Tim Buell's CV Page

Timothy Buell

Curriculum Vitae

Personal Information

Photo of Tim Buell
Timothy John Buell
Citizenship: Canadian

Curricilum Vitae


Teaching & Research Areas

  • Academic Writing    Acoustic Design    Adult Education    Advanced Research Methods    Arts Journalism    Classical, Jazz & Popular Guitar    Communications Studies    Counterpoint    Cultural Studies    Curriculum Design    Digital Rhetoric & Writing for the Web    Educational Psychology    Educational Technologies    Environmental Design    Ethnomusicology    Film Studies    Governance in Higher Education    Learning Theories    Musicology    Music Theory    Public Speaking   Rhetoric    Social Power Theory    Strategic Marketing Communications    Technical and Business Writing    Web Design, CMS & LMS Development    Writing for Health Professionals   

Academic & Professional Positions

Consulting Areas

  • Academic Program Review    Communications Audit    Conference & Event Management    Curriculum Development    Fundraising & Marketing    Instructional Design    Leadership Development    Online Course Design & Assessment    Research Design   University Advancement

Web Design, CMS & LMS

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So far . . .

I was born in Toronto, Canada, although I grew up living in Cambodia, Hong Kong, Sarawak (Borneo), Singapore, and Thailand, because of my father’s work for the Colombo Plan.

My university education began with a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Toronto, followed by a Master's in Composition. After further studies in digital sound synthesis at the MIT Media Lab, I attended the University of Pittsburgh on a Mellon doctoral fellowship, graduating with a Ph.D. in Music Theory and Composition.

One of my best discoveries as a grad student was that I wasn't confined to taking courses within my department: In fact – although it wasn't mentioned in the handbook – one could take almost any graduate course from any department or faculty, provided you could convince both your supervisor and the course instructor that you had a reasonable expectation of passing. And so, when I learned of a graduate course on William Blake in the English Department, I headed across campus to boldly go where no Ph.D. music student – according to my demurring supervisor – had gone before. That Blake course, along with one in Boolean algebra, modern dance, and acoustic engineering, were some of the most enjoyable courses I took as a doctoral student. It was only later that I discovered that my apparent dilettantism could be academically respectable when referred to as interdisciplinary studies.

My first academic job was as an assistant professor in music theory and composition. After a few months, cold reality set in as I realized that — in contrast to my interdisciplinary freedom as a graduate student — as a junior faculty member the opposite was true with respect to teaching and research expectations. I became restless, and when offered a post-doc position as Scholar-in-Residence for Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of Calgary, by the following spring I was — as Gordon Lightfoot sang — Alberta Bound.

Since the Scholar-in-Residence appointment was within the University of Calgary's Faculty of Communication and Culture, I was given the opportunity to teach some courses there, which led to a teaching appointment once the Post-Doc was over. While at the U of C, I also held adjunct professorships and secondments in the Faculties of Education, Continuing Education, Environmental Design, Music, the Graduate Department of Educational Psychology, and the Graduate Program in Communications Studies. I received two teaching excellence awards; and my interest in teaching and learning development resulted in my becoming the inaugural Director of the Learning Commons, (later renamed the Teaching and Learning Centre).

I left the UofC in 2000, to take up the position of Vice President (Research and Development) at Lakehead University, where I became involed in major research and advancement initiatives like the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, and a new capital infrastructure campaign. Since then, I have taken a break from a full-time academic career to worked as a private consultant, and to take a 2nd Ph.D. in Leadership and Adult Higher Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto.

Until 2016 I was Senior Partner at Buell • Salter & Associates, consultants in teaching, learning and leadership for higher education, corporate settings and the not-for-profit sector.

Currently, I am teaching in the Graduate Program of the Faculty of Education at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology., and I'm a Faculty Mentor for Academics Without Borders Virtual Mentoring Project at Aga Khan University.

Current Projects

  • Fred MacMurray in 'The Absent-Minded Professor'(1961)
  • Al Pacino in '88 Minutes'
  • Scene from 'Animal House'
  • Marshall McLuhan in 'Annie Hall'
  • Silvery-haired prof from 'At Middleton' (2013)
  • Scene from 'College Days' (1926)
  • The Dean from 'The Freshman' (1925)
  • Faculty meeting from 'Footnote' (2011)
  • James Caan in 'The Gambler' (1974)
  • Archeology Professor Indiana Jones
  • Jill Clayburgh in 'It's My Turn' (1980)
  • Harold Lloyd in 'The Freshman' (1925)
  • Prof. Kingsfield gives Hart a dime in 'The Paperchase' (1973)
  • Bored students in 'Smart People' (2008)
  • Robin Williams in 'Good Will Hunting' (1997)
  • Rocket scientist professors in 'A Trip to the Moon' (1902)
  • Richard Jenkins in 'The Visitor' (2007)
  • Dean Rosalind Russell in 'A Woman of Distinction' (1950)

Pluto’s Academy is a web-based, searchable multimedia database of films in which higher education is the basis of the narrative, or is otherwise depicted in a significant manner.

Unlike previous publications, which are mainly descriptive — and aggrievedly identify stereotypes supposedly exemplary of Hollywood's tendency toward "academic bashing" — I've designed Pluto’s Academy specifically for those interested in incorporating a film or group of films into their teaching, or as a faculty/TA professional development resource.

The filmography (n = 1,200) is the largest to date, and includes silent films (1894 - 1925) not found in previous studies. It includes representative stills, posters or video clips for almost every film, all on a web-based and searchable platform. Each film entry is accompanied by a brief critical analysis, as well as suggestions for how it might be used in the classroom as a teaching and learning resource, or for faculty/TA professional development purposes.

Curriculum Vitae



  • Recurring Issues in Postsecondary Education Community College Leadership Nurturing Professional Education Seminar in Adult Learning Special Topics in Higher Education: The Nurturing Teacher Governance in Higher Education International Academic Relations Curriculum Development in Extended Educational Environments Qualitative Research Methodologies in Education Special Topics in Higher Education: Faculty in Colleges and Universities Schooling in the Movies Innovative Curricula in Higher Education and Professional Programs Special Application of the Administrative Process: Multicultural and Diversity Policies in Comparative Perspective

Pluto's Academy: Higher Education in Film

Music Theory & Composition

Thesis Title — Theory:
Aspects of Stravinsky's Abraham and Isaac

Thesis — Composition
Solstice — for Chamber Orchestra

Masters in Music (Composition)

Concertante — for Two Guitars and Chamber Orchestra

Bachelor of Music

— Music History and Literature

Applied Major:
— Classical Guitar

Diplomas, Certificates & Professional Development

Nanodegrees, Certifications and/or Courses:

  • AJAX     Android Development     Angular JS     Bootstrap     CSS     HTML5     JavaScript     MySQ     Mobile Web Development     Oracle     Responsive Web Design     SEO

Certificates, Course Badges and/or Training in:

  • Adobe Connect     Angel     Bb Learn     D2L (Brightspace)     Canvas     Moodle     Pearson Learning Studio     Sakai     SCORM     WordPress

Faculty Development Summer Institute

  • Active learning techniques     Team-based learning strategies     Effective feedback strategies     Adapt active learning strategies to large classes     Align assessment and evaluation with active learning practices     Personalized plans for incorporating active learning

Resident Composer — The Leighton Artists Colony

Two Residencies:
Winter 1987 & Spring/Summer 1987

Composition studies with:

Luciano Berio and Robert Aitken

Digital Sound Synthesis and Design

Spatial Sound Placement Algorithms for Music 11

Qua la bella francheschina
 — for classical guitar and computer-generated sound

Associate Diploma

Classical Guitar

Selected Publications, Keynotes & Creative Activity

One of McLuhan’s favourite references from one of his favourite poets — Ezra Pound — was his statement that “artists are the antennae of the race.” McLuhan’s oeuvre is filled with — and his media theory dependent on — supporting references to visual artists and composers, and specific paintings and compositions. This is why for me, McLuhan’s reticence on Blake has always been a puzzle, especially when one considers McLuhan’s background in English literature and criticism, the fact that Blake’s multidimensional and multimedia poetic expression are so amenable to McLuhan’s analytical precepts, and finally, the crucial role of religious faith in the life and work of both McLuhan and Blake; each of whom underwent a spiritual re-awakening as young adults.

I begin the essay by proposing several reasons why McLuhan may have overlooked such an affinitive kindred spirit; which will form the contextual basis for some speculation on how McLuhan and Blake might have made use of social media — especially Twitter as a means of expression. Finally, I will introduce an ongoing project that explores the idea of using Twitter to share and respond to the application of McLuhans’s Laws of Media — or the Tetrad — which we have dubbed the “Tweetrad.”

    Link to Web-based Multimedia Version

   Download PDF Copy


This presentation is based on a larger, ongoing project entitled Pluto's Academy: Images of Higher Education in Film, describes a web-based, searchable, hypertext-enriched multimedia annotated database of 1,200 films in which higher education is the basis of the narrative, or is otherwise depicted in a significant manner. An overview of this resource, including a demonstration of its scope and search engine capabilities, will be followed by an interactive discussion of its use in various teaching and learning applications, and as a faculty professional development resource.

When it comes to their close-ups, educators — along with everyone from actuaries to zookeepers — have produced a huge body of literature about how Hollywood has portrayed their own profession. Regarding education, the first major study is The Portrayal of Education in American Motion Pictures, 1931-1961 (Schwartz, 1960); however, its scope is limited to primary and secondary education. The same is true of the numerous journal articles and sixty books we have identified: The vast majority of the articles are about "teachers in the movies" (meaning K-12); and only three books (Umphlett, 1984; Hinton, 1994; Conklin, 2008) and three doctoral dissertations (Reynolds, 2007; Thomas, 2009; Hess, 2012) are devoted entirely to films featuring higher education.

These studies share the same methodologies and the resultant shortcomings. The authors select a group of films; provide plot details and content analyses; create a set of professorial typologies, including personal characteristics; all of which is used to point out the differences between "reel vs real" academic life. Finally, they aggrievedly identify Hollywood's tendency toward "academic bashing," in the words of one commentator, who adds, "I can think of almost no movies that are even interested in what an academic actually does, the nuts and bolts of that life." (Farr, 2003, p4)

This resource advances previous scholarship in several ways: The filmography (n = 1,200) is the largest to date; including silent films (1894 - 1925) not found in previous studies. It is also the first to include representative stills and video clips, all on a web-based and searchable platform. Unlike previous studies, which are mainly descriptive and preoccupied with how higher education is (mis)represented by Hollywood, this project is designed specifically for those interested in incorporating a film or group of films into the curriculum, and as a resource for faculty professional development.

For example, students entering university for the first time will inevitably have preconceived images of professors and teaching methods gained in part from popular film. The interactive format will allow participants to actively query the database, providing them with knowledge of the stereotypes and preconceptions that students may have upon entering the college classroom, which may impact classroom interactions, and provides insight into how race and gender affect student evaluations of professors. Finally, I will discuss reasons for such differences and how an understanding of the differences can be used as a catalyst for conversation in academic development settings, and in the classroom.


