Faculty build teaching skills in new program

by Hilary Thomson
Staff writer

Graduation comes early this year for 10 UBC faculty members who are the first-ever class to complete the UBC Certificate Program on Teaching in Higher Education.

"I congratulate the graduates of this program," says UBC President Martha Piper, who will be officiating at the graduation ceremony April 8. "They are demonstrating a commitment to enhanced student learning and to developing their professional skills."

A pilot program of the Centre for Teaching and Academic Growth, which began in 1987 to build the teaching skills of UBC faculty and graduate students, the certificate program is unique in Canada because it relates strictly to faculty and gives credit for prior learning.

"We want to build on the expertise that we have here at UBC," says Gail Riddell, the centre's director. "This program invests in the people who are here now and who will be part of this community over the long-term."

In addition to supporting current faculty the program will assist the hundreds of new faculty members who will be hired over the next five years, adds Riddell.

Breaking down teacher isolation was one of the key benefits of the program for Education Asst. Prof. Tony Clarke.

"I was able to get first-hand feedback on my practice as an educator," says Clarke. "This was at times very humbling but more importantly extremely stimulating."

The program integrates theory and practice with 150 hours of interactive modular workshops, discussion and analysis, peer feedback on teaching sessions, and independent professional development activities.

Participants develop a teaching portfolio and present curriculum and teaching workshops to colleagues.

Topics are based on needs assessments done by the centre and include adult learning theory, curriculum development, course design and assessing student learning.

An independent learning plan takes into account participants' prior learning.

Program participant Prof. Helen Burt chairs the undergraduate curriculum review committee in the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

"I wanted to build my knowledge in areas such as curricular design, strategies for assessment of learning outcomes and methods for facilitating critical thinking and active learning," says Burt. "The match between what I needed to learn and the certificate program was almost too good to be true."

Critical analysis, feedback and discussions with peers in the program were particularly challenging and rewarding, she adds.

Assessment is based on participation in all elements of the program, self-reports and peer feedback and the teaching portfolio.

The portfolio is reviewed with an advisory board comprising Riddell, the program's co-ordinator, and two representatives from the Faculty of Education. Two program graduates will be added to the board in May. Participants are given a pass or fail grade.

"This program ties in with a new worldwide focus on scholarship in teaching and a Canadian project that aims to develop national criteria for teaching accreditation," says Riddell.

New faculty in the U.K. and Australia are required to take similar certification in the first two years of teaching.

UBC's program has a waiting list of 75 people according to Education sessional lecturer Harry Hubball, the program's co-ordinator as well as one of its new graduates.

Other graduates are: Simon Albon, senior instructor, Pharmaceutical Sciences; Asst. Prof. Inge Andreen, Education; Alice Cassidy, lecturer, Zoology and faculty associate, UBC Centre for Teaching and Academic Growth; Asst. Prof. Gary Hepburn, Education; Janice Moshenko, lecturer, Pharmaceutical Sciences; Marion Pearson, senior instructor, Pharmaceutical Sciences; and Ellen Rosenberg, senior instructor, Science.