Teaching & Learning Community of Practice (CoP)

The Faculty of Arts & Science hosts a Teaching & Learning Community of Practice (CoP) that was established in 2015 to create a collegial forum for instructors to meet and share teaching practices and strategies across disciplines. An academic coordinator and an administrative coordinator (from the A&S teaching and learning team) oversee this initiative. The community’s academic coordinator and administrator coordinator are Andrew Dicks, Professor, Teaching Stream and Associate Chair, Undergraduate, Department of Chemistry and Thuy Huynh, Senior Project Coordinator, Teaching & Learning, Office of the Dean.

During the academic year, one CoP session per month will be held over the lunch hour. The format for these 90-minute sessions typically includes: 30-minute lunch and networking, 30-minute of presentation, 30-minute of facilitated discussion. The presentation component can be more formal (i.e. slides) or informal in nature.

To receive emails and updates on the community of practice sessions and news, you can 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 (ex. JOIN TLCOP-L Thuy Huynh). To send emails to the CoP group, please use this email address: TLCOP-L@listserv.utoronto.ca.

A&S Teaching and Learning Community of Practice Call-for-Presentations

The Faculty of Arts & Science hosts a Teaching and Learning Community of Practice (CoP) to create a collegial forum for instructors to share teaching practices and strategies across disciplines. Given the current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic and the government health and safety guidelines, we plan to host sessions online for the 2020 Fall term and will determine the modality for the 2021 Winter term sessions based on the situation at that time. We also plan to create an online community space on Quercus to share resources and to continue the conversations from each session.

At this time, we invite proposals for CoP sessions for the 2020-21 academic year. Online sessions will be 75 minutes with 30 minutes of presentation and the rest of the time devoted to discussion. If we are able to move to in-person sessions, they will follow the normal format of 90 minutes, with 30 minutes presentation and time for discussion and lunch. 

Proposals may focus on a current teaching and learning project, a course-based teaching and learning strategy/practice/approach, a newly developed course, a classroom-related issue or challenge, a faculty or student community building or mentoring activity, etc. Consideration should be given to the impact and outcomes of the initiative. 

Please include in your proposal the following: a session title, an abstract (typically 75-100 words), presenter name(s), your availability and when you would like to present (month and day of the week).  

Please send your proposal(s) to thuy.huynh@utoronto.ca in Word or PDF format by Friday, July 17, 2020. Please note that only a certain number of proposals might be selected for 2020-21, bearing in mind proposed topics and scheduling concerns.

If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact Andrew P. Dicks, the CoP Academic Coordinator and Professor, Teaching Stream, Department of Chemistry and Thuy Huynh, the CoP Administrative Coordinator and Senior Project Coordinator, Teaching and Learning Office, Faculty of Arts & Science.

Past Sessions

Enhancing Student Academic Learning with Multi-Year Disciplinary Focused Learning Communities (Friday, March 27, 2020 12:30pm – 2pm)


Friday, March 27, 2020
12:30 pm – 2:00 pm
Sidney Smith Hall, Room 571

Tony Harris, Professor; Ashley Bruce, Professor; Keiko Yoshioka, Professor; and Jennifer Mitchell, Associate Professor
Department of Cell & Systems Biology

The undergraduate program in the Department of Cell & Systems Biology offers a number of formalized academic pathways that align with major areas of research in cell and molecular biology. Students pursuing these pathways are required to complete a subset of courses and participate in a 3-year learning community.  The presenters will discuss the learning communities goals, structure, administration, academic and professional development activities, as well as student learning experience.

