By Elaine Smith
York University’s Model for Engaged Teaching (MET) will take centre stage during an upcoming presentation by educational developers from the Teaching Commons (TC) at the International Society for Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Conference in November.
Geneviève Maheux-Pelletier, director of TC, and Mandy Frake-Mistak, a TC educational developer, will present preliminary findings from the qualitative research they are conducting into MET’s impact at York. They are currently conducting focus groups with faculty to obtain feedback about the model and how it shapes an instructor’s practice in the context of their own teaching and learning experience, disciplinary tradition and prior exposure, as well as whether it is used at York for activities such as operationalizing “excellent” teaching, helping faculty articulate their practice, and mapping out professional growth related to teaching and learning.
“Our job at TC is to think deeply about teaching and learning and look at ways our York community of instructors can think about teaching in much broader strokes than just through their own individual classroom lens,” said Maheux-Pelletier, who co-chaired the Sub-Committee on Research and Innovation in Teaching and Learning that produced York’s Model for Engaged Teaching in 2019 (updated in 2021). “The model looks at what informs teaching, and considers four dimensions:
- an instructor’s classroom practice;
- sharing practice;
- systematic, intentional use of evidence in teaching; and
- formal research: the scholarship of teaching and learning.
The diagram of the model adopted and adapted by York shows flexibility and an interplay between the dimensions that remind faculty that tasks may be more than one thing rather than neatly categorized. It also shows the interplay between tasks and, says Maheux-Pelletier, “opens up perspectives and opportunities to see teaching in a richer way.
“It gives people language and anchors their practice differently and in an aspirational fashion; their practice may develop over time.”
Frake-Mistak noted that the MET is the starting point for “changing the perception of what it means to be a teacher.”
She noted that it is a more robust practice than many people realize. Instructors tend to downplay all the tasks that they take for granted, such as building relationships and creating an inclusive classroom environment.
“We want to shift the language we use and the perception of teaching,” said Frake-Mistak. “There’s so much that teachers do that can be rendered invisible in an institution of this size.”
Added Maheux-Pelletier, “The MET helps instructors grow over time with intentionality.”
The preliminary findings of their research indicate that the model is helpful in defining concepts such as teaching excellence from a broader perspective than just the classroom, because it takes into account myriad activities, such as reflecting on teaching, developing a curriculum and writing a review or meta-analysis for a journal.
“When we presented the model itself at last year’s conference, people grabbed onto it as a productive way of thinking about teaching,” said Maheux-Pelletier. “They seemed to find it useful.”
Frake-Mistak expressed hope that the preliminary data will be only the beginning of a broader study.
“There are more boundaries around discussing teaching and learning than around research and we’d love to tear them down,” she said.
“Ultimately, from a professional standpoint, teaching is a scholarly practice and we need to recognize the power and significance it brings along with it, as well as the responsibility.”
Maheux-Pelletier noted that the team at TC is involved in the scholarship of teaching and learning in addition to the work they do to disseminate evidence-based information through workshops, seminars and courses.
“We’re actually a group of scholars who specialize in teaching and learning,” she said. “Yes, we are service providers and our work is influenced both by the literature and by our own research.”