reflect on their experiences, and give feedback to each other. Optional Zoom sessions provide opportunities to meet synchronously with the facilitator and 10 to 12 members of your circle. It’s a powerful experience to connect with fellow educators about effective teaching, but the journey is a bit different for each person because everyone brings their own experiences, expectations, and goals for how they want to grow.” 

“When I started the program, I was on professional development time,” said Mandy. “I thought not teaching would be beneficial to the program, but because you create a learning plan, it’s hard to see what it looks like in real life. I shared my ideas with my substitutes, but it probably would have been better to teach the plan myself to get the full feedback and see what worked and what didn’t.”

Fellowships at BCcampus

While this was a unique situation where we were able to leverage the offer from the Lumen Learning team to enable multiple educators to participate, it’s far from the only opportunity we offer. 

The BCcampus Research Fellows intake is available until October 31, 2021, providing local educators with the opportunity to explore online learning and teaching; open educational practices; Indigenization and decolonization; trades education; equity, diversity, and inclusion; and other topics that require further investigation. We are looking forward to the current research projects

  • Heather Simpson from the Justice Institute of British Columbia is looking at forming strong cultural identities in an intersecting space of Indigeneity and autism.
  • Sharon Hobenshield from Vancouver Island University will focus on teaching and learning co-creation with good relations.
  • Carol Burbee at Northern Lights College is researching Unsettling Curriculum, a new course in FNST 100.
  • Carmen Rodriguez de France at the University of Victoria is exploring learning while we teach: the experiences of instructors in community-based programs.
  • Maureen Thomas and Tine Reimers, from Vancouver Island University, have partnered up to find ways for their institution to be responsive to the findings and considerations in the Making a Difference: “Walking away with a Good Mind and a Good Spirit” report.

Notable Quote(s):

“A powerful learning tool for me in this program was around appreciative inquiry. Too often, in any environment, we tend to focus on the negative. With appreciative inquiry, you work with your fellows to build each other up, not to inflate egos but to affirm strengths and potential. Instead of focusing on what’s not working, focus on what is working and how we can do it better.”

– Mandy Newcomb, professional cooking instructor, College of New Caledonia

“A unique part of this program is the approach we’re using, putting educators in virtual communities and giving them a framework of evidence-based teaching practices to work from: a common language that they can explore, with processes to help them find the right way to apply their learnings.”  

– Julie Curtis, vice-president, Lumen Circles

Learn More:

The feature image for this post (viewable in the BCcampus News section at the bottom of our homepage) is by Canva Studio from Pexels

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