Designing Writing Assignments for a General Audience (Wednesday, February 26, 2020 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm)

Wednesday, February 26, 2020
12:00 pm – 1:30 pm
Sidney Smith Hall, Room 571

Molly Metz, Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream, Department of Psychology

Concerns about “fake news” and the public’s familiarity (or lack thereof) with scientific findings have led to efforts to increase scientific literacy and the ways in which academics can communicate with the general public. However, many common writing assignments (literature reviews, research proposals, research manuscripts) do little to help develop writing skills outside of academia.  It would benefit our students to practice non-technical writing in a range of courses in a variety of genres.  In this session, Professor Molly Metz will share examples from her courses, ranging from class activities and test questions (“describe this concept so your 12-year old cousin would understand it”) to semester-long projects (class blog on relationship psychology, writing an article for The Atlantic, and TEDTalk-style presentations).  In addition, Molly will suggest strategies and resources to help develop these skills

The 5 C's: Mobilizing Principles of Youth Development to Support Learning in the Undergraduate Classroom

Thursday, February 6, 2020
12:00 pm – 1:30 pm
Sidney Smith Hall, Room 2098

Naomi Adiv, Assistant Professor, Department of Geography & Planning

Anxiety is on the rise among young people (Calling et. al., 2017), and is a major challenge to students in the university classroom.  Upon entering the undergraduate classroom, it becomes clear to many of us that we need to support our students in more-than-intellectual ways.  But how?  What kinds of principles can we use to bolster a sense of belonging and ease in the classroom that will pave the way for students to be open to intellectual growth?  In this session, we will examine principles of youth development (‘the Five Cs’ from Pittman et. al., 2002, among others) to analyze dynamics between students and instructors, dynamics among students, and life outside of the classroom.  We will discuss practices that can help students feel comfortable and excited to confront intellectual challenges without fear of shame or blame.

Calling, S, Midlöv, P, Johansson SE, Sundquist, K. (2017). Longitudinal trends in self-reported anxiety. Effects of age and birth cohort during 25 years. BMC Psychiatry. 2017 Apr 26;17(1):119

Hamilton, S, Hamilton, M, Pittman, K. (2004). Principles for Youth Development in S. Hamilton & MA Hamilton (Eds.) (2004), The Youth Development Handbook: Coming of Age in American Communities (pp.3-22). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, Inc.

Promoting Reflective Teaching Practice in Teaching Assistants

Thursday, January 23, 2020
12:00 pm – 1:30 pm
Sidney Smith Hall, Room 571

Michael Breeling and Zack Wolske, Teaching Postdoctoral Fellows, Department of Mathematics

Dr. Michael Breeling and Dr. Zack Wolske joined the Department of Mathematics this year as teaching postdoctoral fellows.  They are piloting a two-year program that aims to conduct in-class observation of all new TAs in the department (approx. 100), in order to provide them with formative feedback on their teaching.  Michael and Zack will share program goals and design, approaches and methods, as well as challenges that arose in the first iteration of the program.  They would like to receive advice from participants on how to measure the effectiveness and impact of their program.

Indigenous Teaching and Learning: Relevant and Respectful Reconciliation

Tuesday, December 10, 2019
12:00 pm – 1:30 pm
SS2014, Dean’s Conference Room

Brenda Wastasecoot, Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream, Centre for Indigenous Studies and Faculty of Arts & Science

Professor Brenda Wastasecoot is appointed to the Office of the Dean in the Faculty of Arts & Science and the Centre for Indigenous Studies.  In her role, Brenda supports departments and faculty to integrate Indigenous perspectives into courses.

In this session, Brenda will discuss Indigenous perspectives, knowledge and worldviews and ways to respectfully and thoughtfully integrate them into courses. She will walk participants through an approach that she uses to teach difficult Indigenous topics, such as Residential Schools, and address some commonly asked questions (noted below).

  • Should I be talking about the Residential Schools and other Indigenous topics if I am not Indigenous?
  • What happens if an Indigenous student is upset by a class? Should I defer my class and instead invite an Elder? When is it appropriate to invite Elders to my class and do they welcome opportunities to talk to students?
  • How do I support Indigenous students?

Applying a Flipped Learning Model to the Language Classroom

Tuesday, November 26, 2019
12:00 pm – 1:30 pm
SS2014, Dean’s Coference Room

Kyoungrok Ko, Associate Professor, Teaching Stream, Department of East Asian Studies

In the past few years, interest in inverted or flipped pedagogical models has proliferated in all educational domains. In this session, Professor Kyoungrok Ko will share a flipped classroom model that he applied to a large Korean language course in the Department of East Asian Studies. He will discuss how flipped learning models can help address various challenges that language classes often face, such as lack of teaching staff, limited class time, and various levels of exposure to the target language, as well as heterogeneous student population in fluency.

