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).

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.





Integrative Learning in “The American Banjo Project” at MassArt

In November, I had the opportunity to visit the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston, and drop in on an innovative paired course undertaking.  “The American Banjo Project” links an art history course with a course in studio technologies, and provides a great example of the potential of interdisciplinary and integrative learning.  The studio part is led by sculptors Rick and Laura Brown, MassArt sculpture professors and also founders of Handshouse Studio, while the historical angle is handled by art historian Ezra Shales, who specializes in American craft and material culture.

Laura Brown of MassArt talking about student work for “The American Banjo Project.” Student built replicas of 17thC plantation banjos are on display on the hallways of the college. In the same displays are selected period drawings and paintings that students analyze in their history course, and then use to guide the design and construction process in their studio course.

Shales examines the evolution of the banjo in American culture as the instrument travels in time and morphs in nature, from Africa to the plantations of the American south; from the overtly racists songs and miming of 19th century minstrel shows to its appearances as a mainstay of Appalachian mountain music; and from its appropriation in therenaissance of American folk music in the 20th century forward to its re-appropriation in the contemporary genres and sub-genres of “roots” music. Students learn about the materials and techniques of instrument making in the New World, with a focus on how the craft-based origins of the African predecessors of the banjo are eventually transformed in America by the shift to mass production processes ushered in by the Industrial Revolution. Meanwhile, in the wood studio with Rick and Laura, each student embarks on an individual project to create a full-size working replica of a 17th century plantation gourd banjo.

The resulting experience sees the group struggling through a thicket of challenges, intellectual and artistic. They confront the explicitly racist-supremacist foundations of American economic and social development, and the lingering expressions of that racism in myriad forms in in different time periods in American culture. At the same time, they struggle with the technical challenges of designing and building a functioning musical instrument based on original sketches and paintings from the 17th and 18th century.

Rick Brown of MassArt demonstrates a step in assembly of the banjo for students at work in the wood studio.   Students use materials similar to those that would have been involved for the original instruments. The body of the plantation banjo, for example, is shaped from the calabash gourd, whose genetic origins are African but which was present in the Americas from prehistoric times.

Laura Brown and students in the studio discuss the day’s design & build challenges.

… and then shift to full-scale plans that guide the cutting and assembly of the various parts of the instrument.

Student designs begin with rough sketches based on the period artifacts….

The class has access to an important local archive of primary artifacts and documents related to the banjo and other instruments of 17th & 18thC America, which allows students to grasp how the instrument is entwined historically with racism and the subjugation and ridicule of African Americans…

…and reference to these documents in the studio means that the work in progress is constantly being regrounded in the historical facts and circumstances.

A MassArt student talks about the feedback she’s just received on the first draft of her history paper, an analysis of the social and cultural aspects of a period photograph.

Art historian Ezra Shales works alongside the students both in the classroom and in the studio. That  means offering suggestions on draft versions of their papers – and getting their help in return on techniques and materials involved crafting in the instrument replica. Here, Shales works on shaving down the neck of his own banjo.

The American Banjo Project illustrates the potential of integrated learning and making, purposefully created by its difficult unifying theme, and by enrolling the same group of students in the history and studio courses.  As a result of their various projects at Handshouse Studio, Rick and Laura Brown bring years of experience and know-how to the endeavour of bridging historical research with collaborative design and making.

For Ezra Shales, the integration of the two courses was a new and challenging experience, one that proved so stimulating that he has recently drafted an article on the topic for an upcoming issue of Journal of Modern Craft.  The art historian, whose area of expertise is craft and material culture, found that retracing the history of the American banjo became a frankly disturbing journey deep into topics and historical problems that were new teaching territory.  Racism, stereotyping and cultural appropriation in America, past and present were familiar topics, he emphasized, but he found himself challenged and sometimes shaken by the reality of teaching to them.  Professors and students together were forced to debate the ethics of what they were doing: Was the process of making instrument replicas itself a variety of racist cultural appropriation?  Was their work questioning or reproducing a racist set of ideas and social conditions?  What is, and what should be, the relationship between an artisan’s craft knowledge and her historical awareness?  Is it possible, or desirable, to reconcile a painful knowledge of racism and American history, and the joyful musical experience that a uniquely American instrument can produce?  These profound questions came to occupy the foreground of the course as the semester proceeded.  And according to Shales, student comments at the end of the term highlighted repeatedly the depth and complexity of their engagement.  One student said they had learned more American history over the semester than in any other course context, while another explained that the entwined relationship of race and culture in America, past and present, had never so thoroughly examined and debated as it had been in the classroom and the studio.