  1. Conklin, J. E. (2008). Campus Life in the Movies: A critical Survey from the Silent Era to the Present. Jefferson, NC & London: McFarland & Company, Inc.
  2. Farr, M. (2003). Beautiful Minds and Nutty Professors: The Groves of Academe, As Viewed by Hollywood. University Affairs, October(October).
  3. Hess, J. T. (2012). Reel Deans: The Portrayal of Higher Education Administrators in American Films. (Doctoral Dissertation), University of North Florida.
  4. Hinton, D. B. (1994). Celluloid Ivy: Higher Education in the Movies. Metuchen, N.J., and London: The Scarecrow Press, Inc.
  5. Reynolds, P. (2007). The "reel" professoriate: The portrayal of professors in American film, 1930-1950 (Doctoral dissertation), Indiana University.
  6. Thomas, B. A. (2009). Professors on Film: Is Perception Reality? (Doctoral Dissertation), Seton Hall University. Retrieved from http://books.google.ca/books?id=i_RhQwAACAAJ
  7. Umphlett, W. L. (1984). The Movies go to College: Hollywood and the World of the College-Life Film. Rutherford, NJ: Farleigh Dickenson.

Report commissioned by Athabasca University on behalf of the Canadian Institute of Distance Education Research (CIDER): Athabasca University

   Download PDF Copy

Background curricular research and design materials to introduce faculty to principles of course design and learning styles. Teaching and Learning Centre (Learning Commons) University of Calgary

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Background curricular research and design materials to introduce faculty to principles of Information Literacy. Academic Writing Centre: University of Calgary

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Report on the system wide impact assessment of Alberta Learning's $40 million Learning Enhancement Envelope (LEE) on the Alberta Post-Secondary System: Province of Alberta, 2001.

Keynote Address:
National Learning Infrastructure Initiative (NLII)
January 2001, New Orleans, LA

Invited Paper:
15th Annual Canadian Advanced Internet Conference (CANARIE).
May 31, 2001
Calgary, Alberta.

An example of one of the program booklets for the teaching and learning programs for faculty and teaching assistants. I designed, edited and produced a booklet each Fall and Winter term from 1998 - 2000.

   Download PDF Copy

Paper Presentation:
Sound Escapes Conference. Trent University, July 3, 2000
Note: pdf version currently unavailable

Invited Paper:
Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute: Summer Institute in Canadian Studies
May 17, 2000

Invited Lecture
STHLE/CAPES 2000 Conference
Brock University, June 17, 2000.

Keynote Address:
Interface 2000 Conference
Grant MacEwan Community College, Edmonton
June 8, 2000

Invited Paper
International Conference Computers and Advanced Technology in Education (CATE)
May 24-27, 2000
Cancun, Mexico

In: Proceedings: International Society for the Study of Rhetoric
Annual Conference.
Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam
July 13, 1999

   Download PDF Copy

Paper Presentation:
National Learning Infrastructure Initiative (NLII) Annual Conference
New Orleans
January 30, 1999

— With W. Hunter, & L. Wenger
Seattle, June 21, 1999

Chapter in: J.H. Kelly and G.X. Stacey, eds.,
Navigating the Information Rich Society
Calgary Institute for the Humanities
University of Calgary Press
pp. 28-40

   View Article as PDF

Proceedings: Canadian Society for the Study of Rhetoric Annual Conference.
University of Ottawa, May 28, 1998. en Français.

   Download PDF Copy

Paper Presentation:
Society of College and University Planning Pacific Region Conference
San Diego, CA
March 20, 1998

Invited Panel (with N. Geisbrecht, E. Enns & W. Hunter)
Ed-Media and Ed-Telecom, June 15, 1997
University of Calgary

Paper Presentation:
National Learning Infrastructure Institute Annual Conference
New Orleans, Louisiana
February 2, 1997

Chapter in: One World, Many Cultures. (D. Jones & B. McConnell, eds.)
Cardenden: Fife Regional Press, 1996.

   Download PDF Copy

The Canadian Journal of Rhetorical Studies
Volume 7, September 1996
p. 29- 43.

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Keynote Address:
The Canadian Association of Fine Arts Deans
University of Calgary, October 25, 1996

Pre-Concert Lecture
Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra Mahler Festival
Jack Singer Auditorium, May 19, 1996

Invited Lecture
The Glenbow Museum
Calgary, Alberta
Oct 17, 1996

Invited Lecture:
The New Gallery
Calgary, Alberta
May 25, 1995

Keynote Address:
International Symposium and Exhibition on Teaching and Learning
University of Calgary
June 10, 1994

Author of over fifty senior administrative committee reports and studies, as well as related articles in the University of Calgary Gazette, Alumni Magazine, and The Gauntlet (campus newspaper); related to curriculum development, teaching and learning initiatives, committee reports, research and infrastructure projects, etc.

Author: Introduction; and,
Editor: Proceedings

   Download PDF of Conference Program

CBC - TV-News Item on Conference

Tuning of the World —  Nickle Arts Museum Exhibition: Virtual Tour

Invited Panelist: 2nd Workshop on Creativity
Convener: Douglas Hofstadter, CRCC Director
Center for Research on Concepts and Cognition, Indiana University
March 21-23, 1992

Paper Presentation:
Glasnost and the Global Village Conference
York University
February 19-22, 1991

Review of The Cognitive Revolution In Western Culture Volume I: The Birth of Expectation
by Don Le Pan
The Toronto Star

   View PDF Copy

Review of Laws Of Media - The New Science
by Marshall and Eric McLuhan
The Toronto Star

   View PDF Copy

Presented at:
Blurring Genres: A conference on alternative forms of critical practice
University of Calgary April 7, 1989

in Guitar Review
New York
April, 1987
(pp. 4 - 12)

   Download PDF Version of Article

Paper presentation:
31st Annual Meeting of the College Music Society
New Orleans, Louisiana
October 15, 1987

Paper presentation:
Symposium of Recent Research in Music Theory
Indiana University
March 9, 1986

Peer Review, Referee & Jury Member:

Academic journals:

The Journal of Human-Computer Studies Blake Studies International Journal of Interdisciplinary Thought Canadian Journal of Educational Thought Computer Music Journal American Journal of Rhetorical Studies In Theory Only ex tempore Perspectives of New Music

Peer Review Committees & Juries:

Social Sciences and Humanities Review Council (SSHRC) Canadian Federation of the Humanities The Canada Council Natural Sciences and Engineering Research (NSERC) Alberta Foundation for the Arts

Commissioned Works & Premières

  • text: Aritha van Herk. Choregraphy: Hannah Stillwell
    duration: 90 minutes
    first performance: September 14, 1999,
    Aritha van Herk, narrator; Donald Bell, baritone; Colleen Athparia, piano; Laura Schlessinger, cello; Brent van Dusen, percussion; members of decidedly Jazz Danceworks (Calgary).

Available upon request  

   Score and/or Parts

   Performance Video

  Audio Recording

  • texts: various (Tennyson In Memoriam; traditional prayer texts)
    duration: 12 minuites
    first performance, November 12, 1997, Eckhardt-Gramatté Hall, Calgary
    Calgary Boy's Choir, Gerald Wirth, director

Available upon request  

   Score and/or Parts

  Audio Recording

Interactive sound and video installation. Sound is digitally synthesised and is shaped and filtered in accordance with video images. Production grants from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts

Available upon request  

   Performance Video

  Audio Recording

  • duration: 4 minutes
    first performance: April 20, 1992; University Theatre, University of Calgary
    commissioned and performed by the New Works Calgary Ensemble

Available upon request  

   Score and/or Parts

  Audio Recording

  • duration: 11 minutes
    first performance: November 23, 1990; Paul Kuhn Fine Arts Gallery, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
    Part of programme entitled PaintingMusic/MusicPainting: Responses, a collaboration between the composer and visual artist Don Kottmann. Commissioned by Alberta Culture through the Calgary Festival of Canadian Music.

Available upon request  

   Score and/or Parts

   Performance Video

  Audio Recording

  • duration: 21 minutes
    first performance: November 23, 1990; Paul Kuhn Fine Arts Gallery, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
    Part of programme entitled PaintingMusic/MusicPainting: Responses, a collaboration between the composer and visual artist Don Kottmann.
    Commissioned by Alberta Culture through the Calgary Festival of Canadian Music. Performed by the composer.

Available upon request  

   Score and/or Parts

   Performance Video

  Audio Recording

  • duration: 20 minutes
    first performance October 3, 1990, The New Gallery, Calgary. Masks: Geoffrey Gerwing.

Available upon request  

   Score and/or Parts

   Performance Video

  Audio Recording

  • duration: 9 minutes
    first performance: November 20, 1989, University Theatre, The University of Calgary.

Available upon request  

   Score and/or Parts

  Audio Recording

  • text by Michael Ondaatje
    duration: 18 minutes first performance: March 6, 1988, Museum and Arts Centre, Sudbury, Ontario
    Commissioned by Charlotte Leonard through the Huntington College Recital Series.

Available upon request  

   Score and/or Parts

   Performance Video

  Audio Recording

  • duration: 9 minutes
    first performance: December 6, 1987, Museum and Arts Centre, Sudbury, Ontario. Jonathan Gonder, piano.

Available upon request  

   Score and/or Parts

  Audio Recording

  • first performance: December 9, 1987, Nippon Kan Theatre, Seattle, Washington
    Commissioned by the Marzena New Music Ensemble (Seattle, Washington).

Available upon request  

   Score and/or Parts

  Audio Recording

  • duration: 10 minutes
    first performance: March 1, 1986, Margaret Greenham Theatre, The Banff Centre, Banff, Alberta. Conducted by Robert Aitken.

Available upon request  

   Score and/or Parts

  Audio Recording

  • duration: 15 minutes
    first performance: July 22, 1985, California State University at Long Beach
    Donald Erb, conductor.

Available upon request  

   Score and/or Parts

  Audio Recording

  • duration: 9 minutes
    first performance: February 7, 1985, Frick Fine Arts Auditorium, Pittsburgh, PA
    Commissioned by the Three Rivers Brass Ensemble through the Pittsbugh Arts Foundation

Available upon request  

   Score and/or Parts

  Audio Recording

  • duration: 16 minutes
    realized at the University of Pittsburgh Computer and Electronic Music Studio
    first performance: April 3, 1984, Frick Fine Arts Auditorium, Pittsburgh, PA.

Available upon request  

  Audio Recording

  • duration: 11 minutes
    first performance: March 25, 1984, Frick Fine Arts Auditorium, Pittsburgh, PA
    commissioned by the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble.

Available upon request  

   Score and/or Parts

  Audio Recording

  • first performance: February 4, 1984, Frick Fine Arts Auditorium, Pittsburgh, PA
    performed by the composer.

