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1.0 Teaching and learning

Enhance the transformative power of teaching and learning

Enhancing the transformative power of teaching and learning requires a focus on attracting, supporting and retaining local and international students, and attracting, supporting and retaining academics who are teaching and research innovators and leaders.

1.1 Increase retention and degree completion

EXECUTIVE SPONSOR: Provost & VP, Academic
Fiona Black, Associate Vice-President Academic and Anne Forrestall, Assistant Vice-Provost Student Affairs
(June 2017): • Student Retention Initiative: $6.5M commitment made by private donors to develop strategies to support students at risk and to provide timely, effective interventions, with much of the funding to be used for creation of bursaries for financial support to students
• Bounce Back program: Dalhousie launched a pilot program to support first-year students struggling academically and with low first-term grades to get back on the path to success. 116 students registered; 90 actively participated. Of the 90 active participants, 84% successfully completed the program, with 97% indicating the program had a positive impact on their studies. Preliminary analysis shows that approximately 68% saw an increase in their winter semester average compared to fall semester, compared to 50% of students who registered but didn’t participate.
• First to second year retention increased from 82.8% to 83.9%, and retention for international students increased from 82.4% to 84.1%
• Increased or stable first-year retention in all but one of the direct-entry Faculties, with a 3.7% increase in first-year retention in the Faculty of Science
• 9 First Year Interest Groups (FIGS) were offered in FASS or Science: 66 students registered in Science FIGS with a 64% completion rate; 24 students registered in FASS FIGS with an 83% completion rate

Read more about priority 1.1

INFLUENCED BY: 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 3.2, 3.3, 4.2, 5.6
: 1.3, 1.4, 4.2, 4.3, 4.5


Dalhousie's percentage of students who successfully move from first to second year lags the U15. Retention rates for international students pose specific concerns. There is a need to better understand the academic and non‐academic factors which influence retention and degree completion of students in Dalhousie's direct‐entry programs.

The multi‐faceted strategy will ensure the effective development of a "culture of retention" across Dalhousie's campuses. The strategy will focus on effective analysis and proactive student success strategies; enrolment approaches from a retention and completion perspective; and continuous development, implementation and evaluation of all institution‐wide and faculty‐based student support practices.


  1. Improve student success year over year, with a focus on those students, identified by analysis, as being the most likely to be aided by defined strategies and organizational cultures. One measure of success would be increased retention and increased degree completion.
  2. Increase first year student retention rates for both Canadian students and international students above the U15 averages by 2018.
  3. Increase the completion time rates for 6 years or 7 years, as appropriate by program, to above the U15 average by 2018.


1.2 Focus on strategic student recruitment based on discipline, level & diversity

EXECUTIVE SPONSOR: Provost & VP, Academic
Arig al Shaibah, Vice-Provost Student Affairs
(June 2017): • Strategic Enrolment Management (SEM) Framework created and a modelling tool for SEM planning was developed
• Initiation of Rapid Task Forces to improve student diversity data collection, coordinate international enrolment processes and activities and enhance pathways programs for underrepresented student populations
• Revision of entrance scholarship model to increase consistency of scholarship offerings across all campuses and Faculties, to strategically deploy scholarship funds to support enrollment in programs where enrollment is a concern and to attract top students and international students
• Scholarships and bursaries for undergraduate students (including the NS Bursary Program) increased to $24.8M in 2016/2017, compared to $24M in 2015/2016
• Enrolment stable at 18,824
• Enrolment of international students increased from 17% in 2015/2016 to 18.6% of the student body in 2016/2017

Read more about priority 1.2

INFLUENCED BY: 1.1, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5
: 1.1, 3.1, 4.2, 4.3, 5.2


Dalhousie has seen considerable enrolment success over the past decade as a result of strong strategic enrolment management planning. The university has invested thoughtfully in domestic and international student recruitment, aiming to achieve optimal enrolment across all academic programs, seek diversity in the student population, and promote Dalhousie as a world-class university.

Dalhousie’s significant strategic enrolment management efforts have yielded an enrolment growth of over 24% from 2002 to 2012, giving Dalhousie the highest enrolment of any university in Atlantic Canada. The university’s recruitment approach has been based on and informed by institutional data, market research and evaluation, and best practices. Efforts have been coordinated across the institution with strong support from faculties and Communications and Marketing. Growth has varied by faculty; while enrolment in some programs has grown quickly, there continues to be unfilled capacity in others. The university’s ability to grow enrolment in some high demand programs, such as Nursing, is limited by government capacity regulation.

The geographic origin of students who choose Dalhousie each year is unique among Canadian universities and is a direct result of where we have invested our recruitment and marketing efforts. Over 50% of Dalhousie students come from outside of Nova Scotia, giving the university the highest proportion of out-of-province students of any major university in the country. Atlantic Canada’s major demographic for university enrolment (18-25 year olds) is in decline and projected to continue to decline over the next two decades.


