Perspectives on mandatory Indigenous content and courses

As many will know, Mount Royal’s Indigenous Strategic Plan includes a recommendation that the university establish completion of 3 credits of Indigenous content coursework as a graduation requirement. Earlier this week, our Academic Indigenization Advisory Committee (AIAC – a university-wide faculty committee) discussed this recommendation – the pros, the cons, the opportunities, the challenges.  To inform the discussion, we’ve shared with AIAC the following social media posts from three Indigenous Studies scholars at three different Canadian universities. In the spirit of reuse and recycle, I share them here for your interest:

Grit – a construct worth considering in higher education?

You may be familiar with Angela Duckworth (University of Pennsylvania psychologist) and her work on “grit.” Duckworth describes grit as a fusion of passion, perseverance, tenacity and resilience that can be cultivated regardless of IQ or circumstance. Duckworth’s research (described in her recent book) suggests that outstanding achievement – whether in school, work, business or sport – is less a function of talent than it is of grit. This recent essay by Daniel Porterfield, president of Franklin and Marshall College, explores potential implications of grit research for post-secondary education. Should our admissions processes consider grit? Can our curricula and co-curricula intentionally cultivate grit? What is the relationship between grit and educational outcomes in higher education?

Is there a SoTL project lurking here?

International Education in Canada, 2016

Having recently attended the annual conference of the Canadian Bureau of International Education, I thought I would share a link to this  CBIE infographic which provides a nice snapshot of International Education in Canada.  A few highlights:

  • the number of international students studying in Canada increased by 92% between 2008 and 2015
  • 34% of international students studying in Canada are from China
  • top 3 reasons international students choose Canada: quality of education; reputation as a tolerant and non-discriminatory society; reputation as a safe country
  • 2.3% of Canadian university students went abroad in 2014-15
  • top 3 destinations for outbound Canadian students: France, UK, USA
  • top 3 barriers to study abroad for CDN students: cost, delayed graduation, credit recognition concerns

More at the above website. Food for thought as we begin work on MRU’s internationalization strategy.


Trigger warnings and safe spaces

Hi everyone – Apologies for the lengthy delay between posts – we’ve definitely had a busy early Fall! Here’s something that may be of interest as we enter into another semester. The recent “red hat” incident at MRU, tied to the US election, called to mind for me an article I read a few weeks back in the Atlantic entitled “The Coddling of the American Mind.” In this article, the authors critique current emphases on trigger warnings, microaggressions and safe spaces in post-secondary education, arguing that they “prepare (students) poorly for professional life, which often demands intellectual engagement with people and ideas one might find uncongenial or wrong.” I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on this. And if anyone has a paper/reference that presents another perspective on this matter, please feel free to share. Thanks!

“Small Changes in Teaching” series

Earlier this year, the Chronicle of Higher Education ran a nice series of articles on the theme of small changes in teaching that can make a difference in terms of student learning and engagement. The series was authored by James Lang, professor of English and Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at Assumption College in Worcester, Mass. The five articles in the series are as follows:
–the minutes before class
–the first 5 minutes of class
–making connections
–the last 5 minutes of class
–giving them a say
If this sounds at all interesting, you may also want to know that Dr. Lang’s new book Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons From the Science of Learning, was published in March 2016.   Enjoy – comments welcome:)

“Whither Liberal Education?”

For centuries, universities have wrestled with the tension between vocationalism on one hand and the liberal arts tradition on the other. This tension continues today, and is perhaps more prominent than ever. Here, Dr. Harvey Weingarten – president of the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario, and former president of the University of Calgary – provides an overview of liberal arts education in Canada. In his talk, Weingarten touches on definitions of liberal arts, enrollment trends across Canada, government funding and “the jobs narrative”, the liberal arts and employability, and measuring the outcomes of a liberal arts education. He concludes by stating that “we should be unhesitating and unapologetic about the importance and value of a liberal education for students today; it is more important than ever.” Enjoy – comments welcome:)

Class Participation Grades – What about the Introverts?

Found an interesting little piece in the most recent issue of University Affairs on participation grades. The piece was written by Emma Tranter, a fourth-year journalism student at Carleton. It raises some interesting questions about the practice of allocating grades for participation in the post-secondary classroom. Does this practice discriminate against students who are introverts? What constitutes “participation” – what does it look like, or what could it look like? Why is this practice as prevalent as it is? What outcomes are trying to cultivate through participation grades? Should there be an upper limit to the weighting faculty members attach to such grades?  Food for thought.  Comments welcome:)


Hi everyone – Welcome to the blog site of the Associate Vice-President, Teaching & Learning at Mount Royal University. Here I will post timely bits of information from the world of higher ed that connect in some way to teaching and learning here at MRU. Enjoy!