Posts made by William Owen


Ken I think you are right on with this comment - the president and provost are the keys.


How do we begin to change their ways of thinking about professional development?  One strategy is to set them up for success.  One way to do this is to utilize an existing committee (or establish a committee) that reports directly to the Provost or President. The terms of reference should reflect issues that are important to the institution (e.g., Learning Outcomes, Promoting Teaching Excellence).  Successfully delivering on these objectives, and reporting back to the Provost on how they have lead to positive changes.


The ultimate celebration of learning would occur when at least one or two people within an institution recognize that they do not have to work so hard to promote the benefits of teaching and learning - there is a cultural shift to embrace creative and effective means of learning as a real value to the institution.

How do we get there? Small steps. A cultural shift in institutional mindsets will not happen in a year or two...a key ingredient is passion. That passion has to be seen at four different levels: micro (working with individuals), meso (working with unit or division leaders/champions), macro (working with the institution) and mega (working beyond the institution) - this framework, micro-mega, was one presented at the Educational Developers Caucus Meeting this past February by Laura Winer from the Teaching and Learning Services Centre at McGill University. It is easier for us to celebrate and recognize informal learning among a self-selected group of informal learners (mirco-level), but to have an impact, I think we need to focus on the other three levels.

The meso-level may have the largest impact for many of us. What would celebration look like there? Letters of recognition that are valued by that unit/division. Providing opportunities for sharing of knowledge/skills/values gained from informal learning to others within the unit/division. Ensuring reward structures are aligned with the cultural ethos that values informal learning.

and then capping it off with a good bottle of wine big grin

What would celebration look like for others?


Hi Bonnie,

We are in the discussion stage right now and we are actually surveying people regarding what would count. We have discussed things like pedagogically-related book circles, "lunch and learn" sessions, to the more formal instructional skills workshops, etc. Our main focus is in celebrating efforts related to enhancing one's teaching.

Personally, I certainly do not hold the assumptions that formal and informal learning are directly tied to contrived vs authentic, respectively. Both of these types of learning can be either primarily depending on the motivations of the individual. Added to this in the formal contexts, the motivations and assumptions of the facilitator(s) for holding the formal learning session.

My thoughts...

For myself, the question of a model of recognizing informal learning fits with the the assumptions underlying. Recognition is not the same as evaluation; however, we are often required to equate recognition with evaluation.  From an institutional perspective, informal learning needs to be celebrated. Many institutions that I am familiar with are not doing enough to celebrate informal learning.  As Jenni, noted there are many benefits to individuals, institutions, and society at large in terms of recognizing informal learning.


Hello All,

Thanks for a stimulating beginning to this forum. I found it exciting to hear new ideas, gather new resources, and listen to the nuances surrounding informal learning. It is also great to meet a new colleagues. Thank you.

I have been struggling with how an institution of higher learning can better recognize and appreciate professional development related to teaching. Most of this opportunities are informal, and even more are being offered on-line. So how do we assist in shifting the institutional culture that understands how to evaluate and appreciate (most) research to now include both formal and informal opportunities related to teaching and learning?

Professional development is acknowledged by institutions of higher education as being fundamental to enhancing teaching in the classroom. Thus, institutions have developed diverse methods of recording and acknowledging participants of professional development events. For example, the Centre for Teaching and Academic Growth (TAG) at the University of British Columbia developed and promoted the use of Passports of Participation. Participants in professional development activities receive a “stamp” signed by the facilitator that they then put in their passport of participation. As such, their passports serve to record the professional development activities that one is involved in. Since UBC introduced the passport of participation idea in 2005, other institutions have adopted or adapted the passports of participation in order to recognize those who engage in events designed to enhance their teaching. Fundamentally, passports of participation serve to encourage continuous professional development related to improving teaching and learning and recognize those who do so.

We are currently involved in a project to see if we can implement this project on a provincial basis. Here are some of the questions we are discussing: which professional development opportunities would qualify for the program? How do we assign ‘values’ to different types of professional development opportunities (e.g., a one hour vs 3 hour session)? How can we build upon other provincial initiatives (e.g., Learn Together Collaboratory web site)? How do we recognize both participants and facilitators? What type of recognition do we wish to offer (e.g., Letter of Participation provided by an institutional representative or a governmental department, display photos on Learn Together, etc.)?

What models do you know of that serve to both evaluate and recognize informal learning?