Our goal is to deliver an exceptional Dalhousie student experience.

  1. Develop a smart growth plan/enrolment strategy by spring 2015 to guide Dalhousie’s recruitment planning to 2018. The strategy will include program-level enrolment targets developed in consultation with faculties and schools with an aim to maintain market share in Atlantic Canada, as well as outside the region and internationally, while also identifying opportunities for future growth.

Download the charter [PDF-141kB]


1.3 Strengthen student experience, leadership development and additional support for our locally diverse and international students

EXECUTIVE SPONSOR: Provost & VP, Academic
: Arig al Shaibah, Vice-Provost Student Affairs
(June 2017): • Development of Health & Wellness Framework
• Development of Sexual Violence Strategy and completion of draft Sexual Violence Policy
• Pilot of new Walk-in Counselling project
• Establishment of Graduate Student Experience Working group and identification of priorities for strategic action to enhance holistic student success of graduate domestic and international students
• Completion of Career and Leadership Development review with draft report with recommendations
• Development of Indigenous plan framework
• Student Impact Awards in 38 categories recognized 80 students and groups for their student leadership
and civic engagement
• Increase in student access of campus mental health services from 13.8% in 2013 to 20.4% in 2016
• Improved access to wellness services with 100% same-day appointments for walk-ins
• $1.2M in funding enabled washroom renovations in many campus residences

Read more about priority 1.3

INFLUENCED BY: 1.1, 1.5, 3.1, 3.2
: 1.1, 1.5, 3.1, 4.2, 4.3, 4.5, 5.2


Fulfilling our mission of teaching and learning requires supporting our students' academic success and providing them with a compelling out‐of‐classroom experience. At Dalhousie, this includes academic support services such as advising, counselling and The Writing Centre, and non‐academic services such as residences, athletics and recreation, Health Services and the International Centre. Feedback from the 100 Days consultations and other data point to several opportunities and gaps including: scholarships and financial support; support for international students, graduate students, rural students, and mature students; writing support; athletics and recreation opportunities; and employment skills development. As we evaluate the next set of investments and initiatives in these areas, we should focus on those that will have the greatest impact on student success. Other considerations should include the impact on NSSE scores and on our overall enrolment.


Our goal is to deliver an exceptional Dalhousie student experience.

  1. Conduct a review of Student Services that considers and makes recommendations on how the unit can best be organized, particularly in light of the new Provost model, to deliver an exceptional student experience that meets the needs of our diverse student body.
  2. Develop a strategic action plan for Student Services that targets the student populations that our analyses show are most at risk of not completing, recognizes the diversity of our students, values their well‐being and ensures alignment with the academic mission of the university.

Download the charter [PDF-135kB]


1.4 Embark on strategic program reviews to enhance the effectiveness & student focus of our program offerings

EXECUTIVE SPONSOR: Provost & VP, Academic
Fiona Black, Associate Vice-President Academic
(June 2017): • In 2016/2017, the four-year cyclical report to MPHEC regarding all QA activities at Dalhousie was completed and submitted
• 10 programs received full accreditation in 2016, including four Health Professions programs (including Nursing and Pharmacy) and six Dentistry programs; all 53 of Dalhousie’s academic programs that require external accreditation are fully accredited
• Internal program reviews in 2016/2017: 18 undergraduate, 3 Masters, 2 PhD
• Senate reviews of College of Continuing Education and Faculty of Architecture and Planning are being conducted through 2017
• Dalhousie Undergraduate Medical Education Program completed the committee on Accreditation of Canadian Medical Schools accreditation process; awaiting final accreditation status. The Medical Continuing Professional Development program underwent accreditation review in April 2017; formal accreditation status will be conveyed to the university later this year

Read more about priority 1.4

INFLUENCED BY: 1.1, 1.2, 1.5, 2.4, 5.3
: 1.1, 1.3, 1.5, 2.1, 3.1, 4.2, 4.3, 4.5, 5.3


Dalhousie has more undergraduate programs per student than other U15 members. This diversity can be a strength, but it is a potential weakness if we distribute scarce resources over too many programs. Although other universities have chosen a process of centralized program review, Dalhousie has selected Faculty-based program reviews in the context of academic program planning, aligning with relevant Senate policies, and with some central coordination to develop and support overall principles and practices and to monitor and learn from similar efforts at other universities.

A systematic process is required to ensure Dalhousie maintains relevance and academic vibrancy.


