An outstanding group of teachers from across the country gathered in Banff this month to create a project that could change the landscape of Canadian post-secondary education.
Dr. Naowarat (Ann) Cheeptham, Biological Sciences faculty member at Thompson Rivers University (TRU), is one of 10 recipients of this year’s 3M National Teaching Fellowship, joining a membership of over 300 post-secondary educators recognized for their teaching and educational leadership. But the award isn’t just a pat on the back. At the annual fellowship summit, the new cohort met to discuss creating change, and one year and $25,000 in 3M funding to see it through.
“This is a great opportunity as an educator in academia to truly influence the landscape of Canadian higher ed for the better,” says Cheeptham, who is the first faculty member from TRU to join the fellowship.
“We talked about the changing world, the changing higher ed landscape: climate, the pandemic, a lot about equity, diversity and inclusion, and Truth and Reconciliation. We were asked to submit the issues top of mind to us, and the facilitators did a great job to mold that, to find themes and commonalities.”
The fellows come from a diverse range of disciplines, from medicine to mathematics to marketing. But they found a common thread over the four days of the summit.
“All ten of us, we really value critical reflection in terms of our journey as educators,” says Cheeptham. “So in the short-term, this first year, we’re going to put out a tool to basically help new and seasoned faculty members who are really passionate about teaching to scan themselves.”
They will add resources to the tool as a next step so that when teachers see where they are as an educator and where they want to go, they have support to continue growing.
Long-term, the cohort envisions their tool as a clear measurement of what an exceptional 21st century educator looks like—which would revolutionize how teachers are evaluated.
“We could list all the ways to measure an effective researcher: from publishing to research grant dollars to the number of people we mentor/supervise, etc. But there’s no vigorous, all-around metric to measure teaching, per se. Are student surveys or how many awards you get really a true measurement?” she says.
The group’s combined resources include several centres for teaching and learning and access to graduate and post-doctoral researchers. Part of 3M’s funding will be used to hire research assistants to ask research questions and audit all the data. Cheeptham hopes by the end of next year they’ll have a self-scanning tool ready to launch.
“I’ve never actually gone to any meetings, conferences, workshops or anything that made me feel so invigorated at the end,” she says.