Universal Design, In-class review, & Digital Posters: The 2016 SFU Teaching & Learning Symposium

Had an awesome day on Wednesday at the SFU Symposium for Teaching and Learning.  I wasn’t able to attend the whole day, but I enjoyed what I got to see!

Thomas Tobin‘ discussion on Universal Design for Learning got me thinking.  I quite appreciated his differentiation between accessibility (for people with identified difficulties) versus access (for all).  From a practical side of things, it just makes sense to design your course for broader access, so that you spend more of your time on more of your students (rather than 80% of your time on a small group of students).

I also really appreciated the principles behind UDL, and tips for implementation:

(cross-posted from my twitter feed so as not to plagiarize myself!)


Some excellent principles, and practical tips:


Plus, let’s be real here, the man’s awesome mustache must be the envy of magicians everywhere.  Even just for that, not even including his excellent work and presentation, he definitely deserves to be the cover picture on this post. 🙂

From the conversations in the sessions, I felt connected to the community of educators here at SFU, and it was directly (and comfortingly!) similar to how I felt as part of the STLF community.  So many different experiences, all leading to diverse contributions – fantastic.

Workshop on effective in-class review

I was fortunate to run a workshop with Kathleen Fitzpatrick, and we had a packed room of over 25 people!  Not bad for a workshop ‘competing’ with some other excellent contenders that I would’ve liked to attend myself.

We discussed Effective In-Class Review, and focussed on 2-stage reviews.  Thanks Jane Maxwell for sharing your slides from a similar workshop.

Both Kathleen and myself will be running 2-stage reviews (and possibly 2-stage exams) in our big classes at SFU this summer; please do contact us if you’d like to come see them in action!  You’d be more than welcome.

Poster session

Later in the afternoon, the ‘digital poster’ session was also really interesting.  I presented on the jargon problem that Lisa and Carl and myself have written about.  Following myself, Jan Maronate and Chris Jeschelnik had some good foundations for how to best implement team-taught courses.  Weekly meetings and assigned mentor/mentee pairs were good ideas; and they identified that TAs need support to develop TA-to-TA collaborations, so I’m going to try that out with my BISC101 TAs this summer.

The final poster got me really excited for applications to my own class.  I’m quite interested to try out PARTI, which was Andrew Hawryshkewich‘s project.  PARTI is a Canvas app that he’s developed that allows students to draw pictures, take photos of them on their phone, and have the instructor and TAs access them easily — in-class!  Could be awesome for getting students to draw graphs, figures, concept maps, connections — or even schematics on a photocopied worksheet.  Also, I tend to just love the say way design people think: “with any new system, interface and interaction are concerns” – so he’s looking for collaborators.  I’m hoping to try PARTI out!  (link for later: ah0.ca/parti)

The ‘digital poster presentation’ format was a little strange – it was more like a 10-minute talk with one slide, than a poster session.  Though, I’m not sure how I would have organized a poster session with only 3-4 submissions.  Maybe rather than posters as the format, the organizers instead could set it up as ‘lightning talks!’ (3 slides, 10 minutes? or something like that).  Might get more submissions as well?  If they run it as a poster session again, and I’ve got something to present, I’m going to try out Prezi since it might be a good format.

In any case, I really enjoyed the multi-disciplinary discussion that followed the session – it was fantastic to hear feedback and ideas from people outside my own field.  In particular for the jargon/vocabulary work, I’ll have to think more about not just what we gain when we swap out jargon, but also what we lose.

In both sessions, thanks to the participants – I heard lots of great discussion, questions, and interactions.  From the workshop, thanks in particular to Cindy Xin for her really constructive and well-articulated comments!

This event is quite well-run, and credit definitely needs to go to Christine Kurbis, Patty Ward, and others at the SFU TLC.  Thanks for putting this awesome symposium together!


Symposium Resources

Workshop slides (by Kathleen Fitzpatrick and myself) – Don’t build on a shaky foundation: effective in-class review with a time-saving two-stage approach

My poster presentation – Barker, McDonnell, Wieman: rying to solve the jargon problem in undergraduate science

The other poster presentations are on the TLC symposium website.

References for further digging

Our jargon paper – McDonnell, Barker, Wieman 2016 (via the journal, BAMBED; if you don’t have access, you can find the pre-peer-review version here at the LS-STLF blog.)

Two-stage reviews – Maxwell, McDonnell, Wieman 2015

Two-stage (collaborative) exams –

  1. the published paper – Gilley and Clarkston 2014
  2. Resources for running it yourself:




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