Winter 2020 Project Updates

Despite the COVID-19 disruption this winter, work proceeded on 7 different Learning Communities projects involving 15 different teachers.

Following are capsule reports from each team on their progress.


I.  Improved integration of statistics in the Analytical Chemistry program  

– Steve Holden (Chemistry) and Rodney Acteson (Mathematics)

We developed activities to better integrate statistics into the Analytical Chemistry Program. In addition, Rodney worked on changing the delivery of his course to a “flipped” classroom model with the goal of using class time for student to apply statistical tools in the context of their study.

Many occasions have been planned to encourage contact between second year students in the Laboratory Technology program with their first year colleagues studying statistics. One such plan calls for the examples used by the students studying statistics to come from experiments actually performed in more advanced courses. Further context for the data used in stats class will come in the form of videos that demonstrate how the data was obtained – videos that will be created by second year students.

Late in the semester, an experiment will be jointly carried out by first and second-year students.  The experiment involves the analysis of cigarette smoke for cancer-causing compounds.  This activity will allow first-year students to observe experimental protocols in the lab, and collect rich data that will then be used in the statistics course, providing an explicit example connecting the worlds of chemistry and statistics.  As COVID-19 will not allow these initiatives to be run in the Fall 2020 semester, an implementation over two years is planned.

The teachers involved found the opportunity to collaborate with other teachers very rewarding.  As we worked together with LC Science lead Jean-François Brière on content and delivery, we realized that an important spin-off benefit of learning communities is that other people’s good ideas improve your courses!


II.  Nursing & Biology integration 

 – Gina Gentile and Richard Calve (Biology)

This project aims to help nursing students make the important link between biological theory and nursing practice. In the context of nursing pedagogy, recent research from learning institutions around the globe, strongly supports case-based learning in which nursing students use theoretical anatomy and physiology concepts to assess patient needs and care in a realistic case study scenario. This approach has not only shown improved academic performance, but an increase in student self-confidence and independence prior to their entry in the workplace (e.g. Gholami et al. 2016).

In collaboration with Dawson’s Nursing program, we developed an interrupted case study describing a patient who suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a prevalent degenerative lung disease which most commonly occurs after years of smoking cigarettes. The same case description will be introduced in student’s biology and nursing first semester courses. The case description is followed by a set of questions designed to apply the material and techniques currently being learnt in each course (i.e. a different set of questions per course) such that students will be able to link nursing and biology concepts to one single scenario. We created a learning outcome table (see below) with a breakdown by semester and by department that can be used to guide the COPD case study, but also act as a template to create and implement more case studies moving forward.

The first semester serves as an introduction to the basics of patient care as well as chronic pathologies relating to the respiratory system. In subsequent semesters, students would be presented with Pamela’s scenario as her degenerative disease progresses. The idea would be to highlight the aspects of the pathology that make use of the concepts currently being taught in each specific course. For example, the case study in Human Biology for Nurses III will reveal that Pamela had a genetic predisposition to COPD. Follow-up questions in this course will incorporate the theoretical principles presented in this course, namely genetic inheritance, protein synthesis, and protein function. Ultimately, we will be developing a case presentation for each of the first four semesters of the 6-semester Nursing program that will be seen in both biology and nursing courses.

We will continue our collaboration with the Nursing department to ensure that the presented case study truly integrates and puts into practice the course material being taught in nursing and biology courses. In addition, we will use the learning outcomes table as a template to create additional case studies to reinforce the integration between nursing and biology.

Finally, what a fantastic experience.  It was such a great pleasure to work with like-minded colleagues who are so willing to lend a helping hand.  We truly feel inspired and grateful to have been part of the learning community project.


III. Race, Ethnicity, and Migration – A first-semester General Studies Social Science course cluster  

– Selma Hamdani (Psychology) and Cornelia Howell (Anthropology) in collaboration with Gesche Peters (History)

We worked to create a learning community that would run as a pilot project in the Fall 2020 semester including three introduction classes, specifically in General Studies Social Science. The theme of this cluster will be race, ethnicity and migration. In the current world political climate, societies are trying to figure out how to deal with new immigrants.

History can show us how the issue has been dealt with over time.  Anthropology, through understanding the role that migration has played in human evolution, and looking at cultural relativism, helps us see how we are all one species of hominid. Psychology will use principles of Social Psychology to explore the effects of acculturation, cultural bereavement, prejudice/discrimination, and various motivation aspects of identity. The brain and behavior section of the course will investigate effects that epigenetics have on inter-generational behavioural and neural legacies.

Our design process touched broadly on the following objectives:

  1. a) Teachers of these three classes will commit to using the underlying theme as much as possible in the course. They will also meet at least three times, once before the semester starts in order to organize the classes, once during the semester to ensure that things are running as planned, and once at the end of the semester in order to debrief on the process.
  2. b) Each course will have at least one assignment that would focus on the theme and encourage students to use material from the other two classes.
  3. c) This pilot project will also run with the idea of turning this theme into an enjeux course that would exist after the program revision has been put into place.
  4. d) The idea of ethnicity, race, and immigration is in alignment with the Journeys program, the Peace, Women and Gender as well as the Indigenous studies certificates and makes a connection with lived experience outside the college (many students are immigrants themselves, this can help them make sense of their experience).

Over W20, we worked specifically on:

  • Reading the course manuals/textbooks assigned for the three classes
  • Preparing common learning outcomes addressed by all three courses
  • Meeting with teachers who teach these classes and have a special interest in the theme to understand how their courses work, how they approach the material, and look at intersections of the elements of the competencies for the classes
  • Determining which parts of the courses are ripe for including the theme specifically in the lectures, activities, and/or assignments
  • Preparing a course description for our outlines and the online course catalogue

Remaining on our to-do list:

  • In consultation with Gesche Peters in history, creating an assignment that can be done in each class that focuses on the theme, and is equitable across the three courses in terms of value of the assessment and amount of work required by the students
  • Creating an information document that can be accessed by IS teachers using a similar theme, so they can see how this learning community that can be built on in the IS research, and a guide to ensure this cluster is connected to specific courses and not specific teachers
  • Creating an electronic portfolio for students so they can keep track of the work done on this topic that could be of use in their methods classes.

The exciting thing about being involved in a learning community is that it brings you out of your bubble. The opportunity to talk with a colleague who is outside your department about content and course organization is re-energizing. You get to be excited about teaching because you’re not alone. You explore your own content in a new light through the eyes of a different discipline. Blending different strengths and having someone to lean on lets you get more out of your own strong points. Teaching online can be challenging, but being part a Learning Community gives you access to a network that helps make it all manageable. We hope that the student will benefit from this new course format and will gain a deeper and multidimensional understanding of our topic.


