Alternative Teaching at Canadian Universities
Alternative teaching (in the sense of approaches deriving from John Dewey's
1916 book: Democracy and Education) is still relevant to higher education.
Developments since 1916 have
crystalized along themes of experiential education, problem-based education,
project-based education, inquiry-based inducation, active learning, and
democratic education. To see how these themes have manifested in Canadian
Universities, the following avenues are explored: 1) Canadian University
Organizations (specifically the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher
Education, the Canadian Society for the Study of Higher Education, and
the Higher Education Quality Coucil of Ontario); 2) Quest University (as an
institution specifically created to provide an alternative the standard
University education in Cananda); and 3) University Teaching Support
Centers in Canada (as organizations that provide a context/ language for general
attempts at improving teaching at universities). A list of key words and
phrases related to alternative teaching theory and practice is then used
to search the web sites associated with these organizations to see
what overlap there is between the `alternative teaching vocabulary'
and their organizational vocabulary. This investigation
demonstrates that alternative teaching methods are
definitely in evidence in the Canadian Higher Education
Section I: Introduction
The organization of education at modern universities has been described
as a system developed in the context of the industrial revolution and
the training needed to keep the factories running
(This book is not required / by Inge Bell DBW stack LB2322.B394 1991). With the collapse of the
factory workplace due to automation, another model for education becomes
necessary. One approach has been to try and anticipate the needs of the
automated workplace with its restrictions to what can be handled easily by
computers (e.g., e-learning), but, almost by definition, the automated
workplace has little need of human monitoring or enhancement by educated
Another, older, approach is to make the student a more independent learner,
who defines their own goals and works out paths to accomplish them.
It is this second alternative that will be the focus of this writing.
One source for this approach can be found in the writings of John Dewey.
In 1916 ( Democracy and
Education: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education), we have:
The last is interesting in that much of the literature on alternative education
has a decidely `non-capitalist' feel to it. While many would view this as
bringing politics into education where it need not be, in reality it is just
acknowledging the already heavily biased political positions inherent in
traditional teaching methods and offering some balance
(What Kind of Citizen? The Politics of Educating for Democracy,
by Joel Westheimer (University of Ottawa) and Joseph Kahne,
American Educational Research Journal,
2004 number 2 -- see also the 35 minute youtube video Joel Westheimer: Testing, 'Accountability', and the Threat to Canadian Democracy).
Henry Giroux (wikipedia) of McMaster University Global Television Network Chair in Communication Studies
Henry Giroux: Figures in Critical Pedagogy (in conversation with Joe L.
Also note Joe L Kincheloe (wikipedia) Canada Research Chair at the Faculty of Education, McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
- We thus reach a technical definition of education: It is that reconstruction or reorganization of experience which adds to the meaning of experience, and which increases ability to direct the course of subsequent experience. (1) The increment of meaning corresponds to the increased perception of the connections and continuities of the activities in which we are engaged. The activity begins in an impulsive form; that is, it is blind. It does not know what it is about; that is to say, what are its interactions with other activities. An activity which brings education or instruction with it makes one aware of some of the connections which had been imperceptible. ...
- (2) The other side of an educative experience is an added power of subsequent direction or control. To say that one knows what he is about, or can intend certain consequences, is to say, of course, that he can better anticipate what is going to happen; that he can, therefore, get ready or prepare in advance so as to secure beneficial consequences and avert undesirable ones.
- One may learn by doing something which he does not understand; even in the most intelligent action, we do much which we do not mean, because the largest portion of the connections of the act we consciously intend are not perceived or anticipated. But we learn only because after the act is performed we note results which we had not noted before. But much work in school consists in setting up rules by which pupils are to act of such a sort that even after pupils have acted, they are not led to see the connection between the result -- say the answer -- and the method pursued. So far as they are concerned, the whole thing is a trick and a kind of miracle.
- Routine action, action which is automatic, may increase skill to do a particular thing. In so far, it might be said to have an educative effect. But it does not lead to new perceptions of bearings and connections; it limits rather than widens the meaning-horizon. And since the environment changes and our way of acting has to be modified in order successfully to keep a balanced connection with things, an isolated uniform way of acting becomes disastrous at some critical moment. The vaunted "skill" turns out gross ineptitude.
- The conception of education as a social process and function has no definite meaning until we define the kind of society we have in mind.
Dewey is an author of some complexity, whose writings have been used as a
motivator for many different educational systems. One of these is
loosely called Experiential Education
( wikipedia entry). One journal that covers this topic is
JEE,The Journal of Experiential Education ( http://jee.sagepub.com/), whose editors are Pat Maher (Cape Breton University, CAN),
Philip Mullins (University of Northern British Columbia, CAN) and
Glyn Thomas (University of the Sunshine Coast, AUS). Much of the journal is
focussed on the ins and outs of going into the wilderness as an educational
experience, but some of the articles
that have appeared there are more generally relevant to
university education, including:
A recent definitional update can be found in:
Evolving Kolb: Experiential Education in the Age of Neuroscience by
Jeb Schenck and Jessie Cruickshank ( December 4, 2014). The Kolb model of experiential
education, due to David A. Kolb
( wikipedia entry),
sees learning as a cycle starting with `concrete experience' progressing to
`observation and reflection on that experience' from which one proceeds to the
`formation of abstract concepts based upon the reflection' followed by
`testing the new concepts'.
- The Complex Experience of Learning to Do Research, by
Kenneth Emo, Wendy Emo, Jung-Han Kimn, and Stephen Gent,
March 30, 2015. This reports on ``undergraduate college
students while they conducted independent, original research during an 8-week U.S.