Integrative Learning in Progress: Fall 2017 Learning Community Courses

Again this fall, the Learning Communities project is creating unique opportunities for interdisciplinary teaching and integrative learning.  Of the twelve paired courses underway, the first three pairs below are running for the first time, after being developed in the second phase of the project in W17, while the remaining three pairs are repeat offerings of courses developed in phase I over the W16 term.

What’s been going on, both in and beyond the classrooms?

First Choice Science:   Biology II & Organic Chemistry I, led by Janet Wyman (Biology) and Yoon Seo-Uh (Chemistry)

“The integrative assessment was a real highlight for our paired courses.  Yoon introduced the students to stereo chemistry and the chirality of molecular structures, while Janet prepared them to understand the different biological impacts of  enantiomer variations of the same molecule.  In the lab, we challenged them with a case analysis authored by Janet, based on the story of a young woman who suffers the loss of her sense of smell due to a head trauma.  The students responded enthusiastically and diligently, with great results; watch the video for more details.   Now, we are moving into final exam preparation mode in our respective courses, but Yoon continues to attend Janet’s lectures, supporting the biology concepts with chemistry background where helpful.  As Yoon says in the video, “Whenever we sit down to discuss an idea for the course, we are having a blast!”  – Janet & Yoon 


Counting the Costs: Social Justice in Canada?   Canadian History & Quantitative Methods, led by Elizabeth Kirkland (History) and Ben Lander (History)

 “While we weren’t sure how it was going to happen before the course began, we’ve been able to do some really great integrated learning activities. For example,  students worked directly with the Census of 1901 while we discussed the process of Peopling the new Nation of Canada.  This led directly to complex and layered discussions around race and identity, geography and class.  Currently, our class is knee deep in their team projects. Each team presented a pitch which led to great peer feedback and participation. Students have chosen to work on issues such as Food deserts in Canada, Health challenges for women of colour, Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls, Questions of Consent and Sexual Assault, Consumerism, and Refugee detention practices.  It’s been exciting to see them gather momentum as the projects grow and we look forward to seeing the final results in less than a month.” – Liz and Ben


Nature Revisited:   Nature Retreat PE Intensive & Literary Themes: Into the Wild, led by Doug Smyth (Physical Education) and Ian MacKenzie (English)

“Our weekend intensive at Lac Poisson Blanc in early October was a full-on integrative experience, for both students and teachers.  Hiking, canoeing and rock-climbing skills provided the focus for the three days’ activities, while journal writing allowed students to reflect on what they’d learned in each activity, and to make connections to readings from their English class.   The nature sculpture workshop was a highlight; working on an island in the middle of the lake, groups gathered materials from the shoreline and forest, then designed and created a sculpture that expressed their relationship to the natural world.  Currently, as the end of term approaches in their English course, students are revising journal work and creative projects for publication on the “Into the Wild” course blog.  We are already looking forward to our next version of this pairing for fall 2018 – and hoping for the same amazing weather!”    Doug and Ian


Mapping Shaughnessy Village:   Introduction to Geography & Research Methods, led by Geoffrey Pearce (Geography) and Mark Beauchamp (History)

“What’s going on?  We’ve got a student interviewing a pastor who works at The Open Door (day shelter in SV). One of our students is interviewing an activist from Saint-Henri who has been engaged in fighting against gentrification for years, while another student is interviewing the owner of Shaughnessy Cafe about their role in the gentrification of Shaughnessy Village.  We’re excited to see what they come up with!  Finally, we’ve just been done the Lachine Canal historical audio walk on Tuesday, November 7.  Students loaded their phones with an mp3 guide entitled “Canal,” created by Post-Industrial Montreal, which is an offshoot of Concordia’s Oral History Project.  Then we got ourselves down to the canal to walk along and listen along.  See our pics – it was awesome!”  – Mark and Geoff


Imaging Violence and Non-violence:  Humanities Worldviews & Complementary: Contemporary Issues, led by Pat Romano (Humanities) and Kim Simard (Cinema and Communications)

 “We have been working this semester to embed the theme of resistance into both of our classes right from the start, and our students, while small in number, are deeply engaged and connected. They have just handed in a reflective essay on artistic/cultural forms of resistance to their Humanities class, and this week gave their pitches for their final media projects in their Cin-Com class. From the stigmatization of mental health problems to abusive relationships, racism to a dictionary of oppressive language, and slut shaming  to oppressive dress codes, our students are off and running with enthusiasm!”  – Pat and Kim


Reflections – War and Peace:   19th Century History & Humanities: Ethics, led by Michael Duckett (History) and Gray Miles (Humanities)

“This semester has again paired a Humanities Ethics course with a History course, and Tolstoy’s War and Peace is again at the centre of our discussions.  We may see Humanities and History as different disciplines, but as students read and discuss Tolstoy’s novel, they are seeing these disciplines as very interrelated; for example, a character’s ethical decisions are frequently, even usually, made in a particular historical context. We as teachers try to find universal truths, but we learn reality from our students.”  – Michael and Miles


So, what’s the Big Picture?