IV. Living on the Land: Regards sur la vie traditionnelle autochtone  

– Cindy Cantin Starzenski (Physical Education) and Lysanne Audy (French)

Cindy has for several years been teaching a physical education class called Nature Retreat: Traditional Indigenous Outdoor Activities.   For the new course pairing with French  the name will change to Living on the Land: Traditional Indigenous Outdoor Activities. This class is for students in their third or fourth semester (103 class). With this Land-based course, students are able to deepen their understanding of the Atikamekw culture and are able to link Indigenous practices to present day outdoor recreation.

The Phys Ed intensive portion occurs in Manawan, Quebec, over 3 days. The activities include canoeing, fishing, building and tending fires, sleeping in tipis, identifying plants and trees, and many more activities all in the context of Atikamekw culture. Atikamekw guides accompany our students throughout the intensive.

Manawan is a very unique community in that 98% of the population uses Atikamekw as their first language. The second language in Manawan is French. All of the story-telling, instructions, directions, and sharing from the Atikamekw guides to our students is done in French. Through another language students discover another culture. The students come to realize that language is both a conveyor of cultural heritage and a bridge to mutual understanding.

Combining this course with Lysanne’s French class seemed to be a natural fit, and beneficial in many ways:

  • Interaction with the Atikamekw people is in French, therefore providing students with an opportunity to practice their French communication skills;
  • In French class, students could learn vocabulary specific to this experience;
  • Students would be able to deepen their understanding of Indigenous culture, and Indigenous History in Canada with their French teacher;
  • Having time, in French class, to explore Indigenous issues in Canada and Quebec would enrich the student’s appreciation for the uniqueness of this experience, and allow them to process the meaning of what they learned and experienced;
  • Students would be able to develop more understanding of what kinds of actions they can take towards reconciliation and peace-building.

Cindy’s course has been very successful so far in both developing an interest in outdoor activities and in opening the door towards reconciliatory thought and actions for our students. Creating a multi-disciplinary Block B course with French will enrich the learning and the experience so much further. Linking two disciplines, French and Physical Education, fosters the emergence of a third component: developing an understanding of Indigenous culture.

Puisque le cours Living on the Land: Traditional Indigenous Outdoor Activities est donné à des élèves de 2e année, nous souhaiterions explorer l’idée de concevoir un cours à double crédit en jumelant le 2e cours de français obligatoire pour les élèves, plus précisément le cours bloc B en format multiniveaux transdisciplinaire.

Dans ce cours du bloc B, les élèves doivent développer des compétences de français en lien avec leur programme d’études. Ce cours permettrait de faire un pont entre les préoccupations autochtones et le domaine de spécialité de l’élève. Voici quelques exemples de thèmes possibles à aborder sous la forme de glossaires, projets, fiches de lecture, journal de bord, etc.

  • Élèves en sciences : la faune et la flore, géographie du territoire, notions de physique appliquée (canot, tipis…)
  • Élèves en sciences humaines : l’histoire de la nation atikamekw et du colonialisme, le système matriarcal, la protection de l’enfance, l’éducation traditionnelle…
  • Élève en arts : légendes autochtones de la création, la langue, la confection des outils traditionnels, etc.

Nous sommes convaincues que ce projet commun ne serait pas seulement un cours : il serait une expérience de vie. En français, les élèves apprendraient, avant le voyage, à connaitre ces nations autochtones qui vivent à côté de nous. Pendant le voyage et après, ils apprendraient à communiquer leur expérience de la manière la plus juste et la plus inspirante possible afin qu’un pont à la fois, nous bâtissions un vivre-ensemble meilleur avec les nations autochtones.

Finally, thanks to all  involved in LCs for the support and understanding – especially to Pat Romano, who was our General Education LC lead.   We have made significant progress over W20 in our concept, in the big picture of how we will combine the courses, and on specific elements like our integrative assessment and our combined class schedules. We are looking forward to continuing our work on the course outlines and on the details of our combined evaluations.


V. Integration of Environment Seminar with English Ecological Literacy BXE

– Ian MacKenzie (English)

After discussions with Brian Mader, Tonia de Bellis and Anna-Liisa Aunio, Ian worked to realign the timing of course content and learning activities in his English course so that students would be able to attend Dawson’s biweekly Environment Seminar speaker series.  The English course, Ecological Literacy, focuses on the rhetoric of environmental controversies, which allowed for many points of connection with the topics of the Environment Seminar.

Once the speakers and topics were scheduled, units in the English course were organized to highlight connections to readings and learning activities both in preparation for and as follow-ups to the seminars.  Topics in the course and the speaker series included

  • Unit I: What is ecological literacy? Complex problems, public controversy and rhetorical strategies
  • The “duty to consult”- Chief Ross Montour, Lynn Jacobs, Kahnawake Environment Protection Office
  • Unit II: Is a biocentric worldview possible? Evolution by natural selection and its implications
  • Environmental change and behavioral flexibility: Japanese monkeys and disability on Awaji Island, Japan – Sarah Turner, Department of Geography, Planning and Environment, Concordia University
  • Unit III: Can agriculture be efficient, sustainable, and just?  Sustainability, food systems and well being
  • Gardening for Social Ills – Mitchell McLarnon, Intergated Studies in Education, McGill University 
  • Unit IV.  Why can’t people agree on climate change?  Polarization in climate politics  
  • Climate politics and Canadian politics – Elizabeth May, Leader, Green Party of Canada
  • Unit V: Good neighbors in the biotic community?  Landscape ecology and future scenario modelling
  • Climate Change and Arctic Ecosystems – Marrianne Falardeau, research biologist, McGill University

Six of the seven seminars were held before classes were abandoned after the March study break.   Students benefitted several times from extra time with the speakers after the conclusion of their presentations.  A highlight was spending an additional hour with Elizabeth May during her visit to Dawson.

Elizabeth May and Ecological Literacy students

The course attracted a diverse student enrollment from 14 different programs, including Commerce, Studio Arts, Law Society & Justice, Health Science, Civil and Mechanical Technologies, Nursing, North-South Studies – as well as Environmental Science and Environmental Studies, whose students attend the seminar series as a requirement.

Special thanks to Anna-Liisa, Tonia and Brian, who year after year succeed in organizing an outstanding schedule of Environment Seminar speakers and topics.


VI. Vertical integration of Social Science methods courses with a Decolonization and Indigenization thematic focus

Ben Lander (History), in collaboration with Elizabeth Kirkland (History), Eliot Kerr (Sociology), and Mark Beauchamp (History)

Our proposal was to create a thematic methods course progression that connects the three mandatory Social Science methods courses together into a thematic offering.  The focus for our proposed thematic methods progression is Colonialism and Indigenous Resilience.  We envisioned our offering as part of General Social Science and potentially as part of the new Decolonization and Indigenization Studies certificate.  We also hope that our proposed thematic methods courses will become a template for other thematic course progressions.  Thematic methods courses would create a more coherent and meaningful learning experience for students and teachers alike as these are courses that generally lack content, or a connection to real-world issues. When these issues are introduced, they lead to concrete connections to the different theories, methods, and tools that these methods courses are meant to teach. We see particular promise for these clusters in General Social Science where retention, particularly in methods classes, has proven to be challenging.

