The Seminar

When I started teaching, this is what I knew about teaching: Nothing. Impressive, huh?

Fortunately, University Teaching Services puts on great teaching seminars throughout the year. These seminars are typically presented by my peers: other instructors at the UofA. They have helped immeasurably with my teaching--from structuring a course, to incorporating technology, to creating better exams.

The last seminar I went to a few weeks ago, however, was off-campus, and was sponsored by Nelson Education--a textbook publisher. Why would they want to improve teaching? Of course, they're motivated by profit. They were actually promoting a new concept called Nelson Education Testing Advantage, or NETA. They've hired an educational expert in testing and exam construction to help revamp the multiple-choice questions that are provided to instructors with textbooks. The seminar was a gentle marketing event which allowed Nelson to promote their textbooks. I say, "gentle" because it was not a hard sell. Rather, they flew in the expert from Brock University to tell us (about 75 college and university instructors from the Edmonton area) how to improve our own multiple-choice questions. Attending a lecture like this, presented by a renowned expert, is pure gold.

First, I got a lot of great information, which I'll use over the summer to revamp the multiple-choice questions I've written for use in my courses. That means rewriting some (most?) of about 500 questions. It could take a while. So I'm not just going to be sitting out on a patio with a cold drink all summer--no, I've got a huge list of things to do before classes start for me again in September. In addition to revamping my m/c questions, I also have to read two newly updated textbooks and modify my lectures to reflect changes in the content. I've also got a big digital "pile" of research papers that I haven't had time to read, because I've been teaching for the past 12 months in a row. I'm also a bit of a bookaholic, so I've got a pile of those to read.

The other great thing about attending a seminar is that I'm on the other side of the lectern, sitting in a classroom, listening to an instructor, and thinking about things that enhance (or detract from) the classroom experience. I am also instantly turned back into a student, a learner, and I realize that learning never stops.

For those of you who are graduating, the university experience is over--and you're now facing the Real World. Others are gearing up for more classes in Summer term. Some of you are working, and won't be coming back to campus until the fall. But for all of us, learning will never stop.

Why aren't know.


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