New Teaching Commons will open in September


Consultations with the York community about the role of a new teaching and learning support centre have yielded rich results.

In September 2011, the dynamic process to revision the University’s existing Centre for the Support of Teaching (CST) was launched by Sue Vail, York’s associate vice-president teaching & learning.

Sue VailSue Vail

“This initiative represents the commitment of the Office of the Vice-President Academic & Provost to advance the priorities of the University Academic Plan through providing enhanced support for teaching and learning at York,” said Vail. “Further contributing to this important focus was the creation of the associate vice-president portfolio on teaching and learning and the establishment of the Academic Innovation Fund, which supported 39 projects this year.

“These inspired projects have contributed significantly to building systems for eLearning, experiential education and the first-year student experience.”

Vail established a CST Revisioning Work Group to consult with the University community and develop a new model for teaching and learning support. During March and April, members of the work group met with students, faculty and staff who shared their ideas, concerns and advice about teaching and learning support at York University.

“A discussion framework document was circulated which set out a proposed name, vision, mission and areas of responsibility for a new teaching and learning support centre,” said Vail.

The Work Group responded to requests for consultation sessions from eight faculties, meeting with their teaching and learning committees or leadership teams. Consultations were also held with the Librarian Forum and graduate students. Input was sought from potential University partners, including the Career Centre, the University Libraries, the Learning Commons, Learning & Technology Services, the Writing Centre and Learning & Organizational Development.  Each of the partners welcomed the opportunity to work more closely with the Teaching Commons.

“The directions laid out in the framework document were well received, as was our proposed new name – the Teaching Commons,” said Vail. “The feedback was rich and thoughtful, and consistent with what was collected through the earlier green and white paper processes.”

“Colleagues felt strongly that the Teaching Commons must play a role in improving the culture of teaching and learning at York University,” she said, “and that this culture shift will require open and ongoing collaborations with faculties.”

Areas of needed support identified through the consultations include: utilizing eLearning and experiential education as learning tools; writing learning outcomes and undertaking curriculum mapping; developing innovative pedagogy and teaching strategies for large classes; and building course assessment approaches.

“The majority of those consulted strongly encouraged the Teaching Commons to work with the Faculty of Graduate Studies to develop a comprehensive system of support for tutorial and graduate assistants,” noted Celia Popovic, an educational developer in the Office of the Associate Vice-President Teaching & Learning  and a member of the Work Group. “Many emphasized the need to provide new faculty members with orientation sessions, as well as ongoing professional support throughout the year.”

Work on a new model for teaching and learning support will continue through the spring. Discussions regarding the resourcing needs of the Teaching Commons are taking place within the context of a strategic planning process.

In the interim, to ensure that faculty and graduate students are supported through this developmental period, two new educational developers will be recruited to work with Popovic for 2012-2013. They will contribute to laying the groundwork for the new Teaching Commons, which is set to open in September 2012.

A second round of consultations with the University community will take place this fall. “We welcome all feedback as we continue to shape the Teaching Commons. Suggestions may be sent to Celia Popovic or me by e-mail to,” said Vail.