I am honoured to have been given the opportunity to serve not only the hundreds of STLHE members, but also the thousands of students all across Canada who are the ultimate beneficiaries of the work that we do in the STLHE. When I was elected President I made a commitment to the STLHE vision of enhancing the effectiveness of teaching and learning in Canada’s institutions of higher education. I believe that during my term we made enormous progress towards the achievement of the strategic goals that stem from this vision.
For example, we continued to advance the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL). In particular, we launched the Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (CJSoTL), a bilingual electronic journal devoted to the dissemination of quality peer-reviewed scholarship that systematically addresses the teaching and learning interests of universities and community colleges across Canada. We also launched Collected Essays on Learning and Teaching (CELT), an anthology of peer-reviewed papers written by presenters at the Society’s annual conference. In addition, we established an STLHE SoTL Advisory Panel to help us move the SoTL forward as a national initiative, and partnered with Mount Royal University’s Institute for Scholarship of Teaching and Learning to host the 2010 SoTL Leadership Forum, a gathering of Canadian academic leaders committed to understanding and improving student learning and faculty teaching through systematic scholarly inquiry and classroom research. Earlier, we collaborated with the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) to organize and facilitate a symposium that brought together an international group of educational experts to take stock of the existing research on teaching and learning in higher education with a view to determining what is still unknown, and therefore what new research needs to be done, as well as what new policies and practices need to be put in place to enhance the quality of education in our universities and colleges. Presentations from the symposium subsequently formed the basis for a book entitled Taking Stock: Research on Teaching and Learning in Higher Education which I was delighted to co-edit with my predecessor, Julia Christensen Hughes.
Another highlight has been enhancing the Society’s reputation nationally and internationally. We fostered and strengthened strategic alliances with federal and provincial government agencies and granting councils, national and international professional associations, postsecondary educational institutions, and private sector organizations in order to create institutional, provincial and national environments that both enhance the effectiveness of teaching and learning and promote the research, teaching and learning nexus. In particular, we strengthened well-established relationships such as those with 3M Canada, McGraw-Hill Ryerson and Magna Publications who are, respectively, sponsors of the 3M National Teaching Fellowship, the Alan Blizzard Award and the Christopher Knapper Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2010, we celebrated the 25th anniversary of our partnership with 3M Canada. In addition, we consolidated our relationships with Maclean’s Magazine and University Affairs. We also strengthened our relationships with some of our sister organizations in other parts of the world including the US-Based Professional Organizational Development (POD) Network and the Higher Education and Research Development Society of Australasia (HERDSA), agreeing to publish in the respective newsletters of these organizations what has become known as the “International Column” that is written by each President in turn. We re-affirmed our membership in the International Consortium on Educational Development (ICED), and established new partnerships with “younger” organizations whose objectives and values are consistent with ours. Such organizations include the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (ISSOTL) and Academics for Higher Education and Development (AHED), agreeing to collaborate with the latter on projects aimed at improving the capacity of institutions of higher education in developing countries.
Our enhanced national and international reputation resulted in numerous invitations for STLHE Board members to speak at conferences or for the STLHE to collaborate with our strategic partners on various projects. For example, at the national level, we collaborated with the Canadian Association of Graduate Studies (CAGS) and the three major federal granting agencies (the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council – NSERC, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council – SSHRC, and the Canadian Institute of Health Research – CIHR) on an initiative to identify the most important professional skills as learning outcomes for graduate programs in Canada. This collaboration has had several implications for the development of graduate curricula and was a significant step toward enhancing the quality of graduate education across Canada.
At the international level, I was invited to speak at the “Making University Teaching Count” conference in Germany hosted by the Canadian Embassy in partnership with the German academic exchange organization DAAD, the British Council, the Fulbright Foundation and the Australian Group of Eight. Other international projects have included speaking about the work of the STLHE to an emerging network of educational developers in Beijing, China, presenting on educational development issues in Canada at an international symposium in Sendai, Japan, and delivering the keynote address at the annual conference of one of STLHE’s sister organizations, the Higher Education Learning and Teaching Association of Southern Africa (HELTASA). Clearly, such initiatives and collaborations are a testament to the vital, influential role that STLHE is playing in post-secondary education in Canada and in the rest of the world.
During my term, we also extended the concept of inclusivity, adopting it as a guiding principle that underlies everything we do. In this regard, we took action to include in our membership all types of institutions (e.g. colleges, university colleges, polytechnics, universities) and people (e.g. educational developers, educational librarians, faculty, students, administrators). As a result, we maintained and increased our levels of institutional and individual memberships respectively, despite the severe economic constraints facing our sector. We continued to encourage the formation of Special Interest Groups (SIGs) to ensure that members’ diverse interests and needs are met. We now have three SIGS: one for people in writing centres and others interested in developing student writing; another for persons interested in teaching and learning in the college sector; and a third for persons interested in the advancement of teaching assistants and graduate students. In the meantime, our two constituencies, the Council of 3M National Fellows and the Educational Developers Caucus, continue to thrive with several successful initiatives each year. Other efforts to be more inclusive include the establishment of two new at-large positions on the Board of Directors, one representing regular members and the other representing students, as well as the appointment for the first time of co-editors of our newsletter, one expressly for the purpose of increasing Francophone submissions.
We also streamlined and stabilized our administrative and financial services. We renewed Sylvia Avery’s contract in the position of Administrator, adopted new By-Laws and finally became officially incorporated as a not-for-profit organization. Other achievements include the establishment of a new award recognizing innovation in teaching and learning, and the STLHE Poster Prize which simultaneously honours Pat Rogers, a former STLHE president, and recognizes a poster of exceptional quality. We also created a new STLHE logo that imaginatively captures the dynamic and collaborative spirit of the STLHE community.
None of the accomplishments highlighted above could have been possible without the commitment of the many members of STLHE who selflessly volunteer their time and expertise in countless ways to advance our mission of enhancing teaching and learning in higher education. I thank especially the members of our Board of Directors for their continuous support and extraordinarily hard work.
Finally, I was delighted to pass the presidential baton to Arshad Ahmad who has made a significant contribution to the STLHE in various capacities over the past two decades and I look forward to working closely with him in his role as STLHE President.