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