Building curricular bridges between traditionally separate disciplines entails a host of challenges, small and large.  These challenges, and possibles responses, provided the topic for Randy Bass’s keynote address at Dawson’s Pedagogical Day in October.

Vice Provost for Education  at Georgetown University, Dr. Bass argued that if colleges and universities hope to graduate students who are able to think and problem solve in integrative and interdisciplinary ways, they will need to create more flexible curricular structures, and support new approaches to instruction that confront students with complex, unscripted problems and situations. 

These concerns are at the heart of the design and delivery of this fall’s Learning Communities courses, and will remain central to the next phase of course development in Winter 2018, when a third and final phase of the project’s ECQ grant will (hopefully!) fund a new team of 5-6 teachers working on 2-3 new course pairings.

Questions about any of the F17 courses or the LC project?  Don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Spring 2017 Update: New Learning Community Courses

Work on new Learning Community courses has continued through the duration of the Winter 2017 term.   In April, some teachers were putting the final touches on one-page course pitches that will be used to recruit students for F17 and W18.

Course pitches are distributed to students by way of MIO mailings, with groups of eligible students identified by program progression charts.  Big thank you’s to Michele Pallett (Advising) and Max Jones (OAD) for their input on and ongoing management of recruiting.

Browse the recruiting pitches below:

Counting the Costs: Social Justice in Canada?  (Quantitative Methods (300- 360-DW) + Canadian History (330-201 DW)




(D)écrire la beauté: History & Art in the 20th Century  (330-314-DW: Applied 20th Century + Français niveau 3 bloc B 602-BXK-DW)



Peace 365  (365-BWP-DW Complementary – Contemporary Issues)




Nature Revisited (Phys Ed 109-103 (Intensive) Nature Retreat + English 603-103 Literary Themes: Into the Wild – Writing about Wilderness and Ecology)



For courses that can bypass recruiting because they are filled in program course allocation, work has been advancing on class schedules and descriptions for common course outlines – see for example the description for

First Choice Science: General Biology II (101-BZE-06) & Organic Chemistry I (202-BZF-05).



And finally, the promotional SPACE video Lab Stories will give students a sense of the design process at the core of the new Complementary – Contemporary Issues (365-BWP-DW): How to Build Things that Matter.



In all, ten new Learning Community courses will be launching in Fall 2017 and Winter 2018.  Faculty interested in getting involved in the next phase of course development should visit the Call for Proposals for new projects, to be developed over F17/W18.


Call for Proposals: New Learning Community Projects F17-W18

Faculty interested in integrative learning and collaborative curriculum development are invited to submit a proposal to participate in the Fall 2017-Winter 2018 phase of Dawson’s Learning Community project.  Proposals must be submitted to Maxwell Jones (OAD) by Thursday, May 18, and should be kept to a single page that addresses in specifics the criteria below.  6-7 teachers may receive release for F17 or W18, depending on the distribution of ECQ funding and the proposed launch dates for pilot courses.  Department chairs, program coordinators and Deans must be informed of your application.  Proposals are reviewed by Ian MacKenzie (Project Lead), Chris Adam and Diane Gauvin. Continue reading

Stories of Shaughnessy Village W2017 – RM & Intro to Geography

When your back-to-back RM and Intro to Geography classes have you doing February field walks in the Shaughnessy Village neighbourhood – sometimes you have to warm up with some Korean dumplings or soup!

Read the course pitch for Mark Beauchamp and Geoff Pearce’s RM and Geography course pairing in the Social Science program, and don’t hesitate to contact Geoff or Mark with questions about what they are doing and how they are doing it.

W2017 LC Course Development in Progress

The Fall 2016 Call for Proposals for new Learning Communities courses yielded 11 different proposals, involving 18 teachers from 12 different departments.

Five projects involving ten teachers (seven with course release) are being supported for the W2017 semester.  The group meets every other week in the CoLab to share their progress in course development, and learn about new tools and strategies for paired courses and integrative learning.

Learn about each project team from excerpts from their proposals below Continue reading