National Science Foundation -- funded Research Experience for Undergraduates''.
- Appreciative Inquiry and Autonomy-Supportive
Classes in Business Education: A Semilongitudinal Study of
AI in the Classroom, by
Thomas A. Conklin and Nathan S. Hartman,
19 December 2013
- Experiential Learning in Occupational Therapy: Can It
Enhance Readiness for Clinical Practice?, by Lisa Jean Knecht-Sabres,
- Explicating Practicum Program Theory: A Case
Example in Human Ecology, by Kathryn M. M. Chandler and Deanna L. Williamson,
September 2013. ``This study explicated the theory underpinning the
Human Ecology Practicum Program offered in the Department of Human Ecology
at the University of Alberta. ''
- Cultural Speak: Culturally Relevant Pedagogy and
Experiential Learning in a Public Speaking Classroom, by
Janet Colvin and Nancy Tobler,
- Experiencing Philosophy: Engaging Students in Advanced Theory,
by Sean Blenkinsop and Chris Beeman, May 2012.
- Incorporating an Authentic Learning Strategy Into
Undergraduate Apparel and Merchandising Curriculum,
by Yoon Jin Ma and Hyun-Hwa Lee,
- Experiential Learning: Dissolving Classroom and Research Borders,
by Rhonda McClellan and Adrienne E. Hyle,
- Student-Centered Course Design: Empowering Students to Become
Self-Directed Learners, by Bryan J. Hains and Brittany Smith,
- An Environmental Pedagogy of Care: Emotion, Relationships, and
Experience in Higher Education Ethics Learning, by
Lissy Goralnik, Kelly F. Millenbah, Michael P. Nelson, and
- Are Dewey's Ideas Alive and Well in New Zealand Undergraduate
Education? Kiwi Case Studies of Inquiry-Based Learning, by
- Seeing the Big Picture: Experiential Education in
Tertiary Music Education, by Jane Southcott,
- Promoting Student-Centered Learning in Experiential Education,
by Cheryl A. Estes,
Includes the quote:
Our socialization causes us to see ourselves
as more student-centered than we actually are. That is, teacher-controlled
processing of experiential activities fits our worldview of
what teacher-student relationships should look like. Further, it is probable
that while experiential educators unintentionally fall into this habit
of assuming power over student learning, increased awareness of this
problem will promote their desire to engage in conversations directed at
increasing the use of student-centered facilitation practices
- Beyond Book Learning: Cultivating the Pedagogy of Experience
Through Field Trips, Lisa Marie Jakubowski (Brescia University College, CAN),
- Bringing Educational Relevancy to the First-Year College Experience
By Bearing Witness to Social Problems,
by Jonathan R. Peters and Donald E. Stearns,
September 2003. Includes the quote:
If students are
taught using the standard high school approach, and
they do not experience a major difference in the teaching
of higher education during their first semester of college,
they will tend to rely on the traditional approach to
learning they experienced prior to college.
- University Students' Perceptions of Cooperative Learning: Implications for
Administrators and Instructors, by
Maurice Phipps, Cindy Phipps, Susan Kask, and Scott Higgins,
- How Shall We ``Know?'' Epistemological Concerns in Research in
Experiential Education, by
Pete Allison and Eva Pomeroy,
Includes the quote:
Researchers who identify
the "Does it work?" question as the only research concern
in the field of experiential education undervalue
and underestimate its potential and the multiple applications
for which it can be used. Further, there are some
ironies in trying to create these "answers" to "prove" the
value of experiential education. If one of the aims of this
field is to help learners make their own meaning of the
world around them (that is, learn experientially), then
how can we "prove," in the traditional sense, that this is
happening? And, should this really be our focus anyway?
Warner (1984, p. 41) noted this irony when he eloquently
commented that, "It is paradoxical that an education
movement which places so much emphasis on
learning as a process focuses its research efforts on documenting
products." Warner's insightful comment highlights
the need for a different research paradigm!
- Mentoring at the edge: A faculty group fosters experiential teaching,
Alison Morrison-Shetlar and Kathleen Heinrich,
- "Nothing important to communicate": Some reflections on the irrelevance
of information technology, by
James M. Glover,
Related approaches to learning are Project-Based Learning
( wikipedia entry),
Problem-Based Learning ( wikipedia entry) that was developed at MacMaster University
Medical School CAN in the 1960s and has since been applied in a wide range of
subjects, Active Learning ( wikipedia entry), and Inquiry-based Learning
entry). One can also think of Service learning
( wikipedia entry)
as a variety of experiential education where
there is significant focus on the social meaningfulness of the experience
Another journal of interest is:
The Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-Based Learning (IJPBL) including
such articles as:
- Differ in Socio-Cognitive Processes? Some Comparisons Between Paper and Video Triggered PBL,
by Jingyan Lu and Lap Ki Chan,
2015 issue 2.
- Taking a Leap of Faith: Redefining Teaching and Learning in Higher Education Through Project-Based Learning,
by Jean S. Lee,
Jennifer Drake, and
Kathryn A. Moran,
2014 issue 2.
- Improving Problem-based Learning in Creative Communities Through Effective Group Evaluation,
by Richard E. West,
Greg S. Williams, and
David D. Williams,
2013 issue 2.
- Supporting Student Self-Regulated Learning in Problem- and Project-Based Learning,
by Mary C. English and
2013 issue 2.
