McMaster launches first-ever Teaching and Learning Strategy
Over the past year, instructors, students and staff across McMaster have been thinking about how to support innovation in teaching and learning—building on our history of problem-based learning, hands-on experiences, and cross-Faculty collaboration.
This thinking, combined with deep community consultation, has led to the creation of Partnered in Teaching and Learning: McMaster’s Teaching and Learning Strategy 2021-2026, the first strategy of its kind at McMaster. It launches publicly today, which also happens to be the kickoff for the university’s Teaching & Learning month led by the MacPherson Institute.
The strategy “centres students, enhances both digital and physical spaces, and builds upon Indigenous ways of knowing” says former MSU president Giancarlo Da-Ré, who was part of the steering committee for this project. “I was humbled to be an advocate for students…and I am excited to see the outcome of our many months of work entrenched into the action plans of each Faculty.”
Adrianne Xavier, acting director of McMaster’s Indigenous Studies Program, agrees wholeheartedly. “What I’m really grateful for is being able to see myself and my department very much represented in this [Strategy].” In the impact area of Encouraging Partnered and Interdisciplinary Learning, the strategy asks us to recognize and respect “different ways of knowing, different ways of teaching and different ways of being in the world” says Xavier. “That was one of the most exciting things to me.”
The strategy covers many other objectives for the future of teaching and learning, all of which have been influenced by the events of 2020. Topics like supporting digital learning, rethinking our use and definitions of space, and encouraging inclusive and accessible teaching come to the forefront. And above all, building partnerships between and across disciplines to deliver the highest-quality student learning experience.
What excites Emad Mohammad, associate professor of accounting and financial management services in the DeGroote School of Business, about the strategy is how it combines our traditions with the kind of forward-thinking made possible due to the events of the last year. According to Mohammad, the strategy not only capitalizes “on McMaster’s strength in the tradition of interdisciplinary learning” but also applies “the lessons learned and experiences gained during the pandemic.”
You could say that the strategy was timed perfectly—even though it didn’t always feel that way. “In mid-March [of 2020] we gave some thought to pausing” says Kim Dej, Acting Vice-Provost (Faculty) and the lead on the strategy project team. “Everybody had many more things to think about, and we thought, should we be doing this now?”
Looking back, Dej couldn’t imagine a better time to release this work. “If we had completed a Teaching and Learning strategy before March 2020, it would now be woefully out of date,” she explains. And if they had hit pause? They might have lost the momentum of the moment. “2020 informed this strategy in so many important ways: the pandemic forced us into uncomfortable places with our teaching and learning, but McMaster rose to the occasion.”
Like many others, Provost and Vice-President (Academic) Susan Tighe can’t wait to see the strategy put into practice. “Innovations in teaching and learning are already foundational to what we do at McMaster,” she says. “It’s my hope that this strategy will further embolden instructors to try new things in their teaching practice and engage with students as partners in learning. I also hope that the strategy will signal to students that we are consistently working towards more inclusive, accessible, and dynamic learning activities and environments.”
So now that the strategy’s been launched, what’s next? “Just as we consulted broadly and deeply with our community to write the strategy, we need our community’s help to make it real” says Dej.
All of McMaster’s students, instructors and staff are invited to read the strategy and provide feedback on how they’d like to see it implemented across campus. Visit www.teachingandlearning.mcmaster.ca before June 7 to share your ideas, suggest resources, and celebrate success.