Teaching in Focus Conference – Celebrating 10-ish Years
By Brian Nairn
As Spring approaches (yes, I went there) that can only mean one thing for the York community…the return of the annual Teaching in Focus (TiF [with one “f”]) Conference.
Launching back in 2013, this year’s conference will mark the 10th-ish year of TiF – with 2020 being abruptly cancelled (though the call for proposals was already out). But still, having a single event being planned and (mostly) executed every year for nearly an entire decade is reason enough to step back and reflect on this achievement.
I mean, do you even remember what happened back then? Some of the biggest news stories of 2013 included the Alberta floods, Rob Ford’s admission to using crack cocaine, and the birth of Prince George. And I know that you’re thinking between natural disasters, political scandal, and palace intrigue, maybe not much has changed after all…but what has certainly evolved since that time is the TiF Conference.
Looking back, it’s easy to see how from the beginning this conference was about bringing together the champions of teaching and learning and those at the forefront of ‘cutting-edge’ pedagogy. Presentations from that first year included topics like valuing the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL), blended learning, MOOCs (a form of micro-credential), experiential education, and a keynote on “pedagogies of discomfort”. Yet 10(ish) years later some of us are still acting like these are brand new concepts.
As time went on the Conference also evolved along the way, expanding to a 2-day event in 2015, along with the inclusion of different faculty panels, conversations with teaching awards winners, MakerSpace sessions, and presentations specific to the Academic Innovation Fund (AIF).
When the pandemic hit in 2020, TiF was forced to be canceled along with basically everything else on the planet. There was disappointment but not deterrence, and TiF bounced back in 2021 the only way it knew how – with a targeted focus on the important issues of the time, and a look to the future as to what the landscape of teaching and learning can look like in the post-pandemic world. With live presentations and panel discussions over Zoom alongside pre-recorded showcases, the focus (of course) was all about online learning and teaching during a pandemic.
Within the flurry that has been the last two years, TiF returns once again. This time, the theme of Rest, Renew, Revitalize is a way for all of us to take a pause, step back, exhale slowly, and focus on how we can also build our personal capacity alongside our professional capacity. The last two years have been exhausting for everyone, students, faculty, staff, admin…we’ve all felt it. So let’s re-frame the conversation now about what it means to be teaching and learning in this online (or maybe face-to-face, or maybe a hybrid of both) space. How do we focus on mindfulness and overall well-being in the classroom for our students? For ourselves? What other ways can we engage with our students when we’re all just so bloody tired?
And so as we look forward and shift our thinking towards an attitude of greater self-care and mental health, it will not be surprising during TiF 2032 to look back 10 years to this 2022 TiF program and think “Wow, this conference really is ahead of the curve”.
If you are interested in contributing, the call for proposals is now open for TiF 2022 which is being held virtually on May 11 and 12. All submissions are welcome. To learn more about the TiF Conference this year, including where to submit your proposal click here. The deadline for submissions is February 21,2022.