- Framing Collaborative Behaviors: Listening and Speaking in Problem-based Learning,
by Louisa Remedios,
David Clarke, and
2008 issue 1.
- Goals and Strategies of a Problem-based Learning Facilitator,
by Cindy E. Hmelo-Silver and Howard S. Barrows,
2006 issue 1.
- Overview of Problem-based Learning: Definitions and Distinctions,
by John R. Savery,
2006 issue 1.
Another journal of interest is: Active Learning in Higher Education (ALHE) including such articles as:
- The role consumerism plays in student learning,
by Laura M Harrison and Laura Risler,
2015 issue 1. Which included the quote: educational quality is compromised
when students are understood as customers to be placated rather than learners to be challenged
- Summative co-assessment: A deep learning approach to
enhancing employability skills and attributes,
by Susan J Deeley,
2014 issue 1.
Which included the quote: Co-assessment requires the
student and teacher to reach a mutually agreed appropriate grade for the assignment through discussion
and negotiation which must be supported by evidence and reasoned argument.
- Peer review in higher education:
Student perceptions before
and after participation,
by Raoul A Mulder, Jon M Pearce, and Chi Baik,
2014 issue 2.
quote: In tertiary education, assessment and feedback have
predominately been seen as the exclusive role and responsibility of academic teaching staff (Nicol
and Macfarlane-Dick, 2006). This not only greatly limits the diversity of perspectives students are
exposed to but raises troubling questions about how students will develop the self-regulation skills
needed for life outside of university if formative assessment is left exclusively to teaching staff
- Enhancing self-directed learning through a content quiz group
by Natalie Warburton and Simone Volet,
2012 issue 1.
- Self-regulation and autonomy in problem- and project-based
by Candice Stefanou,
Jonathan D Stolk,
John C Chen,
Susan M Lord,
2013 issue 2.
- Intimidation in small learning groups: The roles of social comparison
concern, comfort, and individual characteristics in student academic outcomes,
by Marina Micari and Denise Drane,
2011 issue 3.
- Peer, professor and self-evaluation of class participation,
by Gina J. Ryan, Leisa L. Marshall, Kalen Porter, and Haomiao Jia,
2007 issue 1.
includes the quote: The literature suggests
that allowing the students to be involved with the creation of the evaluation
criteria may improve student understanding and acceptance of the
assigned grades (Dochy et al., 1999). However, our students were not able
to contribute to the development of the grading criteria because our institution
requires documentation of all grading criteria in the course syllabi
no later than the first day of class.
- Tete a tete -- Reading groups and peer learning,
by Sara-Jane Finlay and Guy Faulkner (U of Toronto, CAN),
2005 issue 1.
Socratic Arts is a
company whose product is curriculum design along these lines.
One of its projects for Carnegie Mellon University was described:
- When Carnegie Mellon University established a Silicon Valley Campus in 2002 it wanted a cutting edge curriculum that would enable students to acquire and practice the essential skills and knowledge that they would use upon graduation in the real world. They turned to Socratic Arts to design and develop six Master's degree programs using the Story-Centered Curriculum approach. Each program consists entirely of projects -- students work in teams, one project at a time, mentored by experts. Each project leads naturally to the next, and taken all together, they embody the story of life in this fictional world --the life of a software engineer or e-commerce consultant.
This fits into an experiencial education model focussed on the
professional schooling advocated by Donald Schon
( wikipedia entry).
In `Educating the reflective practitioner: [toward a new design for teaching and learning in the professions]'
EDU stack LC1059.S45 1987), he describes the practicum (pages 37 - 38):
He gives as examples of practicums: a master class in musical performance,
learning psychoanalytic practice, and learning counselling skills.
However, he is also focussed on the training of lawyers, doctors, and engineers
and has had significant impact on teacher education and the training of
- When a student enters a practicum, she is presented, explicitly or implicitly, with certain fundamental tasks. She must learn to recognize competent practice.
She must build an image of it, an appreciation of where she stands with respect
to it, and map a path by which she can get from where she is to where she
wants to be. She must come to terms with the claims implicit in the
praciticum: that a practice exists, worth learning, learnable by her, and
represented in its essential features by the practicum. She must learn
the ``practice of the practicum'' -- its tools, methods, projects, and
possibilities -- and assimilate to it her emerging image of how she can best learn what she wants to learn.
- The work of the practicum is accomplished by some combination of the
student's learning by doing, her interaction with coaches and fellow
students, and a more diffuse process of ``background learning''.
The issue of ``student-centered'' learning (see Estes article above JEE #13)
moves us in the direction of another set of educational methods:
( wikipedia entry),
and Sudbury Schools (
wikipedia entry). In the Sudbury model (quoting wikipedia):
Examples in Ontario at the pre-University level include
Alpha Alternative School (in Toronto),
Alpha II Alternative School (in Toronto), and Agate Private School (in London).
A related approach connected with Canadian Coalition
of Self-Directed Learning includes the Mary Ward Catholic Secondary School in
Scarborough and Westmount Secondary
School in Hamilton.
- De-emphasis of classes: There is no curriculum or set of required courses. Instead learner interest guides things, with students studying what they want to study. There are generally no classrooms, just rooms where people choose to congregate.
- Age mixing: students are not separated into age-groups of any kind and are allowed to mix freely, interacting with those younger and older than themselves; free age-mixing is emphasized as a powerful tool for learning and development in all ages.
- Autonomous democracy: parents have limited involvement or no involvement in the school administration; Sudbury schools are run by a democratic school meeting where the students and staff participate exclusively and equally. Such meetings are also the sole authority on hiring and firing of staff, unlike most other schools.