Teaching lessons learned through interdisciplinary peer mentoring and collaboration

Friday, October 4, 2019, 12 – 1:30pm
Sidney Smith Hall, 100 St. George Street, Room 2014 (Dean’s Office Conference Room)

Andrew Dicks, Professor, Teaching Stream and Associate Chair, Undergraduate, Dept. of Chemistry
Nathalie Moon, Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream, Dept. of Statistical Sciences
Nicole Charles, Assistant Professor, Women and Gender Studies Institute

In this session, Professors Andrew Dicks, Nathalie Moon and Nicole Charles will share some of the valuable lessons that they learned from being a part of a triad multi-disciplinary peer mentoring group. They will discuss some of the commonalities and unique differences in teaching approaches between the disciplines of Chemistry, Statistics and Women and Gender Studies; how to overcome potential disciplinary teaching assumptions and pitfalls; and ways to adapt teaching activities from other disciplines for your own classrooms.

A Course-Based TA Development Program

Friday, March 22, 2019, 12 – 1:30pm
Sidney Smith Hall, 100 St. George Street, Room 4043 (Psychology Lounge)

Sarah Mayes-Tang, Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream, Department of Mathematics

Teaching Assistants are a vital part of the undergraduate teaching within the Faculty of Arts & Science. Previous research has shown that required, sustained professional development programs play a role in developing instructors who are more student-focused, but financial constraints, time limitations, and lack of buy-in often prevent us from offering these to our Teaching Assistants. This session will discuss strategies to implement and sustain TA training within a course. Sarah Mayes-Tang will  discuss specific efforts that she implemented in a large first-year calculus course, with 10-12 sections and instructors and 40+ TAs per semester

Going hybrid: Using Quercus and Blackboard Collaborate to provide a simultaneous online lecture option for students in a large first year course

Thursday, February 7, 2019, 12 – 1:30pm
Sidney Smith Hall, 100 St. George Street, Room 2014, Dean’s Conference Room

Sarah Wakefield, Associate Professor, Department of Geography & Planning

Why is an instructor who can barely use her phone giving online lectures, and what happens when she does? Join Sarah Wakefield as she discusses her decision to create an online lecture section within her 350-person first-year class, and her experiences using the new Learning Management System (Quercus) and Bb Collaborate to offer that online experience.

Sarah will also demonstrate how she delivers the online lecture and manages questions from students. Faculty can join the session in-person or remotely – remote participants will become the “online” students. We will send registrants instructions for how to join the remote session two days in advance.

Undergraduate Research Assistant Leadership in Rigorous Research

Tuesday, January 22, 2019, 12 – 1:30pm
Sidney Smith Hall, 100 St. George Street, Room 2014, Dean’s Conference Room

Suzanne Wood, Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream, Department of Psychology

Undergraduate research experiences are an important experiential learning opportunity for our students. Abundant previous work has outlined the benefits of research experiences for undergraduates, but could there be parallel benefits to our research programs? This session will discuss strategies to foster undergraduate leadership on projects that are best positioned to produce rigorously-collected, publication-worthy data.


Thursday, December 6, 2018, 12 – 1:30pm
Sidney Smith Hall, 100 St. George Street, Room 2014, Dean’s Conference Room

William Ju, Associate Professor, Teaching Stream, Human Biology Program
Maria Papaconstantinou, Associate Professor, Teaching Stream, Human Biology Program
Alistair Dias, Associate Professor, Teaching Stream, Human Biology Program

One of the most powerful ways to engage critical thinking in our students is to create models where purposeful errors (hence MISTAKES) are used to identify the depth of their learning. We have previously used different methods to introduce purposeful errors as a way to stimulate critical thinking and will present our findings and discuss how best these can be implemented in the classroom within any discipline.