Available upon request  

   Score and/or Parts

  Audio Recording

  • text by George Bowering
    duration: 14 minutes
    first performance: November 18, 1983, Frick Fine Arts Auditorium, Pittsburgh, PA commissioned by soprano Lynne Weber through the Pittsburgh Chamber Music Society

Available upon request  

   Score and/or Parts

  Audio Recording

  • duration: 8 minutes
    first performance: November 14, 1982, Walter Hall, The University of Toronto University of Toronto Guitar Ensemble, Eli Kassner, director. Canada Council Commission

Available upon request  

   Score and/or Parts

  Audio Recording

  • duration: 15 minutes
    realized at the facilities of the Structured Sound Synthesis Project of the Computer Systems Research Group, The University of Toronto
    first performance: November 22, 1981, The Music Gallery, Toronto, Canada.

Available upon request  

  Audio Recording

  • duration: 11 minutes
    realized at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Experimental Music Studio
    first performance: July 31, 1981, Kresge Auditorium, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Winner of the Performing Rights Organization of Canada Ltd. Young Composer's Competition (Electronic Music Category) June 17, 1982.

Available upon request  

   Score & Performance Directions

   Performance Tape (Digital or Analogue)

  Audio Recording

  • duration: 15 minutes
    first performance: the Vermilion Quartet: July 29, 1982, Max Bell Auditorium, The Banff Centre, Alberta
    commissioned by the Vermilion Quartet.

Available upon request  

   Score and/or Parts

  Audio Recording

  • duration: 10 minutes
    realized at the University of Toronto Electronic Music Studio
    first performance, March 10, 1981, Faculty of Music, University of Toronto.

Available upon request  

  Audio Recording

  • duration: 14 minutes
    first performance by the Wilson-McAllister guitar duo with New Music Concerts (Toronto) April 10, 1981, Faculty of Music, University of Toronto.
    Commissioned by the Wilson-McAllister guitar duo through the Canada Council

Available upon request  

   Score and/or Parts

  Audio Recording

  • duration: 8 minutes
    realized at the University of Toronto Electronic Music Studio
    first performance: February 6, 1980, Faculty of Music, University of Toronto.

Available upon request  

  Audio Recording

  • duration: 6 minutes
    Winner of the Remeny Award Competition for String Quartets
    first performance(s): April 12, 1980, Walter Hall, University of Toronto, Canada.

Available upon request  

   Score and/or Parts

  Audio Recording

Research Conferences, Concerts & Exhibitions

New Works Calgary Logo

As President, oversaw production of six to eight concerts each season. Responsibilities included: chairing the program committee, director of fundraising and marketing. Managed part-time administrative staff, volunteers, and artistic personnel. Managed operational budget ($410,000 annually). New Works Calgary was Calgary's first contemporary music performing organization, devoted to the performance of new music by Canadian composers. New Works Calgary is a non-profit society and has registered charity status.

International conference on interdisciplinary theory and practice.
Included papers, art exhibits and concert.
University of Calgary
May 9 - 12, 1999
Awarded SSHRC conference grant and major funding from Province of Alberta Department of Higher Education

University of Calgary
June 14, 1997

Major funders:
Ed-Media/Ed-Telecom Conferences, Knowledge Science Institute, University of Calgary (Total budget: $80,000)
Designed poster, Conference Website and Edited Proceedings.

Conference Poster

November, 16- 22, 1996 — University of Calgary
Explored the economic and social implications of the convergence of information technologies.
Major Funders: AGT Corp. ($35,000) and the Convergence Research Network, University of Calgary

November 10, 1994, University of Calgary.
Focus on recent research in technology-based learning.
Strategic planning for Network of Centres of Excellence.
Co-authored NCE proposal (with B. Gaines, (Principal Investigator), W. Hunter and L. Katz).

Major funding: NCE proposal development grant.

Developed as a parallel event, integrated with the Learned Societies conferences, also held that year at the University of Calgary. June 3 - 18, 1994.

Designed poster, devised and directed special events (i.e., Great Teachers from History Debate; edited Proceedings & managed paper submission & review process

ISETL was a series of 3 week-long symposia on:
1) Faculty development, staff training and evaluation;
2) The impact of technology on teaching and learning, and;
3) The development of new curricula in response to changing student demographics and the evaluation of learning styles.

Included large-scale educational technology exhibition and trade show by major vendors.

Fundraised total budget of $45,000 (Alberta Learning, SSHRC, Microsoft)

Conference Poster

International conference concerned with acoustic ecology (relationship between sound and the environment)
August 8 -14, 1993
The Banff Centre, Alberta.

Managed all fundraising as well as program development, promotion, publication of proceedings, hiring administrative staff, contracts with speakers and guest artists ($370K total budget).

Co-curated sound art exhibition at Nickle Arts Museum, authored and edited conference program, edited Proceedings.

Conference included program (funded by Science Technology Canada) that introduced K-12 Calgary public/Catholic school students to elementary principles of acoustics. Students created demonstrative projects that were displayed at conference. Program included professional development sessions for participating district music and science teachers.

   Download PDF of Conference Program

CBC - TV-News Item on Conference

Nickle Arts Museum Exhibition: Virtual Tour

May 8 - 12, 1991
University of Calgary

This international conference explored interrelationships between the arts, the humanities and the sciences. Conceived and produced all aspects of the conference. Did all fundraising (total budget $110K) hiring of conference staff, marketing and program publication, etc. Authored commemorative program and edited Proceedings.

Conference Program (pdf)
Sound recording of Douglas Hofstadter and Timothy Buell discussing interrelationships between music and the visual arts
2013 Federation of the Humanities and Social Sciences: Publication Grant
  • For Exploring Gutenberg's Galaxy: A critical edition re-issue of McLuhan's Gutenberg Galaxy, in the form of an E-book with embedded multimedia examples, illustrations and commentary, hyperlinks and other archival material. Co-author with Bob Logan.

    Proof-of-concept example pages.
1999 - 2001 McGill-Calgary Advanced Learnware Network:
  • Principal Co-Investigator: Calgary
    Funding Sources: Canarie Inc.'s ANAST shared-cost R&D program, Cisco Inc. and the two universities. Project established a network for the production, distribution and use of advanced learnware (educational materials and tools) using high quality digital audio and full-motion video over CA*net 3, between McGill University and University of Calgary.
1998 - 2001 Peer Review of Instructional Technology Innovation (PRITI)
  • Co-investigator (with T. Anderson, Co-Director, University of Alberta)
    Funding Source: Learning Enhancement Envelope (Alberta Ministry of Learning). Created a scholarly review process faculty at Alberta universities who are developing instructional technology; and provide a coordinated means for the overall evaluation new curricula using learning technologies.
2000 - 2001 Evaluation of Learning Technologies Initiatives in Continuing Professional Development
  • Lead investigator, University of Calgary, (with B. Einsedel, PI, University of Alberta)
    Funding Source: Office of Learning Technologies, Ottawa. Project assessed and compared selected learning technologies initiatives supported by government-supported universities on the one hand, and those implemented in private-sector organizations on the other.
1999 - 2001 Partnerships for Learning, Innovation and Technology (PLIANT)
  • Co-Investigator, University of Calgary, (with T. Carey, University of Waterloo)
    Funding Source: Canaire Inc. Learning Program. Project demonstrated the use of broadband networking within shared faculty development activities. Showcased CANARIE use and Canadian expertise in general for the MERLOT community (cf. www.merlot.org).
1996 - 2001 Learning and Evaluation Research Network (LEARN)
  • Co-investigator (with Dr. T./ Anderson, University of Alberta)
    Operating budget from the Alberta Ministry of Learning Project initially funded 1996, and received going funding since. Project provided a detailed, province-wide evaluation, that included summative evaluation data, for all projects funded under Alberta's Learning Enhancement Envelope and other selected learning technologies at Alberta postsecondary institutions.
1995 - 2001 President: New Works Calgary of Art Calgary Society
  • While President, I secured major operating grants, sponsorships and music commissioning grants for New Works Calgary's annual concert series and outreach activities. Major donors included:

    Alberta Foundation for the Arts • Canada Council for the Arts • Calgary Region Arts Foundation • Calgary Co-Op, Trans Canada Pipelines • Nova Corporation • Kathleen Richardson Foundation • SOCAN Foundation • University of Calgary • Husky Oil • Texaco Canada • Calgary Co-Op • Goethe Institute • Numerous individual donors.
1997 Special Projects Grant, University of Calgary Endowment Fund
  • For Rozsa Centre Opening Festival
1995 - 1997 University of Calgary Research Group Funding
  • For Convergence Research Network operating grant
University of Calgary Visiting Scholar Grant
1995 University of Calgary Special Projects Grant
  • For development of Interpersonal Interactive Communications Education (InTICE): Multimedia CD-ROM courseware in interpersonal communications
University of Calgary Multimedia Research Grant
  • For development of video courseware for graduate Interpersonal Communications curriculum.
University of Calgary International Travel Grant
  • To present at International Conference on Adult Education in the Arts (June 4, St. Andrews University, Fife, Scotland).
1994 SSHRC Scholarly Conference Grant
University of Calgary Special Projects Grant
Teaching Development Office Grant
University of Calgary Conference Grant (ISETL)
  • For International Symposium and Exhibition on Teaching and Learning (ISETL)
1993 University of Calgary Spring/Summer Special Sessions Innovation Fund
  • For development of new course Acoustic Communication.
SSHRC Conference Grant
  • For the Tuning of the World International Conference on Acoustic Ecology
University of Calgary Special Projects Grant
  • For the Tuning of the World Conference
University of Calgary Conference Grant
  • For the Tuning of the World Conference
Rex Foundation Grant
  • For the Tuning of the World Conference
NSERC Research Conference Grant
  • For the Tuning of the World Conference
Nova Corporation Arts Grant
  • Commission for Helios, orchestral work for the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra
Alberta Foundation for the Arts Project Grant
  • For Chronoscapes — Multimedia installation at the Nickle Arts Museum
1992 Alberta Foundation for the Arts Composer's Commission
  • String Quartet for the Kronos String Quartet
1991 Canada Council Major Arts Grant

University of Calgary Special Projects Grant
SSHRC Conference Grant
  • For Resonant Intervals: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Music
Kathleen Richardson Foundation
  • For Resonant Intervals: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Music
1986 - 1987 The Banff Centre, Banff, Alberta
  • The Leighton Artist Colony, Resident Composer (March-May; October-January)
1986 The Banff Centre, School of Fine Arts
  • Scholarship for Advanced Studies in Music (January-March)
1982 - 1986 University of Pittsburgh: Graduate Department of Music
  • Mellon Fellowship
1985 California State University at Long Beach
  • Summer Composer's Residency
1982 Performing Rights Organization (PRO) Canada
  • Young Composer's Competition: Winner in Electronic Music Category.
1981 The Canada Council for the Arts
  • Music Composition Grant
The Banff Centre: School of Fine Arts
  • Scholarship to attend Summer Composer's Residency for study with William Kraft
1980 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Scholarship to attend Summer Graduate Certificate Program in Digital Sound Synthesis
The Remeny Award Competition for String Quartet
  • Winner: String Quartet Commission

University of Toronto Graduate Scholarship

Employment Summary

Senior Academic Administrative Positions

Duties & Responsibilities:
Responsible for the planning and administration of policies and programs for Research, and University Advancement.

