Concordia is developing a vision for the future of teaching and learning
This is the fourth in a series of articles profiling the different working groups that make up Future Concordia. Want to know how you can contribute? Visit the project’s Get involved page for more information.
When Concordia pivoted to remote learning in March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic inadvertently accelerated the university’s attention to accessibility and flexibility in the classroom.
More than ever before, faculty became acutely aware of the importance of accessible course design when preparing their classroom materials. As such, the university focused on the centrality of the student experience to guide its support for faculty members’ transition to remote learning.
Fast forward two years and Concordia is looking at its experiences during the pandemic to help articulate a vision for teaching and learning for the next five, 10 and 15 years. What did the university discover? How do students learn? How do we reflect the diversity of Concordia’s student body in the university’s teaching practices?
These are just a sample of the questions that the Future of Teaching and Learning working group is considering. They’re leading a reflection on how to strengthen and invest in teaching and learning approaches, technologies and environments. The group is one of six that make up Future Concordia.
“Coming out of the pandemic, we want to plan what Concordia’s future looks like and what resources are needed to make that vision a reality,” says Sandra Gabriele, vice-provost of innovation in teaching and learning.
“The past two years really opened our eyes to new possibilities in teaching. But they also served as reminders of the magic of conversation and knowledge-building that takes place in a classroom.”
Gabriele is a member of the leadership team made up of representatives from the Advisory Committee on Teaching and Learning (ACTL) that is overseeing the approach to building a strategic vision.
The ACTL membership includes associate deans from all four academic faculties and undergraduate and graduate students, as well as representatives from Concordia Library, Instructional and Information Technology Services, eConcordia, Concordia Continuing Education and the student services sector.
During the pandemic, Gabriele notes how the ACTL served as a sounding board to test whether decisions were rigorous and if they would meet the needs of learners.
“I cannot overstate how important it has been to be in regular conversation with the members of the ACTL,” she says. “Now that we are moving into our planning stages, the leadership team will begin making sense of the information it receives from the university community.”
Taking place now until March 23, the sessions take participants through a series of questions to gather rapid responses. Facilitators then collect the group’s input through a visual collaboration tool and give participants the chance to upvote ideas to help prioritize feedback and insights.
“These conversations enable us to actually listen to students, faculty and librarians of all origins and all disciplines expressing themselves about the future of teaching and learning at Concordia,” says Philippe Caignon, associate dean of student academic services in the Faculty of Arts and Science and member of the ACTL leadership team.
“In the end, we will be able to collect and connect their concerns, ideas and hopes in order to implement integrated, coherent and concrete solutions that will benefit us all.”
Once the guided conversations have concluded, a draft report will be made available for community members to provide further comments and considerations. This phase of the project will run from the spring until the fall. The hope is to have a plan ready by June 2023.
Multiple ways of knowing
For Gabriele and the ACTL, the strategic vision for the future of teaching and learning needs to centre on the student experience and speak to Concordia’s values as an institution.
Once that vision is established, the group will then set out a plan and several goals for the university, as well as for each of Concordia’s faculties.
“Because teaching and learning is deeply connected to the academic disciplines, any plan of this stature has to make space for multiple ways of knowing and teaching. A centralized plan cannot accomplish that. While we will have university-wide objectives, the faculties will also articulate their ambitions,” Gabriele explains.
With many public health restrictions loosening in Montreal over the coming weeks, Gabriele notes that the transition out of the pandemic has reiterated just how special the on-campus experience is for both students and faculty.
“Teaching is a shared project of knowledge-making,” she says. “At its best, the university transforms the whole person by exposing them to different ways of seeing the world, new experiences and people, new knowledge and, sometimes, new values.”