What is "Engaged Teaching"?
By Geneviève Maheux-Pelletier
Since 2019, I have been co-chairing a committee tasked to advice the Associate Deans Teaching and Learning Council on topics related to Research and Innovation in Teaching and Learning. As a group, we aimed to engage in evidence-informed conversations about teaching and learning. Our most important project has been the development of a model of teaching and learning that could speak to the many facets of teaching and encourage colleagues to move beyond a teaching lens narrowly focused on planning and delivering a lecture. When we came across the Dimensions of Activities Related to Teaching, proposed by Kern, Mettetal, Dixson, & Morgan (2015), we were inspired to borrow their framework to create A Model for Engaged Teaching at York University: Moving Towards Research-Informed Practice. (with co-chair Emily Rush, and Rosanna Chowdhury, Lisa Dufraimont, Celia Haig-Brown, Jeffrey Harris, Tamara Kelly, Luca Montana, Brian Nairn, Tom Scott, and Carolyn Steele).
This model aims to describe the many dimensions of teaching one can engage with throughout their career. Teaching embeds many activities, from planning and delivering learning experiences and reflecting upon practice, to adopting a responsive teaching stance and expanding reach beyond the classroom. In addition to providing York’s instructors with a clear sense of the kinds of teaching related, evidence-driven practices that exist, this model makes important distinctions that can have implications for program, resource and policy decisions.
What is Engaged Teaching at York?
Engaged Teaching at York is a comprehensive view of teaching that situates teaching related activities along two continua, creating four distinct but interconnected quadrants.
The four quadrants are meant to expand possibilities beyond a practice informed by experience alone. Considering the left side of the model, we see that one can engage in a practice informed by their teaching experiences and ad hoc observations about student learning and move towards evidence-informed pedagogical practices with activities such as systematically seeking student input or exploring the literature. Note the dotted lines between the quadrants indicate that one activity is rarely only situated in one corner of the model.
The model further expands possibilities by taking teaching practice into the public sphere – this is the right side of the model. It encourages instructors to move from a teaching practice delivered behind close doors (i.e., the classroom door) to one that engages in collegial dialogue, for instance by writing a blog post about teaching or participating at a local teaching and learning conference.
The bottom layer of the model reflects the status quo – namely, practices that are informed by lived experiences and shared with peers in the immediate context (which is incredibly valuable, particularly when critically reflected upon), for example a successful activity an instructor tried in class for the first time and enthusiastically reported back to a colleague. The top layer of the model encourages informal and formal inquiry into teaching and learning, from consuming to generating scholarship. The term widely used to refer to the systematic inquiry into student learning is "scholarship of teaching and learning" rather than "research" because it encompasses activities that include empirical inquiry but also a particular stance towards research... for example, critical reflection, iterative and dialogic teaching practices, evidence-driven decision making.
While most early career university instructors likely engage, mostly, in the lower left corner, this model encourages them to consider what else might be within their reach, which quadrant(s) of the model might they have already experienced or which might they want to explore. There is no pre-determined path from left to right or bottom to top, and no requirement to ever engage in the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL). The model is akin to a hand fan, one that opens up possibilities from the status quo to a broader range of teaching related activities that can lead to reflective practice, dialogic teaching and learning, critical conversations, and even leadership. For the latter, SoTL can be a productive way to influence conversation in the teaching and learning space, as one explicitly engages in teaching practice grounded in the literature and becomes systematic in methodology as well as intentional in sharing outcomes publicly for critique and use (Potter and Kustra 2011, 2).
Kern, B. & Mettetal, G., Dixson, M., & Morgan, R. (2015). The role of SoTL in the academy: Upon the 25th anniversary of Boyer’s Scholarship Reconsidered. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. 15(3), 1-14. https://doi.org/10.14434/josotl.v15i3.13623
Potter, M. K., & Kustra, E. (2011). The relationship between scholarly teaching and SoTL: Models, distinctions, and clarifications. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 5(1), Article 23. https://doi.org/10.20429/ijsotl.2011.050123
About the author
Geneviève Maheux-Pelletier, PhD, is a white, cisgender, heterosexual woman of settler ancestry with French-Canadian roots. She is an educational developer and scholar of teaching and learning currently serving as the director of the Teaching Commons. She is a seasoned educator with a comprehensive understanding of university culture, having played multiple roles within academia at five different institutions in the USA, Canada, and France over the last 18 years: as a full-time professor, an undergraduate program director, a contract faculty, a teaching and learning consultant, and a researcher. Her work and scholarship aim to foster a dialogic relationship between teaching and learning, with a particular interest in reflective and experiential learning, students-as-partners, and evidence-based educational development practices. She has published her collaborative work in book chapters and articles in journals such as Teaching and Learning Inquiry, Teaching in Higher Education, and the International Journal of Academic Development. She currently serves on the editorial board of the Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. While she finds great fulfillment in her work, her most joyful satisfaction comes from the ups and downs of raising a preteen.