Reported directly to the President. Member of the Administrative Executive Committee.

Direct reports included: Associate Vice President (Research), Director of Corporate Relations, Director of Development, Manager of the Office of Research, and directors of the University's research centers and institutes.

Provided support to the Board of Governors through the University Advancement Committee.

Senior administrator responsible for research and technology transfer at Lakehead University. Direct reports included: Dean of Research, Director of Research Office, Technology Transfer Manager, and the Directors of all university labs, research facilities and institutes. Responsible for developing and maintaining research collaborations with partners with colleges and universities, industry and government.

Senior administrator responsible for all university advancement. Managed creation of new strategies for individual and corporate giving, cultivation and stewardship of major gifts. Initiated the implementation of a major capital campaign for the University's Advanced Technology and Academic Centre.

The Learning Commons was established in September 1998 as an integrated unit consisting of Student affairs, Faculty Professional Development, and curriculum research support. The Learning Commons was renamed the Teaching and Learning Centre in 2001, and the last time I checked it had been re-named the University of Calgary Taylor Institute for Teaching and Leaning.

The Director's position was a Vice-Presidential-level appointment: Responsible for planning and implementing comprehensive professional development and teaching and learning research programs for academic staff and graduate teaching assistants, and for student academic support services. Direct reports included: Director, Academic Writing Centre; Associate Director of Student Academic Affairs; Co-ordinator of Faculty Development; Director of Online and Distance Learning; and, Director of Communications Media.

As Director, I created training programs for Student Affairs advisors; personally facilitated several seminars. Supervised 2 FT and co-supervised 10 pt staff, and14 FT researchers for externally funded research projects. Developed instructional development programs for corporate clients. Managed unit operational budget.

1998 - 2001 Director, First-Year Experience Program
1999 - 2001Chair, Student Aid and Bursaries Oversight Committee
1998 - 2001Chair, Province of Alberta Advisory Committee for Educational Technologies
1999 - 2000Chair, Instructional Facilities Advisory Committee
1998 - 2001 Chair, Teaching Excellence Awards Committee
1998 - 1999 Chair, Information Literacy Steering Committee
1997 - 1998 Chair, Building Space Study Task Force
1996 - 1998 Director, Alberta Learning Enhancement Envelope Funding
1998 - 1999 Chair, Learning Commons Executive Committee
1995 - 1997 Chair, Learning and Instructional Development Subcommittee
1995 - 1997 Chair, Technology Task Force
1995 - 1996 Chair, President's Review of Image and Marketing Expectations

Professional & Consulting Work

Co-founder and Principal, Toronto Office

Buell • Salter & Associates (BSAC), with regional offices in British Columbia and Ontario, provides consulting services for professional learning in higher education, corporate settings, and the not-for-profit sector.

Since its establishment, BSAC has developed an international client list from Canada, USA, Europe and Australasia.

Clients have included:

  • Athabasca University  Credit Canada  The University of Hong Kong   Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong  National Science and Technology Development Agency  The Liberal Party of Canada  Ministry of Science Technology and Environment (NSTDA) Thailand  The University of Wollongong, Australia  The University of Melbourne   University of Vienna  Macau Polytechnic University, Macau    Sungkyunkwan University, Seoul, Korea  University of Columbo, Sri Lanka.

Areas of Service:

  • Teaching & Learning Development in Higher Education
  • Leadership Development
  • Coaching, Mentorship and Team-building
  • Corporate Training and Professional Development
  • Assessment and Evaluation
  • Curriculum Design
  • E-learning, LMS & Instructional Technology Deployment
  • Communications Audit
  • Research Services Grant & Proposal Writing
  • Needs Analysis
  • University & NPO Advancement and Marketing
  • Event Planning and Conference Development
  • Volunteer and Board Training for NPO's
  • Customized Professional Development for Individuals

Founder and Managing Director

Communications and management consultancy, based in Toronto and New York. Employed three full-time and sixteen part-time staff.

Areas of service

  • Higher education
  • Performing and Visual Arts
  • Not-for-Profit Organizations (communications audits; personnel audits; personnel training, program and curriculum design, online training development; fundraising and advancement; employee relations; exhibition, conference and concert planning and management).

Partial Client List:

  • Athabasca University  The Banff Centre for the Arts  Belmont House (Toronto, Canada)  Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre  Canadian Institute for Distance Education Research  Kurchak & Co.  Word Engines, Inc.  Nova Corp., Communications Research Centre Canada  HBE Software Canada  Intelligex Inc.  The Ailey School  Berklee College of Music  CITYarts, Inc.  Liberal Party of Canada  Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIAR)  The Toronto Metro Zoo  Vancouver Symphony Orchestra

Sold controlling interest company in February, 2014

Weekly television program produced by Global Television (Calgary CFCN, 2000-2001).

Planned and implemented research strategy for program, web site and newsletter, and supervised research staff of 12 employees.

Program launched nationally by CITY TV, fall 1999.

Software developer of portal features and applications in pre-built applications (including systems integration, project management and prototype development).

Calgary's principal contemporary music performing organization, devoted to the performance of new music by Canadian composers.

New Works Calgary is a non-profit society and has registered charity status. Produced five to eight concerts each season.

Responsibilities included:
Chairing the program committee, director of fundraising and marketing. Managed part-time administrative staff, volunteers, and artistic personnel. Managed operational budget.

Annual festival of contemporary Canadian music. Festival was collaboration whose partners included:

Calgary Catholic School Board   Calgary Public School Boards   Esther Honens International Piano Competition   Calgary International Organ Festival   One Yellow Rabbit   Canadian Music Centre   The Banff Centre for the Arts   New Works Calgary   University of Calgary  New Works Calgary.

1993 Federal Election

Managed Mr. Blair's campaign for Calgary Centre Riding

Teaching & Research Appointments

Full Member: School of Graduate Studies

Courses Taught:

  • Introduction to Interdisciplinary Qualitative Research Methods
    Fieldwork, In-Depth Interviewing, Unobtrusive Research, project design, information analysis, and research writing.

Courses Taught — Graduate

  • Acoustic Communications
    Faculty of Environmental Design: Principles of acoustics and acoustic design
  • Methods in the History of the Book
    Topics include material bibliography; competing models of authorship, printing, and reading; changing practices in the production, circulation and use of the printed word. Cross-listed with the Graduate Program in Fine Arts
  • Advanced Marketing Communications
    Focused on the role of communications systems in the marketing process
  • Advanced Research Methods
    Bibliographic software, e-based research methods, ethics, databases

Courses Taught — Undergraduate

  • Seminar in Theories of Communication
    Core course for students in the MA program in Communications
  • Senior Seminar: McLuhan
    Advanced seminar exploring McLuhan's work and his influence on the field of communications and cultural studies.

Research Activities:

  • Chaired Learning Commons Research Agenda Committee, responsible for designing research-based faculty development programs
  • Chaired RBC Learning Commons Research Grants Committee, and managed funds disbursement

Courses Taught:

  • Advanced Research Methods
    Bibliographic software, e-based research methods, ethics, databases
  • Seminar in Theories of Communication
    Core course for students in the MA program in Communications
  • Senior Seminar: McLuhan
    Graduate seminar exploring McLuhan's work and his influence on the field of communications and cultural studies.
  • Theories of Intercultural Communication
    Graduate Program in Educational Psychology: Applications of Intercultural Communication Theory and associated areas of study for Applied Psychology
  • Directed Studies
    Supervised graduate students in individual research projects in: Communications Theory; Marketing Communications; Cultural studies; Music theory; ethnomusicology; Contemporary Rhetoric; History of Information technologies; fine arts; environmental design.

Courses Taught:

  • Academic Writing for Specialized Audiences — Introduction
    Genres of narrative, critical and essay writing, emphasizing development of an effective writing process. Introduction to critical reading and thinking, argument development, and the practice of referencing. Includes both written communication and oral presentations.
  • Advanced Academic Writing for Professional Audiences
    Online course in academic writing for students Nursing, Community Rehabilitation and Disability Studies, and Social Work.
  • Canadian Studies: The Arts in Canada
    An interdisciplinary study of the fine arts in Canada, including their socio-cultural role and their historical influence on shaping Canadian identity.
  • Cultural Foundations — Communication & Culture
    A critical and interdisciplinary examination, via classic texts, of Western (Greco-Roman and Judaeo-Christian), Indian, and Chinese civilizations in terms of their fundamental cultural assumptions
  • Canadian Studies: The Arts in Canada
    Introduction to the social and political context of the arts in Canada, with experiential component involving active participation in the ongoing activities of an arts organization in Calgary.
  • Canadian Studies: Mass Communication & Canadian Society
    The role of newspapers, magazines, television, radio, public opinion polling and social media as purveyors of social and cultural values.
  • Cultural Studies in Communication
    A comprehensive survey of the principal approaches to the study of human communication in the cultural and critical traditions, including semiotic models of communications processes and interpretive methods of research
  • Leadership, Influence and Power
    Theory-based analyses of concepts such as power, leadership, individual and group power, leadership styles, and the ethics of power.

Graduate Supervisions

Ph.D Graduate Program in Communications
Ph.D Faculty of Education
MA Graduate Program in Communications
MA Faculty of Environmental Design
MA Department of Music
MFA Faculty of Fine Arts

Responsibilities & Activities:

— Designed and implemented new courses in business communications and the fine arts.
— Hired instructors, managed course budgets, and designed marketing & advertising materials
— Built partnerships with community arts organizations.

Courses Designed & Taught:

  • Strategic Marketing for the Non-Profit Organization
  • Metaphor-Making in Business Communications
  • The Baroque Experience
  • Contemporary Art in Canada
  • Introduction to World Music
  • Memories of War, Dreams of Peace
  • The Conductor's Life
  • From Chaos to Wisdom
  • Jazz History and Appreciation
  • PlayRites '96
  • The Symphony Experience
  • Winter Arts in Calgary
  • De-Mystifying Modern Music

Courses Taught:

  • Writing About the Fine Arts
    A course in arts journalism. Combines an introduction to aesthetics with practical exercises in critical writing about the fine arts.
  • Music and Discourse
    Addresses both song and musical performance as modes of discourse. For song: musical and textual phrase and verse structures and their interrelationships. For musical performances: musical performance as rhetoric and emblem.
    Graduate Course
  • Senior Seminar on Stravinsky
    Focus on Stravinsky's later works, concentrating on his serial techniques and Z-related set practices
  • Workshop in Electronic Music
    Continuing studio work in electronic music. Students carry out individual projects, meeting in weekly seminar to share problems and discoveries. Relevant advanced topics are covered, including new developments in the art.

