One of the primary functions of many Ontario universities and colleges is to provide students with a high quality teaching and learning experience. However, as resources are stretched and postsecondary institutions focus more on research, funding into teaching development and support has been put at risk. A number of additional challenges – including rising student/faculty ratios and class sizes, an aging faculty population, outdated methods of instruction and curriculum design, and uneven access to teaching development for new instructors – are making it even more difficult to develop and maintain quality teaching. Many
student associations, faculty and administrators, the general public, as well as provincial government officials have agreed that the quality of the teaching and learning experience available to students at Ontario’s colleges and universities is increasingly at risk.
Just as the roles and goals of postsecondary institutions have changed over the past few decades, so have the operations and priorities of their teaching and learning centres. These centres first emerged in Canada during the late 1960s and early 1970s, accompanying the rise of student activism and the demand for higher quality teaching. Through teaching and learning centres, institutions hoped to consolidate, expand, and promote professional development programs for college and university faculty, and increasingly for graduate and undergraduate teaching assistants. Most Ontario universities and colleges now have teaching and learning centres; in fact, during the past year alone, five universities and several colleges joined the growing list of Ontario postsecondary institutions that have launched, enhanced, or reorganized their teaching and learning centres and services (Miles & Polovina-Vukovic, forthcoming).
On March 30, 2011, the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) hosted a one day workshop attended by several dozen invited experts from Ontario postsecondary institutions to explore the continuing evolution of – and the challenges and opportunities facing – college and university teaching and learning centres.
This paper is intended for members of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) community, college and university faculty and administrators, government officials, students, and concerned parents, along with other postsecondary stakeholders. The objective is to summarize and expand upon the presentations and discussions that took place at HEQCO’s workshop in order to provide a background and context for the evolving role and impact of teaching and learning centres within Ontario postsecondary institutions, and to suggest options and opportunities for future practice. This report is divided into five sections: following this brief introduction, the first section provides a background portrait of the context for teaching and learning centres and educational development in Ontario’s postsecondary sector. The following three sections reflect the discussions that took place at the HEQCO workshop, and are divided into the same three broad themes that animated the discussions there:
1. Responsibilities, Pressures, and Strategies
2. Assessing Impact
3. New Ideas
The concluding section provides some suggestions and recommendations in regards to what needs to be done “Going Forward” when it comes to Ontario’s expanding network of college and university teaching and learning centres, and the growing emphasis on teaching and learning quality in the province’s postsecondary sector.
@ Issue Paper No. 12 – Teaching and Learning Centres: Their Evolving Role Within Ontario Colleges and Universities