At the University, you see a version of this in voluntary groupings such
as Thesis Circles (
wikipedia entry) which can be viewed as a variation on
Communities of Practice ( wikipedia entry). Indeed, one might view developing the individual
to eventually continue learning in a community of practice
(as well as participate in self-directed teams ( wikipedia entry on high commitment management))
as being a goal
of the educational system.
The concept of `student-centered learning'
( wikipedia entry)
is popular in some circles. The following wikipedia quotes indicate that
it goes further than many who use the term actually go:
As a possible example of what this sort of thing might look like in a
Canadian University, we could consider the overview of
Biology 3224G, Special Topics in Biology: Education in Life Sciences (2015) by Tom Haffie. This overview contains the quote:
- Student-centered learning, also known as learner-centered education, broadly encompasses methods of teaching that shift the focus of instruction from the teacher to the student. In original usage, student-centered learning aims to develop learner autonomy and independence  by putting responsibility for the learning path in the hands of students. Student-centered instruction focuses on skills and practices that enable lifelong learning and independent problem-solving. Student-centered learning theory and practice are based on the constructivist learning theory that emphasizes the learner's critical role in constructing meaning from new information and prior experience.
- Student-centered learning puts students' interests first, acknowledging student voice as central to the learning experience. In a student-centered classroom, students choose what they will learn, how they will learn, and how they will assess their own learning.
- In contrast, student-centered learning requires students to be active, responsible participants in their own learning and with their own pace of learning.
- A further distinction from a teacher-centered classroom to that of a student-centered classroom is when the teacher acts as a facilitator, as opposed to instructor. In essence, the teacher’s goal in the learning process is to guide students into making new interpretations of the learning material, thereby 'experiencing' content, reaffirming Rogers' notion that "significant learning is acquired through doing".
- One of the most critical differences between student-centered learning and teacher-centered learning is in assessment. Student-centered learning typically involves more formative assessment and less summative assessment than teacher-centered learning. In student-centered learning, students participate in the evaluation of their learning. This means that students are involved in deciding how to demonstrate their learning. Developing assessment that supports learning and motivation is essential to the success of student-centered approaches.
- The revised European Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance, due to be approved by Ministers of European Higher Education in May 2015, includes a standard on Student Centred Learning which reads "Institutions should ensure that programmes are delivered in a way that encourages students to take an active role in creating the learning process, and that the assessment of students reflects this approach"
One can only wonder how good students will get at this sort of thing if they
only do it once toward the end of their schooling.
- Beginning with a blank Course Outline, we will invest the first series of classes into
collectively developing the interconnected Goals, Policies, Outcomes, Activities and
Assessments that we would like to include in our course. Therefore, very little detail
of the course structure will be available in advance. However, as a student in this
senior science essay course, you can expect to increase your disciplinary knowledge
of biology, think critically and creatively about issues in science education and
communicate your ideas in various media. Although we will meet in the highly
interactive and collaborative Western Active Learning Space (WALS), the course will
also feature significant self-directed and self-reflective components.
Also, a step in this direction is the notion of `differentiated evaluation'
(cf. How to Create a More Inclusive Learning Strategy
in Large Upper-year Undergraduate Courses:
the use of differentiated evaluation,
by Julie Gosselin (University of Ottawa),
Psychology Learning and Teaching,
2012 number 2). Julie Gosselin describes the implementation of this
- In my courses, students all complete a midterm and final examination, each covering half of the
course content. These are structured as a combination of multiple-choice questions (30% of the
exam) and short- to medium-length essay questions. In addition to these two examinations,
students are informed at the beginning of the semester that they can also choose to complete a
term project, such as participating in the university's experiential learning programme, or preparing
an oral presentation in a small group (e.g., a miniclass on a class-relevant topic). If students do not
elect to participate in DE, each exam counts for 45% each, and an additional 10% is devoted to class participation. For students who participate in DE, each exam would count for 30% of their final
mark, an additional 10% would still be devoted to class participation, and their term project would
be valued at 30%. Additionally, students are given the following guarantee: their term project will
only count towards their final mark if it is advantageous to them. This means that if it would be
more advantageous for them not to have their term project count towards their final grade, that
mark will not be included - effectively meaning that their final grade will be calculated in the same
manner as for students who did not participate in DE (see Appendix A). Projects are also graded
using a similar marking matrix (see Appendices B and C).
Having presented this background on `alternative teaching', let us consider
aspects of it in Canada's University system.
One way to approach this is to search for the occurance of various key words
or phrases on their web sites. The search terms (ST) chosen
can be found here.
Section II: Canadian University Teaching Organizations
Three Canadian University teaching organizations are explored in this
section for information relavent to alternative teaching styles: 1)
the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education; 2) the Canadian
Society for the Study of Higher Education; and 3) the Higher Education Quality
Council of Ontario.
Section IIA: Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education
The Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE)
has the web site http://www.stlhe.ca/.
It published The Canadian Journal for Scholarship of
Teaching and Learning
( CJSoTL), which is one way to
view what is going on in Canada. Relevant articles include:
- A Survey of Civic Engagement Education in Introductory Canadian Politics Courses, by
Stephanie Bell and
2015, issue 1.
