Upcoming *Free* Workshop (& Pizza): Engaging Adult Learners

On February 21, 2017, in UWindsor, by Elizabeth Ismail

Are you a GA/TA that has trouble engaging the adult learners in your courses? Or perhaps, as an adult learner yourself, you find it difficult to remain engaged in your learning. No need to worry if you’ve faced either of these concerns – the GATA Network is here to help. Our upcoming free workshop, and the latest instalment of the GATA Network Workshop Series, focuses directly on how to engage adult learners.


Facilitated by: Elizabeth Ismail and Anthony Meloche

What: Engaging Adult Learners

Where: Erie G141

When: March 1st, 2017, 4:00pm-5:30pm

How: To reserve your spot or find out more about this workshop, visit http://cleo.uwindsor.ca/workshops/ctl/52/



The Slow Grad Student – Do Less and Be Mindful

On February 7, 2017, in UWindsor, by Elizabeth Ismail

The following post takes a look at the benefit of doing less, not more. It is by Dr. Chris Golde, assistant director of career communities- PhDs & Postdocs, BEAM Stanford Career Education, Stanford University. The original post was published November 17, 2016 and can be viewed here.





What is a “slow graduate student”? That is what I puzzled over while reading The Slow Professor. Taking inspiration from the Slow Food movement, this book advocates embracing the principles of Slow, to reduce stress and reclaim faculty control over their work.

Two themes of slowing down in academia are particularly applicable to becoming a Slow Grad Student. The first is mindful, deliberate doing, which necessitates doing less. This theme is revealed in the book’s subtitle, “Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy.” Relatedly, Slow Academics also prize collegiality and community.

The authors “advocate for deliberative, imaginative and reflective thought as definitive of a professor’s work and life. Creativity and contemplation … can’t be multi-tasked,” summarized one thoughtful review. You can also read about the book in Inside Higher Ed and University Affairs.

How can graduate students adopt these principles and practices? What is “the slow graduate student?”

Principles of the Slow Professor

The authors, Maggie Berg and Barbara K. Seeber, begin their book with a Manifesto.  They say:

“Slow Professors advocate deliberation over acceleration. We need time to think, and so do our students. Time for reflection and open-ended inquiry is not a luxury but is crucial to what we do. … We envisage Slow Professors acting purposefully, cultivating emotional and intellectual resilience. By taking the time for reflection and dialogue, the Slow Professor takes back the intellectual life of the university.”


Their book springs from their shared recognition that, as faculty members, they are pressured to do more and more. Time is the rarest resource. This pressure on academics is higher education’s manifestation of the “work first” culture in the United States.

Many time management books, including those particularly aimed at people in the university, advocate doing more, using time more efficiently, and multi-tasking. (Among the more extreme suggestions that Berg and Seeber cite are arising at 4 am to write; booking every hour of every week with tasks and meetings.) These “solutions” don’t attack the systemic problem that we expect to do more and more, faster and faster.

What we lose is time to think and reflect. We become less creative. Communal values of generosity and conviviality are the casualties when we don’t (or feel we can’t) take time with one another. The result of sped-up, work-centric academic life is chronic stress, unhappiness, and ill health. Some, like these junior faculty, respond by leaving higher education.

We need to cultivate new practices—or reclaim old ones—that open up space in our lives for thinking, being, and connecting. This is a route to joy and wisdom.

Many of Berg and Seeber’s suggestions are aimed at faculty. And grad students value faculty members who embrace and model the principles of slow. But you need not wait. You can put some practices into play now.

Four Practices of Slow Grad Students

Here are four practices to help you slow down. These are micro-practices that can make a small, but noticeable, difference.

Do Less

Graduate students report that they are expected to do more than can be done. Take classes, teach, do research, write papers and proposals, prepare for major exams, attend colloquia and seminars, participate in side projects, show up at department events, and more. Whew!

There is far more that you could do than you will be able to do. That is a fact. You plan (hope) to accomplish more every day, every week, every month than is possible. We all face the constraints of time and energy. You simply can’t meet the goals you set for yourself—they are unattainable. One result is that you feel badly about yourself (rather than celebrating your accomplishments).

Slow grad students make peace with their limitations. (I coauthored Your Bag of Apples|Set Realistic Goals with Dr. Maureen Stabio.)