Courses Designed and/or Taught:

  • Modern Theories of Communication
    Survey of conceptual approaches to modern communications theory, and of the general nature of theory building and testing. Content includes information theory, transmission models, structuralist and post-structuralist approaches, discourse analysis, reception theory and semiotics.
  • Professional and Technical Communication
    Rhetorical approach to professional and technical communication. Emphasis on how workplace communication is situated within distinct organizational or corporate cultures as well as broader socio-cultural contexts.
  • Rhetorical Communication
    Introduction to principles of communication based on classical and modern rhetorical theory, as a means to critique and understand the process of argumentation in a wide variety of discourses.
  • Senior Seminar in Communications: Canada as a Digital Society
    The role of technologies and digitization, and new media in particular, within the broad context of social development in Canada, as primary drivers of the digital economy in a globalized world. Specific focus on the increased role of visualization and visual communication in the digital environment.
  • Writing About the Fine Arts
    A course in arts journalism. Combines an introduction to aesthetics with practical exercises in critical writing about the fine arts.

Courses Taught:

  • Senior Seminar:
    Resonant Intervals: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Music

Courses Taught:

  • Materials of Music I & Materials of Music II
  • First and second-year theory and analysis
  • Materials of Music III
  • Advanced theory and analysis; 20th-century compositional techniques
  • Introduction to World Music
  • Ethnomusicology (second/third year advanced course)

For Huntington Conservatory of Music (cross-appointment):

  • Private and class instruction for Royal Conservatory of Music examinations in theory, harmony and music history (Grades III - A.R.C.T.)
  • Classical Guitar Instructor (Grades III - A.R.C.T.)

For Sudbury Board of Education (secondment):

  • Taught instrumental music/composition in gifted student advanced program in the arts (Grades 7, 8 and 9)
  • Provided professional development sessions for K-12 teachers
  • Taught introductory (non-specialist) courses in music history, world music, and jazz appreciation
  • Conducted tutorials in computer and electronic music; supervised computer-assisted instruction tutorials
  • Taught undergraduate courses in music theory, keyboard harmony, and world music (introduction to ethnomusicology)
  • Taught creative music in Grades 4-6 of inner-city schools in Pittsburgh, as part of arts curriculum development program between the University of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Public School system
  • Private and class instruction for Royal Conservatory of Music examinations in theory, harmony and music history (Grades III - A.R.C.T.)
  • Classical Guitar Instructor (Grades III - A.R.C.T.)

Student Services

Duties & Responsibilites:

Provided individual support (face-to-face and online); presenting group sessions and workshops in the following areas:

  • Academic writing (research essays, MRPs, theses, dissertations, manuscripts for publication, funding applications, lesson plans, etc.)
  • English Language Proficiency Improvement
  • E-portfolio and Language Portfolio Support for Concurrent Education Students
  • Oral Presentations (in-class and conference presentations, lesson delivery)
  • Résumés, Cover Letters, and Interviewing Skills
  • B.Ed. teacher preparation for K-12 Schools in Canada
  • Practicum visits
  • Pre-Field Experience Program
  • Strategies for Success in teacher preparation and graduate programs at OISE, including support for international students.
  • Designing and implementing web-based resources (online booking system; Teacher Preparation Handbook; Student Affairs Handbook; instructional videos; templates for cover letters, résumés, research presentations)

Sample Course Outlines

Undergraduate Courses

Graduate Courses

Adult & Continuing Education Courses

Teaching Portfolio

Ten Tenets of my Teaching Philosophy

I've been a teacher since I was thirteen years old, giving guitar lessons at our local music store. As a teenager, I also taught swimming, sailing and canoeing for the YMCA, both in Ontario and for the International YMCA in Venezuela. As an undergraduate student, I taught theory, history, piano and classical guitar at the Royal Conservatory of Music, and I've held graduate teaching assistantships in several different disciplines.

As a professor and administrator, I have taught in a dozen different disciplines at eight different universities, managed a teaching and learning development centre and served as a vice president (research). Finally, I have worked a private consultant in marketing, communications and information technologies.

All of these experiences have shaped my outlook on teaching and learning. The following list is a distillation of what I have learned, and is — like my journey as a teacher and learner — very much a work-in-progress.

#1   Uncurb your enthusiasm

Hard students are commonly troubled with gowts, catarrhs,
rheums, cachexia, bradypepsia, bad eyes, stone, and collick,
crudities, oppilations, vertigo, winds, consumptions, and all
such diseases as come by over-much sitting: they are most part
lean, dry, ill-colored . . . and all through immoderate pains and
extraordinary studies. If you will not believe the truth of this,
look upon great Tostatus and Thomas Aquainas' works;
and tell me whether those men took pains

     BURTON'S Anatomy of Melancholy, P. I, s. 2.

George Elliot used this quotation to introduce one of the novel's main characters — Mr. Cassaubon — an elderly clergyman and scholar, who is as pompous and pedantic as he is long-winded and delusional, spending his life in a futile attempt to find a comprehensive explanatory framework for the whole of mythology (today, we might call Burton's “hard students” anything from nerds to nutty professors to academic deadwood, depending on the context). doing wikipedia on his own

Middlemarch is widely considered to be one of the finest English novels ever written, and is found on most English literature course syllabi — which is a mixed blessing in terms of academic stereotypes — given that it established Cassaubon as an academic archetype that has remained a dominant cultural trope ever since. And there's more: Cassaubon married the young and beautiful Dorothea, not out of love or desire but because he needed a sort of live-in research assistant. This was disastrous for Dorothea, who had entered into the marriage because she was enthusiastic about learning everything about with the great spheres of knowledge apparently inhabited by Cassaubon, only to be bitterly disappointed when he turned out to be an even worse teacher than a lover. This crushing of Dorothea's enthusiasm for learning by the disengaged pedant Cassaubon is one of the worst things a professor can do to a student. Once a student loses her initial sense of enthusiastic anticipation, or senses a professor's disengagement, it's very hard to get it back. For example, string theory researchers are lucky this guy is no longer teaching in their field:

This is what bell hooks is getting at in Teaching to Transgress when she speaks of “ experiencing education as the practice of freedom,” “engaged pedagogy,” “self-actualization,” and “empowering students.”

From the moment I begin a course, I try to share my passion for the material. If it is an entry-level course that I have taught over and over again, instead of letting myself get bored with the material or format, I set myself challenges to create new material or a different approach to the same content — this keeps me on the ball and enthusisatic: if we are excited by the course content then there is a greater chance that your class will join in the excitement. There are a number of ways to do this. In the "don't-try-this-at-home" category, there is always the Hollywood model:

There is, of course, a great difference between a stunt and genuinely instilling enthusiasm for learning and the subject matter. But there is a valuable lesson to be learned from these clips, and that is the difference between simply entertaining — as in these clips, since that's what Hollywood films are made to do — and creating learning enthusiasm through drama. For example, I had a colleague who taught an introductory course on Western Thought and Civilization, and who dressed up as Socrates (white robe and all) during the first lecture on Hellenic thought. I have sometimes been criticized for suggesting such approaches, and have been told that yes, while such a ploy may work in the arts and humanities, it's of little use in the hard sciences or more "difficult" subjects, such as pure mathematics or particle physics. But that's an excuse, not a reason, as demonstrated by the Nobel prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman, as he gives a lecture on atomic structure in this next clip:

Kay Redfield Jamison, Professor of Psychiatry at the John Hopkins School of Medicine, has cited research suggesting that enthusiasm can be infectious, and that exuberance is a trait shared by successful political leaders, senior executives, explorers — and teachers.

I believe that one of the most important things I can do as a teacher is to share my exuberance for the subject matter with my students. It can transcend the course material — even the degree itself — and will help ensure the creation of an ongoing relationship with graduates and their university. Feynman didn't need to stand on his desk to create an enthusiastic atmosphere — his exuberance did it for him.

Another problem with using standing-on-desk stunts to instill learner enthusiasm is that they are one-off: in other words, what do you do for the next class — stand on the window sill? One sure way to dispel student's enthusiasm is to set up a sense of expectation early in the course, only to deflate it by not following through in subsequent classes. I remember when I was in junior high school we had a class visit from an extremely popular history teacher to encourage us to take the senior history class. He had that sort of charismatic standing-on-desk way of presenting the subject. Of course, everyone signed up, only to realize on the first day that it was that other history teacher who would be taking the class that year, which immediately (and undeservedly) put him in the enthusiasm-deficit category.

One way I use to create an ongoing enthusiasm for the daily subject matter is to relate the content of a specific class with a very recent current event (within the past day or two), popular film, pop song, television commercial, magazine advertisements, and so on. I have found this to be particularly valuable given the disciplinary areas I teach in, i.e., Communications, Cultural Studies, Rhetoric and Public Speaking, Social Power Theory, Music, Educational Psychology and Marketing Communications. However, this approach also requires much preparation, since it involves preparing video clips, slides, web pages, and various handouts. On the other hand, nothing can deflate interest more than when students' realize their professor is using the exact same handouts and class materials as they have for the past ten years (as course evaluations often attest to). Such a scenario is depicted in this brief scene from Tom McCarthy's excellent film The Visitor 2007, where we watch Prof. Walter Vale, enveloped by a haze of academic ennui, trudge across campus as he malingers through a day of teaching, faculy meetings, student interviews, preparing a course matreials, and aggreeing to his Dean's invitation to attend a conference.

I have taught courses in Rhetorical Analysis and Public Speaking; and yes, a video of Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream speech is a wonderful example to discuss. However, during the years since I first used this in a class, I have developed a collection of over thirty other speeches, which also ensured a freshness and enthusisam in my own approach to the material.

Sharing personal information or an experience is not only a valuable way to personally connect with students, bit it is also an extremely useful strategy of using an anecdote to make an enthusiastic introduction to class material. For example, when I was a teenager I worked for the International YMCA on an exchange where I taught swimming and waterfront safety to counsellors at a YMCA camp in Venezuela, created for teenagers from the poorer barrios near Caracas. During a lifeguarding session, I needed a volunteer to jump in the water and swim out to the dock, and I asked one tough-looking youth if he could swim. Of course, he said yes, and, of course, the minute he jumped in he sank like a stone. I was so ignorant of teen-age machismo that I didn't realize that my "volunteer" would almost prefer drowning than admit he couldn't swim in front of his peers (not to mention a gringo). I found this to be a very useful anecdote when introducing certain concepts in sociology, social power, intercultural communications and cultural studies.

