Keynote Speaker ‑ Teri Balser

Keynote Speaker, May 2, 2019

Dr. Teri Balser
Provost and Vice President Academic
Dalhousie University

Active learning takes active teaching – reducing resistance by managing risk?

We hear a lot – everywhere – about the importance of active learning. We know that its use is the very best thing for helping students learn. We are exhorted to do new things with our teaching, and to eliminate lecturing. We are told we should flip our classrooms, design brilliant and engaging activities, and become fully learner-centered. But what does it actually take to make that happen? How many of us have tried something new, only to find it resisted mightily by those who are supposed to love it – the students? Or, how many of us have tried to share something exciting with our colleagues and invite them to try it as well, only to have them declare that those things never work and, thank you very much, they will stick to lecturing?

In this session we will explore an aspect of active learning that we may not think about as often: the sense of risk and feelings of vulnerability that come with trying something new – for ourselves as well as our students. Active learning activities can be placed along a Spectrum of Perceived Risk, which likely influences adoption, acceptance, and efficacy. Further, ideas about risk and vulnerability can be extended to ourselves as “active learner-teachers.”When we try new things as teachers, we are also actively learning.

Here we will consider the proposed “risk spectrum” as a framework for reducing the sense of risk associated with trying new things, and explore ideas about how to develop an active learning portfolio that works in almost any setting.


Professor Teri Balser is Provost and Vice President Academic at Dalhousie University, and a Principal Fellow of the U.K. based Higher Education Academy. In addition to recognition as an accomplished international research scholar, Dr. Balser has received numerous accolades for her teaching accomplishments including a USDA National Excellence in College and University Teaching Award in 2009, and recognition as the 2010 U.S. Professor of the Year for Doctoral and Research Universities (Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching).

She is widely known in higher education as a change agent and leader in STEM. She co-founded the Society for Advancement of Biology Education Research (SABER), was a National Vision and Change Leadership Fellow with the Partnership for Undergraduate Life Sciences Education (PULSE), and has been a Fulbright-Nehru Distinguished Chair to India to help build capacity at the national level for pedagogically advanced and responsive STEM education. She has long been an active advocate, speaker, and workshop facilitator in research, leadership and teaching. She is cross-appointed as a faculty member at Dalhousie in Plant, Food, and Environmental Sciences in the Faculty of Agriculture, and the College of Sustainability.