Teaching & Learning Community of Practice

The Faculty of Arts & Science hosts a Teaching & Learning Community of Practice (CoP) that was established in 2015 to create a collegial forum for faculty and instructors to meet and share teaching practices and strategies across fields and disciplines. This CoP is coordinated by Andrew Dicks (Professor, Teaching Stream and Associate Chair, Undergraduate, Department of Chemistry).

Please contact teachinglearning.artsci@utoronto.ca for questions about the CoP.

Visit the A&S Teaching & Learning Community of Practice Quercus to access materials (slides, articles, video recordings, etc.) from past CoP sessions.

Join the CoP Listserv

To receive emails and updates on the CoP sessions and news, please join the CoP listserv by sending an email to listserv@listserv.utoronto.ca with the following text in the body of the email: JOIN TLCOP-L Your first name and last name (e.g., JOIN TLCOP-L Jennifer Xiang).

A&S Teaching & Learning Showcase

Every year, the Faculty of Arts & Science hosts a Teaching & Learning Showcase to celebrate innovative and exceptional teaching practices, programs, and initiatives from instructors across A&S.

The 2022–23 Showcase will take place over three days (April 26, May 2, and May 5). We welcome participants to join online or in person. Refreshments and lunch will be served with an in-person reception on the final day.

Day 1: Strategies and Practices for Engaged Learning (April 26)

This hybrid event includes presentations and roundtable discussions about course design, teaching with technology, and engagement and reflection practices in online and in-person courses. Participants will also have the opportunity to learn about and tour the newly-launched A&S Digital Teaching & Learning Studio. 

Day 2: Writing-Integrated Teaching (May 2)

This hybrid event brings together faculty, instructors, and lead writing TAs from various disciplines to share their experiences with the A&S Writing-Integrated Teaching (WIT) program, which helps units embed discipline-specific writing instruction into undergraduate courses and programs.

Day 3: Experiential Learning (May 5)

This hybrid event features faculty, staff, and community partners who are engaged in experiential learning (EL). The event includes presentations and roundtable discussions about getting started with EL, EL course and program design, and building and maintaining community partnerships. Participants will also have the opportunity to learn about and tour the new Experiential Learning Commons at 255 Beverley Street.

Registration is now closed.


Past Sessions

For past sessions, please visit A&S Teaching & Learning Community of Practice Quercus.

Mastery Learning in an Introductory Computer Science Course

Tuesday, September 20, 2022, 10:30–11:30 am, Dual Delivery

In Person, History Conference Room, Sidney Smith Hall, Room 2098, 100 St. George Street, Toronto, ON M5S 3G3

Jacqueline Smith, Associate Professor, Teaching Stream, Computer Science
Jennifer Campbell, Professor, Teaching Stream, Computer Science
Paul Gries, Professor, Teaching Stream, Computer Science
Andrew Petersen, Associate Professor, Teaching Stream, Mathematical and Computational Sciences (UTM)

The course material in CSC108 (Introduction to Computer Programming) is cumulative week-to-week. This presents challenges for students who fall behind, requiring them to catch up with previous material before continuing. To address this challenge, we piloted a self-paced mastery learning version of CSC108 in Winter 2018 and again in Winter 2019. In this session, we'll share our reflections and lessons learned from offering a mastery learning version of a large introductory course at U of T, including the need for explicit scaffolding of expected progress and resources required to simultaneously support students at different stages in the course.

Flipped Classrooms and Online Learning: Student Perception and Feedback

Friday, October 14, 2022, 11 am–12 pm, Online

The Use of Flipped Classroom Techniques in Non-Computational Courses
Daniel Gregory, Assistant Professor, Earth Sciences

One of the results of the pandemic is many of us now have video-taped versions of our lectures. Since this is one of the more time-consuming aspects of developing flipped classroom lectures, it opens the door for more people to utilize this technique. In this presentation I will go through the results of a 3-year study investigating the use of flipped classroom lectures in my fourth-year mineral deposits course. We will review how the lectures were designed and implemented and assess the effectiveness of the technique using a combination of student feedback forms, comparative results exam questions, and post course interviews.

Understanding How Students Perceive Online Language Learning
Yujeong Choi, Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream, East Asian Studies
Yasuyo Tomita, Sessional Lecturer, OISE (Winter 2023)
Kyoungrok Ko, Associate Professor, Teaching Stream, East Asian Studies

In second language acquisition (SLA), research has shown that learning achievement is closely associated with satisfaction (Palmer & Holt, 2009). It is widely believed that learner satisfaction in the learning process, as well as achievement, is important but lower in online courses (Russell & Murphy-Judy, 2021). There has been little research conducted on online language learning and student satisfaction in an online-only context. This study explores the perceptions of learners about online language learning, especially satisfaction, during the recent pandemic that necessitated online learning.