This winter we began to develop the thematic course progression of RM, QM and IS with a group of interested faculty and students, some of whom are already part of the DIS certificate – in a similar way to that process used in the creation of the Gender Matters learning community.  We held a series of meetings with students, teachers, staff, community members and others who interested in the subject.  In this way we began to develop a curriculum that draws on all social science disciplines, Indigenous knowledge and pedagogies and other community knowledge.  The goal remains to produce a thematic course progression in the methods sequence that is malleable and changeable so that teachers from different departments are able to step in and out of the methods teaching roles from term-to-term. We see this as the most sustainable and transferable model within the context of Dawson College. Topics that we began addressing include:

  • The relationship between students’ ancestral histories and the colonization of the unceded territory of Montreal.
  • The differences between western social science research ethics and Indigenous research ethics.
  • The gendered, racialized and colonial reality of information gathering, library systems and academic sources in general.
  • The history of scientific and social science research on Indigenous populations, highlighting both the horrific crimes as well as best practices and successes.
  • The use of statistics, both historical and contemporary to understand historical and contemporary situations and mindsets.
  • The development of numeracy and the ability to make powerful arguments using statistics and statistical displays.
  • We discussed linking with campus based and community organizations to facilitate experiential learning.  These could include a trip to visit the cultural centre in Kahnawake, walks around the Dawson neighbourhood, and perhaps a partnership with the new day shelter, Resilience Montreal, that is opening a few blocks from us.
  • A major theme will be our communities’ (however that is defined by students and teachers) relationship and responsibility to this land and the Indigenous people who live here.
  • The students will definitely take part in the Kairos Blanket Exercise, perhaps as a culminating activity in IS.

This winter we developed a framework for the Decolonization and Indigenization Studies methods progression. We have developed a structure that will see students move up Bloom’s taxonomy from a position of understanding in RM to application and analysis in QM and finally to evaluation and creation in IS.

We have some evidence of the potential of this structure. In essence we are combining classes that already existed in practice but weren’t connected in any way other than that they were taught by the same teachers. This term, two of those teachers taught IS and Advanced History with students who had taken either RM, RM and QM (the Learning Community, Social Justice in Canada?) or just the Learning Community QM with these teachers.

The teachers noticed that the students who had taken RM generally knew more than students who hadn’t taken the RM with us, but weren’t much further ahead when it came to analysis of the topics presented in IS. The students who had taken the QM class, on the other hand, were far more advanced in their knowledge and analysis of these subjects and were able to pull the class along to really interesting places. The few students who had taken both the RM and the QM were extremely well prepared to evaluate, create and take action towards decolonization and indigenization. It should be noted that the first three students to ever receive the Decolonization and Indigenization Studies certificate took both the QM and IS in this progression and all of them plan on pursuing these topics in university.

Looking forward, we will be working on QM in the fall of 2021 to ascertain whether it is possible to offer a version of the course that is not part of a Learning Community; the dearth of disaggregated data in Canada on race and numerous other social justice topics makes this difficult. We will also be working to finalize what the IS class will look like and will offer our first version of it in the winter of 2022. Lastly, we want to work on formalizing this structure within the systems that exist at Dawson so that it is easier for students and teachers to enter this collaborative project, which in the end is what will allow it to continue and thrive.


VII.  Introduction to Research in Neuroscience – A new Complementary Contemporary Issues 365

– Helene Nadeau (Physics) and Sylvia Cox (Psychology)

Complementary courses are meant to widen the learning experience of our students. Most of the time, they are discipline specific. We believe it is important for our students to experience a true multidisciplinary environment to take advantage of the variety of their backgrounds and to learn about the interconnectedness of disciplines in the applied work field. As an introduction to research in Neuroscience, our course will use concepts in Physics, Psychology, Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Engineering and Computer Science. The course will be of interest and accessible to anyone curious about the brain, regardless of their background in arts or science.

In Cegep, when faced with the difficult decision of choosing a career path, students have few opportunities to get involved in a realistic and applied research setting. This is unfortunate considering the impact such experience could have on their career choice. We know that there is a large appetite for such opportunity: last summer, over 100 students applied to be part of our summer program, despite the absence of any financial or course credit. Clearly, the demand surpasses the offer by a large margin.

Sylvia Cox and I have been running the Dawson Research in Neuroscience Group for several years. We have developed a fruitful extracurricular program of introduction to research that brings together students from various programs in the College, in particular Science (Pure and applied and Health profiles) and Social Science (Psychology profile). Students get a very good feel of what interdisciplinary research is about and how much one learns from working with people of different backgrounds.

Now we have been working to apply this experience to the development of a credit course that aims to develop skills necessary not only for research (communication skills, team work/collaboration skills, self-efficiency, problem-solving, thinking outside of the box, etc.), but for any occupation or application in society where one needs to adapt quickly to ever-changing landscapes.

The umbrella of Neuroscience covers a wide variety of topics giving us the flexibility to tailor the course to the students’ interests and thus allowing for a student-centered active learning approach. While performing a research project, possibly using simple EEG devices owned by the College, the students will familiarize themselves with searching accessible scientific literature, designing a scientific experiment, writing a proposal for the research ethics board, testing subjects, analysing data with specialized software, discussing and disseminating results. After completing this course, the students would be eligible to participate in the Summer Internship, where they would work in laboratories in Montreal.

We started the W20 semester by establishing the course framework with the learning outcomes, elements of competency, performance criteria, pedagogical and assessment activities and timeline.

Then we designed a plan for the course, matching topics, activities and performance criteria.

We have also worked on the Muse hardware and software but need to complete this task such that we have a system that works smoothly before Winter 2021. Furthermore we will design a strategy for recruitment in Fall 2020, using the suggestions provided during the last meeting of the Learning Communities.

An important part of our collaboration is to make sure that the new course will be suitable to students from any program. Joining our forces from Social Sciences and Natural Sciences resulted in a well-defined, multidisciplinary complementary course. Though Sylvia and I have been collaborators for years, coming up with evaluation strategies together was somewhat new to us. It definitively enlarged the scope of possibilities but also gave a new dimension to our fruitful collaboration.

Thank you very much to all for this exceptional opportunity!

