Ready-made lists of library resources for your course

Are your students having trouble finding scholarly sources for their assignments?  Not sure where they can turn for help with their research questions?

The library has designed ready-made pages of discipline-specific resources – recommended books & e-books, journals, databases, and other print and online resources – to help your students get started with their research.  If you see missing or incorrect items in the list, liaison librarians can customize these pages for your classes by adding links to specific items within the library catalogue, or external websites.

Screenshot of Library Resources page for INF2012 (Instructor's view)Screenshot of Library Resources page for INF2012 (Instructor’s view)
(Click on image for enlarged view)

The ‘Instructor Links’ section, only visible to instructors, includes additional information pertaining to copyright issues, and course reserve requests.

Library resource pages also include contact information for booking in-person research consultations with a librarian and for chatting virtually via the ‘Ask a Librarian’ IM service.

How to access library resource pages

Does your course have a Portal site?  Students can access the library resources page in the course menu, by clicking on the “Library Resources” link on the left hand side of the page.

Screenshot of Library Resources page for INF2012 (Instructor's view)Library Resources location within the Portal
(Click on image for enlarged view)

If your course doesn’t have a Portal site, or you would like to share a direct link to the Library Resources page with your students, you can do so by searching for your course code using our look-up tool.

For more details, please contact your liaison librarian.

by Partnering for Academic Success (PASS): librarian secondees with CTSI
Rita Vine, Head, Faculty and Student Engagement, U of T Libraries
Mindy Thuna, Science Liaison Librarian, UTM
Monique Flaccavento, Faculty Liaison Library in Education, OISE
Heather Buchansky, Student Engagement Librarian, U of T Libraries

Teaching & Learning Symposium: reactions

The 2014 Teaching & Learning Symposium, held on November 3rd at Hart House, proved to be an inspiring day for the almost 300 attendees. Over the course of the day – and twenty-five sessions presented by U of T instructors, staff and librarians – teaching and learning in Canadian higher education was discussed, analyzed, and celebrated.

“This year’s symposium was a great success! I loved hearing about the many teaching innovations at our university,” said Don Boyes, Department of Geography.

In his Keynote Address, President Meric Gertler focused on a number of pressing concerns, including U of T’s three priorities: to leverage our local, and global, advantages, and emphasize undergraduate education. (You can read President Gertler’s keynote on the Office of the President website.)

President Gertler stated, “We need to reconsider our face-to-face time and how it differs from online – to emphasize the advantages and merits of both.”

Teaching & Learning Symposium 2014“It was so good to see how the Symposium program aligned “big picture” academic priorities with on-the-ground classroom solutions,” said Rita Vine, Head, Faculty and Student Engagement, University of Toronto Libraries.

Presenters put their own research, experiences, and questions on display through Nifty Assignments, Research on Teaching and Learning sessions, Teaching Dilemmas, and Teaching Strategies Workshops. It was an opportunity to showcase success stories but also open up the discussion to colleagues, and learn from one and another.

“I’ve been involved in the planning of the Symposium since its inaugural year,” said Pam Gravestock, Associate Director, Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation. “It’s always a real joy to witness the conversations, to learn how everyone works together to continually enhance the educational experiences of our students, and to see our community members sharing not only their ideas but the challenges they’ve faced with regard to teaching.”

According to Gravestock, “There is a great energy that the participants bring to this event each year that speaks to the level of commitment to teaching and learning that exists at our institution.”

Boyes, a recipient of a 2014 President’s Teaching Award, delivered a mock class as a special “Welcome to My Classroom” session. Participants has the chance to see first-hand the pedagogical style and approaches of an award-winning instructor.

“It was wonderful to share my teaching methods with such an engaged group of colleagues.” said Boyes.

In keeping with the spirit of sharing methods and ideas, end-of-day prizes offered a lunch with Sioban Nelson, Vice-President and Provost, Academic Programs, and another with Carol Rolheiser, Director, CTSI, and Pam Gravestock.

Vine was also impressed by the attendee’s engagement in sessions and discussions. “There is so much creative energy going into the teaching enterprise at the U of T,” she added. “And so many great ideas that you can incorporate into your own teaching.”

