Faculty Showcase

Spring Perspectives on Teaching Conference - May 9 & 10, 2022

To view full conference details, please visit here.

Faculty Showcase - May 10, 2022 2:30PM TO 3:30PM

Join us for a Q&A discussion with Western instructors to ask questions and learn about diverse assessment types, approaches to UDL in teaching and course design, and the intersection of the two. Be sure to review their resources and videos beforehand!

Anatomy -- Considerations for "lecturing" in an online, asynchronous, large class [4.5 min]

Danielle Brewer-Deluce (Kinesiology)
Katelyn Wood (Kinesiology)


Functional Human Gross Anatomy is a mandatory core course across FHS. Annually we enroll over 900 students, and given the nature of the subject, it has historically relied upon a combination of in-person lecture and laboratory sessions. With the onset of the pandemic, we rapidly moved everything online. While we all can appreciate that teaching and learning virtually comes with some inherent obstacles, working in a large, asynchronous environment created some unique challenges to navigate, but more importantly offered us opportunities to re-envision the way we wanted students to learn and interact with our content. In fact, this is now a blended course offering, with lectures remaining online, and labs reverting to in-person synchronous events. Below, we outline our major challenges and the ways in which we tackled them to support student success throughout the term, all while keeping Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles in mind.

Challenge 1 - Large Class Size:
With nearly 1000 people needing to access course content, we quickly realized that a synchronous lecture option wouldn't work technically it would be very challenging to reliably coordinate and support routine access for that many people.
Solution: we pivoted towards asynchronous modules instead of live lectures. Each week, we offered students 2-4 videos which we created using Articulate Storyline. Each video was 5-30min in length and contained a series of embedded formative quiz questions and included a full caption transcript.
Benefits: Videos were made available 1 week ahead of the course schedule and remained available throughout the term. So, students could tackle lecture material at times which made sense for them. With the module run time limited to ~1hr per week, students could pause and re-watch content as necessary. Further, the embedded questions prevented students from cruising through content and the provided transcripts and lecture slide pdfs promoted content accessibility in multiple ways.

Challenge 2 - Asynchronous Learning:
We taught students without ever seeing them in person. Finding ways to develop community, provide timely-support and content corrections, and ensure everyone remained on track became priorities.
Solution: Each week we offered students a checklist of all the course components they should be completing with matched learning objectives to reinforce what they should be taking away. We solicited feedback via online surveys, and then created weekly review videos to clarify the most challenging content. Lastly, an OWL forum chronicled lecture corrections publicly so students would know when an error had been revised.
Benefits: It was easy for students to track what content they were responsible for and see the most up-to-date information, and they could take agency over their learning. With the surveys, students had a low-risk way to provide feedback and get help anonymously.

While an effortful shift to make, we (and our students!) feel these changes enriched our classroom and supported student learning. Hopefully through sharing our approach to asynchronous content in our large course, others might feel inspired to do something similar through focusing on pedagogy first and using available resources to support that vision.

Redesigning undergraduate laboratories with Universal Design of Learning in mind [7.5 min]

Oana Birceanu (Physiology and Pharmacology)
Angela Beye (Physiology and Pharmacology)
Anita Woods (Physiology and Pharmacology)


Undergraduate laboratories are an incredible opportunity for students in science to develop skills relevant to the profession. However, these environments may appear to be high pressure, due to the tight deadlines, introduction to novel skills and concepts, work outside of the laboratory that involves data analysis and processing, and group work. Using the Physiology and Pharmacology 3rd year laboratory as an example, we will discuss how we implemented concepts of Universal Design of Learning (UDL) in managing student workload, testing and deliverables, in a year when we taught in person and from home due to the uncertainty of the pandemic. Our laboratory course gives the students an opportunity to develop experiments and test them using model organisms, cell lines, tissues and organs relevant to our field. Here, we will discuss how we provided varying means of engagement, both virtually and in person, that fostered and sustained student interest in the material, built persistence and fostered self regulation. By representing our concepts through a variety of modalities (on demand videos, virtual and in person lectures, virtual mini workshops, take-home tests), we ensured that we fostered student perception of information, clarity of language and comprehension of material. Our approach optimized student access to information through assistive technology, guided goal setting and clear deliverables for the students. Overall, we believe that the adjustments we have made to our laboratory course this year and those that we are proposing to make in future years will provide a welcoming, supportive and engaging environment for all students.

Assignment Scaffolding and Differentiating in the course A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies [7 min]

Rosa Cendros Araujo (Teacher Education Office)


The course 5457 - A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies, in the Teacher Education program, is a blended course oriented to help teacher candidates enhance the differentiation, collaborative learning, and construction of mobilization of knowledge as well to encourage innovation, intellectual curiosity, and creativity through the understanding of students as knowledge creators. Such a broad and complex learning goal requires an equally complex assessment, that not only accurately determines teacher candidates’ competencies, but that also serves as a demonstration of how differentiated assignments work, so they can apply them in their future practice.

The main component of evaluation in this course is a project that allows teacher candidates to choose from three options, fostering differentiation and allowing for multiple forms of engagement and expression. The first option involves re-designing a lesson plan applying all the important elements of a pedagogy of multiliteracies and using the “learning by design” approach. The second option involves creating an online learning space that applies the principles of multiliteracies. And the third option is creating a knowledge artifact, in any format of their choosing, that could help teachers implement a pedagogy of multiliteracies.

The project submission is scaffolded, that is, teacher candidates submit a proposal by mid-term, which receives both instructor and peer evaluation, and they submit their final product at the end of the term. Both stages are evaluated using single-point rubrics that adjust to the wide variety of formats that these assignments can take. This highly differentiated assignment has been regarded positively by teacher candidates. They point out how they can really make it relevant to their interests, their teachable subjects, and the context in which they plan to develop their careers.