Here a survey of 98 instructors of Political Science indicated that while
95% included civic engagement as a learning objective of their courses,
none required students to participate in such activities outside the
- Inquiry Learning: Instructor Perspectives, by
Susan Watt, and
Michelle M. Vine,
2011, issue 2. Discusses the tradition of inquiry-based learning
- Adjusting Curricular Design to ``CREATE'' a Culture of Self-Regulation,
by Rylan Egan,
2011, issue 2.
Keyword list search for this entry can be found
STLHE also sponsors the
Council of 3M National Teaching Fellows.
SoTL Canada is a special interest group (SIG) of the
Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education blog site
The Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (open access)
Section IIB: Canadian Society for the Study of Higher Education
The website for the Canadian Society for the Study of Higher Education (CSSHE)
is http://csshe-scees.ca/. They publish
the Canadian Journal of
CSSHE publishes the Canandian Journal of Higher Education.
These also hold regular conferenences.
2015 conference program.
- The First Cycle of Study: Teaching and Learning at Cross Purposes?,
by Real Fillion,
2015 issue 1.
- Teaching Creativity Across Disciplines at Ontario Universities,
by Elizabeth Marquis and Jeremy A. Henderson,
2015 issue 1.
Section IIC: Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario
The website for the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO)
- Cooperation and Competition in Large Classrooms,
by Daniel Brian Krupp, Queen's University; Joseph Kim, McMaster University; Peter Taylor, Queen's University; and Pat Barclay, University of Guelph,
October 21, 2014.
- Taking Stock: Research on Teaching and Learning in Higher Education,
edited by Julia Christensen Hughes, and Joy Mighty,
March 22, 2010.
(for purchase from McGill-Queen's University Press).
- Evaluating Critical Thinking and Problem Solving in Large Classes: Model Eliciting Activities for Critical Thinking Development,
by James Kaupp, Brian Frank and Ann Chen, Queen's University,
April 29, 2014.
- Differentiated Evaluation: An Inclusive Evaluation Strategy Aimed at Promoting Student Engagement and Student Learning in Undergraduate Classrooms,
by Julie Gosselin and Annie Gagne, University of Ottawa,
July 3, 2014.
- Building a Sense of Community in Large-Sized Classes via Peer- and Self-Assessment,
by Dwayne E. Pare, Lisa-Marie Collimore, Steve Joordens, Carol Rolheiser, Robert Brym and Garfield Gini-Newman, University of Toronto,
April 14, 2015
- Teaching Scientific Inquiry: Inquiry-based training for biology graduate teaching assistants improves undergraduate learning outcomes,
by P. W. Hughes, Carleton University,
February 11, 2014.
- The Peer Helper Program at the University of Guelph: Analysis of Skills Objectives,
Serge Desmarais, Frederick Evers, Olivia Hazelden, Laurie Schnarr and Brenda Whiteside, University of Guelph,
March 21, 2013.
Keyword list search for this entry can be found
Section IIIa: Quest University: A Focussed Example
Most alternative teaching at the University level is based on
the educational decisions of particular faculty within a larger
institution with other goals.
However, Quest University (QU) (in Squamish, British
Columbia) was essentially created to provide an alternative to
more traditional University education practices.
- wikipedia entry
- Quest University Canada is a private non-profit liberal arts and
sciences university in Squamish, British Columbia, Canada.
- The university was the brainchild of David Strangway, OC, FRSC,
who, after his retirement as president of the University of
British Columbia, had begun to explore the possibility of
creating a four-year, residential, liberal arts institution in
Canada. Strangway wanted to create a university "where the
student-teacher ratio was better than the Canadian national
average of 30 to one, and where students could get a general
arts and sciences curriculum that focused not on specific
disciplines, but rather how those disciplines operated within
the world at large."
- Quest's approach to academics is rooted in the liberal arts
tradition, emphasizing breadth as well as depth. Quest offers
one degree: a Bachelor of Arts and Sciences. During the first
half of the program, students are required to take 16
"Foundation" courses, which are distributed among five broad
disciplinary areas: the Humanities, the Life Sciences, the
Physical Sciences, Mathematics, and the Social Sciences
- The second half of the program is devoted to a "Concentration"
program. With the help of a faculty advisor, all students design
their own program of concentration studies according to an
interdisciplinary question or topic of research. Each student's
Individual Concentration Program consists of four principal
- a statement of the Question;
- a course plan;
- a list of related readings; and
- a Keystone project.
- Courses at Quest are limited to a maximum of 20 students.
Students at Quest study on the block plan, taking one course at
a time, each for 3.5 weeks. There are four blocks per semester;
full-time students take eight blocks per year.
- home page
Engaging Students in Learning - David Helfand (youtube 5:38 minutes)
Designing a university for the new millennium: David Helfand at TEDxWestVancouverED (youtube 19 minutes)
no departments, faculty offices assigned by lottery, no faculty ranks -- 40
every classroom is a seminar room with oval table and 21 chairs (no lecture halls).
Multitasking doesn't work, so classes are taken in 3.5 week
blocks serially rather
than parallel across a semester.
Leading Voices in Higher Education: David Helfand Lecture (53:09 youtube at Dartmouth) 3 minutes in starts to deviate from TEDTalk above. does it make
sense to talk about the efficiency of education or is it more like playing
a Beethoven sonata which takes the same amount of time for the past 200 years.
setting up first not-for-profit private independent liberal-arts and sciences
in Canada was a retirement project of David Strangway (previously president
of UBC). multitasking doesn't work. of 40 tutors, 3 are math tutors.
brought students at Columbia from a Fall course back in the following
Fall and gave them a test on the material that had been taught and they scored
statistically the same as the new students starting out in the course.