Slow grad students recognize that “done is better than perfect.” This doesn’t mean that you should settle for mediocre work. But sometimes many hours are spent getting a piece of writing from “very good” to “flawless.” The time spent fretting and the time spent polishing, is time that could be spent doing … wait for it … not something else, but NOTHING. Managing your expectations and pulling back from perfectionism can open space for slow.

Remember, that there will always be those around you—students and faculty—who accomplish far more than you do. Hold yourself to the standard of what is realistic for you.

Make Space to Be, Rather than Do

Carefully structuring your time can help you be effective. But when every hour of every day is planned, things have gone too far. The To Do list overwhelms your efforts to be your authentic self. I wrote about this in Create a To Be List | Your Life Manifesto.

Slow graduate students ensure that there is unstructured time in every week. If you can’t imagine what to do in unstructured time, here is a list to get you started. (We Doers need help letting go of being task-focused.)

  • Take a walk
  • Doze
  • Ruminate
  • Talk with a friend
  • Walk mindfully
  • Observe the natural world
  • Breathe
  • Pray
  • Think
  • Play with a pet
  • Daydream
  • Doodle

Slow graduate students don’t apologize for spending time on things that are not graduate school or work related. Go to a concert. Cook dinner with friends. Get away to the beach or the mountains or the woods.

Celebrate your non-grad school life. Applaud others when they do the same.

Eschew Performing Busyness

Graduate students are often performing (sometimes subconsciously) for the faculty and for one another. How does a successful graduate student behave? How do you demonstrate that you are committed to your work, your degree, and your field?

Looking busy is a tried-and-true way to show one’s commitment.

Busy talk is the obligatory response to “How are you?” “I am so behind, overworked, stressed out.”

Slow graduate students resist “performing busy-ness.”

Put a moratorium on “busy talk.” Instead, tell a different story. How we talk about our lives goes a long way to shaping our (and others’) perception. I can’t say it as well as this paragraph, excerpted from a  2014 essay by Nancy Chick on her now-defunct Mindful PhD blog:

Some years ago, Jordan Landry (English, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh) introduced me to this notion of the professional stories we live by and, more importantly, the power to write those stories ourselves. She said we can live the “beaver narrative (busybusybusy, working hard all the time because there are always more trees to harvest and lodges to build) or the “otter narrative” (approaching everything with a sense of play, floating on our backs in the sun, hunting and working as necessary). This distinction isn’t really about the work we actually do as much as how we experience our work lives, or the narrative we tell ourselves and our junior and future colleagues about the quality of our lives.

Cultivate Community

Dancing giraffes

Community is an important element of the life of a slow graduate student. Students need time to be with other people; especially without a task. Time to talk. To get to know each other. Opportunities to discuss ideas. Writing groups can be communities of support, as well as places where work gets done.

Collegiality is the practice of coming together. Strong intellectual communities support risk taking and vulnerability. You can talk honestly. Be open about your challenges, failures, and dead-ends. This is the same spirit that motivates creating a graduate student CV of Failures.

Physical space is crucial for community. A lounge with a coffee machine and comfortable chairs is a place to seek out companionship. Showing up creates a virtuous cycle of community. If you can reliably trust that others will be there, it increases your likelihood of going to the communal space, which in turn increases the chances that others will find you there. (This is crucial for creating Playborhoods for kids.)

* * *

American culture greatly values work and busyness. This is also true in academia. Putting up a modicum of resistance is counter-cultural. It is hard.

It is not all or nothing. Not slow vs. fast.

Slow grad students are mindful of slowing down just a bit.


Promoting a Culture that Values Teaching: Writing an Effective Proposal for the Windsor-Oakland Conference
February 7, 11:30am-1:00pm
Register: http://cleo.uwindsor.ca/workshops/2/

What does a culture that values teaching look like? And how can we help contribute to a more positive, effective teaching culture?

Erika Kustra and Jessica Raffoul are hosting a lunch-time workshop, February 7, 11:30am-1:00pm, to explore what an institutional teaching culture is and why it might matter.