Teaching and Evaluating Student Writing

Tuesday, November 1, 2022, 3:30–4:30 pm, Dual Delivery
In Person, History Conference Room, Sidney Smith Hall, Room 2098, 100 St. George Street, Toronto, ON M5S 3G3

Marking Multilingual Students' Writing Fairly
Leora Freedman, Associate Professor, Teaching Stream, English Language Learning Coordinator, English Language Learning (ELL)
Daveeda Goldberg, Writing Instructor, New College, ELL Specialist

The English Language Learning (ELL) Program fields many questions from faculty and TAs about marking the writing of multilingual students. Markers frequently express concerns about maintaining fairness and responding effectively and efficiently to support language development. This presentation will showcase a new eModule developed by ELL for self-paced learning as well as use in departmental meetings and TA grading sessions. It is the first of a series of eModules called Teaching in Our Multilingual Environment. Participants will learn how they can make use of this growing collection of eModules for the benefit of their departments and courses.

Teaching Writing in the Age of Mechanical Content Production
David Suarez, Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream, Philosophy
Alexandra Gustafson, Lead Writing TA, Graduate Student, Philosophy

Artificial neural networks, trained on vast quantities of text written by human beings, can now be used to produce coherent, grammatical content on demand. Machine learning tools of this kind, such as GPT-3, are widely available, cheap, and have been packaged for use by the general public. While these tools might not produce the best essays, they can produce text that stands a chance of passing high school, and perhaps even university-level, classes. (Refer to the GPT-3 article by Philosophy bear  for discussion and examples.) This has implications for the writing projects we assign our students. We want to explore those implications, in both practical and theoretical dimensions, with an emphasis on pedagogical issues—in particular, thinking through the very point of writing assignments, and what we hope to teach using them.

Teaching, Managing, and Assessing Large Courses

Wednesday, November 23, 2022, 10:30–11:30 am Dual Delivery
In Person, Political Science Conference Room, Sidney Smith Hall, Room 3130, 100 St. George Street, Toronto, ON M5S 3G3

Lifecycle of Assessments in a Large Course
Asif Zaman, Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream, Mathematics

From an instructor's perspective, every assessment goes through roughly five key stages of its "lifecycle".

  1. Design the assessment.
  2. Create a grading rubric.
  3. Build comment library.
  4. Grade assessments.
  5. Review graded assessments.

Each stage requires significant resources to produce high quality and consistent feedback. In a small course, I traditionally lead stages 1, 2, and 5 myself whereas a couple of TAs will do stages 3 and 4. As the coordinator for a large course, I am under significant time constraints and cannot follow this traditional scheme without significant compromise on grading quality. With the support of the Writing-Integrated Teaching (WIT) program, I have remodelled this workflow in collaboration with Head TAs and a Lead Writing TA. I only lead stage 1 and initiate stage 2. With my support, Head TAs lead stages 2, 3, and 5. Grading TAs focus primarily on stage 4 with support from Head TAs. This remodel has maximized the impact of my limited time, created leadership and development opportunities for experienced TAs, strengthened TA grading skills, and improved assessment feedback. I hope to share my experience with others along with suggested strategies that could be adopted in other large courses.

Managing a 1000+ Students Class: Perspectives and Strategies from a Head TA
Irene Poetranto, Head TA, PhD Candidate, Political Science

POL106H1 is a large course of over 1,000 students taught by one faculty member and supported by a Head Teaching Assistant (TA) and a team of TAs. In this presentation, I will share my experiences as a Head TA and identify strategies that establish and maintain expectations while facilitating processes for managing students and the TA team. My presentation will highlight how support and resources are coordinated and offer methods for managing the abundance of emails and requests throughout the semester. I will also address the realities of balancing TA responsibilities with graduate work and what structures can help ensure that the faculty member's course learning objectives are achieved and students can successfully demonstrate their learning.

Creating and Managing Assessment Questions in Large Courses

Wednesday, December 7, 2022, 10:30–11:30 am, Online

Cultivating a Questioning Mind: Student Led Question Composition in Large Courses
Naomi Levy-Strumpf, Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream, Human Biology
Maria Papaconstantinou, Associate Professor, Teaching Stream, Human Biology

To facilitate critical thinking and mastery of foundational concepts in a large Genetics course (~1000 students), we decided to actively engage students in question creation. We used "Quizzical" an online platform developed by Prof. Dan Riggs. Via this platform, students are tasked with the creation of multiple-choice questions. To foster metacognition and encourage a shift from perceiving learning as memorization, students were encouraged to create application-based questions. Higher grades were granted to question that creatively integrated multiple concepts or required knowledge application. The success of incorporating Quizzical as an integral assessment in this course prompted us to further develop the platform to facilitating broad-base use across disciplines. We will discuss the learning outcomes achieved by engaging the students in question creation, as well as the added features in the latest Quizzical 5.0 version.