I also try to ensure that the in-class examples I use are relevant and up-to-date: not only does this help create enthusiasm, but it also establishes a connection between the theoretical and the real. For example, when I teach courses in rhetoric or public speaking, I work continuously to include new speeches - not just clips from recent public speeches by politicians, artists or other public speakers - but also fictional examples from recent films. Using these types of examples becomes especially valuable when we compare them to earlier celebrated examples (such as King's I Have a Dream speech), so that students may discover how certain rhetorical strategies and techniques have either remained unchanged — or evolved — in spite — or as a result of — changing socio-cultural or technological environments.

Since I am enthusiastic about my own research interests, I have found that when I involve students in aspects of my own research, my enthusisam often rubs off. While involving your students in research activities can include traditional means, such as including graduate students (and sometimes undergraduates), or graduate research assistants, as co-authors of papers, participants in research projects, fieldwork, etc; I continuously look for other creative means of doing this. For example, I have organized several large academic conferences in a variety of contexts and disciplines. Wherever possible, I try to include them as volunteer staff (in exchange for admission to events, etc.) in a wide variety of activities, such as working on media materials, registration desk, chaperoning guest speakers, providing introductory remarks for guest speakers, helping them with their presentations or assisting them during workshops, etc. For example, during an international conference I organized on the relationships between music, the humanities and the sciences — Resonant Intervals (1991) — many students from several of my undergraduate classes were able to meet and work with some world-renowned artists, musicians and scientists, including Richard Dawkins, Marvin Minsky, Douglas Hofstadter, David Lowenthal, R. Murray Shafer, Robert Morgan, Tom Sherman, and several others. I am aware of at least a dozen of my students who ended up pursuing advanced degrees in various disciplines as a direct result of this experience.

I did the same thing with students from my undergraduate and graduate classes with several other conferences I organized, including the Learned Societies Annual Meeting, the International Symposium on Teaching and Learning, and The Calgary Festival of Canadian Music. I will discuss a further example — The Tuning of the World International Conference on Acoustic Ecology — in the Curricular Innovation section of this portfolio.

Creating such active and experiential learning oportunities need not relate directly to my own research, or even the subject matter of my courses. For example, during the time I was at the University of Calgary, I was President of New Works Calgary, a non-profit contemorary music presenter, and I served on the boards of other non-profit and community organizations. Whenever I learned of volunteering opportunities, I made a point of encouraging my students to get involved, pointing out the personal and potential career benefits of volunteering.

#2  Analogy - Making

It's easy as pie, like riding a bicycle, or falling off a log

Throughout the history of human discovery-making, we have explained the new or unfamiliar in terms of the familiar. When scientists first discovered the physical nature of sound, they likened to transmission of sound to a phenomenon already familiar — the movement of water — thus the development of terms like sound waves. In the clip below, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins explains geological time by likening it to music.

Dawkins is explaining geological time by using a analogy — one of the most important tools we use as teachers. Analogy is one of the most valuable pedagogical tools we have - the ability to explain the unfamiliar in terms of something already familiar. Although many of us possess a natural talent for good analogy-making, others do not. Using analogy effectively is a skill that teachers must learn and refine just as with any other pedagogical device. Below are three essential points on analogy as a pedagogical device:

  • Make sure that everybody gets the thing you are using for the analogy. There is little point in adopting a functionalist model for the study of cognitive behaviour, or telling a swimming student to kick like a dolphin, if they have no grounding in symbolic logic and basic principles of artificial intelligence, or have never seen how a dolphin swims. Analogies can become hopelessly muddled if you attempt to explain something unfamiliar in terms of something even less familiar! This can often happen when you attempt the analogy from your own perspective as a specialist, overlooking the fact that your students may not share your specialist's viewpoint — especially in introductory courses, or early into the term.
  • Avoid stretching the analogy to the point where people get confused and begin to mistake it for the literal truth. Richard Dawkins would be the first to emphasize that a meme is not — literally — a gene. A good way to avoid this is to employ a variety of analogies to make the same point. This strategy also has the potential to reach more students, since some analogical perspectives will be more personally familiar to some than to others.
  • Try not to use the same analogy over and over again — in the manner of media pundits, self-help gurus, and advice-offering uncles — you risk becoming tiresome, predictable — even unintentionally funny — which will dispel enthusiasm. A good definition of a cliché is a shopworn analogy.
  • Finally, making creative and effective analogies is a rhetorical art that is just as important for learners to develop as it is for you as a teaching device. Be sure to help your learners develop effective skills in discipline-specific analogy-making: this is valuable not only for instilling a deeper understanding of the subject matter, but also for developing skills in critical thinking and professional writing.

#3  Becoming Leonardo

Interdisciplinary Approaches to Teaching & Learning

The term "interdisciplinary" pops up everywhere in academic discussions of research and applied research, course descriptions, teaching practices and curricular studies, but what does it actually mean? Is there even a generally-accepted conception of interdisciplinarity? Some definitions describe an interdisciplinary approach as using the terms of reference from one discipline to illustrate or further inform on an area of the subject being taught. But this is little more than basic analogy-making (see above), which, while an invaluable teaching resource, does not by itself adequately define interdisciplinary.

Some definitions and approaches — such as those described by Boyer and Bishop — define it mainly as a teaching methodology, where a particular subject is looked at from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, using team teaching to bring together faculty from different areas of expertise.

In medicine, interdisciplinarity describes an approach to research and treatment, for example, the topic of addiction could be taught by examining its physical effects on the body (medicine), the mind (physiology and psychiatry), sociological impact (sociology), and human or environmental factors (criminology, urban studies, political science). Similarly, medical terminology defines "interdisciplinary" as comprehensive patient care undertaken by a team of medical specialists working together (anesthesiologist, surgeon, hematologist, etc.). But in terms of how I think about teaching, this is not an interdisciplinary approach, but a multidisciplinary approach, rather like the army calling in air support.

For me, an interdisciplinary approach to teaching is essentially the same as it is for an interdisciplinary approach to research and creative discovery: It takes as its basis the analogy, but at a more comprehensive level, so that the analogical structure grows from a momentary, illustrative teaching tool, to an overall pedagogical approach that underlies the entire structure of the course: That is, to use the methodology of one discipline to study a subject traditionally examined in its "home" discipline.

To begin with an example, I would like to return to Richard Feynman, who did precisely this through a long collaboration with painter Jirayr Zorthian, during which Feynman not only became a competent artist in his own right, but used this new perspective to approach his work as a theoretical physicist.

  • Poster image: photo of Feynman taken by Freeman Dyson
  • timbuell.com

In my own academic areas, some of the most successful interdisciplinary teaching I have seen comes from music, anthropology, and cultural studies. An example is the study popular music as a sociological phenomenon. In this approach, emphasis is not placed on the theoretical or harmonic analysis of the music itself. Rather, a musical style is looked at in terms of cultural origins, its sociological effects, and its overall place and function in a society. The potential problem here is that the discipline of music ends up being the poor cousin of cultural studies. Such a course as described would be more truly interdisciplinary if there were equal attention paid to musical harmony and structure. However, depending on the complexity of the music analysis portion, the course might not be as accessible to students (or professors) without the requisite music specialty. As you can see, true interdisciplinarity — as I have defined it — is difficult to achieve, since it requires a single instructor who is a viable specialist in two or more disciplines: which is why many such courses are team-taught. In fact, team teaching is often cited as an essential component of an interdisciplinary approach to teaching.

This does not mean that you cannot adopt such an interdisciplinary approach on your own — I have successfully done so — however, it does require a great deal of preparation and a readiness to learn new things (this was why I took a second Ph.D in mid-career). Otherwise, we risk shortchanging both the students — and the subject matter itself.

#4  Learning Technologies

If you're describing yourself as an "early adopter," you probably aren't one

Note: This section is badly in need of updating — which I'll be doing soon!

While conventional wisdom proclaims that teaching and learning technologies are enabling and liberating, we often overlook the fact that every new learning technology brings a new set of constraints: Books chained to lecterns have simply been replaced by proprietary software (Blackboard, OWL, etc.), copyright legislation, and infrastructure costs.

Image of Book Chained to Lectern

New learning technologies are too frequently equated with the improvement of educational opportunities — from television in the classroom to MOOCS — with the usual seduced and abandoned result. We are now witnessing this trend once again with the introduction of the Internet and e-mail, web-based course tools and a myriad of online learning platforms. Discussions of learning technologies are clouded by such shibboleths as “early adopters,” “faculty development” which brand faculty members as needing improvement, and those who may have reason to be cautious as change-resistant dinosaurs. In my experience running teaching and learning programs for faculty, I have found that student dissatisfaction (on their course evaluations) with the learning technologies used in their classes stem from some issues so rudimentary that they are often overlooked, such as:

  • E-mail. It is now commonplace — and often mandatory — for an instructor to provide students with his/her e-mail addresses. But this necessitates that we respond to student e-mails. Providing your e-mail address obligates you to respond to e-mails from your students, in the same way as posting your office hours requires you to be there during those times. A faculty member can often be overwhelmed by student emails, which is counterproductive. Here are two techniques I use to ensure email is pedagogically productive as opposed to enthusiasm-killing (for teacher and learner alike):
    1. I create a different email address for each class. This allows you to deal with each class separately. If you ask students to put their class in the subject line, or use other email filters on your personal account, emails usually get jumbled up anyway. I often use an individual email address incorporating the course number for each course I am teaching during a term.
    2. As much as possible, I only look at class emails during a set time each day, and consider it part of my office hours. Of course, if you only have a light teaching load of graduate courses, this may not be necessary. But I have had terms where I taught two large classes of 100-plus students, and this was the best way to do it. Finally, I inform my students of all this: It is important to explain that you will respond when you can, but if it's a real emergency they should telephone, or speak to you in person after class or during regular office hours. It also helps to set other ground rules, such as requiring students not to ask for assignment extensions or make-up exams, etc. by email.
  • Web-based course materials. If you decide to make your course notes, readings, group discussions, etc. available on-line, whether on your own course website or via institutional platforms such as Blackboard, you must absolutely ensure that the site is updated in a timely manner. I've seen so many cases where the instructor, in a burst of enthusiasm, posts the notes from the first few lectures on the course web site, only to get behind, often to the point where the notes are posted quite late - or not at all - making the resource frustrating or useless for the students. Another technique I have found very useful is to set up a Twitter feed or group email for each specific course by which you can provide regular updates on course materials, website content, and so on. Whatever online or learning technologies you decide to use, you must ensure that you are proficient and able to use it effectively before you begin using it in a course. Do not rely on your TA's for this (although you should expect the same from them) - it's not fair. Just as students have a right for you to be proficient with the course content area; they have a right to expect similar expertise in the learning technologies you employ, from writing clearly on the blackboard to advanced web-based applications. There is no excuse for doing it by the seat of your pants: learning the technology on the fly is the same as learning your course content the night before each class.

Finally, I always evaluate any learning technology before adopting it. The only criterion for adopting any learning technology is that it improves the learning experience, and I try not to use it simply because it's readily available, or because I've been told it will save time or labour. As most of us know by now, the supposed “labour-saving” benefit was a con, anyway — c.f. my previous comments on email.