At Quest 16 core courses in first two years: an intro Cornerstone course,
3 life science courses,
2 physical science courses, a math course, 3 humanties courses, 3 social
science courses, an art course and 2 interdisciplinary courses. In their
second year, each develops a question that they will pursue with a faculty
mentor and touchstone works related to the question for the remainder of their
degree. Third and fourth year courses comprise: 6-12 focussed on question;
3-8 electives, 2 non-native language, 1-4 experiential learning, 1 capstone.
their pursuits. Take out of classroom as much as possible (multi-day field
trips possible). Student body 430, half Canadian, third US, rest from 34
other countries. If you fail a course, you weren't working; if you fail
on a task in a course, you were working a probably learned something.
Cats on ladders and first-person learning experiences: Ryan Derby-Talbot at TEDxSquamish (16 minutes) Math teacher at Quest talking about teaching Math
What is Quest? (11:45 youtube Quest University promo)
Quest University youtube channel
- The Challenge of Establishing World-class Universities By Jamil Salmi
World Bank, 2009, p. 51 quote:
- In some cases, philanthropists have even taken the initiative
to launch a new institution with aspirations of excellence as
demonstrated by the examples of Olin College of Engineering in
Massachusetts or Quest University Canada in British Columbia.
Quest Tuition costs: (same for Canadian and non-Canadian Students -- 8 blocks)
tution: $31,000; Single room: $6,500; Board $5150; Books $350; Student
Association fee $200. All students required to have a laptop or tablet.
- UWO Tuition costs: (international students -- 8 months)
Tuition: 23,100 -- 23,800 (29,200 for Engineering and Nursing);
Residence & Meal Plan (10,400 -- 13,470); Books $2000 -- $3000.
[overall, they tell international students to expect between $38,460 and
$48,630 in costs first year]
- UWO Tuition costs: (Canadian students -- 8 months)
Tuition: approximately 7,300 (12,636 for Engineering);
Residence & Meal Plan ($9000 -- 12000); Books approximately $1,500.
[Illustrates the extent of government supplement funding -- difference in
books cost puzzling at UWO, Quest of course relies less on `textbooks'.]
Learing Outcomes for Quest University
Learning Commons at Quest University support for peer tutoring
Experiential learning blocks usually in support of student's individual
sample concentration program This one was based on question: What is the best
way to educate a child?
Information for Prospective Faculty
Quest Course Calendar (has detail on courses more typical of our course
outlines rather than our course calendar)
- Advising As Co-Learning: Lessons From Quest University Canada, by
E. Gorham, Quest University, INTED2013 Proceedings;
7th International Technology, Education and Development Conference,
- Quest University Canada, the country's first non-profit,
independent liberal arts and sciences university, opened its
doors to students in September 2007. Among its goals have been
to engage undergraduate students across the curriculum and to
help change the way Canadians think about university
education. In five short years it has achieved the first of
these goals and the university has been ranked number one in
North America in five important categories in the 2010 and 2011
National Surveys of Student Engagement (NSSE). Two reasons for
its success lie in integrating academic advising into the
curriculum of the university and in helping students assume
control of their own education in the advising process. A third
is its focus on developmental mentoring each student is advised
relevant to his or her stage in an academic career and this
assistance continues throughout the four years at Quest. After
an intensive two-year program of required courses in the
liberal arts, students create their own interdisciplinary
majors. Consequently a central part of the educational process
at Quest is helping students choose a major and craft an
individual educational plan that meets their needs as active
- In this paper and presentation I would like to explain Quest's
overall program, but specifically the role of academic advising
in fostering undergraduate student engagement in their own
learning. Academic advising succeeds at Quest because students
benefit from both in and out of class mentoring and the
comprehensive advising program encourages students to think
about their own studies in a systematic and critical way. It
goes beyond advising-as-teaching, as Quest faculty members
advise students as co-learners. The advising-as-co-learning
model encourages faculty to prioritize academic advising in
their pedagogical strategies, aids both parties in
understanding the strengths and limitations of the advising
process, and helps students develop a mature relationship with
the faculty member. This, in turn, energizes students in their
studies and eases their transition into a career and young
- Democratic (Higher) Education: Inculcating Citizenship Through
Teaching At The University, by Eric Gorham, The Centennial Review,
Vol. 37, No. 3 (FALL 1993), pp. 605-627
- Service-Learning and Political Knowledge,
by Eric Gorham,
Journal of Political Science Education,
2005 issue 3.
Keyword list search for this entry can be found
Section IIIb: Renaissance College, University of New Brunswick: A Focussed Example
- home page
- 2006 STLHE Blizzard Award Project quote:
- At Renaissance College (RC), collaboration is a way of life. The development of
outcomes-based learning at the whole program level at RC has involved intense
collaboration. Faculty and staff together have crafted the overall structure. Often working
closely with students, we have 1) selected, described and periodically modified the learning
outcomes that guide our work; 2) developed program-level themes (e.g., the poverty, wealth,
and health themes that have run through College courses for the last three years,
respectively); 3) designed individual courses; and 4) monitored the success of and redesigned
the program. This collaboration has occurred during individual teaching team meetings, in biweekly
staff/faculty meetings, during the College-wide planning retreats held three times per
year, and in special groupings of faculty (e.g., the six ``keepers of outcomes'' who serve as inhouse
consultants and repositories of information about the College learning outcomes).
