Bootcamp offers new approaches to teaching

More than 40 faculty and staff from across McMaster gathered recently for a hands-on workshop aimed to explore ways to integrate the Learning Portfolio into courses and other educational activities at McMaster.

Hosted by the McMaster Institute for Innovation and Excellence in Teaching and Learning (MIIETL), the workshop focused on incorporating reflection into course assignments and learning activities, looking at ways to help students integrate all of their learning experiences and on discussing different methods of assessment.

Tracy Penny Light, a visiting professor at MIIETL and Director of Women's Studies at the University of Waterloo, led the workshop.

Tracy Penny Light talks to a group of McMaster Faculty and staff about new approaches to teaching using the Learning Portfolio.

Tracy Penny Light talks to a group of McMaster Faculty and staff about new approaches to teaching using the Learning Portfolio.

“Our goal was to support staff and instructors by providing them with practical tools and resources they can use to meaningfully integrate the Learning Portfolio into educational activities.” says Penny Light, also author of Documenting Learning with ePortfolios. “It’s important for staff and faculty to first consider the outcomes they are hoping to achieve, then design educational activities based on what makes sense for each course, discipline or context. Ideally, it’s up to individual staff and instructors who know their course or program best to decide how the Learning Portfolio can be used to add value for students.”

Throughout the day, participants had the opportunity to brainstorm, share ideas and also connect with mentors- staff and instructors who have already used the Learning Portfolio in their courses or programs.

Kate Whalen has used the Learning Portfolio in the Sustainable Futures Program where students are asked to reflect on their experiential learning. Whalen served as a mentor at the workshop and says the Learning Portfolio gives instructors the opportunity to approach teaching and learning in new ways.

“With the Learning Portfolio you can think beyond a written reflection, instead it could be a concept map, or a video. The platform allows instructors to approach the work in a more creative way and make the learning experience more valuable for students.”

Since its launch in September of 2013, about 4000 McMaster students have used the Learning Portfolio. It has been introduced in 22 courses and there are plans to significantly expand the use of the portfolio in the 2014 academic year.

Arshad Ahmad, Associate-Vice-President, Teaching and Learning says MIIETL has the expertise and capacity to help instructors as they incorporate the Learning Portfolio into their courses.

“The Learning Portfolio can be a powerful tool to enhance student learning especially if students embrace it as 'their space'. In fact, faculty and staff are already imagining innovative ways to empower students with the versatility of this tool” says Ahmad. “MIIETL is an important partner supporting faculty and students as they undertake this work and explore new approaches to teaching and learning.”

MIIETL is also championing learning portfolios by encouraging faculty to experiment and support studies that feed into evidence based-practice.

MIIETL provides training to faculty, staff and students on an ongoing basis and can arrange individual training sessions. Faculty and staff can also arrange personalized consultation sessions to discuss their individual needs.