LC Project Development – Winter 2020

Watch for updates here by June on the following curriculum development projects:

  • A DIS-themed French and Phys Ed intensive pairing, designed by Lysane Audy (French) and Cindy Starzenski (PE), to take place in the Atikamekw community of Manawan.
  • A Neuroscience Research 365 Complementary, designed and co-taught by Helene Nadeau (Physics) and Sylvia Cox (Pyschology)
  • A DIS- themed Social Science Research Methods sequence, designed by a team led by Ben Lander (History)
  • A three-course first semester General Studies Social Science cluster of Western Civilization, General Psychology and Introduction to Anthropology.  Led by Selma Hamdani (Psychology) and Cynthia Howell (Anthropology)
  • A BXE Ecological Literacy course integrated with Dawson’s Environment Seminar speaker series.  Ian MacKenzie (English)
  • A Nursing – Biology collaboration to integrate a Nursing case study into the contributing discipline Human Body courses, taught in the Nursing program by the Biology department.  Led by Gina Gentile and Richard Calve (Biology)
  • A collaboration between Mathematics and Analytical Laboratory Technologies which will see peer instruction across cohorts of the Lab Tech program.  Led by Steve Holden (Chemistry) and Rodney Acteson (Mathematics)

Scaling Up Learning Communities 2020-2022

Over the Winter 2019 semester, the LC Task Force and its three Working Groups (in Science, Social Science and Certificates) were busy with consultations and brainstorming sessions leading to the development of four planning frameworks that will guide new developments in the Learning Communities project through 2022.   The process drew on more than 60 teachers for input, producing more than 400 ideas on priorities for future directions.  The frameworks were presented to Deans in June for feedback and discussion, have just been reviewed at the September Senate meeting, and will be presented to the Board of Governors this fall.   Anyone interested in the future directions of the Learning Communities project is invited to browse the overview of the project and details of the planning frameworks in the document below.

Coming later in September: A call for new proposals for Learning Community Winter 2020 projects.  Proposals will be welcomed from sectors where LCs have already been implemented (Science, General Social Science and Certificates) and equally from other programs and profiles interested in developing and prototyping innovative ideas for new curricular structures that prioritize interdisciplinary teaching and integrative learning.For more information, contact LC Working Group leads Pat Romano (Certificates), Jean-François Brière and Annie-Hélène Samson (Science) or Lisa Steffen (Social Science).

Spring Brainstorming Sessions

This winter, working groups in Social Science, Enriched Science and Certificates have been generating plans for future developments in the Learning Communities project.  In April, all three groups invited faculty in their respective domains to participate in brainstorming sessions that cast a wide net for ideas related to collaborative teaching and interdisciplinary learning.







More than 60 teachers responded to the invitation, and in 4 different sessions generated more than 400 ideas on how to grow the LC project over the next 5 years. The working groups have been busy sifting and summarizing several small mountains of post-its, with the aim of ensuring each group’s final strategic plan is aligned with teacher input. Plans from each working group will be presented to the Dawson community by the end of the winter semester.

LC Project Development: Strategic Planning W19

Work is underway this winter on a new 5-year plan for developments in the Learning Communities project.  A faculty task force with representation from Science, Social Science and Certificates/Special Areas of Study is examining how to build on the successes of the  interdisciplinary team-taught courses launched over 2016-2018 in the 3-year pilot phase of the project.  With a mandate from the Strategic Plan Implementation Committee, this task force has created working groups in each of the three domains noted above.  The working groups are following a research and design methodology which will result in the submission of 3 distinct action plans to the Implementation Committee by June 2019.  The process consists of research and consultation; narrowing of planning objectives; brainstorming new formats and ways of addressing obstacles; and prototyping and testing new LC structures for feedback.  The members of the LC Task Force are Ian MacKenzie, Lisa Steffen, Jean-François Brière, Annie-Hélène Samson, and Pat Romano.

Read on to learn about the membership of the individual working groups, and the topics they are discussing.  If you’d like to attend a meeting or make a contribution to one of the working groups, they are meeting on a weekly/bi-weekly basis over W19.  Get in touch with one of the working group members to find out more.


Science LC Working Group: Jean-François Brière, Annie-Hélène Samson, Yoon-Seo Uh, Andreea Panait

Under consideration:

  • Design or adaptation of math, biology, physics and chemistry courses offered in career programs that target student success challenges in the programs; that are effectively aligned/integrated with appropriate program courses; and that are transferable between science teachers.
  • Expanding availability of Learning Community initiatives in Enriched Science by exploring models beyond paired courses.
  • Applying some of the initiatives developed in Enriched Science to the rest of the science program.


Social Science

Social Science LC Working Group: Lisa Steffen, Geoffery Pearce, Madeleine Côté, Cornelia Howell

Under discussion:

  • Developing new formats permitting thematic course clusters for 1st semester required courses for General Studies students
  • Exploring options for thematic course clusters in the upper level discipline courses.
  • Building on the current examples of discipline courses paired with QM and RM to consider other Learning Community frameworks to enrich the methods sequence
  • Looking to create themed clusters of Integrative Seminar classes for the General Social Science students


Certificates / Special Areas of Study

Certificates/Special Areas of Study LC Working Group: Pat Romano, Ivan Freud, Mark Beauchamp, Brian Mader, Joel Trudeau, Michael Duckett, Jaya Nilakantan, Kim Simard, Susan Finch, Leila Roiter

Under discussion:

  • Flexible curricular structures that will facilitate access to certificates for students.
  • The role of graduate attributes and learning outcomes in creating and developing certificates.
  • How certificates/special areas can facilitate student success in Gen Ed requirements.
  • Refining and expanding links between curricular and co-curricular learning activities.
  • Defining coordination needs and examining new options for meeting those needs.
  • Identifying other key factors for the institutional sustainability of certificates, such as recruiting, communication, and assessment strategies.

Watch for further updates on the progress of these working groups over the rest of the winter semester.

If you’d like more information about this winter’s planning, or anything regarding the Learning Communities initiative, don’t hesitate to contact LC project lead Ian MacKenzie.

Call for Participants – Learning Community Project Development Winter 2019

With the completion of the Fall 2018 semester, Learning Communities will enter a new phase of planning for the future.  With the completion of the 2015-2018 start-up period of course development, the 2018-19 academic year sees 24 interdisciplinary courses on offer.  These courses have been developed and launched in two programs (Science and Social Science); three General Education certificates and special areas of study (Women and Gender, Peace, Reflections), and in collaboration with two co-curricular activities (SPACE and E-Week).

The institutional rationale for Learning Communities can be found in Dawson’s 2016-2021 Strategic Plan, which identifies LCs as a high-impact practice central to achieving the first goal of the plan: “Foster intentional and coordinated approaches to developing the Graduate Profile outcomes.”  Learning Communities faculty, for their part, are involved in the project because they see interdisciplinary teaching and integrative learning as central to meeting the complex challenges that await our students as the 21st century advances.

