Teaching Commons explores novel professional development approach

diverse group of women around conference table

By Elaine Smith

In its ongoing effort to remain at the forefront of pedagogy, York University’s Teaching Commons (TC) is testing a novel approach to in-person professional development workshops that allows for a more relaxing, enjoyable and informative experience.

On March 27, TC will host Teaching & Learning Day, which will offer a series of workshops exploring some of the leading subjects in pedagogy – including artificial intelligence (AI) and experiential education.

The sessions share no common theme and will look at – among other things – how educators can create teaching strategies to support students in becoming informed about generative AI, how to help students benefit from opportunities for critical reflection while engaging in experiential education activities, and how well-being of both students and instructors can be integrated into teaching experiences.

What TC is hoping to achieve with the initiative is a morning of in-person professional development experiences that are more informal than might be the norm. In particular, the aim is to have Teaching & Learning Day not only advance understanding and discussions about pedagogy but to also facilitate conversations and connections among its attendees.

“The workshops are being facilitated by our educational developers, but the wisdom sharing among participants is where a lot of the deeper learning can happen,” said Mandy Frake-Mistak, interim director of the Teaching Commons.

Promoting those opportunities for inter-colleague conversation and learning is a major reason TC wanted to host its professional workshops all at once as a series.

“It’s often tough for people to find time and space in their day for workshops, and if they’re working off campus, they may not want to commute for a 1.5-hour workshop,” said Frake-Mistak. “If we hold a series at once, it allows people to stay for one or stay for all of them.”

Matthew Dunleavy, the educational developer who first proposed the event, says York has always been a commuter campus where people come and go. By bringing people together in person, he hopes they’ll have the opportunity to connect with colleagues and have unexpected conversations with unfamiliar people.

“I’m a big proponent of all the things that happen in liminal spaces around formal offerings,” Dunleavy said. “Here, conversations can bleed into the hallways, just because people are together for a longer event. In spaces for transition, conversations happen and new ideas might emerge or cross-pollination might result.”

The workshops will take place in the Victor Phillip Dahdaleh Building, and their titles and details are as follows:

For more information about the Teaching Commons and its initiatives, visit their website.