- One of many examples of collaborative design and delivery is the Learning Portfolio
process used to assess student growth and competency in the learning outcomes. The
portfolio has grown from something that was to be produced in third year without course
credit to a series of three courses that progressively grow in expectations in each year of the
program. The Portfolio Team has worked with other faculty members to ensure they provide
explicit opportunities for students to collect evidence of and to begin interpreting their
growth in the learning outcomes in ways that feed into portfolio creation. All RC faculty
members assess graduating students' portfolios and attend public presentations at which
external assessors provide feedback to students on their portfolios. The College planning
retreat held each spring evaluates each year's portfolio work and proposes modifications and
improvements. In this way, design, delivery, monitoring, and redesign are collaboratively
carried out and lead to substantial improvements over time.
- Recent demands for increased accountability and transparency have spurred the move
toward outcomes-based learning, making it a growing trend in post-secondary education.
Outcomes-based learning supports student diversity, clarifies program deliverables, and
encourages an integrated and seamless curriculum. Renaissance College's (RC) interdisciplinary
leadership program provides a liberal education as defined in six learning outcomes: Effective
Citizenship, Multi-Literacy, Problem-Solving, Personal Well-Being, Social Interaction, and
Knowing Self and Others. Student growth and competency in the learning outcomes is assessed
using both in-course and program-wide approaches such as portfolios, in-class assessments, cocurricular
and extra-curricular activities, and external assessors.
Section IV: University Teaching Support Centers in Canada
University Teaching Support Centers can be thought of as establishing
a default set of ideas on teaching for faculty at a particular University.
Thus, one way to look for alternative teaching approaches is to see
if they are part of the idea collection presented by the Support Centers.
For a list of teaching support centers in Canada,
Section V: Conclusions
Writing in 1987, Paul Guglielmino et al noted:
(in Self-directed learning readiness and performance in the workplace,
by Paul J. Guglielmino, Lucy M. Guglielmino, Huey B. Long,
1987 issue 3).
- Deep and rapid changes in a ``high-tech'' society exceed the ability of formal educational systems to respond to new learning needs. Therefore, the future of post secondary education will increasingly include emphases on self-directed learning skills and activities. Despite recognition of such a trend, knowledge of self-directed learning and self-directed learners is in its infancy.
However, as noted by Premkumar et al:
(in Does Medical Training Promote or Deter Self Directed
Learning? A Longitudinal Mixed Methods Study,
by Kalyani Premkumar, Punam Pahwa, Ankona Banerjee,
Kellen Baptiste, Hitesh Bhatt, and Hyun J. Lim,
Academic Medicine 2013 issue 11).
Similar results have also been reported in Engineering:
- Purpose: The School of Medicine, University of Saskatchewan curriculum promotes self-direction as one of its learning philosophies. The authors sought to identify changes in self-directed learning (SDL) readiness during training.
- Method: Guglielmino's SDL Readiness Scale (SDLRS) was administered to five student cohorts (N = 375) at admission and the end of every year of training, 2006 to 2010. Scores were analyzed using repeated-measurement analysis. A focus group and interviews captured students' and instructors' perceptions of self-direction.
- Conclusions: The initial scores indicate high self-direction. The drop in scores one year after admission, and the lack of change with increased training, show that the current educational interventions may require reexamination and alteration to ones that promote SDL. ...
(in J. Stolk, W. Franklin,
R. Martello, K. Koehler, K. C. Chen, and R. Herter,
IEEE Frontiers of Education Conference (FIE),
2014). Stolk et al used the Metacognitive Awareness
Inventory (MAI) whereas Premkumar et al used
Guglielmino's SDL Readiness Scale (SDLRS) -- both measures have been
widely used and analyzed.
- Despite the recognized importance of self-directed and lifelong learning for today's graduates, the processes by which learners become self-directed, and the roles that pedagogy and learning climate play in these processes, remain unclear. To better understand students' growth as lifelong learners, we conducted a two-year pilot study of engineering students at two institutions. The study approach was based on established motivation theory, as well as social-cognitive frameworks for self-regulated learning.
- Quantitative (sic) results revealed that students at both institutions reported autonomous motivations and an emphasis on learning over grades - encouraging indicators of lifelong learning. Students showed positive beliefs about learning, with both groups endorsing constructive over reproducible knowledge, dynamic over fixed learner ability, social over individual learning, and relatively high comfort with ambiguity.
- Unfortunately, the quantitative portion of the study did not reveal many significant temporal changes in students' self-directed learning development. In this paper, we explore possible reasons for the lack of significant quantitative temporal shifts, from both theoretical and methodological perspectives. We examine questions of survey construct relevance, time scales for change, situational versus contextual level data, and group size. Insights gained from this pilot-scale study may serve to inform future investigations of lifelong learning.
Of course, what you conclude from such measures depends on the assumptions
you go in with, for example, Murphy et al report:
(in Medical student knowledge regarding radiology before and
after a radiological anatomy module: implications for vertical
integration and self-directed learning,
Kevin P. Murphy, Lee Crush, Eoin O'Malley,
Fergus E. Daly, Colm M. P. O'Tuathaigh,
Owen J. O'Connor, John F. Cryan, and Michael M. Maher,
2014 issue 5). These authors took an interesting alternative
approach to measuring self-directed learning
To examine the impact that anatomy-focused radiology teaching has on non-examined knowledge regarding radiation safety and radiology as a specialty.
First-year undergraduate medical students completed surveys prior to and after undertaking the first-year anatomy programme that incorporates radiological anatomy. Students were asked opinions on preferred learning methodology and tested on understanding of radiology as a specialty and radiation safety.
