Top Ten

March 1, 2019

OCUFA investigates misuse of teaching evaluations

The OCUFA Working Group on Student Questionnaires on Courses and Teaching (SQCT) has released a report that investigates the complaints of misuse and inappropriate interpretation of the scores on student evaluations of teaching. The report cites a growing body of evidence that indicates that SQCTs are impacted by non-teaching related factors, such as the time of the course or whether the course was required or optional, and that they may violate some human rights laws when used to evaluate performance. The report further notes that “In addition to incentivizing teaching strategies which do nothing to advance student learning, [SQCTs] can work to discourage classroom innovation or the study of challenging subjects.” OCUFA (Article) | OCUFA (report) (ON)

Family donation supports palliative research at Dal

A $4M donation from the family of Mersey Seafoods co-founder Janet Murphy will support palliative care research in Nova Scotia, fund a research chair at Dalhousie University, and establish a new Halifax Hospice. “We required a little bit of connecting the dots as to how a research chair can play out in making such a significant impact on the lives of real people, as opposed to the lives of academics,” said Lisa Murphy. “We didn't want it to be an exercise in navel-gazing.” Dal Dean of Medicine David Anderson explained that the donation will allow the QEII Health Sciences Centre and Dal to recruit a world-leading researcher that will “transform scientific thinking, clinical practice and health-care policy — locally, nationally and around the globe.” CBC (NS)

Whalen: How institutions should fight for the value of international education

“We are at a watershed moment for international education,” writes Brian Whalen. “The ideals and purposes of crossing national borders for educational advancement are being challenged by a form of nationalism that increasingly is dominating the US and global political landscapes.” Whalen argues that institutes of higher education need to respond to this growing nationalism by reaffirming and collectively advocating for the value of international education. The author recommends a number of actions to assist in this effort, which include educating students as well as those outside the institution in the debates about nationalism and the value of international engagement, as well as better documenting and sharing the outcomes of international education. Inside Higher Ed (International)

Coady Institute at StFX avoids layoffs

The head of theCoady Instituteat St Francis Xavier University is stepping down, and some staff are accepting severance packages or moving to another department, reports CBC. The moves ensure that no employees will be involuntarily laid-off. Mary Oxner, President of the StFX Association of University Teachers, told CBC that staff had been “under a cloud of uncertainty” after StFX announced that it would offer severance packages in January. According to CBC, the Institute was dealing with an annual deficit of $700K, and had recently lost $3.1M in core funding previously administered by Global Affairs Canada. CBC (NS)

Aschaiek: Academics coming around to Wikipedia

University libraries in Canada have started to integrate Wikipedia into their operations to make their own resources more accessible, writes Sharon Aschaiek. The author surveys how several institutions across the country have mobilized the online encyclopedia to raise their libraries’ profiles on topics as diverse as transgender activism (University of Victora), Indigenous knowledge (York University), LGBTQ+ issues (McGill University), and French-language content (Université du Québec à Montréal). The University of Toronto has hired a Wikipedian-in-residence, Aschaiek adds, while Université de Montréal, Western University, Dalhousie University, the University of Guelph, and the University of Prince Edward Island have participated in Wikipedia’s annual #1Lib1Ref event, which “challenges every librarian worldwide to make the site more reliable by adding one reference.” University Affairs (National)

Canadore hires third party to investigate discrimination, harassment  allegations

Canadore College has hired an outside investigator to look into allegations of discrimination and harassment on campus, reports CBC. While a specific claimant has started an Ontario Human Rights file against an individual at Canadore, that claimant’s lawyer, Gillian Hnatiw, suggested in a written statement that other former Canadore employees had made anonymous complaints as well. Hnatiw added that all of the claims include allegations of sexual misconduct, bullying, and psychological harassment. Canadore President George Burton said the college “has repeatedly asked the lawyer for the complainant to provide us details that will help us determine any further action, but as of yet details have not been provided.” CBC | Sudbury Star North Bay Nugget (ON)

UQAR flood research to help Bonaventure community predict environmental risks

The Université du Québec à Rimouski is conducting a $900K research project that will include flood-zone mapping and a risk analysis of the Bonaventure Regional County Municipality. The research will be led by the university’s Geomorphology and Fluvial Dynamics research laboratory, and the team will include UQAR research assistants and master’s students. UQAR Rector Jean-Pierre Ouellet explained that the project will help shed light on the flood zones of the municipality in order to enable the region to better predict and adapt to long-term environmental impacts. UQAR (QC)

Bubak reflects on teaching innovations

Arguing that institutions need to better implement “bottom-up” teacher training initiatives, Oldrich Bubak offers a case study to make his point—the Instructional Skills Workshop undertaken by the Faculty of Engineering at McMaster University. The author explains that the workshop follows a three-part template based on learning, practice, and reflection. Working in groups of four, participants review the principles of outcome-driven lesson planning, active learning approaches, and effective feedback strategies, after which they observe a model mini-lesson. According to Bubak, teacher training in this mold “holds the ultimate promise of better learning outcomes for those who have the future in their hands.” University Affairs (National)

Maritime Museum BC, UVic forge whale of a partnership

A partnership between the Maritime Museum of British Columbia and the University of Victoria-based Ocean Networks Canada is educating the public about oceans and technology. “Ocean Networks Canada partners with museums and public engagement organizations across the country to increase ocean literacy and share the power of ocean technology to help us better understand the ocean environment,” said Maia Hoeberechts, Associate Director of Ocean Networks. The Victoria Times Colonist adds that Ocean Networks monitors Canada’s coasts, delivering data in real-time for scientific research to help communities, governments, and industry make better decisions on ocean management. Victoria Times Colonist (BC)

Hundreds line up for UPEI tutoring program

A math tutoring project out of the University of Prince Edward Island has received overwhelming demand from the community, reports CBC. The project, which involves interactive videos to help learners visualize numerical concepts, can accommodate 50 students between Grades 4 and 8. UPEI Professor Tess Miller, who created the project, said she has a waiting list between 150 and 300 people. “We know there is a need, and we're trying to find something we can hopefully get up in the next year,” she said. CBC adds that UPEI is exploring options to set up a numeracy literacy program for the public, but the school does not currently have funding to do so. CBC (PEI)