U of Waterloo Says “There’s an App for That”

On January 29, 2015, in GA/TA Resources, Tools, by gregorynpaziuk

Okay, the title above isn’t quite right, but UWaterloo’s Centre for Teaching Excellence (CTE) has made it their mission to make it easy to match a technological saviour to just about any problem instructors might have in the classroom. I stumbled upon this page in a course I am currently taking on teaching online, and as I read through the tips it provides, I found myself wishing I could call up Doc Brown, go back in time, and do all of my graduate teaching assistantships over again.

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The Technology Solutions page in action. Click the image to explore the page.

To clarify, the “Technology Solutions” is an ongoing development from the University of Waterloo’s Centre for Teaching Excellence intended to help instructors think about how different technologies might be used to solve some of the problems instructors encounter on a daily/semesterly basis. For instance, speaking of office hour problems, maybe you have no trouble getting students to come visit you in your office, but you do have trouble getting them to bring real concerns? Maybe you could try building an FAQ (frequently asked questions) resources online. This could help to limit how many times you need to repeat yourself about housekeeping items for your students. The tool offers similar advice for dealing with students that come to class unprepared, helping students coordinate their schedules, what to do if students don’t incorporate feedback into future assignments, and so on.

The developers note that the tool is a work in progress, so you will find some questions without any suggested technological interventions just yet. Those of you in the IT crowd (not that IT crowd) might still find that the tool is a useful way to simplify some of those problems that tend to reappear over and over in the classroom. It also offers many ways to think about adding online elements to a traditional face-to-face course in peripheral ways.

Explore the tool for yourself:




Language teachers are fond of telling us that the best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in it as much as possible. That means living, breathing, and speaking (exclusively) in that language. It also means taking in the culture that goes a long with it, experiencing how that language works within a society. And while research suggests that total immersion education can sometimes be challenging, separating language and culture is also a disservice to students. Where can you find balance?

Lucky for you language learners out there, UWindsor  has a number of strong language learning communities that meet regularly on campus. These groups have lots of potential benefits.

English Conversation Group @ Leddy

Everyone is welcome! Whether it’s through games or presentations, everyone gets a chance to speak and practice their English skills in a fun, safe, and supportive atmosphere. We encourage you to participate to whatever level you feel comfortable. Come on out and join us! (Read more)

English – Thursdays 3pm

International Student Centre Conversation Groups

The International Student Centre (ISC) also holds regular conversation groups in many languages. Follow the ISC on Facebook or through WISEL for more information.

French – Thursdays 12pm

English – Tuesdays 11am, Wednesdays 1pm

Spanish – Tuesdays and Wednesdays 1:20pm


Know of other language groups at UWindsor we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments below.


Introducing “grad launch”

On January 23, 2015, in GA/TA Life, UWindsor, by gregorynpaziuk

Did you make it out to the UWindsor/St. Clair College Job Fair this Wednesday? It’s never too early or too late to start thinking about your career. Here’s something you don’t hear too often working as student teachers: it’s okay to think about a career outside of academia, too.

Enter grad launch, a blog developed specifically to help graduate students start their job search, regardless of their field. Marilyn Rose, the site’s creator and curator, describes grad launch as follows:

Weekly posts offer insights on how graduate students acquire career-enhancing experience while pursuing their degrees. We’ll talk about identifying and capitalizing on the knowledge and transferable skills that for every graduate student can be translated into job-readiness. And, grad launch will link you to information and resources you likely didn’t know about or, as a busy graduate student, haven’t the time to search out.

So, what kind of information can you expect? Rose writes about how to convert a CV to a resume, words to use/avoid in resumes, and identifying transferable skills.

Read more grad launch here.


There’s nothing worse than starting off a new semester as a GA/TA – a semester you had so much hope for, that seemed so promising – with a nasty classroom conflict. Sometimes these conflicts are large and public and intense, which can alter the classroom environment and the way an entire class interacts. Other times these conflicts are small and localized among a specific group, which doesn’t mean they can’t be distracting.

If you’re experiencing a conflict in your classroom right now, there are strategies you can use to stem the tide of disruptive or even dangerous behaviour. First and foremost, consult with your supervisor and keep them informed about what you’re observing in the classroom. Outside of that, here are a few tips for both preventing and solving classroom conflicts:

Role Playing

Whether you choose to use this strategy at the beginning of the semester or at whatever juncture conflicts and distractions become a problem in your class, role-playing is a popular way to address conflict in professional and educational settings, and it can be pretty fun, too. The purpose of these activities is to get students to recognize a conflict, develop empathy for those involved, identify the sources of conflict, etc. Role-playing can take many different shapes and forms, but Bonwell and Elison (1991) suggest that all role playing includes the following:

  • Background details and role sketches: Identify a type of conflict (hopefully one you have experienced or particularly want to avoid). Jot down all of the events that led to the conflict. Also, consider all of the participants. What were their interests? Positions? Backgrounds? Write each detail out clearly to provide your participants direction.
  • The goal of the role-play: Students will need to know what the purpose of the role-play is so that they can observe with purpose and relate what they observe.
  • A facilitator: That’s you! Your job in leading the role-play is to keep the participants on task (or in role) and to encourage the reflection process by pausing for and posing questions. You’ll also be summing up the important parts of the activity to draw attention to the issues you intended.