As you may know, the 11th annual University of Windsor-Oakland University Teaching and Learning Conference, will take place at the University of Windsor, May 2-4, 2017: uwindsor.ca/tlconf. We’re inviting proposals that address how instructors, departments, students, and staff work to foster cultures that value teaching (i.e., through the evaluation of teaching, educational leadership initiatives, and teaching methods), and how culture impacts these initiatives. Proposals are due February 17http://cleo.uwindsor.ca/oakland/callforproposals.php.

During this lunch-time session, you will have a chance to brainstorm new conference proposal ideas, or hone existing proposals you are already considering submitting. And I should note, lunch will be provided!

To register for this workshop, visit: http://cleo.uwindsor.ca/workshops/2/

Also, a number of upcoming workshops, events, and opportunities that you might be interested in are detailed below. Feel free to contact Jessica (jraffoul@uwindsor.ca) if you have any questions!



It Doesn’t Always Have to be This Way: Why Engaging Students in Content Laden Large Classes Needn’t be Such Hard Work, Monday, February 27, 1:00-4:00pm

Probably One of the Most Important Things Teachers Do: The Why, How and When of Giving Students Feedback for Learning, Wednesday, March 1, 10:00am-12:00pm


Instructional Skills Workshop (ISW), February 21-23, 9:00am-5:00pm

  • Intensive three-day workshop. Each day involves a workshop in the morning, followed by a microteaching session in the afternoon, where each participant will be video-recorded teaching a lesson and will receive constructive written and verbal feedback from the other participants. Participants will receive a certificate of completion.
  • Registration: http://cleo.uwindsor.ca/workshops/74/#wkshp-1656

Leading Effective Discussions, Wednesday, March 1-April 5

  • Six-week half-course that introduces the basic skills involved in promoting, leading, and sustaining educationally-effective discussions. Involves participant-led microteaching sessions, and opportunities to receive feedback on your teaching from the other participants
  • Registration: http://cleo.uwindsor.ca/workshops/7/

National Survey of Student Engagement

  • Every three years, first- and fourth-year students at every university in Ontario have a chance to make their voices heard and directly influence how faculty, staff, and administrators understand what’s happening at their universities.
  •  NSSE is one of the few opportunities we have to really get a solid snapshot of how students are experiencing the University – an opportunity for their voices to be heard loud and clear. If you are interested in learning more about this survey and how you can help promote it, please visit: http://www1.uwindsor.ca/provost/nsse

2017 GATA Awards Call for Nominations

On February 2, 2017, in UWindsor, by Elizabeth Ismail

The Centre for Teaching and Learning is calling for nominations for this year’s GATA Awards: http://www1.uwindsor.ca/ctl/gata-awards

Please consider nominating a GA or TA whose educational practice is deserving of recognition or who is an outstanding educational leader.

Nominations are due May 22, 2017 by 5:00 PM.

The official call is included below.

Nominations invited for GA/TA Awards

GA and TA Award for Educational Practice and the GA/TA Award for Educational Leadership
Deadline: May 22, 2017

GATA Awards

Nomination Process (click here)

The Centre for Teaching and Learning is calling for nominations for two awards recognizing contributions by graduate and teaching assistants to the University’s learning environment. Both the GA/TA Award for Educational Practice and the GA and TA Award for Educational Leadership aim to:

  • recognize and honour exemplary GAs and TAs who contribute to a positive, learning-centred environment at the University;
  • inspire GAs and TAs to recognize their potential for excellence in educational practice and leadership, and motivate them to transform that potential into reality; and
  • publicize examples of excellence in GA/TA educational practice and leadership that can inform the practices of all teachers, while contributing to student and faculty pride in teaching and learning at the University of Windsor.


  • The GA/TA must be currently employed at the U of Windsor, or have been employed within 12 months of the call for nominations.
  • The GA/TA may still be nominated if he or she has previously won another teaching award (for example, at the department level).

Nomination Process

  • A GA/TA who meets the eligibility criteria may be nominated by a past or present student of the GA/TA, or by a colleague, faculty member, or staff member. GA/TAs may not nominate themselves.
  • Any nominee who wishes to meet with the CTL for consultation and advice regarding dossier preparation is encouraged to contact Dr. Pierre Boulos at the email address or phone number below.
  • Late nominations will not be accepted.

The deadline for nominations is May 22, 2017 at 5:00 PM. Questions and comments may be directed to Dr. Pierre Boulos, boulos@uwindsor.ca.