Teaching & Learning Symposium 2014

A few reasons to attend the 2014 Teaching & Learning Symposium

We’ll let your U of T colleagues tell you the benefits of attending the Teaching & Learning Symposium:

This all day event, featuring Teaching Strategies Workshops, Research on Teaching and Learning, Teaching Dilemma Sessions, and Nifty Assignments, is open to all U of T instructors, staff and librarians.

University of Toronto’s 9th Annual Teaching and Learning Symposium
Planning for Change – Responding to Change
November 3, 2014
Hart House

Keynote Address by President Meric Gertler

Lunch is provided.

Register today:

If you have any questions regarding this year’s Symposium, please contact


The blog about blogs….

Now that some of the dust has settled—and before the next round swells up—we thought it might be time pause and listen to the many (online) voices around U of T. This is, of course, only a small sampling of what is available but will hopefully get you started and move beyond the President’s Blog (as informative, as it is).

The Life@UofT blog, courtesy of Student Life, features a number of student bloggers discussing their lives (the ups, the downs, the caffeine excess) in-and-after class. Student Life partners with a number of departments and offices across campus, including First Nations House, the Faculty of Arts and Science, and the Health and Wellness office. CTSI is also a proud partner in the program. Charles, our blogger this year, has already discussed the return to classes, navigating life at U of T, and tutorials. Charles is in his fifth and final year, with a keen interest in philosophy, pedagogy, and Pooh (as in Winnie-the)*, and brings his unique voice to the topic of faculty-TA-student engagement and interaction. I don’t want to give too much away but he has some exciting (okay, interesting and fun) upcoming posts planned.

The various student newspapers regularly feature opinion pieces and editorials—providing a large cross section of what students are thinking about these days. The Varsity, The Underground (UTSC), and The Medium (UTM), may not always post (The Varsity still produces a print version—the other two are only online) what instructors and staff want to hear but reading about the varied and alternate perspectives on academic and campus life can be invaluable.

For the graduate student perspective, visit the Grad Life blog. Their regular and guest bloggers focus on engagement—events, workshops, dilemmas, concerns, and favourite campus spots—and encourage online discussion among the U of T graduate student community.

This barely scratches the surface of online posts and opinions, and doesn’t come close to capturing all the departmental, personal, and administrative blogs and news sites available. Because, of course, if you are keen on hearing what is new at the university, the U of T News and U of T Magazine sites is still one of your best bets.

CTSI is always happy to promote sites and blogs that concern teaching and learning so please feel free to pass on any tips or favourites.

* In truth, Charles’ interest and enthusiasm for Pooh is probably more Milne based, and probably not as upfront as I made it sound. I couldn’t resist the alliteration. So many half-truths and exaggerations are based on, “Well, it was a funny thing to say at the time.”

Setting the Tone NOW: Engaging Students in your Course Evaluations

By Cherie Werhun, PhD, Teaching Assessment & Course Evaluation Coordinator, CTSI

Let’s be honest: Course evaluations are the last thing on an instructor’s mind in early September. Rather, this is the time when last minute course reading selections are being made, TA assignments are being worked out, and drafts of multiple versions of a course syllabus are being reviewed and reviewed and…

Here’s the thing, though. Thinking about the role course evaluations – or more broadly, student feedback – plays in your course now can play a significant role in how students respond to your request for it later.

Instructors who set the tone early – or who create a learning environment that integrates the student perspective and experience into both course design and delivery — tend to benefit at the end of term from students who see the value of providing feedback to their instructors.

Why? By integrating regular feedback opportunities into your course, students have direct evidence that their instructor actually reads and applies the student perspective into their teaching. They witness the value and impact of providing their feedback.

So, how can you as an instructor set the feedback tone early?

Consider a few basic tips:

1.    During your first class, when reviewing the course syllabus with your students, try to highlight changes to your course content, new readings, or activities, for example, that have resulted from previous student feedback. Similarly, when reviewing your course content and schedule, highlight aspects that you have worked on to enhance student understanding of the overall course material. In other words, explicitly show your students how their process for learning the course material is just as important to you as the content of the course material.