You can find examples of scenarios in the readings at the end of this blog post.

Build Classroom Rules Together

Unlike the fabled social contract we hear so much about, this activity is an opportunity to build (or rebuild) a positive learning environment by creating explicit rules of conduct. However, this exercise is often most effective when students themselves get to help shape the rules. As Duequesne Unviersity explains, the important thing to emphasize in building any such code of conduct is the relationship between acceptable conduct and successful learning.  Here’s one example of what those rules might look like from a classroom at Missouri University of Science and Technology.

Use Comprehensive Problem-Solving Methods

Easier said than done, right? And what does “comprehensive problem-solving methods” even mean? Well, according to Steven A. Meyers (2003), that might include several steps:

  • Engage the student directly and discreetly, inviting him/her to speak in private after the class.
  • Identify the problem underlying the conflict, which involves clear observations from you (the instructor) and encourages the student to provide insight.
  • Work on a list of possible solutions together with the student. Once the list has been constructed, review these solutions together and evaluate them openly and honestly for a solution that works for both parties.

Rude Students

Remember our old friend the Carnegie Mellon “Solve a Teaching Problem” generator? That tool suggests that a student’s rudeness may be caused by one of the following:

  • Students and instructors have different expectations about classroom etiquette. (prior experiences, culture, disciplinary culture)
  • The anonymity of the class reduces civility.
  • Students are confused, bored, or frustrated with the course.
  • There is no penalty or consequence for rude behavior.
  • Students are intentionally challenging the instructor’s authority.
  • Individual students have emotional/psychological problems.

Naturally, each possible cause carries its own possible solutions. Learn more about each here.

Read more on these and other ideas about addressing classroom conflicts in the resources below.

References and Readings

10 Lessons for teaching conflict resolution skills. Retrieved from http://www.creducation.org/resources/CR_Guidelines_and_10_CR_lessons_FCPS.pdf

Bonwell, C. C., & Eison, J. A. (1991). Active learning: Creating excitement in the classroom. 1991 ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Reports. ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher Education, The George Washington University, One Dupont Circle, Suite 630, Washington, DC 20036-1183. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED336049.pdf

Dealing with conflict in the classroom. Washington University. Retrieved from http://socialwork.uw.edu/sswuw/drupal/sites/default/files/sswfiles/teaching/Dealing%20With%20Difficult%20Classroom%20Situations%202011.pdf

Disruptive students. The Center for Teaching and Learning, Georgia Southern University. http://academics.georgiasouthern.edu/ctl/resources/disruptive-students/

Meyers, S. A. (2003). Strategies to prevent and reduce conflict in college classrooms. College Teaching, 51(3). Retrieved from http://sites.roosevelt.edu/smeyers/files/2011/04/conflict.pdf
Preventing and curtailing troublesome student behaviours. Duquesne University. Retrieved from http://www.duq.edu/about/centers-and-institutes/center-for-teaching-excellence/teaching-and-learning/preventing-and-curtailing-troublesome-student-behaviors
Shindler, J. (2008). A win-win approach to conflict resolution and potential power struggles. Retrieved from http://web.calstatela.edu/faculty/jshindl/cm/Chapter15powerstruggles.htm

In recent years, the University of Windsor has tried to encourage more undergraduate students to get involved in meaningful research projects. In part, administration has offered incentives to campus researchers who utilize undergrads on their project teams. The Centre for Teaching and Learning also runs workshops and mentoring sessions aimed at informing students and faculty/staff about the benefits of undergraduate involvement in the research process. This spring, UWindsor will take one step further by hosting its first annual undergraduate research conference.

“UWill Discover,” taking place March 24th from 9am-4pm, is an opportunity for undergraduate students from all disciplines to share their research with the UWindsor community (and win prizes for their trouble). The conference works in two parts:

  1. The Traditional Part: Participants put together a typical conference-type presentation, like a digital poster, oral presentation, performance, or demonstration (See “Types of Proposals” below).

  2. The Digital Part: Participants will also record a short video discussing the most exciting aspects of their work (think Mini-TED talk).

Submissions will require students to demonstrate the importance of their project, the existing state of knowledge in related fields, the research questions driving their research, the methodology of the project, and its findings.

What Can Be Submitted?

Submissions are welcome under the following categories:

  • independent study projects

  • honours thesis research

  • co-op or practicum projects

  • summer research projects

  • volunteer research

  • creative work in the visual and performing arts

  • research completed while on Exchange

Example submissions include:

  • interpretation of a performance, piece of music or art work

  • interpretation of a piece of literature/literary criticism

  • model design and development

  • scientific experiments

  • textual analysis

  • historical interpretation

  • case studies

  • research/ term/analytical papers

  • engineering research or development projects

  • qualitative or quantitative research projects

Types of Proposals

You may submit proposals for presentations in the following formats:

Digital Poster

Posters are an excellent way to showcase research findings. During the poster session, you will be able to discuss your research with conference guests in a group presentation setting, and field specific questions with regard to your research. Further guidelines on how to prepare a poster will be available on the UWill Discover website.

