Faculty Development Summer Institute returns after five-year hiatus
UPEI’s Teaching and Learning Centre hosted the 33rd Faculty Development Summer Institute (FDSI) from June 6–9, 2023, signalling the return of the successful academic conference after a five-year break.
“We haven’t offered the Faculty Development Summer Institute since 2018, and we’re excited to welcome instructors from Atlantic Canada and beyond to UPEI,” says Dr. Charlene VanLeeuwen, co-ordinator of the UPEI Teaching and Learning Centre. “These are educators who are keenly interested in learning more about active learning in post-secondary education. We had colleagues just starting their teaching careers alongside those with several years of experience, and the synergy was wonderful.”
Facilitated sessions began the morning of June 7, as Dr. Greg Naterer, UPEI’s Vice-President, Academic and Research, welcomed the 21 participant educators from UPEI and other Canadian universities.
Dr. Nicholas Mercer is an assistant professor in UPEI’s Environmental Studies program and the Master of Arts in Island Studies program. He attended the FDSI for the first time this year.
“The FSDI is a really incredible opportunity,” he says. “What really piqued my attention was the experiences of my colleagues who had attended in the past. Everyone who had attended the FDSI said it was a life-changing, career-altering experience with respect to their teaching and professional development at UPEI.”
Dr. Dany MacDonald, professor of Kinesiology in the Applied Human Sciences department at UPEI, facilitated some of the FSDI sessions.
“I participated in the FDSI in 2011, the year after I started teaching at UPEI,” he says. “I’ve kept in contact with their facilitators and always tried to keep tabs on the Institute and encourage my colleagues, especially newer ones, to participate.”
Dr. MacDonald had been asked to facilitate FDSI sessions after sitting in on the 2018 Institute and relished the opportunity to present this year.
“I presented on active learning topics including team-based learning, and using teams as an alternative to traditional lecturing,” he says. “There are many different types of active learning strategies we can use in the classroom.”
Active learning is the central focus of this year’s Faculty Development Summer Institute.
“Active learning is the active engagement of our students in the learning process, getting them involved in their own learning by doing things, talking to their peers,” says Dr. MacDonald. “The research is very clear: when students are actively engaged in the process of teaching and learning, even though they may not feel immediately comfortable with the process, they tend to perform better on outcomes.”
It's also a very important concept to Dr. Mercer, as he applies active learning to his scholarly work in energy, environment, and communities.
“We’re trying to shift from energy systems that serve communities to communities who are deeply involved in their own energy systems,” he says. “Moving away from giant energy production plants like the coal plants in New Brunswick empowers people to be involved in and benefit from energy systems that are in their backyards, on their rooftops, or in their communities—that’s why the concept of active learning has so many synergies with the community energy work I do.”
Dr. Oktavian Mantiri is an associate professor at Burman University’s School of Education, in Alberta. He attended the FDSI on a colleague’s recommendation.
“He spoke very highly of the Institute and highlighted it as an exceptional opportunity for professional development,” Dr. Mantiri says. “According to him, the Institute provides invaluable experiences that significantly contribute to enhancing teaching methodologies and fostering a deeper understanding of the evolving educational landscape.”
Dr. Mantiri says all the session topics at the FDSI were insightful and relevant to his teaching and provided fresh perspectives and innovative ideas.
“One theme that resonated deeply with me was from a session facilitated by Dr. MacDonald,” he says. “He emphasized the significance of reflective practice in teaching, encouraging educators to examine their pedagogical choices and understand their impact. I believe it can significantly contribute to my professional growth as an educator and help me develop more effective and engaging teaching practices.”
Dr. MacDonald says participants’ evaluations of this year’s event are overwhelmingly positive, and Dr. Mercer and Dr. Mantiri agree.
“I can say without hesitation the FDSI is one of the best organized and valuable conferences I’ve attended,” says Dr. Mercer. “From start to finish, the facilitators practiced what they preached. We were all so excited and grateful to be there.”
“The conference not only met but greatly exceeded my expectations,” says Dr. Mantiri. “The range of topics, the quality of the presentations, and the opportunity for interactive learning made it an incredibly enriching experience. I'm confident the knowledge and techniques acquired through this program will significantly enhance my teaching effectiveness and contribute to the success of my students.”
Dr. VanLeeuwen says given the five-year hiatus, UPEI’s Teaching and Learning Centre is planning to offer the FDSI again in June of 2024.