Surveying completed over the pilot phase at Dawson indicates that the learning community approach can have significant positive impacts on student learning and engagement, just as the research literature suggests.  And positive impacts extend to faculty as well, who report increased professional and personal satisfaction.

To build on the work already done and to map out developments over the next several years, Winter 2019 will be an intensive period of consultation and planning.  Teams of teachers in three domains – Enriched Science, Social Science, and Gen Ed certificates/special areas of study – will be working on a range of challenges presented by the prospects of sustaining current LC offerings and developing new ones.  These challenges include (but are not limited to)

  • Optimizing existing modes of integrative learning, such as paired courses and courses integrated with co-curricular activities.
  • Evaluating alternate modes of curricular integration (course clusters, for example) that might complement what we do already.
  • Developing collaborative approaches to recruiting and registration across college units.
  • Identifying and addressing faculty needs for professional development in interdisciplinary course design and integrative learning.

Over the course of W19, there will be a variety of opportunities to participate and contribute, for both current LC teachers and new teachers curious about getting involved in the project.

If you’d like to jump in deep, and commit time and energy to being a team leader for this next phase of Learning Communities at Dawson, now is the time to signal your interest.  There are limited resources available to support release for W19 for teachers in each of three domains: Enriched Science, Social Science, and Gen Ed Certificates/special areas of study.  To apply, contact Ian MacKenzie by December 7 with a message outlining 1) your rationale for getting involved in W19 as a team leader, and 2) previous involvement with the LC project or with other interdisciplinary curricular projects.




Fall 2018 Learning Community Courses

This fall, 18 different courses are running under the banner of the Learning Communities project.  To find out how integrative learning is progressing across the disciplines, read on for an update on from the teachers.

First-time LC offerings include:

Carl Saucier-Bouffard – “Business Ethics and the Triple Bottom Line” – Humanities Ethics

The goal of  “Business Ethics and the Triple Bottom Line” has been to integrate my Humanities Ethics BXH course with E-week co-curricular activities.  To complement our preparatory work on the main theories in normative ethics, my students took part in a field trip to La Gaillarde, a non-for profit boutique on rue Notre-Dame that specializes in ecologically-friendly and locally-made clothing.  They then had to complete an assignment on one of the eco-designers represented in this boutique.  They have also completed many other active learning activities, including one aimed at evaluating the dishonest marketing campaigns of some boutiques located in Alexis Nihon.  E-Week finally arrived last week, and my students took part in different ways: some in the Dragon’s Den’s competition and others making poster presentations in Conrod’s.  On Monday, to kick off E-Week, my students participated in an interactive workshop on the design process with Jade Vaillancourt of Vocaprep.  Later that afternoon, I gave a E-Week keynote talk on my experience as an entrepreneur trying to create an “ethical” product.   The course doesn’t finish with E-Week, however!  Last week, a representative of the vegan coat company Save-the-Duck, Rick Hinojosa gave a guest talk to my students, and the students then had to evaluate from an ethical perspective the different aspects of this company.  Finally, the last major assignment that they will have to complete will be an original business plan, in which they will have to apply the ethical concepts learned this term.   – Carl


Lisa Steffen & Susan Finch – “The Good Life?” – Western Civilization & Introduction to Psychology

The Psychology and Western Civilization Learning Community has generated positive opportunities for students to think across two disciplines to understand complex problems.   Some examples of the integrative nature of our paired courses topics:

  • The brain: Introduction to  Psychology begins with students examining the operations of the brain, and as students first discussed this they, simultaneously in Western Civ they explored how the philosophers and scientists of Ancient Greece and Rome understood the brain.
  • Perspectives:  students learned how psychology investigates the relationship between sight and seeing/interpreting; students in history compared and contrasted medieval and Renaissance art (linear perspective).
  • Bias: Students actively engaged in a self-evaluation of bias using an on-line psychology test from Harvard; connected to this exercise students explored how extreme bias can lead one people to enslave another as they explored the massive on-line database for Trans-Atlantic slave trade.
  • Obedience: students learned about the human tendency to be obedient and submit to an authority figure in psychology; the students then considered the rise of fascism in Italy and Germany.

Meanwhile, spanning the course is one over-arching theme: What makes a good life? Students realize that the question is quite complex and involved, and is one that matters deeply to them. This theme is mentioned frequently and hopefully provided much food for thought. The learning community has fostered a supportive and engaging community of new, first-year general studies students. We have had a chance to model how two different disciplines can exchange ideas and offer insights to the same problem. Hopefully, this will strengthen their performance later in IS as they will be asked to integrate different disciplines to analyze an issue. Most importantly, we hope all students leave the class with a greater appreciation for the importance of psychology and history in their own lives.   – Lisa & Susan

Benjamin Seamone & Chris Roderick / Chris Whittaker & Sylvain Moise / Jean-Francois Briere & Andreea Stanciu Panait – Enriched Science: Physics Mechanics & Calculus I

All six teachers in the Calculus I and Mechanics LC pairings are having a very positive experience. By seeing the math and physics teachers in close collaboration, students seem to be better at making connections between the two courses and at using the tools developed in math in their physics courses.  For example, in a recent class, students were given sets of Calculus functions for which they had to sketch curves, and then they used the same functions and curves to work on energy conservation diagram problems in Physics.  For first-semester science students these are very challenging tasks, but our students met the challenges eagerly and with success.  For the teachers, assisting in our colleague’s courses has helped us to become  familiar with their content, recognize new theoretical connections, and identify problems that could be studied from complementary points of view. – Andreea & JF

Dipti Gupta – “Gender Matters” – Complementary: Contemporary Issues

“Gender Matters” was designed over the W2018 semester by a team of Women and Gender Studies teachers to provide an introduction to the interdisciplinary nature of gender studies and our certificate.  Every week this fall has been an exciting journey to discover how diverse disciplines contribute, build, engage, discuss, study, and deliberate a range of fascinating and engaging topics.  We have had guest teachers from Psychology, English, History, Religion, Humanities, Cinema and Communications, Art History collaborate in co-teaching this course.  Our students are from a range of different profiles and programs at the college, and the guest teachers presented varied topics that engaged students in the politics, history, development, and contributions of Women and Gender Studies.  Some of the disciplines/teachers/topics were:

  • Psychology: Presentation by Selma Hamdani + Davina Mill: Don’t box me in: Embrace the Spectrum!
  • History and Religion:  Johanne Rabbat & Michael Wasser: Curses, Hexes & Spells: The Magic of Gender
  • A visit by a retired professor, Greta Nemiroff, who started Women and Gender studies at Dawson.
  • History: Lisa Steffen & Julie Johnson:  Noisy, Notable and Notorious: Women Navigating Public/Private Spaces, 1700 – 1900
  • Cin/Comm: Kim Simard & Dipti Gupta:  Representation of the “Other” & “Sexuality” in Cinema
  • English: Neil Hartlen: Gender and Genre:  The Science Fiction of Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Humanities: Pat Romano:  Feminists on War and Peace
  • Fine Arts: Amanda Beattie:  The Feminist Art Movement of the 60’s and 70’s

