$45,000 for better profs

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By Sarah Del Giallo
News Editor

The director of the Learning and Teaching Office at Ryerson has received $45, 000 in funding from the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO).

Professor Judy Britnell will be researching the Instructional Skills Workshop (ISW) at Ryerson, in collaboration with Universities of Windsor and Western Ontario, and Georgian College.

The money will be used to fund salaries of the four research assistants, and to pay for travel expenses and long distance phone bills between the four sites.

“We think it’s a program that can be helpful to anyone that is teaching at a university level,” said Britnell.

The ISW has been at Ryerson since December of 2008. It’s an intensive three-day program, totaling 24 hours in the workshop plus homework. Professors can take the program voluntarily to improve their instructional skills using models based on optimal teaching practices.

So far, 54 professors have taken the workshop, which runs about four times a year. The program, being so intensive, only has 40 places each year, all of which are difficult to work around professor’s schedules.

Britnell’s program won a competition that HEQCO hosted last summer. Of 36 submissions, HEQCO is funding 13 of them. Britnell’s submission was one of the 13.

“It clearly was one of the strongest proposals that we received,” said Richard Wiggers, a research director at HEQCO.

The ISW was originally for new professors, but when it began, there was a lot of interest from experienced professors as well. So far, Britnell hasn’t noticed a monopoly of professors from one faculty over another in the program.

The research will consist of studying volunteers before they take the program, and studying them again four months later to judge the effectiveness of the program.

The study does not look at how students are affected by professors who have taken the ISW.

Britnell said, “We’re doing it one step at a time. Our focus has always been on the teachers.”

While it’s currently in the early stages of completing an ethics review, the research will conclude in March 2013.

“I think is makes sense to have at least some supports for people who want to get a better handle on their teaching abilities,” said Britnell.

Photo: Chelsea Pottage

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