Workshops & seminars

"Building the students we want: teaching critical thinking with self-study, group challenges, and immediate feedback."
Dr. Tamara Kelly (York)

Friday, October 28, 2016
2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Dr. Tamara Kelly


This event is free



Rafik Naccache


Richard J. Renaud Science Complex
7141 Sherbrooke W.
Room SP.S110



Substantial evidence suggests lecturing results in students who are less interested and knowledgeable about science than when they began the course. To counter this, over the past 10 years, my colleagues and I have modified our courses such that we do considerably less “telling” in classes, and we have redefined the professor’s role as a facilitator of learning. With the wealth of information available online and in textbooks, we ask students to come to class prepared and complete a pre-class reading quiz. This preparation primes them for in-class learning and frees up valuable class time to spend on more difficult concepts and maximize time spent with their instructors, who are experts in the discipline.  My talk will focus on our use of student pre-class preparation, and the feedback it provides, and collaborative learning strategies to drive student conceptual understanding and critical thinking. In-class, we use Peer Instruction with clickers providing students with the benefits of collaborative learning.  These activities provide students with practice in constructing their own knowledge for a more lasting impact and provides both them and the instructor with immediate and valuable feedback on student understanding. Recently, we adopted two-stage exams as an effective collaborative learning tool that provides rapid feedback while maintaining personal accountability. Here students write the test independently and then immediately after, write the same or similar test in small groups. Two-stage exams turn tests into unique learning opportunities and capitalize on the natural tendency for students to want to discuss their exam immediately after writing it. This approach for exams is also reported to improve students' performance on subsequent individual tests (Gilley & Clarkston, 2014). We have used the two-stage approach in a large (260-500 students) genetics course, not only for tests, but also for tutorials of up to 48 students. In this seminar, I’ll introduce research and facilitate a discussion of things we can do to make our time more enjoyable and productive and our classrooms more effective at building young scientists. 

Tamara Kelly is an Associate Lecturer and Undergraduate Program Director in the Department of Biology at York University in Toronto, Ontario. She received her PhD in Human Genetics from McGill University, and then was a postdoctoral Science Teaching and Learning Fellow with the Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative at the University of British Columbia. In 2008, she started a teaching-focussed position at York University where she teaches large classes (~500 students) of first-year Biology (Evolution, Ecology, & Biodiversity), second-year Genetics, and a smaller fourth year course on Reproduction.  Tamara is a co-founding member of the Ontario Consortium of Undergraduate Biology Educators (oCUBE), a community of practice dedicated to sharing best practices in teaching and learning. She is also the project lead for a new first year Integrated Sciences program in which students are introduced to fundamental concepts in Math, Physics, Chemistry, and Biology in an integrated and team-based manner. Her interests extend from how writing improves conceptual knowledge, creating more active collaborative classrooms, integrating authentic assessment practices, and how to help faculty make small changes that have a big impact on their teaching and learning.  With Dr. Tanya Noel, she co-authored “Teaching for Effective Learning: An Instructor’s Guide” to accompany Biology: Exploring the Diversity of Life (1st, 2nd, and 3rd Canadian edition for Nelson Education), a guide that is now the standard for Nelson’s instructor resources. 

She is the guest of Dr. Cerrie Rogers

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