Reflections on Dec. 2018 meeting

A reflection on the December meeting/Thoughts for the new academic term

I would like to Heidi Engelhardt ( and Marcel Pinheiro ( and their colleagues for putting together an excellent December meeting at the University of Waterloo on December 10, 2018. It was refreshing and reinvigorating to get together with new and old oCUBE members from at least 9 institutions across Ontario to discuss teaching and learning. 

For those unable to attend, we were treated at the start of the day to an engaging panel of colleagues sharing how experiential learning is achieved at Waterloo spanning from the course to institutional level. In typical oCUBE UnConference fashion, we proceeded to alternate eating with pitched and voted upon sessions. These sessions included: 
Teaching uncertainty in science (Jennifer Peter, Western University)
How do we get students to take responsibility for their own learning? (Fiona Rawle, University of Toronto Mississauga)
Active learning assessment and assignments (Shelby Riskin, University of Toronto)
Gender and achievement in biology courses (Tom Haffie, Western University)
The day ended with the ever-popular “Fix my sh*t”, and some oCUBE administration/news. 

One of the things I love most about oCUBE UnConferences are the tidbits of advice or wisdom I pick up from our colleagues. At the December meeting, I was hit particularly by the following statement: 

 “Not the best reason to put them in groups, but it is a reason” – Heidi Englehardt

We all make choices in our teaching; I’m sure we seek to make pedagogically-sound, evidence-based decisions wherever possible. But, in this pursuit of best practices, we may sometimes lose sight of the fact that facilitator/teacher/coordinator is only one of the ‘hats’ we wear. Certainly, for me, I lost all sense of work-life balance this past term. Hearing this sentence uttered by a colleague—albeit with an element of jest in the moment—in the safe space of an oCUBE meeting caused me to pause and reflect on the choices I was making in my teaching. 

As the new academic term begins, I would encourage you to continue to strive towards best practices in your teaching (and use the oCUBE community to seek support and/or learn in this pursuit). But, also recognize that it’s okay to make some teaching decisions that are rooted in maintaining your own well-being. Indeed, we already do so much awesome work as educators. I’m sure that the occasional choice we make for so-called ‘wrong’ reasons may pay off indirectly in other realms of our teaching (e.g. greater energy/time/resources to see other activities through to their full potential). That can’t possibly be wrong. 

Thanks again to Marcel and Heidi for an excellent program, and wishing everyone a productive and healthy new term. 

Jennifer Peter (nee: Waugh), oCUBE president