Teaching and learning: creating a bonfire that pulls people to the heat

By Therese Stecyk Posted: March 15, 2019 5:55 a.m.

For Dr. Kathryn Ricketts, some of the challenges of teaching– like how to engage a large classroom full of students and create student-driven, active learning – can be addressed through creativity and innovation.
For Dr. Kathryn Ricketts, some of the challenges of teaching– like how to engage a large classroom full of students and create student-driven, active learning – can be addressed through creativity and innovation. Photo: U of R Photography

Creativity and innovation come easily to Dr. Kathryn Ricketts. Natural and expected ‘tools of the trade’ for an associate professor of dance in arts education, but in her role as interim coordinator of the Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL), Ricketts is also applying creativity and innovation to help address the stigma that sometimes labels teaching and learning centres as remedial centres.

“I’m really trying to turn that on its head, to say, ‘let’s make a very alluring place where we’re drawn to enhance and enrich our teaching,’” says Ricketts. She prefers, instead, the concept of an “idea hub” – a place where the exchange of ideas can happen – or, even more evocative, creating “a bonfire that pulls people to the heat” and sparks curiosity.

Ricketts has been interim coordinator at the CTL since September 2018, and was an educational consultant at the teaching and learning centre at Simon Fraser University in BC, before arriving at the U of R in 2014 to join the Faculty of Education.

03-152.jpg
The 9th biennial Provoking
Curriculum 2019 conference
,
March 15-17 on campus,
will see scholars engaging in
dialogue that will significantly
shape the future of
curriculum studies. This photo
and below: Kathryn Ricketts
03-153.jpg
The first Tent Talks launches
on March 17 at 1:00 p.m.
out of this tent in the RIC
Atrium, as part of the
Provoking Curriculum 2019
conference. Come listen to
the conversation.

It’s important to both build foundational knowledge about the methods and practice of teaching for those new to the field, and to also disrupt habits for seasoned educators and say, ‘how about trying this differently’, Ricketts says, noting that the scholarship of teaching and learning is “quite a deep and very huge field” and not something someone can just “figure out”.

In her CTL work, Ricketts fosters the exchange of ideas around two frameworks: appreciative inquiry, or listening via conversations, seminars, and symposiums to what is needed now and creating relevant, current programming; and design thinking.

“Both of those are really beautiful frameworks that kind of catch all the talent that’s in our university.”

Some of the current programming involves eight one-hour modules allowing participants to pick and choose from a smorgasbord of topics presented by Ricketts or a panel of experts. For example, she’s leading a module that uses drawing and visuals to teach, rather than the traditional text-centred approach. Participants then create a community of practice, where they literally undertake drills and practice together to get better at talking or teaching and drawing at the same time.

Other panels address health and well-being, Indigenizing curriculum, social media, and creative technologies, covering some of the more recent and emerging needs in teaching.

Some challenges are more constant, such as how to engage a large classroom and create student-driven, active learning in huge spaces with furniture that is bolted down. There are also now so many ways to bring students in remotely, that sometimes there are the same number of students online that are in the classroom, she says.

Add to that the increasing need to discern how best to harness technology in teaching, even if it’s delivered face-to-face.

Online or in person, for Ricketts, it’s all about building relationships. “Everything needs to come down to that; you’re building a relationship and a relationality around the educator and the student. That’s a really beautiful moment, I think, in education.”

Provoking Curriculum 2019

One of the many hats that Ricketts wears is that of the vice-president of the Canadian Association for Curriculum Studies. In that role, she’s leading the team hosting the Provoking Curriculum 2019 conference, March 15-17 on campus. Sponsored by the Canadian Association for Curriculum Studies, and the University of Regina Centre for Teaching and Learning and Faculty of Education, the 9th biennial conference provides opportunities for scholars from many universities and disciplines across the globe to engage in dialogue that will significantly shape the future of curriculum studies.

“This is a really big thing that I’m excited to talk about,” says Ricketts.

“It’s arts-based curriculum educators more or less. They’re people who – even if in the sciences – they’re thinking radically, they’re thinking about pushing the boundaries around curriculum and curriculum design.”

During the conference, on March 17 at 1:00 p.m., Ricketts will launch her first Tent Talks, a series funded by the Faculty of Education’s research centre involving a six-person tent that will be set up in the RIC Atrium.

Conversations around chosen themes/issues in teaching and learning will take place between two people sitting in the tent on lawn chairs. The conversation will be broadcast outside the tent, and through ZOOM, and will be recorded and uploaded to the CTL website as a podcast. Passersby can contribute to the conversation by asking questions via sticky notes on the tent, acting like a bulletin board.

Tent Talks will happen again on the Academic Green when it’s warm, and again in the Fall, says Ricketts.

“This is something that I’ve wanted to do for years. And it was too weird for the West Coast but not for Regina!”

Related

Provoking Curriculum 2019

Tent Talks ZOOM

Centre for Teaching and Learning

Faculty of Education