Instructors may stand alone in front of a class, but they aren’t alone as educators. The Educator Exchange series provides a space for the exchange of ideas, information, and knowledge between instructors every month.

“I think teaching can be enhanced when it is a community rather than just everybody working in silos,” says Janice Patterson, Associate Director at the Centre for Teaching and Learning, UTSC. “We wanted to allow teachers to be able to present their ideas.”

Patterson was heavily involved in developing the series twelve years ago and now oversees various aspects of it. The title has changed over the years – it was Lunchtime Lectures then Nutrition for Educators – but the goal has remained the same. “As an educator, your professional development and professional skills need some care and feeding,” Patterson says, and this series was aimed at ensuring that such care and feeding was available. The title has been most recently changed to “Educator Exchange” in order to emphasize the sharing of knowledge, inspiration, and ideas.

This year, Patterson is working with Dr. Zohreh Shahbazi, the Coordinator of the Math and Stats Learning Centre (MSLC), as well as Dr. David Chan, an Education Developer at the Centre for Teaching and Learning, to come up with new ideas for possible speakers. In the spring and early summer, they often hold a brainstorming session, compiling a master list of potential speakers before narrowing it down. Sometimes, they invite several speakers from different disciplines to share their insight on a particular teaching-related topic.

Speakers come in for about two hours, once or twice a month. It is a give-and-take approach, where attendees can take inspiration and ideas back to their own classrooms. Presentation topics and styles vary. Sometimes, speakers give a presentation then hold a discussion. Other times, it is a more interactive presentation involving attendees. “They’re all different, but a key feature is that we try to make sure there’s conversation,” Patterson says.

While the primary audience might be instructors, everyone is welcome to attend, particularly those with an interest in teaching. Frequent attendees include graduate students, staff from AccessAbility, Health and Wellness, and the Academic Advising and Career Centre.

Previous topics range from critical thinking and active learning strategies to improving student evaluations and teaching from antiracist pedagogy. A host of other topics have also been covered and are linked below.

Looking ahead to the 19/20 Educator Exchange year, the team is considering creating a series of workshops developed around a particular theme, instead of holding only one-time events on a topic. One stream might focus on curriculum development and take place over three to four sessions. A second stream might center around the scholarship of learning and teaching. They would still offer one-time events but are aiming to explore some topics in depth. Patterson also believes some high-interest topics might benefit from regular presentations, like writing multiple-choice test questions.

“That’s a topic that people are always interested in, so we want to make sure we’re offering that on a regular basis and that everyone has the opportunity to attend,” Patterson adds.

“We’ve got so many fantastic teachers at UTSC – people doing really innovative things, and we want to hear from them. We want to give them a chance to share their ideas and innovations with their colleagues.”

Past Educator Exchange programming:

Educator Exchange series:

By Elizabeth Chan

Photo by Ryan McGuire, from gratisography