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Biological sciences prof Jeffrey Marcus with undergraduate student Amber Gemmell. // Photo by Mike Latschislaw

Supporting innovative teaching and learning

April 20, 2016 — 




One of the challenges of teaching science at the university level is to bring the excitement of discovery into undergraduate courses, says Jeffrey M. Marcus, an associate professor in the department of biological sciences, Faculty of Science.

Associate professor of biological sciences Jeffrey Marcus studies phylogenomics, evolutionary developmental genetics and computational biology, with an emphasis on butterfly colour patterns.

Associate professor Jeffrey Marcus studies phylogenomics with an emphasis on butterfly colour patterns.

As part of their learning, often students do experiments that have been repeated for decades and for which the answers are already known. Much rarer, says Marcus, is an “experience where the students have the opportunity to discover something entirely novel.”

So he created such an opportunity, with a project supported through the Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund (TLEF).

Marcus designed an experiment that would allow the 30 students in his course a “real research experience,” as he calls it — describing complete mitochondrial genomes from insects that were previously undescribed. His project has students using insects collected at the Living Prairie Museum in Winnipeg, and sequenced with new sequencing technology available at the Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba (CHRIM), an affiliated research partner of the U of M.

Marcus is hopeful that many of the students will ultimately publish a note based on this exercise in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.


Marcus’s is only one of the many innovative projects that will be presented at the Teaching and Learning Symposium, hosted by the Centre for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning and sponsored by the Provost’s office. The symposium takes place on Friday, May 6 and will feature presentations by faculty of projects funded by the TLEF.

Now in its third year, the TLEF supports teaching and learning projects across all disciplines.

Janice Ristock, vice-provost (academic) and soon to be Provost and Vice-President (Academic) notes that the fund supports projects that enhance teaching and enrich the learning experience of our students.

“The annual competitions for this funding have been able to support important and exciting projects that align with our Strategic Plan goal of inspiring minds through innovative and high quality teaching,” she says. “I am proud of all the committed instructors who are having their work showcased at this symposium.”


For Judy Hughes, an associate professor in the Faculty of Social Work, classroom teaching is also intimately connected to her research. In her field, she says, “there is a recognized gap between the classroom, where knowledge and skill for practice are learned, and practice settings or fields where these are applied. Social work students are left with the task translating what they learn in the classroom into recognizable professional practices.”

Her TLEF project, “Development of a Training Video: Demonstrating Essential Skills for Child Welfare Practice,” emerged from a SSHRC funded research project, which examined the experiences of women with the child welfare system and documented the practices of the child welfare workers who work in these systems.

Together with assistant professor of social work Cathy Rocke, she developed ways to bring these findings to social work students, including through the use of actors role-playing clients and social workers.

The resulting training video is “a model for students to view and then engage with in-depth discussions about the practices being demonstrated,” says Hughes. “We hope that it can become a consistent resource that we and other instructors can use in child welfare practice courses.”


“Liaison Librarians Teaching with Polling and Video Creating Tools” is another example of a TLEF project that will be presented at the Symposium.

Janneka Guise, head of Eckhardt-Gramatté Music Library.

Janneka Guise, head of Eckhardt-Gramatté Music Library.

You may not realize it, but librarians do a lot of teaching, says project lead Janneka Guise, head of Eckhardt-Gramatté Music Library — from how to use library resources to information literacy skills. Guise led the team of librarians Sarah Clark, Tania Gottschalk, Katherine Penner and Liv Valmestad with a project focused on teaching technology tools.

The TLEF grant was used to purchase licenses for various tools including: Camtasia, a screen capture and video editing tool to create short instructional videos; GoAnimate, an animation tool to enhance Powerpoint presentations; and Poll Everywhere, a classroom response tool for which students use their smart phones to respond to instructor polls.

The education technology field is ever-expanding, says Guise. The project provided an opportunity to research and explore technical tools that will engage students and be of use to the wider community of faculty and instructors.

“It is difficult for us to keep current with all the emerging trends while maintaining our own teaching, service, research and creative work,” she notes, “but the TLEF funding allows faculty to explore these technologies and share what we’ve learned with peers.

“In this way, resources such as TLEF encourage innovation and a culture of collaboration across the University.”


Mark Torchia, director of The Centre for the Advancement in Teaching and Learning, says everyone at The Centre is excited about the opportunity to showcase some of the innovative teaching and learning taking place at the U the M. Thanks to the TLEF, he adds, “these projects by U of M faculty and instructors will further engage students and augment their learning experience.”

All are welcome at what’s sure to be a lively event. “Join us to hear more about these inventive projects and the Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund — and to celebrate our outstanding teaching and learning environment at the U of M!” says Torchia.


The Teaching and Learning Symposium

Friday, May 6, 9:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
EITC E2-229 (Engineering Complex)

Registration deadline May 2

Register at:

Sponsored by the Provost’s office, hosted by the Centre for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning

Research at the University of Manitoba is partially supported by funding from the Government of Canada Research Support Fund.

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