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Report on Strategic Contributions

The MacPherson Institute contributes to strategic initiatives that have a direct impact on teaching and learning within the unit and at McMaster University more broadly. The work of supporting, enhancing and collaborating on teaching and learning would not be possible without strong partnerships that play a critical role in the success of these activities happening across campus.  

This past year the MacPherson Institute worked closely with the Office of the Vice-Provost, Teaching and Learning to identify areas and activities outlined within the Partnered in Teaching and Learning Strategy, also recognized as Priority 2: Teaching and Learning within the President’s Institutional Priorities and Strategic Framework, that could be supported and enhanced with contributions and leadership from the MacPherson Institute. A few of these key projects are outlined below. 

Expandable List

Impact area: Partnered and Interdisciplinary Learning

The MacPherson Institute contributed to various activities that relate to exemplifying an environment that is inclusive of diverse perspectives across disciplines, engaging students as partners and eliciting curiosity beyond traditional disciplinary boundaries.

  • In 2022, the MacPherson Institute enabled six programs (iSci, Religious Studies, PNB, Biology, Civil Engineering, and Sociology) to engage Student Curriculum Consultants with a range of tasks and activities.  
  • The MacPherson Institute began publishing a blog series in March 2022 titled “Spotlight on Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.” This series continued to publish once a month offering a summary of a research article published by a McMaster educator or a national or international scholar. The aim of this content is to support educators in learning about research on teaching and learning across disciplines and to consider how to apply these techniques in their own teaching. 
  • The Office of the Vice-Provost, Teaching and Learning and the MacPherson Institute awarded over $340,000 in funding to the inaugural cohort of Partnered in Teaching and Learning grant recipients for the 2022-23 academic year. 31 grant projects were funded to support innovative thinking and novel approaches to teaching and learning within and beyond classrooms and within and across disciplines.  

Impact area: Holistic, Transformational and Personalized Student Experience

The MacPherson Institute contributed to various activities that relate to building a holistic student experience that extends beyond the classroom to promote personal growth, support health and well-being and enhance a sense of connectedness within the McMaster community.

  • The Office of Academic Integrity worked alongside the MacPherson Institute in the adaptation of six online modules on “Academic Integrity for Undergraduate STEM students” to enhance their understanding of academic integrity topics and challenges.  
  • In July 2022, the MacPherson Institute filled three new and one reframed continuing educational developer positions: two focused on accessibility, one focused on anti-racist pedagogies, and one focused on Indigenous Andragogies. These positions have already made significant contributions to providing insight and guidance to faculties and instructors on implementing inclusive teaching practices.  

Impact area: Inclusive and Scholarly Teaching

The MacPherson Institute contributed to various activities that relate to recognizing teaching as a foundational aspect of the McMaster experience and encouraging creativity, risk-taking, and originality in teaching practices.

  • In Spring 2022, the MacPherson Institute concluded its 3-year (2019-2022) strategic plan that was launched following the Teaching and Learning Review in 2018 and successfully delivered on 51 of 59 initiatives.  
  • In October 2022, with endorsement from the President, the Provost invited the external reviewers to return to the MacPherson Institute to complete a progress review report. During the visit the reviewers met with Deans, Directors, campus partners, instructors, students, staff at the university and staff at the MacPherson Institute. The reviewers provided a follow-up report that acknowledged the transformation the MacPherson Institute had undergone over the past few years and identified opportunities for next steps, particularly in identifying how the MacPherson Institute will work in partnership with the new Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning).   
  • In partnership with the School of Graduate Studies and the Office of Community Engagement, the MacPherson Institute began researching different models of collaborative specializations for graduate students to take alongside their degree programs. Having made recommendations on possible models, the team is now designing pilot programming for a Collaborative Specialization in Scholarly Teaching, drawing from existing and new MacPherson Institute programming.   
  • The MacPherson Institute launched a new program called “Research Squares” that allowed recipients of a teaching and learning grant to receive peer support in their research on teaching and learning. Through facilitated meetings, educators share the goals and progress of their research programs as they relate to teaching and learning and share ideas and strategies for this work.  
  • An Evaluations of Teaching Advisory Committee with representation from many academic and central service units was established in 2021 to identify short- and long-term projects. Three implementation groups were formed, overseen by a smaller Advisory of the MacPherson Institute Director, the Vice-Provost, Teaching and Learning, and the McMaster University Faculty Association (MUFA) President. These groups focused on developing resources to support Peer Observations of Teaching, reframing Teaching Portfolios to emphasize reflection and development, adapting end-of-term student evaluations of teaching to be focused on student experience, refining the Record of Activities (ROA) form to include reflection and goals, and engaging in conversations with Chairs about the challenges of evaluating teaching.  
  • MacPherson Institute’s Teaching and Learning Certificates of Completion were redesigned and relaunched in September 2022. Now open to all educators, including sessional instructors, graduate students and faculty, the Certificates of Completion offer flexible, self-directed opportunities for educators to explore principles of university instruction, scholarly teaching, and digital pedagogies, and to apply teaching/inquiry and practice/application in their own contexts. 2022 saw full enrollment in the six courses that comprise the Certificates of Completion, and for the first time, no significant bottlenecks in registration or participation.   

Impact area: Active and Flexible Learning Spaces

The MacPherson Institute contributed to various activities that relate to aligning learning spaces to learning outcomes with considerations for accessibility, inclusivity and formats for both educators and students.

  • The MacPherson Institute provided administrative, communication, pedagogical and integration support for the duration of a pilot program funded by eCampus Ontario to implement PeerScholar and Hypothesis, educational technology tools that support peer evaluation and social annotation. For the pilot, 1,213 student licenses were requested for Hypothesis, and 1,423 student licenses were requested for PeerScholar. At the conclusion of the pilot, participating educators provided feedback on the impact to their teaching, with 92% expressing a desire to continue using the tools. The MacPherson Institute is developing a plan in partnership with University Technology Services for sustainable engagement with these tools.  
  • The MacPherson Institute prepared a series of online and hybrid course planning and review recommendations for Faculties and Departments. An online course quality checklist that distinguished between required items (e.g., AODA compliance) and suggested items (e.g., UDL, supplementary Avenue to Learn features) was also created. A review and refresh of the Learning to Teach Online self-paced asynchronous course was also completed and is available to the campus community.  
  • The MacPherson Institute contributed to the development of the Digital Learning Framework, which officially launched on May 8, 2023. The framework, which is a core initiative within the Partnered in Teaching and Learning Strategy, addresses the need for a centralized philosophy for digital learning and offers a coordinated approach for online tools and technologies along with a plan for implementation.