Enhancing teaching and learning at Osgoode

Osgoode Hall Law School has established a formal institutional body dedicated to enhancing students’ educational experience.

The newly formed Standing Committee on Teaching and Learning (SCTL), under the chairmanship of Osgoode Professor Poonam Puri (right), has been given a mandate “to develop, promote and enhance best practices in legal education” within the educational program at Osgoode as part of the Plan for the Law School, 2006-2010. The SCTL will review policies, procedures and programs within the law school and is responsible for designing and implementing an annual Osgoode Course Design Institute (OCDI) for the law school’s faculty members.

The inaugural OCDI, which took place May 25-26 and was attended by about two-thirds of the full-time faculty along with a number of adjunct faculty, involved substantive discussion about teaching and learning but was also a collegial event in which Osgoode faculty spent two days working collaboratively and had fun in the process.

“It was an amazing opportunity for Osgoode colleagues to sit and share our best and worst teaching and learning experiences,” Puri said. “It was also a really enjoyable time. Everyone who participated had fun doing it.”

In addition to having both Osgoode and York facilitators, it helped that the external facilitators for the OCDI’s various sessions – Professor Kim Brooks of the University of British Columbia Faculty of Law, Professor Mark Weisberg of Queen’s University Faculty of Law (who is also the educational development faculty associate at Queen’s University Centre for Teaching and Learning), Professor Annie Rochette of Université du Québec à Montréal and Professor Maneesha Deckha of the University of Victoria Faculty of Law – are all actively engaged in law school pedagogy.

“They are four interesting people from law schools across Canada who could relate to our issues and help us discuss them,” said Puri. She noted that the OCDI encouraged reflection on such themes as designing “learner-centred” courses; evaluating students effectively; listening as a communication strategy; engaging and interacting with students in small and large classes; and evaluating courses.

The OCDI is modeled after the York Course Design Institute, led by the York Centre for the Support of Teaching. A successful Course Design Institute was held by CST last month and a second institute will be held June 28 and 29. CST offers programs every summer for new faculty teaching at York.