In this short video, I will describe the assignment in more detail, including rubrics and examples of teacher candidates’ submissions. I will also share lessons learned and recommendations for instructors to try this approach.

Using Students’ Self Assessed Readiness to Build Professional Competencies [7 min]

Deanna Friesen (Education)


In Teacher Education, Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a key framework taught to Teacher Candidates to use in their own practice. Consequently, it is important that instructors model its use in their own courses. Academic Learning for Students with Exceptionalities is a Year 2 specialty course and has ~30 students enrolled in a face-to-face format. In Term 1 (6 weeks), teams of students are provided with teacher-created learning options to increase their competencies in creating inclusive environments, creating individual education plans, using UDL and Differentiated Instruction. Teams apply these principles to case studies enabling them to envision how they would plan for similar situations in their own practice. This approach fosters community in their team, emphasizes the relevance for their practice, and consequently recruits their interest and motivation. In Term 2 (6 weeks), teams complete a self-assessment about their competencies on topics previously covered in the course and on upcoming subject-specific content (e.g., teaching struggling readers). They identify their teamsmates perceived strengths and challenges as well as their objectives for growth. Each member of the team is assigned an upcoming topic to facilitate (e.g., reading, writing, math). Each facilitator refers to the team self-assessment to design a team-specific learning activity that will address that week's topic and continue to build core competencies (e.g., UDL) based on their teamates readiness. To provide sufficient scaffolding, each facilitator meets with the instructor and colleagues that are also facilitating that week to brainstorm and solidify lesson plans. In so doing, facilitators can target their plans to their colleagues needs and promote incremental growth. Facilitators are also provided with the opportunity to build their own competencies in delivering professional development workshops to their peers. In the video, I will share the team self-assessment, the lesson template and some examples of student output.

How to Assign 22 Textbooks for a Seminar Class and Survive! [7 min]

John Hatch (Visual Arts)


I was putting together a new third-year seminar course on design and was encountering issues with finding the right textbook. I had around 35 titles that I reviewed and found nothing that suited what I wanted to cover, let alone a combination of books. As this was a design course I figured I should try something new/different so I struck on the idea of using all of the texts, or almost all. I settled on 30 books. Each student adopted one text and would be responsible for presenting that text over the course of the term as well as writing about it. Each student presented on their text every two weeks, making a 5-7 minute presentation, and wrote a summary/analysis of the text every two weeks as well. The essay was a maximum of 7 pages and was cumulative at first like the presentations, but eventually, because of the 7-page max, the summary became more of a challenge where new material meant some had to be sacrificed to remain within the 7 pages. The first half of each class was dedicated to the presentation, the second half a discussion of them. Overall, this format was quite a success. Each student got to know their text very well, while exposing the rest of the class through the presentations. The quality of the presentations improved throughout the term, while the essays went through substantial edits, thus students had a chance to improve their writing skills.

Reflecting on the Assessment of Student Perceptions of Ungrading [8 min]

Katherine Lawless Centre for Global Studies (Huron)
Mandy Penney (Lead Educational Developer, Digital Pedagogies and Writing Across the Curriculum; Centre for Teaching and Learning; University of Alberta)


The compound effects of the ongoing pandemic and the pivots to and from conventional learning environments have disproportionately affected learners who sit at the intersections of equity-denied populations. Disabled students, racialized students, and students experiencing financial insecurity are at higher risk of being left behind in our current institutional structures and practices.

In an attempt to mitigate these issues, we developed an ungrading research project to evaluate whether and to what degree ungrading as an assessment practice flattens hierarchies between instructor and students, mitigates social inequities in the classroom, and deepens the learning experience for students. We are also interested in considering ungrading as a framework that encourages creative play and resists narratives that posit failure as a character trait rather than a neutral moment in the iterative learning experience. Our methodology includes classroom conversation and reflection, pre- and post-course surveys, focus groups/interviews, and individual reflections.

We implemented ungrading in two 3rd year courses: CGS 3522 Global Mobilities and CGS 3201 Think Global, Act Local. Both courses contained roughly 15 students and were offered as face-to-face learning experiences with an online component. At the end of each course, students co-determined their final grade in collaboration with the instructor; this grade was based on instructor and peer feedback, as well as critical reflection, throughout the course.

In this short video, we will reflect on our experiences to date with this work, as well as the opportunities and challenges we have encountered.

The Climate Change Challenge: An Assessment to Promote Student Engagement and Action [9 min]

Katrina Moser (Geography and Environment)
Beth Hundey (CTL and Geography and Environment)


Today students are faced with a growing number of complex global issues that can be overwhelming and depressing, including climate change, plastics in our environment, social inequities and injustices. Although it is critical that students have an understanding of these issues, it is equally important that we don’t take them to a dark place and leave them there. We need to help our students navigate the challenges we face as a society and show them how they can be involved in making change. To this end, we created an assessment, the Climate Change Challenge, to help students feel empowered to take action on climate change and lift them from a place of darkness to one of hope! The assessment involves a three week challenge where students first calculate their carbon footprint and then commit to taking an action that helps reduce their carbon footprint. Students use VoiceThread to document their journey and share what they learn during the challenge in response to a set of key questions. The Climate Change Challenge is experiential – it allows students to see the difference they can make when their classroom and online learning is applied to their daily lives and habits. VoiceThread allows students to be creative in the way they share what they have learned and connect with others. Although this assessment is focussed on climate change, and was developed for a Geography and Environment course, Geography 2133: Climate Change, which is a blended course with an enrollment of 150 students, it could be adapted for other courses concerned with other pressing issues. We will introduce the assessment through a short video that will include student exemplars (with permission).