#5  Could you give me an extension?

Accommodating learner needs

It's fun to introduce workshop discussions on this subject by showing this clip from The Visitor (2007, Thomas McArthy):

This may be the most frequent request teachers get. While it might seem to be even-handed fairness to hold all students to the same deadlines and standards, the truth is that everybody faces certain health problems, family issues (including the sudden, all-too-frequent deaths of great-uncles), burnout, and personal problems that require compassion and understanding. While some disabilities are easily visible and understood, others are not. I try never to automatically dismiss an apparently transparent excuse; I'm sure that somewhere, sometime, some luckless student actually did have their homework eaten by the dog.

When a working single mother asks for extra time to complete an assignment, she should be congratulated for her efforts, not given a hard time over a simple deadline, trivial in the long run. I recognize that everyone has a unique array of abilities and life experiences, and as a compassionate teachers we must recognize and accommodate this, even if it requires extra work. I endeavour to treat my students as colleagues. I find it helpful to remember that if I must re-schedule a class or assignment deadline because I am ill, I am not required to present a doctor's certificate to my students. Recall the clip from The Visitor just viewed — I encourage you to see the entire film — and you'll realize that this professor deserved more sympathy than the clip might suggest! To summarize, I believe that creating a sense of collegial respect and understanding with my students is central to their overall learning experience.

#6 And now for something (almost) completely different...

Innovative teaching & learning strategies and curriculum development

I am always thinking about new or different course formats and teaching strategies, but keeping in mind that this may require greater preparation or learning new skill sets on my part. It is important to remember that before we adopt a new course format, we must be comfortable with it; if the pedagogy is new, work into it gradually. Never change courses in mid-stream.

I also believe it is important to remember that a new format may also be difficult for students to adjust to — they will not have had the advantage of pre-familiarizing themselves with it — so I am prepared to tweak a new format during the course in order to accommodate this. I also keep in mind that not every course format is appropriate for every subject or class size. For instance, an intense two-week block course format may be perfect for an archeological field training course, but would be ineffective for a readings-based course, or one which requires developing a physical skill over time. The most important issue is that the course content and your pedagogical goals drive the class format, not the other way around.

The following are examples of where I have found innovative ways of teaching familiar courses, where I have created entirely new course formats, and where I have designed a specific course to take advantage of a unique learning opportunity.

Metaphors that Matter — UNIV400

When I was at the University of Calgary, I was asked by the Deans of the Faculties of Education, Communications and Culture, and Science, to design a course on metaphor that would be of interest to, and appropriate for, students from all three faculties. This meant that the course had to be designed from an interdisciplinary perspective, but one which included the specific perspectives that would be familiar to students from a diverse array of backgrounds. The course was also designed to be a proof-of-concept for a new course-level designation at the University - UNIV - that would eventually include a set of courses that could be taken by all senior-level undergraduates, regardless of discipline or home faculty.

University 400 Course Poster I decided to adopt a "lectureless" course format, which meant that the course had no regularly-scheduled lectures. The only stipulation was that students were asked to keep a two-hour slot open (as indicated in their timetables) to be used as an on-need basis, and for informal class meetings (when requested by the students), mid-year and final presentations.

The course used a combination of email, online discussion lists and web-based materials that allowed the cohort to engage in what I termed "collective independent" study: "Collective," because each student was part of a cohort who were each engaged in developing a research project in the area of metaphor studies; and, "Independent," because each student developed their own research topic in a specific area according to their own academic and disciplinary interests.

I anticipated that — because of the experimental nature of the course, and because students working toward a specific degree are fairly conservative when it comes to taking optional courses — enrollment would be low, and so I produced a poster advertising the course and put it up around the campus. It turned out that the course was a victim of its own success &mdfash; I had hoped for about ten students — however, I ended up with over seventy, which resulted in a lot more work than I had anticipated. The extra time I had to spend was more than compensated by the success of the course. When I left the University in 2000, there were fifteen UNIV-level courses in the Calendar.

Acoustic Communications
Cover Page of the Tuning of the World Program Booklet In 1993 I was invited to organize a large international conference for the Banff Centre, called The Tuning of the World — The First International Conference on Acoustic Ecology. At the time I was also a professor at the University of Calgary, and I realized that this could be a great opportunity to create a collaborative course involving both institutions, and I designed a graduate course for the Faculty of Environmental Design on Acoustic Communication. I also wanted to include undergraduates, and so I arranged for the course to be cross-listed as a senior undergraduate course in the Communications Studies program (with appropriate changes to the academic expectations). The course format was a hybrid — part lecture, part experiential, part project-based and part case-based — and was designed to fit into the short spring session during which the conference was held. The course began with a short series of seminars in which I introduced the essential concepts of acoustics and its relationship to environmental design, and finished during the conference itself, after which students submitted a final project. As part of the course fee, students were registered as full delegates and provided with accommodation at the Banff Centre if they required it. This is an excellent example of what I call “opportunistic curricular design,” which means I am always on the lookout for ways to design curriculum based on — for want of a better pedagogical term — serendipity.

Advanced Marketing Communications
When I was teaching in the Graduate Program in Communications Studies at the University of Calgary, I inherited what was essentially a seminar-based course based on course readings and marketing communications theory, where students submitted a final paper based on case studies included in the readings. During the years I taught this course, I completely redesigned the format, which retained the theoretical/reading component, but in a case-based experiential learning context. I established a collaborative relationship with Calgary-based non-profit organizations (Calgary Zoo, Theatre Calgary, Calgary YMCA, The Women's Centre of Calgary), as well as corporations (Shaw Communications, AltaGas Inc. Agrium Inc., Bethany Care Co., The Calgary Herald). Each student in the class was able to select an organization based on their professional, disciplinary or personal interests, and was provided with an internship position for the duration of the course. This not only enabled each student to produce an original case study based on a real corporate marketing environment, but provided an invaluable experiential learning environment.

Another innovative aspect of this arrangement was the corporate partners agreed to consider an open-ended arrangement i.e., should both parties agree, the student could remain in the internship after the course ended. This enabled students gratified by the experience to continue their learning, or to complete a project they were working on. Finally, students could include the experience as a valuable addition to their résumés, and develop professional references.

One drawback of this course was the large workload that resulted for me, because of all the time it took to develop the network of corporate partners, ensure that the course content and format met University ethical and academic criteria, develop separate contracts and agreements for each corporate partner, and monitoring the progress of each student intern during the course: which included being prepared to make alternate arrangements should the student or corporation become unable to continue with the arrangement during the course. However, the workload became much more manageable after running a few sessions, because most of the corporate partners were gratified by the relationship and wanted it to continue, meaning less preparatory work. The workload was worth it for me, especially since one of the most successful outcomes of the course was that at least one student per term (and three in one of the classes) eventually obtained full-time employment where they had interned.

Continuing Education — Adult Education in the Arts
I am passionate about the role of lifelong learning and adult education, which is one reason why I took a second PhD in Leadership, Adult and Higher Education at OISE. When I was at the University of Calgary, I designed a series of Adult Education in the Arts courses for the Faculty of Continuing Education, which was based on a combination of weekly guest lectures, followed by attendance at an event related to the lecture. Other than serving as one of the "guest lecturers", my role was more of an entrepreneur and facilitator, because it was necessary to include all ticket costs and guest speaker honoraria into the course budget, and still make a profit for the faculty in addition to my own instructor's fee.

#7  Teaching Assessment & Evaluation

“He's received the poorest evaluations in the department. Can you help me fix him?”

When I was directing teaching and learning programs for faculty, I always dreaded being asked this, because by the time the question was asked it was too late for those students anyway, the professor was demoralized, and because I privately held grave doubts about the usefulness of the traditional end-of-term student evaluations of instructors — at least as a means for improving one's teaching ability. The only real positive outcome about this question was that it showed the instructor cared enough about teaching to be concerned.

It hardly bears repeating that at many universities teaching ability usually comes in a distant second to research when it comes to promotion and tenure (despite rhetoric to the contrary: The chances of reciving tenure solely on one's teaching ability are roughly the same as the “faint hope clause” in Wellington's army. While there are indications that teaching ability is now being taken more seriously with respect to promotion and tenure, I have always thought that this was beside the point. In the end, faculties and departments can only legislate: I have always believed that it is up to me to constantly seek ways of improving my teaching through both formal and informal evaluation and self-evaluation.

A glowing traditional end-of-term evaluation, or winning a student-run Teaching Excellence award — while it always felt nice when I received one — are of very little value in truly evaluating teaching abilities. I should know, and I have to say that the courses for which I was nominated for these awards were almost always ones where I stuck to a traditional format, or didn't try to innovate or experiment. What I did learn is that many students — like most of us — are sometimes uncomfortable with doing things differently (despite films like Dead Poet's Society). As a result, I have always tried to find other, more useful means of measuring my abilities as a teacher. Here are some of the ways I have done this (and suggested to colleagues when I give workshops).

Conduct your own in-class informal evaluations during the term. Don't make them long, just one or two questions. Do one every couple of weeks or so. They can be paper or web-based, or even a casual group question at the end of class, or asking a student during an office-hours visit. Sometimes I ask about a particular lecture — did it work for them — why or why not? Every now and again I set aside some time at the end of the class for some informal feedback on some aspect of the course material or related topic (I also do this via a moderated chat room for an online course). Not everyone will pipe up at first, but some will, and the more often you have these sessions the more comfortable they will become. I try to hang around for the shy student.

Remember that each student's perspective may vary. Once, when I was going over the evaluations from one of my classes, a couple of students characterized my efforts to clarify and emphasize as "droning on and on about the obvious;" which required some humility to realize that maybe some things didn't require the same amount of repetition as others! On the other hand, several evaluations from the very same class praised me for making sure that everyone had understood a concept before I moved on. So, for some students my tendency to "repeat the obvious" was viewed by others quite differently; and further, what may work well in one class may not in another — every learner group has its own unique dynamic.

Be sure to have an occasional lecture videotaped. Many lecture halls have enclosed projection booths so that the camera won't even be noticed. You can get an AV technician to do this. But sometimes, I simply set up a camera at the back of the classroom, focus it on the front, turn it on and just leave it running till after class. I guarantee that if you've never seen a videotape of your lecturing before, you'll be shocked! Once you get over the shock, go over the tape with a teaching development person or with a colleague. I guarantee that in your next lecture you'll wave your arms around a lot less frequently; or, if you're like me, you'll learn to stop endlessly repeating yourself. Your students will be forever grateful.

Invite a colleague to sit in on one of your classes. Peer-to-peer evaluation and feedback is one of the most useful tools I know. In a large class students may not even notice the extra face; in a small class just disguise her as Barbara Streisand — as in this scene from The Mirror Has Two Faces (Striesand, 1996):

Try to attend teaching and learning development seminars, workshops and conferences. These are especially useful for learning multimedia, web-based tools or other e-learning techniques. Go to teaching development conferences or workshops (many universities will provide funding for you to attend these). Especially go to the annual STLHE or ISSOTL conference. Better yet, give a presentation at one.