  1. Establish core principles, framework and criteria for Faculty Academic Program Plans in 2015. Using these core principles, etc., Faculties develop individual Academic Program Plans.
  2. Engage in Faculty-led strategic reviews of their program portfolios, through implementation of the Academic Program Plans (including their frameworks for review), with all Faculties completing their review by December 2018.
  3. Ensure that cyclical program reviews are aligned (yet non-concurrent) with all cyclical Senate Reviews of Faculties by 2018.
  4. Develop a suite of recommended core elements in direct-entry undergraduate programs. Examples might include experiential learning, research / inquiry-based learning, work integrated learning.

Download the charter [PDF-151kB]


1.5 Foster and support innovation in program development and excellence in teaching and pedagogy

EXECUTIVE SPONSOR: Provost & VP, Academic
: Fiona Black, Associate Vice-President Academic
(June 2017):
Program Development:
• New Academic Innovation Awards: 26 projects were funded for a total of $137k
• Work-integrated learning: 4,254 students (22.7% of all students) participated in more than 225 courses designed to offer structured work experience
• Innovation-themed Undergraduate Research Projects (initiative with the Government of Nova Scotia): 20 projects funded, with 6 in Science, 4 in Engineering, 3 in Management, 3 in Arts and Social Sciences, 1 in Health Professions, 1 in Architecture & Planning, 1 in Sustainability and 1 in Agriculture
• Cross-campus consultations for development of a Dalhousie Learning Charter (including Senate Learning and Teaching Committee, Senate Academic Programs and Research Committee, Associate Deans’ Academic Council and Deans’ Council)
New Programs
• New programs approved: Bachelor of Arts in Law, Justice and Society (pending MPHEC approval); Minor in Religious Studies; Medical Residency, General Internal Medicine
• New programs in development: BA in Cinema and Media Studies; Master of Landscape Architecture; PhD in Agricultural Sciences; MSc in Business; new MBA Stream in Digital Transformation; Postgraduate Medical Residency in Pediatric Radiology; Postgraduate Medical Training Program, Palliative Medicine; Postgraduate
Medical Training Program, Family Medicine Enhanced Skills Residency Training Program, Palliative Care
• New certificate programs approved: Certificate in Indigenous Studies; Certificate in Aquaculture and the Environment
• New certificate programs in development: Certificate in Art History and Visual Culture; Certificate in Sustainable Aquaculture
Teaching and Pedagogy:

• Hosted 6th Biennial International Threshold Concepts Conference (June 2016); Sustainability across Curriculum and Campus conference (May 2016); Canadian Engineering Education Association conference (June 2016)
• Hosting Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE) 2017 conference in June, with 700+ delegates registered from around the world and more than 100 Dalhousie faculty and staff presenting
• Dr. Matthew Schnurr (FASS) received the 2016 International Brightspace Innovation Award from STLHE (June 2016) 
• Consolidated classroom technologies support and implementation teams (including support for videoconferencing) and increased funding for classroom technologies within the newly named Academic Technologies Sources Unit managed out of the Dalhousie Libraries 
• Dalhousie Teaching award recipients included Dr. Vivian Howard, Dr. Diane MacKenzie, Dr. Sherry Stewart, Dr. Mike Smit, Dr. Lisa Goldberg, Jennifer Grek Martin, Sarah Greening, David Beitelman 
• Over 4,000 students utilized recorded lectures in the winter of 2017 as a consequence of lecture capture capabilities available in 12 classrooms 
• Centre for Learning and Teaching (CLT) launched a university-wide Teaching Assistant Enrichment Program (piloted in 2015/2016) 
• Holistic Evaluation of Teaching Working Group created by Senate Learning and Teaching Committee 
• Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) Grants: 5 grant recipients of “Change One Thing and Design & Development” Grants; 2 external SSHRC grants received in the area of teaching and learning: a SSHRC Connections grant (Dr. M. Schnurr, FASS PI) and a SSHRC Insight grant (Dr. A. MacLead, Medicine PI)

Read more about priority 1.5

INFLUENCED BY: 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 2.4, 5.3, 5.6
: 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, 3.1, 3.3, 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, 4.5, 5.6, 5.7


Maintaining our relevance and academic vibrancy requires that we continue to innovate in teaching, including new pedagogy, and develop further interdisciplinary programs and e‐learning opportunities. The current Academic Innovation Initiative has undertaken this work and we need to continue it, to better share practices across the institution and to determine the next set of new investments in academic programs. We also need to respond to the technological changes that many believe will transform higher education, developing a clearer strategy and approach to e‐learning that sifts through the hype and brings together best practices from inside and outside Dalhousie.

A university's success is directly tied to high quality and relevant differentiation in programs and tied to pedagogical excellence.


  1. Develop an institutional academic program plan, stemming from Faculties’ approved program plans.
  2. Adopt a Dalhousie Learning Charter for students and professors (expectations and evaluation methods) for each Faculty.
  3. Provide career‐long learning opportunities for pedagogical development through CLT available to all faculty.
  4. Develop and adopt teaching and learning initiatives that support student success.

Download the charter [PDF-136kB]