2016 Re:THINK – Navigation and Transformation in Today’s Learning Landscape

The 10th Annual University of Toronto’s Teaching and Learning Symposium – Re:THINK – Navigation and Transformation in Today’s Learning Landscape – was held on May 10th, 2016 at the Rotman School of Management. With 315 participants, 23 sessions (plus a morning plenary) and 60 presenters, our U of T community shared experiences, research, successes and challenges inside and outside the classroom. We closed the day with a reception hosted by President Meric Gertler and the launch of the Re:THINK publication and website.

2016 Teaching and Learning Symposium – Facilitator Materials

Please enjoy this gallery of photos of the event and view the FULL AGENDA.

Skill Development and Transfer in Higher Education
Through a facilitated design process focused on Skill Development and Transfer in Higher Education, participants were introduced to a number of provocations and protocols that addressed the main theme of the Symposium: Navigation and Transformation in Today’s Learning Landscape. Participants viewed videos (links below) and explored a range of ideas to influence their own teaching practice, their division and discipline at the University of Toronto.

Video Provocations
ILEAD Real Leadership Sketches
Writing Instructions for TAs (WIT)
Centre for Community Partnerships
Prof. Geoff Scott: Knowledge and Life Skills for the Future
The Self-Development Lab at the Rotman School of Management
John Seely Brown on Motivated Thinkers
WIRED by Design: Radical Ideas for Reinventing College

Working in groups, participants were asked to synthesis their discussions into three areas: Affirm, Refine, and Aspire.


  1. High impact practices: participants articulated that various forms of community-engaged learning form an important part of our strengths, notably experiential learning, interdisciplinary initiatives, and a broader focus on supporting communities of practice and ways to “mobilize academic knowledge through safe and supportive collaboration”. There is also a strong focus on the development of “critical academic skills” (“soft skills”) and not just disciplinary content and conventions alone. We encourage students to examine technical material clearly and to integrate research and related skills into courses based on student needs. We are responsive to our students and to our curricula in this way. This, along with a commitment to good program design, helps ensure that our students graduate as employable, “work ready professionals”. We do this through experiential learning and interdisciplinary teaching and by mobilizing and advancing our academic knowledge to transform assessment/evaluation models. This promotes employable and competitive graduates who have both a solid command of the discipline and relevant critical academic skills.
  2. Building community: participants praised the way in which technology and technology enhanced learning (e.g. clickers) are integrated into the overall teaching framework. Faculty are also adaptable to feedback and have an interest in, and desire for, professional development opportunities in order to best leverage the expertise of our “world class researchers”. We are a collaborative, multidisciplinary learning and teaching community with a keen interest in professional development and reflective practice.
  3. Student and faculty support: participants praised the level of support for their own work and professional growth at the university. Teaching stream faculty in particular noted the use of holistic practices to “prioritize teaching”, including collaboration between faculty and librarians, “the power of feedback” from mentors, and the opportunities from resources such as CTSI. In all, the broader “willingness to innovate and experiment” in terms of teaching translates to more effective support for undergraduate students, particularly first-year students. By “prioritizing teaching”, we create “a safe space 9for students and for faculty) to learn, fail, and develop”. We feel supported as teachings in our professional and pedagogical development. We are encouraged to take risks and innovate, and we support our undergraduate students to do the same. In all, our policies and practices reinforce the President’s priorities regarding teaching and learning.


  1. How to teach, assess, communicate the value of and create opportunities for the development of essential skills (including, but not limited to collaboration, communication, reflection, provision and integration of feedback)
    – Curriculum mapping of disciplinary knowledge and interpersonal/collaborative/developmental competencies
    – Moving students beyond credentialization to intrinsic motivation and valuing personal development
    – Assessment of soft skills (collaboration, reflection, mentoring, feedback) across multiple courses
    – Understand/address how institutional culture may work against the values of community engaged learning and collaboration
  2. Free us (or nudge us) from our silos (opportunities for intra and inter discipline or unit collaboration – for students and faculty; support and incentive for bridging work; disrupt conventional organization of the academy)
    – Allow for and enable different expressions of scholarly communication
    – Improve opportunities for interdisciplinary interaction
    – See how students move across silos and learn from it
    – Flexibility in models of program and course development (more cooperative)
    – More links between inter and intra unit communities of practices
    – Break out of traditional academic framework for learning and not just in one class for a program
  3. Make it possible to learn from one another (for students and faculty) (cultures of sharing, peer assessment strategies)
    – Incentivize change
    – Increased opportunity for self-reflection and peer critique
    – Supporting research stream faculty to pursue teaching excellence
    – Better sharing; more communities of practice
    – Encourage strategies that have potential for scale and scope
    – Increased opportunities for student collaboration


  1. Reward and recognize…teaching that stretches boundaries and takes risks
    – Assessment that captures the complexity of students’ learning experiences
    – Adapting physical infrastructure to enable collaborative learning and collaborative practice
    – Foster a culture of respect between University, community, faculty and students
    – Reconsider the entire teaching budget model
  2. Enable collaboration…among students, faculty, departments and through more effective infrastructure – better learning spaces, better curriculum conversations
    – Share best practices across departments and units
    – Resource and reward structure that recognizes and enables collaboration
    – Foster in students cultural knowledge and appreciation
    – Removing or mitigating structural barriers to inter-disciplinarity
    – More strategic collaboration at the program and curriculum levels
    – Engage even reluctant students in new experiences like community-engaged learning
  3. Skills across disciplines…can core personal development skills/values be taught across programs and areas?
    – More senior level courses focusing on personal development (leadership, collaboration, etc.)
    – Move beyond the lecture model – more problem-based learning with real-world solutions
    – Clearly define for students and faculty the skills that students at all levels should have by the end of their programs to be “work ready plus”
    – Develop different and novel ways to recognize student achievement, identifying external motivators
    – Develop communications skills across disciplines and formats
    – Foreground students’ priorities and input: help them develop personal leadership and agency
    – Balancing innovation discourse with development of values
  4. Faculty learning…engage ALL faculty in evidence-based practices
    – Encourage continuous reflection – both inside the classroom and on the part of instructors
    – To be recognized and known for great teaching that involves new ways of thinking and risk-taking
    – Teach the teachers
    – Engage tenure stream faculty in evidence-based teaching practices
    – Foster meta-cognition about the learning process and education for faculty about learning science