SDL is not favoured as an anatomy teaching method. Exposure of students to a radiological anatomy module delivered by senior clinical radiologists improved basic knowledge regarding ionising radiation use, but there was no improvement in knowledge regarding radiation exposure relative per modality. A possible explanation is that students recall knowledge imparted in didactic lectures but do little reading around the subject when the content is not examined.
- For this purpose, we designed a student survey to test
student awareness of extra-curricular non-taught knowledge
of radiological anatomy and other elements of clinical radiology
- SDL is also heavily promoted both
in the anatomy syllabus and other modules. In the anatomy
and radiological anatomy module, SDL resources are promoted
via book lists, reference books, and departmental and
online e-learning resources.
While such results might be an indication to some to abandon this approach,
to others it merely recalls the Grooks of Piet Hein ( wikiquote entry):
prove their worth
by hitting back.
In this age where things that are easy to do are quickly being automated
(cf. Digital diploma mills: the automation of higher education, by David F. Noble (York University), Science as Culture, 1998 issue 3),
it is only the things that we don't know how to do that are worth doing
On the other hand, referring to
Opportunity and Challenge Profile: Search for the President for Quest University, we find that
measuring critical thinking
based on the CLA (College Learning Assessment), their entering students fall
in the 48th percentile, but their exiting students fall in the 96 percentile
(a quarter of which attained the 99.5 percentile). So, at least in an integrated
environment, it is possible for education to make a difference on some parameters of interest.
Appendix A: Ontario Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities Postsecondary Education Partners' Gateway
Taking this same approach to the Ontario Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities Postsecondary Education Partners' Gateway where the provincial strategic
mandate agreements are kept, turns up the following results.
Keyword list search for this entry can be found
On a separate but related note, the Ontario Qualifications Framework sets the following
levels regarding autonomous learning:
- Certificate of Apprenticeship: ability to manage their own professional development
- Certificate of Qualification:
- Certificate III: ability to manage their own professional development
- Diploma I: ability to manage their own professional development
- Diploma II: ability to manage their own professional development
- Advanced Diploma: ability to manage their own professional development
- Post-Diploma Certificate: ability to manage their own professional development
- Baccalaureate/Bachelor's Degree: ability to identify and address their own learning needs in changing circumstances and to select an appropriate program of further study.
- Baccalaureate/Bachelor's Degree: Honours: ability to manage their own learning in changing circumstances both within and outside the discipline and to select and appropriate program of study.
- Masters Degree: intellectual independence required for continuing professional development
- Doctoral Degree: intellectual independence required for continuing professional development
Appendix B: Methodology links
- topic model (wikipedia entry)
- discourse analysis (wikipedia entry)
critical discourse analysis (wikipedia entry)
Foucaudian discourse analysis (wikipedia entry)
- content analysis (wikipedia entry)
The Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning
Klaus Krippendorff (
1967, An Examination of Content Analysis: A Proposal for a Framework and an Information Calculus for Message Analytic Situations, Ph.D. Dissertation, Urbana: University of Illinois, 400 pp
- scholar google search for Klaus Krippendorff
Reliability in content analysis
K Krippendorff - Human Communication Research, 2004
Klaus Krippendorff papers in U of Penn Scholarly Commons
Validity in Content Analysis
Klaus Krippendorf, 1-1-1980
Peeling an Onion: The Lexicographer's Experience
of Manual Sense-Tagging,
by Ramesh Krishnamurthy, and Diane Nicholls,
Computers and the Humanities 34: 85 - 97, 2000.
google scholar papers citing Peeling an Onion ...
- To annotate more accurately or to annotate more,
Rodney D. Nielsen, and
LAW IV '10 Proceedings of the Fourth Linguistic Annotation Workshop,
Pages 64-72 Abstract: ``The common accepted wisdom is that blind double annotation followed by adjudication of disagreements is necessary to create training and test corpora that result in the best possible performance. We provide evidence that this is unlikely to be the case. Rather, the greatest value for your annotation dollar lies in single annotating more data.''
Content analysis: What are they talking about?,
Jan-Willem Strijbos, Rob L. Martens, Frans J. Prins, Wim M.G. Jochems,
Computers & Education,
Volume 46, Issue 1, January 2006, Pages 29 - 48
A purposive approach to content analysis: Designing analytical frameworks
Philippa Gerbic and Elizabeth Stacey,
The Internet and Higher Education,
Volume 8, Issue 1, 1st Quarter 2005, Pages 45 - 59
A Practical Introduction to Content Analysis youtube 52 minutes, text:
- Dr. Catherine Corrigall-Brown, Jan 23, 2013 at Western University: "A Practical Introduction to Content Analysis." The presentation outlined what content analysis is, discussing how contents are coded, and illustrated types of analyses that can be done with the technique. Dr. Corrigall-Brown also presented a few examples of studies done with content analysis. Slides for this presentation are online at the RDC website.
- The Statistics and Data Series is a partnership between the Centre for Population, Aging and Health and the Research Data Centre. This interdisciplinary series promotes the enhancement of skills in statistical techniques and use of quantitative data for empirical and interdisciplinary research. More information at http://rdc.uwo.ca
Coding Part 1: Alan Bryman's 4 Stages of qualitative analysis
playlists of Research Methods in the Social Sciences)
- Doing Pedagogical Research in Engineering
George Brown and Sarah Edmunds, 2011, Engineering Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (engCETL) Loughborough University, UK
Writing for a Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Journal – Ken N. Meadows
Posted on October 27, 2009 by kmeadow2