A new trend in teaching and learning involves highly skilled postdoctoral scholars

For the first time at York University since the inception of the Teaching Commons, under the leadership of William Gage, associate vice-president Teaching & Learning, and Celia Popovic, director, Teaching Commons, a new initiative saw the hiring of postdoctoral visitors into the Teaching Commons for this academic year.

The move to bring postdoctoral scholars into educational development is part of a new and exciting global trend. It furthers in-depth research into innovative teaching and learning strategies and provides additional dedicated support to faculty members who are involved in research projects related to the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL).

“We are proud to have attracted top talent in these positions,” said Gage. “Our current postdoctoral visitors have strong academic credentials with expertise in Educational Development and backgrounds in both the Arts and the Sciences.  They will definitely add value to York’s efforts related to SoTL.”

Jerusha Lederman

The two postdoctoral visitors joining the Teaching Commons at York University are Jerusha Lederman (PhD ’15) and Alice Kim. Lederman is a graduate of York University and joined the Teaching Commons in September 2016, while Kim, a past postdoctoral Fellow at York University, will join the Teaching Commons in April 2017.

“Jerusha has a doctorate in Earth & Space Science and with her existing experience in both Physics Outreach and general Educational Development, she is an excellent complement to our existing team who include Educational Developers with expertise in Educational Technology, eLearning, and Experiential Education among other things,” said Popovic.

“Like Dr. Lederman, Dr. Kim has a sound Educational Development background.  She has a doctorate in Psychology and will be engaging in research on several projects both independently and as a member of the Teaching Commons. We look forward to welcoming her to the team,” said Popovic.

Since starting her role in the Teaching Commons, Lederman has created an online community for postdoctoral scholars who are working in advancing teaching and learning within Higher Education institutions. In this regard, last month with Popovic, and TC colleagues Mandy Frake-Mistak and Natasha May, Lederman attended the annual Educational Developers Caucus (EDC) meeting held at the University of Guelph. The conference, titled Rethinking Tradition, examined traditional methods of teaching and learning, re-evaluated them and proposed innovative new ways forward that would be beneficial to faculty and students.

“For me, what was particularly interesting in this conference apart from the focus on thinking outside the box in teaching and learning was the inclusion of postdoctoral visitors,” said Lederman. “Since I was aware that there was no formalized support community for this group, I created an online forum for discussion, networking and sharing of ideas and research initiatives.

“At the conference itself, I was delighted to have the opportunity to chair a session specifically about postdocs in teaching and learning,” added Lederman. “The session was successful in that there was a lot of open discussion between existing postdocs from across the country and a great deal of interest from teaching support centre staff across Canada in urging their institutions to host these positions.”

York University is positioning itself to be one of the leaders in promoting the hiring of postdoctoral visiting scholars. The initiative so far is proving to be beneficial to the University. Professor Mary-Helen Armour of the Division of Natural Sciences is working with Lederman on a large-scale research project involving the use of eBooks by York University undergraduate students. Lederman is also assisting Faculty of Health Professor Susan Murtha and Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies Professor Diane Woody with their long term long-term study of the first-year student experience.

“I am thoroughly enjoying all the work that I am engaged in and building relationships with faculty in their research and communicating and working with my [Teaching Commons] colleagues,” said Lederman. “I appreciate that in my position, I am allowed freedom to network openly with faculty, build relationships with them and provide the support that they need with high-quality deliverables. I know that there is a lot more that I can get involved in and am looking forward to doing so and adding real value to York’s SoTL research.”

Both Gage and Popovic are particularly pleased with the work being conducted through the postdoctoral visitor program at the Teaching Commons and hope the program will continue well into the future.

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