The students for their part have done presentations on key feminists and their contributions in their field of study; completed several short class exercises and mini tests through the term; and are now going to build a final class project around a topic of their choice that is connected to their program. What was most exciting was the openness of the class to different teachers, and other students as well – we had students who weren’t even enrolled drop in intermittently and participate in the course content and the discussions!  – Dipti


Returning LC courses include:

Janet Wyman & Yoon Seo-Uh – “Making the Connections” – General Biology II and Organic Chemistry

This second time for BZE General Biology II and Organic Chemistry pairing has gone so much better than the first. I cannot emphasize the importance of both teachers sitting in on each other’s class. The opportunities to connect material where we hadn’t necessarily planned on it jump out as we are teaching. Secondly, it’s a chance to connect with students at a totally new level. For example, while trying to make a model with the molecular kit a student at my table gently pointed out that I was making it wrong “uh miss you can’t make that bond…” and after that we worked as team sometimes getting it right sometimes getting it wrong but always enjoying the process. Perhaps the best moment of the semester came when we taught properties of water. We literally tag-team taught with Yoon giving 15-20 minutes then I gave 15-20 minutes for the entire period. At the end a student asked, “Was that biology or organic chemistry?” and we both answered “yes”. The integrative assessment also went very well with an incredibly smooth link between courses and material. Sharing the active classroom has also made a huge difference, it has allowed us to be more flexible with the time, for example there are periods where Yoon has needed more time for an activity which later I can take for a case study. On a personal note, I have thoroughly enjoyed sitting in on Yoon’s classes; he is a wonderful teacher and can make some very difficult material very accessible. Although it does take more work than a classical separate course it is more than worth the effort, the rewards as a teacher and the connection with the students far out-weigh the extra effort. I feel privileged to still be learning and trying new approaches as a teacher.   – Janet

Doug Smyth & Ian MacKenzie – “Nature Revisited” – Phys Ed Nature Retreat & English Literary Themes: Into the Wild

PE Nature Retreat and English 103 Into the Wild are running for the second time this fall.  The Phys Ed course focuses on developing skills and attitudes for wilderness activities, while the English provides an introduction to the American tradition of nature writing.  We’ve made some changes that have improved what was already a great experience for students and teachers alike.  In terms of the outdoor component, while last year we traveled to the Gatineau for a single three-day wilderness camping trip, this year we’ve spread two shorter excursions out over different weekends in September and October: a two-day canoe camping trip in the Laurentians, and a one-day outing to hike Mount Sutton in the Eastern Townships.  This change increased and sustained the opportunities for experiential outdoor learning.  In the classroom, the course readings and learning activities have been reorganized around a set of core practices developed by Jon Young of the Oregon Wilderness Awareness School, which has given a well-defined thematic focus to activities and course work in both Phys Ed and English.  We have also experimented this year with students using field journals to observe and identify flora and fauna, develop personal reflections, and document physical activities.  A course blog complements the field journal by allowing students to publish work connecting their documented observations and experiences with course readings.  Students are currently working on their final projects, and we are looking forward to the results! – Ian & Doug

Michael Duckett & Gray Miles – Reflections: “Tolstoy’s War and Peace” – European History & Humanities Ethics

The greatest advancement that I noticed this semester is in the progress in integration of the humanities and history components of each course. It is the second time that I have taught with Gray Miles and therefore I became much more familiar with the issues addressed in his Humanities course. This has allowed me to reinforce the learning the students do when alone in the History class with me – such as my being able to refer to Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative in almost every class!  Another advantage of a paired course the second time around is that we get to continue conversations in front of the students that we had begun the first time around. In short, the further embedding of the two courses in each other is something that even the students are noticing and commenting upon favorably.  This is definitely reflected in their commitment to the classes; 70% of our students have not missed a single class over the entire semester.  – Michael

Elizabeth Kirkland & Ben Lander – “Counting the Costs: Social Justice in Canada?”  – Canadian History & Social Science Quantitative Methods

This second iteration of Counting the Cost has been significantly different than the first. While we have a similar-sized class of 25 students – a pretty diverse group of General Social Science students – we have faced more challenges in terms of getting the students to “buy in”. We have had some very powerful moments in the class – a great round table on an engaging reading, a team-based activity where they taught each other about various specific legal cases, and some amazing one-on-one conversations.  We also had an excellent trip to Kahnawake early in the term with a very engaging and knowledgeable tour guide arranged by Dianne Labelle.  At other times, though, we have struggled to keep the momentum as we introduce and consider a range of “heavy” social issues. We have had to adapt both the content and our pedagogical practices to keep trying to reach our students, and to find pathways to success. Currently, students are working on their major projects, in the form of a poster presentation on a social issue of their choice,  and we are optimistic that independent work will reveal deeper engagement and learning.  – Liz and Ben

Winter 2018 Learning Community Course Development

Ten teachers working in five teams are working on eight new Learning Community courses this winter.  Under development are three new course pairings, and two new General Education courses with integrated co-curricular activities.  Read below for an introduction to each team and their work.


First Choice Science

Physics: Mechanics & Calculus I – Chris Roderick, Jean-Francois Briere (Physics), Andreea Staniu-Panait, Ben Seamone (Math)

Building on the work of Janet Wyman (Biology) and Yoon-Seo Uh (Chemistry) in developing paired courses for General Biology II and Organic Chemistry I (W17 Learning Community Project), and on the continuing changes to the First Choice Science profile that seek to develop learning opportunities that are more engaging and interconnected, our work is focused on developing paired courses for Mechanics (Physics) and Calculus I (Math). The plan is for the integrated course pairing to be offered to the incoming F2018 First Choice cohort.  The future of learning at Dawson is clearly oriented towards enriched educational experiences (see Strategic Plan 2016-21). By engaging students, creating learning communities, and stimulating a more holistic learning experience, the changes being made to the First Choice Science profile seek to develop a curriculum that better reflects Dawson’s mission statement and its values, and is in line with the ongoing provincial-wide process of re-writing the science program.  A large step in this process of change is to encourage cross-disciplinary co-instruction such that the connections, content and language used in the teaching and learning of science are rich and coherent.

The disciplines of physics and mathematics share a deep and intertwined set of roots and the courses of Mechanics (203-NYA) and Calculus I (201-NYA) are a perfect pair for this project. Developed by Isaac Newton, classical mechanics and differential calculus were literally made for each other and so the coordination of their presentation to science students only makes sense. Beginning with notions of motion and rates of change there are many opportunities to both enrich and streamline each course. The idea would be to teach sections of Mechanics and Calculus I back-to-back so that integrating concepts and examples while harmonizing language, the timing of content and even evaluations is made possible.

