Category Archives: Events and presentations

Student focus groups: If I ran SFU …

Student focus groups

What’s missing from your SFU educational experience? What would make it better?

Greater flexibility in putting together your program? More spaces for group work on campus? Weekend classes?

We want to know.

The Task Force on Flexible Education is looking at ways to respond to the changing educational needs of SFU students. We would like to hear what works for you and what doesn’t, as well as your ideas for making things better.

Whether you are an international student, a mid-career professional, a “traditional” student straight out of high school, or someone completely different, your experience will help us shape the way the university offers courses and programs and how it supports  learning.

Come to a student focus group in March to define a vision and identify concrete actions. You’ll get the chance to make a difference, and we’ll show our appreciation to you with a FREE meal and a $10 dining gift card.

Sign up for one of these dates:

Wed, March 4 | 5:30–6:20 p.m. | West Mall Complex 2501 |
Wed, March 11 | 12:30–1:20 p.m. | West Mall Complex 2220 |
Tue, March 17 | 1:30–2:20 p.m. | West Mall Complex 3513 |

To register: Click here
Questions? Contact

The world cafes: Charting a path toward implementation

World Cafe DAC
Participants at the Burnaby world cafe at the Diamond Alumni Centre on January 26.

Over 70 faculty members, staff and students attended world cafés hosted by the Task Force on Flexible Education at the Burnaby campus on January 26, and in Vancouver on February 2.

The participants, supplied with refreshments, writable table covers and a collection of coloured markers, moved from table to table to discuss key questions related to flexibility and relevance in education. The result—captured visually by graphic recorders—was a compilation of thoughts ranging from the cautionary to the visionary to the practical.

The world café series, which will conclude with a session at SFU’s Surrey campus on February 17, will help guide the task force as it develops recommendations to ensure that SFU instructors and programs receive the support they need to continue providing relevant and flexible learning experiences to their students.

The conversations during the completed events centred on five themes:

– Relevance
– Teaching approaches
– Infrastructure and support
– Student agency
– Program design

The challenge for the task force will be to sort through the many ideas proposed by participants in order to identify clear goals and actions. Participants did seem to agree about certain broad principles, including the following:

– Progress will require institutional support, including a financial commitment, to foster cultural change.
– Change will require talking to various partners (unions, faculty members, administration, etc.) about the implications for SFU’s organizational structure.
– The university should build on existing “flexible” initiatives, in part by sharing current achievements more widely with the community.
– Long-term transformation will require changes to the infrastructure that supports teaching and learning activities.

In addition, they suggested a number of concrete steps:

– Address students’ desire for marketable skills by being more explicit about how the strengths of a university education—including critical thinking, literacy, citizenship and writing skills—deliver what employers want.
– Conduct research to define the meaning of relevance within different departments and student populations.
– Incorporate experiential learning into all programs through capstone projects, community-based courses and other forms of active learning.
– Encourage and support inter-disciplinary work and provide budgetary incentives for faculty members to undertake such activities.
– Investigate new approaches to course structure, length, delivery modes and scheduling.
– Introduce a foundational course on lifelong learning in which students could learn study skills, critical thinking methods, assessment of scholarly materials, and other related skills.
– Provide better advancement opportunities for good teachers.

The final Surrey world café on February 17 is open to participants from all campuses. For details and to register.

Personalization and an emphasis on competencies: How B.C.’s new education plan will shape our students’ expectations

Jan Unwin
Jan Unwin provides an overview of changes happening in the K-12 sector that will impact future teaching and learning
approaches at SFU.

Passion, purpose and personalization are three elements that public school (K-12) students view as fundamental to the ideal education system of the future. These are some of the core findings of a study presented at SFU on January 16 by Jan Unwin, superintendent of graduate and student transitions with B.C.’s ministries of Education and Advanced Education.

Unwin’s presentation was arranged by the Task Force on Flexible Education (TFFE) to provide a glimpse into the changes that could shape SFU’s incoming students—and their expectations—in the years ahead.

According to Unwin, the provincial government is taking a bold leap towards reimagining and restructuring the K-12 public education system to make it more reflective of today’s diverse educational needs. “It’s a mind shift,” she said, adding that the current K-12 system is built on “systems and models and structures that were set up for a different age.”

Unwin indicated that the government has identified five key areas of focus for the next B.C. Education Plan: personalized learning, quality teaching and learning (including mentorship), flexibility and choice, high standards, and learning empowered by technology. A key question guiding the exploratory study went like this: Why should our education system be one-size-fits-all when we know that no two students are alike and that they come to us with different goals, aspirations and competencies?

Perhaps one of the largest pedagogical shifts within the proposed plan is the focus on competencies rather than content as the driver. Unwin described the vision is one in which teachers take on a coaching and mentoring role to assist students with finding their passion and a successful pathway to their future.

“We want to create the best possible life chances for kids and young adults, and we want them speaking about their entire educational experience with passion, purpose and pride,” said Unwin. “We need to work collaboratively to get it right.”

The proposed transformation of the K-12 system will have enormous implications for post-secondary institutions like SFU. The TFFE is highlighting these types of issues and working to generate discussion around how the university can be more responsive to, and prepared for, students who will expect approaches to teaching and learning that mirror, at least to some degree, the reimagined K-12 curriculum.

Want to know more about Jan Unwin’s presentation? Follow the links below to view the presentation webcast, see the presentation slides, or download the new B.C. Education Plan.

Click here to watch the webcast.
Download a copy of Jan’s slides.
BC Education Plan:

Public event:
Our students are changing: Are we prepared? *FULL*

Changing K-12 curriculum
Changes to B.C.’s K-12 curriculum will have an impact on the students entering SFU in the next few years.

*This event has now reached capacity. We will be recording the session for those who are unable to attend. Stay tuned for more details about the video. 

When: Friday, January 16, 2015 | 10:00 a.m.–Noon
Where: Halpern Centre 114 (Burnaby campus)
To register:

British Columbia’s K-12 curriculum is changing, and that means students will soon be arriving in our classes with different skill sets and expectations. The implications for university teaching and learning could be significant. This presentation will provide an overview of the curriculum changes, with an emphasis on how learners will be different when they come to university. A question-and-answer period will follow. The event is being organized by SFU’s Task Force on Flexible Education to provide a forum for discussion of educational change and the need for flexible systems that can maintain the relevance of the university experience.

Presenter: Jan Unwin, superintendent of graduate and student transitions in B.C.’s Ministries of Education and Advanced Education, is one of the people leading curriculum reform and working to expand initiatives such as dual-credit programs and opportunities to allow secondary students to earn credits towards post-secondary. She is well known and respected throughout the provincial education system for her work as an innovative elementary and secondary principal, assistant superintendent and superintendent in the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district. During her term as superintendent, the district was recognized nationally for such innovations as its environmental school, cyberschool, and the iPod Literacy Project.

How physical setting affects learning

Peter Jamieson
For Peter Jamieson, an internationally renowned researcher from the University of Melbourne, flexible education is about creating learning spaces that encourage new forms of interaction.

On April 23, Peter Jamieson of the University of Melbourne (Australia) spoke at SFU about “Pedagogy in Place.” His presentation, the first public event organized by the university’s recently launched Task Force on Flexible Education, was provocative in the best sense of the word. Jamieson’s research focuses on how physical environments affect learning. In his remarks to a diverse group of SFU faculty and staff he advocated fundamental changes to the design of learning spaces inside and outside the classroom—all with the goal of facilitating more active and effective forms of teaching and learning.
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