#8  ‘I took the shot and found the open net!’

Articulating what you do in the classroom

When I was Director of the Teaching and Learning Centre at the University of Calgary I set up UofC's Great Teacher's Website. I began by getting the winners of the President's Teaching Excellence Award to come in and give short video commentary on what they think is important in their teaching (I hired students to do the interviewing and produce the videos). Many years later, I'm gratified to see it's still up and running. However, when I was going through the first set of video interviews I was often surprised at how often the faculty teaching award-winners tended to discuss their teaching methods simply by describing how they did things rather than why. It reminded me of those post-game interviews of hockey players who have just scored the winning goal, when they say things like "Marty saw me open on the left wing and he got me the pass just in time." I ended up having to provide with specific questions for interviewees to prepare beforehand, as opposed to a simple open-ended interview. If you are an excellent teacher, to be of any value to your peers you must be able to articulate what you do, and why, and what results you achieved. In other words, you must be able to recount our teaching as research.


This is something I have always tried to do, from documenting my own teaching innovations to creating professional workshops for faculty based on both my own teaching research as well as my colleagues. As an example, to the left is a link to one of the Teaching and Learning Centre set of programs I created while at the University of Calgary.

#9  Educating Ritas

Lifelong Learning

I've been puzzled by this cliché ever since it was introduced — especially the implication of some previous higher education dark ages where what was learned had an expiry date. Personally, I've always thought it part of my teaching responsibilities — beginning with introductory undergraduate courses — to impress that a single course can at best only scratch the surface of the subject, and that a 4-year BA ought not to be considered as an accreditation unto itself, but rather as an introduction to the means of inquiry and intellectual curiosity needed to continue to learn new things. Here is my checklist of the ways I try to do this:

  • At the end of a course, I summarize not only what we have learned, but also the limitations of the scope of what I have been able to cover. During the final class sessions, I provide students with a "take-away syllabus" that includes sources for additional readings, student and professional societies and interest groups related to the subject area. I also encourage students to keep in touch, and to feel free to discuss any aspect of a topic we've covered once the term is over.
  • During the term, I keep a lookout for seminars, guest lectures, a feature film, some other public events related to the course material. I encourage students to attend, and if practical, I may work out an arrangement with an individual student that such participation may be considered part of a particular class assignment. If possible, I arrange for an impromptu class attendance at an event, and then devote part of a class to a follow-up discussion about the event.
  • I believe it is never too early to start recruiting good graduate students. You'd be amazed how many professors teach senior and graduating undergraduate classes without even once mentioning the possibility of graduate school. If you adopt my first "Three E's" Tenet, then 3rd or 4th-year students will approach you about the subject of graduate work, anyway.
  • Whenever I can, I invite guest lecturers into a class to provide a unique or supplemental perspective on a topic related to the course content, even if it means re-adjusting the class schedule to accommodate it. I've found that students enjoy a bit of a break from the routine, and I make sure we have a follow-up discussion about the lecture in the next class. This includes inviting a Masters or PhD students doing work in the class subject area; which works well, because for the most part the graduate students are about the same age as those in the class, and they can relate to one another as peers. This is another opportunity to remind them of the possibility of graduate school.

#10  Post-Grad

The majority of my senior undergraduate students will not go on to take an advanced degree. However, I think that is important to help them see that graduation is not the end of learning, but rather a crucial milestone in their path to further discovery. For senior classes, I always invite a member of the Alumni Association during the final week or two, to inform them about its various activities.

Finally, I always make sure that I attend Convocation.

Image Graduation Caps in the Air

For many students this is a highly significant event in their lives — they may be the first of their family to have graduated from university. I've always noticed two things: how pleased a student is to see you there, and comes over for a chat (often I'll meet their spouses, parents and grandparents, too); and, how many of my faculty colleagues I do not see at Convocation.

They don't realize what they're missing!

AKU Faculty Virtual Mentorship

The Wizard of Oz Deconstructs Derrida

The Best Teacher I Never Had

Like all academics, I’ve had numerous teachers and professors -- perhaps more than usual -- since the vagaries of my university education include a Bachelor’s, Masters’ two Ph.D.’s and credentials in different disciplines. I was thinking about this the other day, and so I decided to make a rough estimate of all the teachers who’d given me formal instruction. I included my university professors (including TA’s); my elementary and high school teachers; athletic coaches (university and high school); as well as numerous private and master class instrumental music and composition teachers. I ended up with a total of nearly a hundred, and yet …

One of my most influential teachers never taught a single one of my classes: N. Roy Clifton was the librarian in my high school, and he was in charge of the school’s Drama Club. He was also the teacher/advisor for numerous extracurricular activities I was involved in, including the school newspaper, the drama club, student’s council, the film club, and the “Recycling Society.”

The Richmond Hill High School Recycling Society was Clifton’s own initiative. Well before recycling emerged as a mainstream environmental issue or became part of public discourse and corporate and government initiatives –when blue boxes were simply, well, blue boxes -- Mr. Clifton recruited a bunch of us (who in turn had to recruit our parents and siblings) to organize newspaper recycling drive or the town of Richmond Hill. This involved writing and distributing information about the monthly pickups around the town, convincing parents to drive us around while we picked up the bundles from the ends of driveways, then spending hours sorting and bundling the huge piles of paper stacked on the front yards of those of us who had volunteered our homes – much to the chagrin of our parents – as sorting stations as we awaited the arrival of the delivery truck we had hired to take the tonnes of paper to a commercial recycling plant. The money we made selling the paper to the recycling contractor paid for the truck and other costs, and the rest went to the students’ council. This was long before experiential learning, project-based learning and community-based learning emerged as important academic research areas, were pedagogically recognized, and became part of the lexicon of faculty development in universities; and before shows like David Suziki’s The Nature of Things put environmental activism onto popular television. Thanks to Clifton, I and my fellow 5:00 am recyclers learned about environmentalism and community development as a social responsibility; as well as the practice of evidence-based practice and proof of concept; or, as Clifton told us; if we could convince the municipal government of the viability of such a program, then the city could be convinced to adopt such a program as a municipal service. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Mr. Clifton ran the school’s Drama Club exactly along the lines of a professional acting company, with auditions, call-backs, rehearsal call postings where our names were always preceded with “Mr. or “Miss;” his play productions replicated the entire gamut of theatrical occupations which allowed the participation of numerous students in non-acting capacities as make-up artists, sound technicians, carpenters, set designers, 1st and assistant prompters, stage hands, and publicists. We learned what a Green Room was (besides being the Home Economics classroom); and Clifton ensured that final performance always received a professional adjudication. I’m not alone in appreciating this: several renowned Canadian film and stage actors have said that Clifton was a major influence on their decision to enter the profession (including R.H. Thompson, Sonja Smits, and Mag Ruffman). Another former Drama Club member, Premier Kathleen Wynne, recently named Clifton as one of her most influential teachers, recalling him as a “drama teacher,” even though the club was an extra-curricular activity and Clifton was not part of the classroom teaching staff!

Another innovation in experiential learning was Clifton’s “Octopus” program, which was a series of seven or eight excursions to various events, including the opera, screenings at the Ontario Film Theatre, a Queen’s Park legislature session (Kathleen Wynne was also a member of “Octopus”) and attending a court case at Queen’s Bench. We were surprised to learn that such legal proceedings were free and open to the public; and this was one of Clifton’s aims: he always stressed how our knowledge of civics and other public institutions was too often based on how they were portrayed in popular media. Our visit to the law court also included a chat by a judge who explained how different a Canadian court proceeding was from those depicted on American television -- this was also before Canadian film and TV subsidies enabled shows like Street Legal to portray Canadian lawyers and judges wearing legal wigs and gowns.

At the time I did know Clifton was an avid film buff: he organized visits to the Ontario Film Theatre and screenings of historically important films. Before film studies was taught in any serious way at the high school level, we did glean a vague understanding of things like auteur theory from Mr. Clifton, although I must admit that our eyes would sometimes begin to glaze over as Potemkin was mentioned yet again.

I haven’t even mentioned how Clifton was able to help staff the library with student volunteers, that he also taught practical skills in book binding and repair, and how we learned about type fonts, journalism ethics and editorial policy from his work on the school paper (have I referred to experiential learning?) As I’ve mentioned, Clifton’s pedagogic and academic interests were ahead of their time: he was one person who truly defined the term interdisciplinarity teaching. I was continually surprised to discover – sometimes years later – that he had yet some other ability, interest or personal characteristic: such as the fact he was a Quaker; and that he was a published poet, and author of children’s books, for example The City Beyond the Gates (1971). Oh… did I mention he was also a professional square-dance caller whose work had been released on LP’s? Late one night, while falling asleep listening to a CBC radio program on folk music, I was awakened by an eerily familiar voice extolling me to “Circle-to-the-left, around-you-do, All-the-way go two-by-two!”

Oh, and I almost forgot. After our Octopus trip to Queen’s Bench I asked Clifton why he seemed particularly interested in legal matters. Turned out Clifton was a lawyer, and had practiced for many years in his native South Africa. When his religious and ethical beliefs could no longer countenance Apartheid, he immigrated to Canada, but was not allowed to practice in Canada without returning to a law school for re-credentialing. Unable to afford this, Clifton became a high school librarian,

Years later, when I was teaching cultural studies and communications at the University of Calgary, I was doing some research for a paper on how terms and constructs derived from semiotics and rhetorical theory – metaphor, synecdoche, anadiplosis, metonym, etc. – have been adapted as analogies in theories of art and music. One of the disciplinary precedents I looked at was film theory, which has a similar tradition, and I came across a wonderful book about metaphor as vehicle for film analysis, which provided some very useful insights. Titled The Figure in Film, it was a meticulously argued, scholarly book; it is frequently cited in the academic literature of several different disciplines, and has been the subject of favourable critical analysis by other scholars.

And the author? None other than Roy Clifton, high school librarian and drama coach. Not a university professor with a two or three-course teaching load, access to sabbaticals and research grants; and for whom research is a part of the job description anyway; but a high school teacher who not only spent his entire day 8-9 hour working day at school with his library duties, and in addition spent several evenings a week at the school supervising extra-curricular activities (not to mention those mornings when he’d be on the phone at 5:30 making sure we had our recycling pickup routes confirmed). The Figure in Film was published about 1983, just a year or so after Clifton retired; meaning the bulk of it was written while he was a full-time high school librarian and innovative teacher of, to name a few: Stanislavski method acting, environmental engagement, civic responsibility, Canadian legal history, journalism, and the role of the arts in society. Innovator in experiential, collaborative and project-based learning long before it trended in faculties of education and teaching and learning development. How he ever found the time to do all this remains a mystery to me.

From The Gutenberg Galaxy to the Twitterverse, or the Unmaking of Typographic Man

Tweeting Tetrads