The name “Slack Week” has always struck me as such a misnomer. Since the first year of my undergraduate degree (almost 25 years ago…) “Slack Week” has been an extremely busy study and/or work week for me. This year was no exception. In fact, this year it was particularly intensive as I was participating in the Instructional Skills Workshop (ISW). For those who may not be familiar with ISW, it is a three or four day concentrated workshop designed to help small groups of new and experienced faculty members further develop their teaching knowledge and skills. At the heart of the workshop are three 10-minute mini-lessons which each participant develops and teaches. Both written and oral feedback is provided by the learners, the other group members, and the mini-lessons are digitally recorded to provide the instructor with an opportunity to reflect further on her/his teaching. Using active learning techniques, participants also learn about the theory and practice of teaching including, but in no way limited to, designing learning objectives, employing active learning techniques, and developing learning assessments (see http://www.iswnetwork.ca/ for further information).
Although ISW did not involve any slacking, it was an extremely rewarding experience. It provided the opportunity for me to revisit and revise familiar teaching techniques as well as learning and integrating new ones into my teaching repertoire. I engaged in considerable self-reflection and learned a great deal about myself as a teacher and learner. The group learned, discussed, and, at times, debated fundamental teaching issues all within a very supportive and secure environment. I was challenged along with, and by, a wonderful group of colleagues who are also passionate about teaching and learning. In fact, I think it would be fair to say that we developed into a small learning community, which, I hope, will have future opportunities to discuss other pedagogical issues of interest. One particular area of interest for me is how ISW graduates have translated their ISW experience into their classrooms (If any of the ISW graduates are reading, please feel free to comment on this blog if you would like to share).
Overall, ISW was a great learning experience and a lot of fun. I experimented, reflected, shared, engaged, laughed, and left feeling re-energized about my teaching. It was time extremely well spent. That said, I am going to try much harder to slack during “Slack Week” next year. I have a feeling that a beach with clear blue water and white sand is in my future. Any suggestions?
The Teaching Support Centre is offering the program again in April (see http://www.uwo.ca/tsc/isw.html). Will you be participating? I highly recommend it.
Ken N. Meadows
Ken’s Musical Postscript: Dr. Mike Atkinson and I have discussed the possibility of using the TSC blog to make song recommendations. I have decided to add a musical postscript to each of my blogs to mention three songs I enjoy, including a classic song. I encourage Dr. Atkinson to do the same in his subsequent posts. I also encourage everyone to dance when the mood strikes.
1) “Sly” by the Cat Empire
2) “Crystallized” by the XX
3) “Take Me to the River” by Talking Heads (one of the live versions…)