Helping students hit the mark: Designing effective assignments

Wednesday, November 21, 2018, 1 – 2:30pm
Sidney Smith Hall, Room 2098, History Conference Room

Andrea Williams, Associate Professor, Teaching Stream and WIT Coordinator

Assignments are key teaching tools that can help students develop research, critical thinking, technical, and communication skills and gain disciplinary knowledge. Simply put, good assignments promote student engagement and learning.

Participants are encouraged to bring to the session examples of their own assignments. The session will begin with a short presentation on the principles and strategies of effective assignment design that apply to all disciplines such as backwards design and aligning assignments with course objectives, how to scaffold assignments, and the importance of formative feedback. We will then discuss assignments that participants are using or in the process of developing and troubleshoot common problems and pitfalls of assignment design and instructions.

Introducing Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experiences into the Classroom and Laboratory

Thursday, November 1, 2018, 12 – 1:30pm
Sidney Smith Hall, 100 St. George Street, Room 571

Barb Morra, Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream, Department of Chemistry
Jessica D’eon, Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream, Department of Chemistry

The curriculum within many undergraduate Arts & Science courses provides students with fundamental concepts in the classroom and in most cases students also gain practical knowledge in the laboratory. While these skills are critical to the success of any prospective student, the curriculum can be reinforced through the introduction of early course-based undergraduate research experiences that bridge the gap between the classroom and research practices. These unique learning experiences allow students to gain valuable and transferable problem-solving and critical thinking skills early on in their education. This session will describe methods to implement research experiences into courses at all levels of undergraduate education. The presenters will also discuss the challenges they faced when incorporating research experiences into their own courses, along with approaches to alleviate these challenges.

Teaching Students Study Skills

Thursday, October 12, 2018 from 12-1:30pm
Lash Miller, Room 108

Andy Dicks and Kris Quinlan will share the support they provide to students to ensure they are considering both what they are learning as well as how they are learning the materials being taught.

Ethics Education Across Disciplines

Thursday, November 16, 2018 from 12-1:30pm
Sidney Smith Hall, Room 571

Charly Bank and Vicki Zhang will lead a session on ethics education across disciplines, and will use examples from their teaching to illustrate various pedagogical designs as well as opportunities and challenges of implementing ethics education in today’s academia.

Challenges and Perspectives on Inclusive Teaching

Friday, December 8, 2018 from 12:30-2:00pm
Sidney Smith Hall, Room 571

Tim Sayle will moderate a discussion with Heidi Bohaker, David Roberts, and guests from the Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation who will share their Arts & Science, as well as University-wide perspectives, on inclusive teaching. They will discuss the challenges they face when incorporating inclusive teaching practices into their classrooms and ways to mitigate these challenges.

Teaching Strategies to Complement Problem-Solving

Friday, February 2, 2018 from 12pm – 1:30pm
Sidney Smith Hall, Room 571

Discussion Leader: Kripa Freitas
Session Description:A challenge for instructors, especially those teaching math-intensive courses, is helping students move beyond viewing the material as a series of separate problems to be solved towards noticing the links between these problems. This takes the focus off the problem-solving procedure and onto how the field uses these methods to approach and answer questions. This shift builds critical thinking skills and a deeper, more transferable conceptual understanding. This session will describe easy to implement teaching strategies used to facilitate this in a large, required, second-year, math-based Economics course.

Experiential Learning: University of Toronto Outdoors Initiative

Thursday, February 8, 2018 from 12pm – 1:30pm
Sidney Smith Hall, Dean’s Conference Room, SS 2005

Discussion Leaders: Frances Garrett and Matt Price

Session Description: Frances and Matt have been experimenting with outdoor education, a form of experiential learning that research shows can offer transformative learning experiences that prepare students to take on the challenges of their lives (Hill & Brown, 2014; D’Amato & Krasny, 2011; Walter, 2013; Winter & Cotton, 2012).  They will discuss their teaching experiences in three courses where they incorporated this teaching model to develop students disciplinary competencies alongside other transferable skills. They will share how they addressed questions, such as:

  • How to design outdoor experiences that fits into a student’s semesterized program?
  • What training do instructors need?
  • How are outdoor experiences financed?
  • How can outdoor programs be diverse?