Social Science General Studies

Western Civilization & Introduction to Psychology – Lisa Steffen (History) and Susan Finch (Psychology)

We are working on the creation of a Learning Community for first-year General Social Science students. As these students must choose two compulsory classes in Term 1, it seems that an ideal pairing is that of 350-101-DW: General Psychology and 330-101-DW: Western Civilization. How wonderful it would be if these non-profiled students were part of a cohort as they adjust to and navigate through their new Dawson community!  First semester students experience a myriad of challenges as they transition from high school to CEGEP. While many benefit from participating in a profile, the majority of Social Science students remain unaffiliated. This may lead to a sense of alienation, of frustration or of disengagement. The students may go so far as to drop-out. A loss to them and to us. A learning community seeks to counter this and helps to improve retention, motivation and individual interest. If we can design our paired psychology and history classes to focus on competencies, analytical thinking and problem solving, then we are helping these students build skill sets within the first term that can carry over to success in their other courses.

We want to explore several different modalities that might prove most efficacious to achieving the goals of student retention and student engagement—and dare we say student enthusiasm and excitement? One of the things that we both need to explore and understand better is how to cover the content required in each of these introductory courses while at the same time working together to create a cohesive experience. We both are committed to the Peace Certificate, and so perhaps this will be a lens through which to explore connective themes between our disciplines. Our intention is to create a model not just for our exclusive use, but which could serve all Social Science teachers.

General Education / Certificates / Special Areas of Study

Humanities: “Green Business Ethics” integrated with Entrepreneurship/E-Week – Carl Saucier-Bouffard (Humanities)

Given the growing awareness and concern regarding the environmental impact of business activities, a course on Environmental Business Ethics, taught by an ethics teacher, would appeal to a large group of Dawson students. All students (regardless of program) have to complete the general education Ethics course (345-BXH-DW). Moreover, this new course on Environmental Business Ethics would offer a strategic fit with many activities co-organized by Dawson College’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Education, as well as with a future “Environment & Sustainability Certificate.”  This newly created course would focus on delivering “green business ethics” using a practical approach. During the first part of the course, students would be taught the main concepts of the two most influential theories in normative ethics: Kantian ethics and act utilitarianism.  Students would then be exposed to the real-life challenges in running a business that includes corporate environmental responsibility efforts. To illustrate the ethical dilemmas faced by entrepreneurs, the instructor would rely on his own experience as the founder of a small business selling ecologically friendly handbags (i.e. “Les Sacs Éthic”). In at least one of their assignments, students would have to reflect on a real-life business problem and would have to argue in defence of a solution that meets ethical requirements.

To incorporate experiential and integrative learning approaches, students would have to play an active role in some of the activities organized by Dawson College’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Education. Moreover, this course would apply a case-based approach in bringing principles to life. With the rising social environmentalism trend, there are many corporations recognized for their sustainability efforts and these examples would serve to illustrate the need to apply green business practices in today’s marketplace. Finally, in order to foster learning outside the classroom, field trips would also be organized. For instance, one class would take place on the premises of La Gaillarde, a non-profit boutique in St-Henri that is specialized in eco-fashion.

Complementary: Contemporary Issues “Introduction to Women’s and Gender Studies” integrated with Women’s and Gender Certificate – Pat Romano (Humanities)

Along with a team of WGS teachers, I’m working on the development of a foundational course for the women’s/gender studies certificate that will be team-taught by 5 or 6 teachers from different disciplines/programs. The course, constructed as a complementary course, will be led by a main teacher/coordinator and include a variety of themes/topics, each one taught by a different teacher, that introduce students to the interdisciplinary nature of women’s/gender studies, while illustrating the extent to which feminism has reshaped our world.  In this course, students will have a chance to get to know fellow students and multiple teachers in the certificate, while being immersed into this rich interdisciplinary area of study. This course will allow us to meet several long-standing needs of the certificate:

  • Create the opportunity for interested women’s/gender studies students to follow a course together, helping us build a strong sense of community between students and certificate teachers.
  • Encourage students to recognize the extent to which a gendered perspective has transformed knowledge across the disciplines (possible themes that could be addressed include gender representation, women in science, women in political movements, sexuality, masculinities and feminist fiction)
  • Support on-going co-curricular women’s/gender studies activities and projects that will be connected to the course (e.g. It Happens Here, International Women’s Week).
  • Support cross-disciplinary collaboration and exchanges between faculty members.

Our goal is for this course to serve as a central hub for women’s/gender studies activities at the college. This is a grassroots initiative supported by faculty members in the certificate, and our hope is that there will be much diversity in both themes and participating teachers across the semesters. We are also considering the possibility of making the course schedule available to all women’s/gender studies faculty to encourage interested faculty to attend a class on a theme that interests them. With an ever increasing enrollment in the certificate, we think the time is right. This course will likely count for 2 credits (out of the required 5 credits needed) for the women’s/gender studies certificate so as to make it of significant value to the certificate students, while still ensuring that the certificate remains as accessible as possible.

Humanities World Views & French Language and Culture “La democratie en question” – Sean Elliott (Humanities) & Carmen-Silva Cristea (French)

Au moment de l’effondrement des régimes totalitaires de l’Europe de l’Est, Francis Fukuyama publiait un article intitulé  « The End of History ? »,  à la fois provocateur et optimiste, qui annonçait la victoire universelle de la démocratie libérale.   Or, les événements politiques qui agitent la scène internationale depuis quelques années semblent remettre en question la thèse optimiste de Fukyama.  La démocratie libérale a-t-elle encore un avenir ? Représente-elle encore un modèle universellement applicable ? Ce sont des questions qui  reviennent en force hanter la scène politique actuelle et qui constitueront le noyau de la réflexion menée dans notre cours.

Ce cours jumelé se propose avant tout de sensibiliser les étudiants à des questions qui tourmentent notre société, tout en stimulant leur pensée critique et leur capacité d’analyse et de compréhension des problématiques contemporaines.  Nous ambitionnons de rendre nos étudiants plus réceptifs à ces questions de société, et en même temps, de leur inculquer le désir d’être des citoyens actifs, capables de se positionner par rapport à ces problèmes de société et de proposer des solutions. Les travaux proposés dans le cadre du cours permettront également aux étudiants de développer des compétences inhérentes aux disciplines que nous enseignons : comprendre et analyser un texte, expliquer  une théorie,  synthétiser et organiser des idées, rédiger un texte en français et en anglais.

