10:40-12:00 – Session 1

In Defense of Reason: Creating a Climate for Academic Freedom

Presenter: Sinc MacRae

Location: Dawson/Stewart Room (main floor by convention lobby)

In this session I will provide an overview and analysis of an underappreciated great book – Joseph Heath’s Enlightenment 2.0 – and consider the implications of his defense of reason for our responsibilities as academics and as a Faculty Association, especially as regards our duty to protect and promote academic freedom. In response to the disparaging of reason both outside and, perversely, within the university, I will explain and defend Heath’s claim that “the very possibility of progress in human culture and society depends upon the exercise of our rational faculties”.

Reading for our Disciplines

Presenters: April McGrath, Brett McCollum, Karen Manarin, Jon Mee, and Scott Murray

Location: Champion Room (second floor)

Many faculty claim students struggle with the reading they are asked to do in post-secondary contexts. The texts are often more difficult; the expected activities, and more importantly the epistemological assumptions underlying those activities, differ from earlier reading experiences (Shanahan and Shanahan, 2008). In post-secondary and professional contexts, disciplinary assumptions and goals constrain and shape the reading process, affecting both what is read and how. Wineburg (2001) says reading and thinking like a historian is “unnatural,” a label that fits other disciplines too. Shanahan and Shanahan (2008) link the reading patterns demonstrated by disciplinary experts to “the intellectual values of a discipline and the methods by which scholarship is created in each of the fields” (p. 50): the historian, the chemist, and the mathematician read texts differently. Moje, Stockdill, Kim and Kim (2011) note that even what counts as text differs between disciplines.

However, faculty members as disciplinary experts may not recognize how to promote the reading practices needed for success by novices within the discipline. They may have expert blind spots, where “educators with advanced subject-matter knowledge of a scholarly discipline tend to use the powerful organizing principles, formalisms, and methods of analysis that serve as the foundation of that discipline as guiding principles for their students’ conceptual development and instruction, rather than being guided by knowledge of the learning needs and developmental profiles of novices” (Nathan and Petrosino, 2003, p. 906). At the same time, students may be more focused on the assessment task rather than the learning that the assessment is supposed to demonstrate. In the process, reading difficult texts for understanding can be seen as a risky and unwise use of time (Roberts and Roberts, 2008; Pecorari, Shaw, Irvine, Malmström, and Mežek, 2012; Manarin, 2019). We want to learn more about how disciplinary experts and novices read texts as a first step towards supporting disciplinary reading in post-secondary classes through assessment design.

In Spring 2019, six faculty members from different disciplines began to plan a scholarship of teaching and learning project about the differences between novice and expert readers in different disciplines. We began by talking about our reading practices before interviewing each other’s students in Fall 2019. This panel will describe what we have learned through the process, focusing not only on what we learned about our students, but also what we learned about ourselves and our disciplinary reading practices. This panel will encourage participants to reflect on their own reading practices and consider how they can support their students’ reading practices.

Shifting My Teaching Frame: The Value of the Journey Metaphor, Neuroscience Insights, and Compassion to Transforming Teaching Practices

Presenter: Amanda Williams

Location: Walker Room (second floor)

This presentation outlines three major “aha moments” that helped me reenergize my teaching practices: 1) a SOTL research project which confirmed the complexity of the learning journey for students when dealing with challenging material (research methods), 2) a growing awareness of neuroscience research and what it means to be teaching a population whose brains are still in development; and 3) a quest to explore the power of becoming an empathetic educator. This presentation will be of interest to those wanting to consider the power of neuroscience to support the following: changes in pedagogical practices, shifts in classroom dynamics, and the capacity to embrace a more empathetic and compassionate mindset when aiming to promote transformational learning. The discussion invites dialogue and debate about both the value and challenges of being empathic and compassionate educator within a post-secondary setting.

The MRFA is the Place For You: Benefits of Association Membership

Presenters: Derrick Antson and Melanie Peacock

Location: Palliser Room (main floor by convention lobby)

As a member of the Mount Royal Faculty Association (MRFA) you have access to various resources (people, events, space, worker rights and financial support) that enable you to energize your teaching, service and (where applicable) scholarship. Join in this session to learn about key benefits that you may not be aware of and should be accessing as a member of the MRFA. As well, a summary of critical issues that your Association has addressed over the past academic year will be discussed, with an overview of strategic plans and key areas of focus going forward. Learn why membership in your Association is important and why planning for, and continuing to build, a strong Faculty Association is critical to your ongoing success as an educator within the MRU community.