Building and Maintaining an Equitable Question Bank for Online Tests
Jeremy Webb, Assistant Professor, Astronomy and Astrophysics

When administering an online test for large classes, drawing questions from a large question bank can be preferable to releasing an identical set of questions to each student to minimize academic integrity violations. However, with each student receiving a different set of questions, it is difficult to ensure that each test has the same difficulty and covers the same topics. I will discuss the lessons I have learned after teaching two large breadth requirement courses online over the past three years and outline my current method for maintaining an equitable question bank for my courses.

Advancing Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in the Department of Chemistry

Tuesday, January 24, 2023, 1:30–2:30 pm, Online

John De Backere, Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream, Chemistry
Madeline Gerbig, Chemistry Librarian
Soha Ahmadi, Postdoctoral Fellow

In the Department of Chemistry, we have developed an asynchronous online Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) training course aimed towards our first-year chemistry students. This interactive training uses H5P modules embedded within Quercus and introduces undergraduate students to core EDI concepts and departmental/institutional resources. The project was a collaboration between three members of our departmental EDI Committee (a Postdoctoral Fellow, Faculty Member, and Librarian) with support by our departmental Chemistry Teaching Fellowship Program (CTFP) and external consultations. The training course was first piloted in the Summer of 2022 with plans for further implementation. In our presentation we will share our approach and challenges in developing the resource, feedback from students, and discuss our future directions.

Fostering Pre-Reading Skills: A Third-Year Course Model Built Around Perusall

Wednesday, February 15, 2023, 12:30–1:30 pm, Dual Delivery 
In Person, History Conference Room, Sidney Smith Hall, Room 2098, 100 St. George Street, Toronto, ON M5S 3G3

Alex Koo, Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream, Philosophy

Philosophy students are often told to do their readings before class, but in practice this does not always happen. This leads to difficulties for students entering fourth-year seminars who have not learned the necessary pre-reading skills to succeed. This session will present a third-year class model that is structured around pre-reading and designed to help students bridge the gap between third and fourth-year courses in Philosophy. A key element to this is Perusall—an asynchronous online peer annotation platform for reading that promotes engagement and collaboration. In addition to Perusall, the course structure, assessments, and student feedback will be described.

Equity in the Syllabus and in the Classroom

Wednesday, March 15, 2023, 10:30–11:30 am, Online

Evidence-Informed Guidelines for Supporting EDI with Syllabus Design and Content

Molly Metz, Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream, Psychology
William Ryan, Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream, Psychology

Syllabi serve an important function in our classes; not only do they communicate and organize key course information, they are often the first experience students have with an instructor. Thus, the syllabus provides an opportunity to set norms of inclusion and encourage student engagement before they ever set foot in a classroom. In this session, we will share the product of the tri-campus department of psychology EDI subcommittee focused on undergraduate learning: an annotated syllabus with evidence-informed suggestions and examples for how to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout the document (and course) in both content and design.

Equity, Access and the Co-Learning Classroom: What Happens in a Circle?

Simone Davis, Instructor (former Associate Director), Ethics, Society & Law and Trinity One, Trinity College
Kerry Taylor, Centre for Criminology & Sociolegal Studies

Our co-learning project re-envisions both community-based learning (CBL) and access models. Partnering with the City of Toronto's Community Healing and Peers Projects, we offer courses to a mix of U of T students and community-based alums of the City program. These youth workers and community development innovators bring not only a critical awareness of structural forces of exclusion within the academy, but also the ability to effect positive change within it. We will present the model…and the holistic andragogy at its heart, inviting you to think about your own classroom experiences. What is possible? What is it that can happen in a circle?

Language Exchange Sessions and Second Language Teaching

Monday, April 3, 2023, 1:30–2:30 pm, Online

Developing Students' Verbal Fluency, Self-Confidence and Intercultural Skills Through Spanish/English Virtual Language Exchange Sessions with Native Speakers

Juan Carlos Rocha Osornio, Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream, Spanish and Portuguese

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, language teachers have always had to come up with creative ways to have their students practice their oral skills in a meaningful way. This is particularly important considering that learning a foreign language is often accompanied by feelings of anxiety that can potentially hinder the learning process. While virtual classes have brought new challenges, they nevertheless offer a valuable opportunity for developing students' verbal fluency, self-confidence, and intercultural skills. This session will provide an overview of the Spanish/English Virtual Language Exchange Sessions that were created in response to the pandemic, so that students taking Spanish in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Toronto and students of English at Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Hidalgo, Mexico, could interact and learn from one another while creating a sense of community.

Expanding the Classroom via Educational Platforms: How TalkAbroad Can Help Create Meaningful Assignments in L2 Classrooms

Stefana Gargova, Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream, Germanic Languages and Literatures

Providing meaningful and compelling forms of practice, assessment and evaluation of students' oral communicative skills has always been a struggle in Second Language Teaching, particularly when learning happens outside of the communities and places the target language is spoken. A new educational platform called TalkAbroad is offering a solution for filling this gap. In this presentation I will share my experience with the platform, as well as demonstrate various assignment options and share student feedback.