Recap: 2019 Winter Institute

From December 10-12, the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology (CTLT) hosted the 2019 Winter Institute. This space offered UBC’s teaching and learning community an opportunity to network and come together to share, reflect, and enhance their teaching practices on student learning and experiences.

Participants explored education through a series of professional development workshops, based on UBC’s Strategic Plan: Shaping UBC’s Next Century, highlighting this year’s Winter Institute themes of sustainable, inclusive, and thriving communities.

The program included topics on student health and wellbeing, inclusive teaching, and sustainable development. With a total of seventeen unique and reflective sessions offered, one central message was clear – enriching teaching and learning communities must start with taking care of our human and environmental wellbeing.

This idea stuck with the Winter Institute coordinator, Judy Chan, throughout the development of the program. For her, to be a better guide for our students, it is essential to be “aware of the resources and support that are available for people who have a responsibility in teaching and learning.”

“Creating vibrant, sustainable environments that enhance wellbeing and excellence for people at UBC and beyond.” – (Shaping UBC’s Next Century, p. 37)

Throughout the week, like-minded participants took part in this core message. Several sessions supported the objective of exploring educational strategies that fosters wellbeing in the classroom, such as Growing Your Instructor Toolkit: Exploring Strategies for Teaching, Learning, and Wellbeing. Participants were invited to take part in new ideas and suggestions of cultivating wellbeing into their own teaching. “There is so much value in bringing these conversations together in an interdisciplinary space where community members can think through these important topics from different lenses,” reflects facilitator and educational developer, Jocelyn Micallef.

Micallef hopes that the Institute provides a space to “reflect on [one’s] own practice and learn from each other,” or “perhaps try something new.” Overall, Winter Institute attendees appreciated the active learning and open conversation approach that the sessions offered.

The CTLT offers various Institutes throughout the year, each with a different focus. Chan explains how the sessions in the Winter Institute focused on “the foundational [topics] that we should all know” and consider in our teaching and learning. These topics include those that are “emotionally charged, uncomfortable, and sensitive” but nevertheless – important.

Whether they attended survey design workshops on making courses more inclusive, or a session on offering specific techniques on how to frame conversations with students in distress, participants walked away with knowledge of support services and reflective conversations that intertwines with pedagogy.

Although we have not yet “included every possible scenario or personal experiences into these teaching practices,” to Chan, the Winter Institute can serve as a baseline for educators, where they can engage in generative conversations that resonates across all disciplines, so long as we try. And for those who have not yet been acquainted with the Institute, she hopes that others know that the knowledge shared is not limited to the Institute, but can be easily accessed across many units and departments that help attend to the diverse needs of students at UBC and the wider community.