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Expanding the Classroom Beyond the Lecture (Vivian Howard)

Posted by SIM on November 14, 2017 in News, Alumni & Friends

Howard, VivianSIM Associate Professor, alumna (MLIS ’95) and Associate Dean-Academic for the Faculty of Management, Dr. Vivian Howard, was profiled today in Dal News. She was awarded the Alumni Association Award of Excellence for Teaching earlier this year, which is one of Dal’s top teaching accolades. In fact, SIM professors won three of the eight awards! We are very proud of our faculty here at SIM.

Sample from Dal News (read the full story here):
Fresh out of her master’s degree, Vivian Howard took on a job teaching a required undergraduate English course at a Canadian university on the west coast. She describes it as the kind of class that nobody liked but everybody had to take. Although aimed at helping students in various programs develop their writing skills via Shakespeare classics and modernist literature, the course instead often just left students feeling frustrated. Some had to take it several times just to pass and get their degree. In short, it was a challenging course for a new teacher to take on.

“The experience teaching that course and having to engage students who were there almost against their will was actually good trial by fire,” says Dr. Howard, now an associate professor in Dal’s School of Information Management. “It made me think about ways to make the material relevant to the students.”

Success through a mix of approaches
All these years later, keeping students engaged remains one of Dr. Howard’s chief priorities in the classroom. Although she mostly teaches graduate students now, she says she still relies on strategies she developed teaching undergraduates. She was honoured earlier this year for her work with students, receiving the Alumni Association Award of Excellence for Teaching — Dal’s top teaching accolade.

While traditional lecture-style classes will always have a place in universities, she says using a mix of approaches has vastly improved learning outcomes in her own courses. Simulations, role playing, learning stations, field trips, free writes and debates are just a handful of techniques she uses in her meticulously planned classes to create an engaging environment that stimulates students and encourages them to apply concepts in real-world scenarios.

“I think of it almost as a choreography,” she says of her classes. “I have a certain amount of time where I’ll be talking, but then I’ll very quickly go into something that’s student centred, where they are working with the ideas and applying them.”