Nous inciterons les étudiants à réfléchir sur les questions suivantes :

  • le rapport individu/ société
  • la relation entre la liberté individuelle et la responsabilité
  • l’interprétation différente voire divergente de la notion de liberté en fonction du contexte social, historique ou politique
  • le rôle et l’importance des différentes institutions de l’état démocratique
  • la relation entre éthique et liberté
  • l’état providence versus le néolibéralisme

Ce cours – dispensé en anglais et en français –  accordera une place importante aux discussions de groupe, aux débats argumentés et aux projets d’équipe interdisciplinaires et/ou multimédias.  Nous envisageons également d’inviter des conférenciers pour partager leur savoir en la matière et témoigner de leur expérience civique ou politique.


Watch for updates later in the spring, when the teams are well advanced in the course design process.  At that point, they’ll be sharing their ideas for integrative assignments, and presenting draft versions of their common course schedules.

Peace 365 & SPACE: Make Things that Matter – Linking Curricular and Extra-curricular Learning

Two new Complementary Contemporary Issues courses running this winter feature direct ties between classroom learning activities and well-known Dawson extra-curricular initiatives.


Peace 365, designed by Ivan Freud, puts students to work examining the relationship to self, others and nature through the lens of peace studies, and also participating in new Peace Certificate and Peace Centre activities outside the classroom.

Peace 365 is designed as gateway course for the Peace Certificate, using the Learning Communities model as an approach to course design, permitting the integration with co-curricular activities of the Peace Certificate and Peace Centre.  This gateway course creates an opportunity for dialogue between teachers and students/classes in terms of developing both separate and common learning outcomes and assessments across the Peace Certificate and could serve as the foundation or hub for the Peace Certificate’s Communities of Practice (CoP) of both faculty and students.

The Peace 365 course is divided into the three categories, those outlined by Abdennour Bidar in his recent book “Les Tisserands,” namely the relationships of “self to self,” “self to other/community,” and “self to nature/the environment.” The overall endeavor is to weave these three realms together to help peace-minded individuals promote peaceful communities in sustainable relationships with the environment.

More specific learning outcomes are grouped under these headings (Self, Community, Nature), each of which begins with the development of knowledge from multiple perspectives, and proceeds to applications involving the integration of multiple disciplines.  By the end of this course students will be able

  • To develop a poised, non-reactive, objective awareness of one’s thoughts and feelings. Mark Twain is quoted as saying, “I’ve lived through a lot of horrible things in my life and some of them actually happened.” Given that we cause ourselves a lot of unnecessary suffering through our interpretation of events in our lives, developing an awareness of our internal dialogue would thus be of great benefit in reducing one’s suffering. As one reduces one’s own suffering, one automatically reduces the suffering of those around them.
  • To develop and employ non-violent interpersonal communication skills in mediation and conflict transformation.
  • To apply a fundamental understanding of ecosystems and generate strategies of how to live in harmony with nature while promoting both individual and communal sustainability.


In SPACE: Make Things that Matter, led by SPACE coordinator Joel Trudeau, students are learning about design thinking methodologies, and then using them to address real-world problems and challenges, with an eye to presenting their major projects in the annual SPACE exhibition.

SPACE 365: Make Things That Matter is part of an integrated learning community in conjunction with SPACE (Sciences Participating with Arts and Culture in Education) at Dawson College. It embraces the notion that all problems, even the seemingly intractable ones, can be solved through human ingenuity and a collective desire to improve the lives of everyone. The course explores problem solving, innovation, and the future through the application of design thinking, social impact tool sets and related methodologies. A sequence of design challenges and activities linked with various innovation initiatives concretize the methods. Students generate, develop and realize their own breakthrough ideas by way of learning basic skills of brainstorming, research, prototyping, and public presentations. Collaborating in groups, they may pursue any problem that aligns with the yearly theme of the course, can be related to a contemporary issue and has the potential for a synthesis of disciplines.

All project ideas are placed in an appropriate social context where students draw on different areas of knowledge in the consideration and treatment of contemporary issues from a cross-disciplinary perspective. Students are encouraged to derive inspiration and incorporate knowledge, skills and problems from their programs and other learning activities. Final projects may be presented in a variety of public venues and will be linked with annual SPACE co-curricular undertakings.

Some highlights so far this term:

The course is a third of the way through and we have reached a few noteworthy milestones with this first MTTM cohort. In the main, confusion has been replaced by curiosity and a sense of possibility, apprehension with trust, and passive attention with active, ambitious engagement. There is a collegial and collaborative spirit in the class that has been fostered by the course methods and the AL environment.

The class is diverse (12 different programs/profiles) and though less than one half of the students were pre-registered because of interest or previous affiliation with SPACE, they seem to be ideal for testing implementations of the course.

The new AL classroom (3H.10), which was not completely furnished or functioning as intended during the first 5 weeks, has presented another resonant methodological layer as we adapt to its uses and changes. We are learning the nureva span software that links our meeting work with the cloud. Though iterations away from fluid, natural use, it’s not a challenge to see how this will bolster collaboration in and out of the classroom.

The course content has been curated to draw out the relevance of the course methods, but there has been an adjustment period to the freedom offered in selecting breakthrough project ideas to develop and cycle. So far students have progressed through two design challenges: they have re-designed the gift-giving experience for another person and made or modified their own journals for reflection and research in the course.

They have experienced positive aspects of engagement, inquiry, and collaboration, as a class and in groups. Two unique exercises worth highlighting have reinforced the positive atmosphere. We explored connections, however spurious, of individual, passion-fueled interest with the 2017-18 SPACE theme of en-tropy by formulating questions (e.g. What if we allowed society to decay into chaos?). These questions were explored in groups, then at the class level in a fishbowl arrangement by responding to an input question of a student volunteer with dialogue formulated only in terms of questions. This exercise brought into focus the importance and difficulty of asking good questions as well as listening when the desire is to answer with or defend a position.

In an attempt to form bonds across the groups and to experience a diversity of ideas from students with different backgrounds directly we also conducted a “speed dating” exercise where individual questions were presented and students exchanged personal information in pairs. At the end of class we observed the impact of our exchanges by stringing thread between individuals who had interacted in pairs, left impressions within the group or during the fishbowl exercise. We were all connected, a clearly powerful visual metaphor (even for our blind student who sees the world in remarkable ways!).

Also noteworthy: On Feb. 6th the class witnessed and responded in real time to the SPACEX launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket. The idea of using science fiction to prototype possible futures, another methodological lens for the course, could not have been better demonstrated. They were assigned to write a micro science fiction prototype (a kind of flash fiction treating a futuristic scenario) linked to a contemporary issue of interest to help creatively define a major project. Major project proposals are now being submitted for feedback and soon will be prototyped for testing and further feedback. What the outcomes will be are not clear yet, but there seems to be genuine excitement about the ideas being explored and an eagerness to research and learn.