Oral Presentation

Your oral presentation will be a ten-minute presentation on a panel with two or three similar talks. The talks will be grouped by research topic, i.e., discipline-specific or similar methodologies. The oral presentations will also include a question and answer period.


Your research-based performance work will appear on stage in the Open Space in the CAW Centre. You will also prepare a display that will showcase the research work you completed to prepare for the performance. You should also be prepared to field questions with regard to your research.

Demonstration or Installation

You may propose to display a research-based digital, mechanical, aesthetic, or other installation. You may also choose to demonstrate a process that you have developed. In either case, full compliance with safety regulations will be asked of you prior to the conference. You should also be prepared to field specific questions with regard to your research.

How to Submit

All proposals must be submitted on the UWill Discover website at Scholars at UWindsor:


Digital submission of proposals begins on Thursday, January 15th, 2015, and will close three weeks later, on Thursday, February 5th, 2015.



If you’re like me, you don’t naturally jump at the chance to get up on a stage and present your work to a public audience. Probably just the thought of it makes you uncomfortable.

But we’re missing out.

Attending professional conferences and presenting your work to others in your field are important parts of developing as scholars, teachers, scholarly teachers, and human beings. And what better chance to participate in something like that than in the safety of your own home institution?

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The call for proposals is out for the 9th Annual Conference on Teaching and Learning, co-hosted by the University of Windsor and Oakland University. This year’s event will take place right here in sunny ol’ Windsor on May 12-14, with a conference theme of leading change in teaching and learning. The deadline for submissions is February 27th. View the CFP on the conference website:

Many GATA Networkers have presented at Windsor-Oakland over the years. The conference can be a springboard for your research on teaching and learning and a good way to connect with other researchers in the field. Stay tuned for event updates.



Those of you that follow the blog know that we usually reserve Fridays for fun and/or funny posts that have only circumstantial (at best) connections to academia and scholarship. However, this week I couldn’t resist posting something a little heavier than normal.

Earlier this week, I stumbled upon a piece from Kathi Inman Berens about the struggle for relevance faced by the humanities, the plight of adjunct (i.e., part-time or contract) instructors, how the two relate, and how to make life easier for all involved. The blog post, entitled “Want to ‘Save the Humanities’? Pay Adjuncts to Learn Digital Tools,” highlighted, among other things, the ways Digital Humanities enhances student learning and the difficulty teaching-only and non-permanent faculty have investing their valuable time in learning the technology. As part of this complex issue, Berens suggests the following:

Academics accept overwork as a condition of our lives. We work weekends, defer sleep and rest, “catch up” on grading during spring break, make “vacations” out of conference travel. But it’s a mistake to universalize the culture of overwork. Overwork on the tenure line is an investment in professional promotion. Overwork among adjuncts is just the condition of keeping one’s job(s).

Do you ever feel that way as a GA/TA? Do you feel like overworking is the only way to keep your job? Your marks? Your scholarships? More importantly, do you feel like your overworking leads to something meaningful in the long run, or is it simply about surviving? Share your thoughts below.

And for those of you who just couldn’t contemplate something so gloomy on a Friday, here’s a gift from the Toronto Star about “how to survive winter for beginners.”

Happy Friday!




New Semester Stretch

On January 5, 2015, in Being a GA/TA, Monday Motivation, Think About It, by gregorynpaziuk

You know how sometimes you can’t possibly get out of bed until you’ve had a really deep, thorough morning stretch? What’s the equivalent of the morning stretch when starting a new semester?

Maybe the stretch is a stretch of the imagination. If so, you may want to start your pre-semester prep today by searching out new and exciting teaching and learning tools. For instance, I’ve been working through the tools in Paige Mitchell’s post “Apps for Bloom’s Taxonomy” slowly over the last few weeks, and maybe today I will finally get to the iMindmap tool. I’m also reading John Orlando’s post for Faculty Focus, entitled “Is Praise Undermining Student Motivation?” to challenge myself with a new perspective. Broadening to new horizons could be the cognitive stretch you need today to get you back in the scholarly mode.

It could also be that the new semester stretch is a stretch of our writing muscles. Because let’s face it: over the next few weeks, whether you’re a science major or a creative writing student, you’ll be writing a lot. That’s because, added to your own writing for your own coursework, you’ll be reviewing the writing of/writing to/writing about your students and their progress. In that case, why not sit down to a good old fashioned cleansing free write? Here, Writing Exercises will get you started.

Or maybe the stretch is really a stretch (wait for it…). Too many of my colleagues here (as in too many to count) are already smart enough to have taken up regularly take up body/mind aligning activities like yoga, tai chi, etc. Long term, maybe it’s time to take up a class at the Forge or join in some intramural sports. For now, here’s a beginner’s guide of “10 Yoga Stretches for Your Daily Routine” from AboutHealth.com.

Here’s to a fruitful Winter 2015!