2.    At the end of your first class, consider handing out a brief questionnaire, or assigning a one-minute paper, asking students to provide their immediate impressions of the course content, the layout of the course, and/or any areas that they feel apprehension/excitement. During subsequent classes, be sure to mention their feedback and then specify how you are responding to it within the context of a specific class or the overall course.

3.    Consider placing brief opportunities for subsequent feedback throughout your course. For example, you might wish to hear what students thought of a film, a discussion activity, or a problem set. Ask them! Alternatively, you might wish to include a short mid-course feedback, as well. This shows your students that you are interested in their learning experience throughout the course, which provides an opportunity for you to monitor and adjust what you do.

Providing opportunities for your students to provide feedback about their learning of the course material – and then demonstrating how you respond to this feedback – creates the space within your course for reciprocal communication that will set the tone for final feedback when students are invited to complete course evaluations. Investing early in this process will ensure that students see the value and impact of their feedback immediately and throughout your course.

If you would like to consider other strategies to talk to your students about the importance of their feedback in your course, CTSI has a resource document on the Course Evals tab within Portal. Also, if you would like additional guidance, please connect with the Course Evaluations Team at Have a great semester!

McMaster University Symposium on Education & Cognition

By Kristie Dukewich, Department of Psychology, University of Toronto

More and more cognitive researchers are directing their research to develop evidence-based applications for educational interventions, and I have to say, it seems like a natural union. I attended the McMaster Symposium on Education & Cognition, August 12th-14th, 2014 and this meeting was particularly interesting because it brings together researchers who study attention, learning and memory in lab experiments and researchers who study the same processes in a classroom-based setting. There were several really great presentations, including a talk by Dr. Dan Schacter, a veritable giant in the memory literature, and two talks by graduate students in McMaster’s Department of Psychology, Barb Fenesi and Faria Sana, who are focusing their studies on best practices for instructional design. But there were two talks that I have really been thinking about since I left the meeting.

Dr. Katherine Rawson presented a particularly potent slide (below, including with kind permission from Dr. Rawson) that illustrated study techniques as a function of both efficacy and actual use. It turns out that the two least effective methods – rereading and highlighting ¬– are the two methods students report using most (Dunlosky, Rawson, Marsh, Nathan & Willingham, 2013). Rawson and her colleagues recognized that the two most effective methods of studying, spaced practice and retrieval practice, were actually already combined in a potent study technique called successive relearning. Successive relearning involves having students practice successful retrieval multiple times, in multiple study sessions spaced across several days. Rawson and her colleagues have found this technique substantially improves long-term recall of course concepts, allowing students to retain information as they move into high-level courses that build on previous learning.

Photo of power point slide from what students could do seminarI have a fantasy about starting an undergraduate TA program in my department, where the undergraduate TAs would organize study groups in which the participants bring questions for each other. This kind of platform would be a great opportunity for students to engage in successive relearning, and it would give more undergraduates an opportunity to explore leadership roles during their degree. I think that would be a phenomenal experience for everyone involved… Now just to find some extra time!

There was also a really intriguing talk on mind-wandering in lectures by Dr. Karl Szpunar (delightfully pronounced, “spooner”), Dr. Schacter’s post-doctoral fellow. When he was introducing his talk, Szpunar said something like, “We regularly expect students to attend to lectures that are 50, 60, or even 90 minutes long.” I actually shrunk in my seat a bit. At U of T, many departments regularly offer courses that are a whopping 180 mins in duration, and the Psychology Department in particular offers all of its courses in this format. So I am very familiar with the problems associated with students’ mind-wandering during lectures. However, I was dismayed to find out how little students learn in lecture, even when the lectures are less than 3 hours. If you probe students during a lecture by suddenly asking, “Were you just mind-wandering?” somewhere between 30% and 50% of students are not paying attention at any given moment (Szpunar, Moulton & Schacter, 2013). If you surprise-test students immediately after a lecture on the material just presented, the average student score is somewhere around 25% (!!!!!!!). Yikes.

Szpunar went on to explain one antidote: frequent testing. In one study, they found that punctuating lecture segments with short quizzes substantially reduced mind-wandering and increased note-taking (Szpunar, Khan & Schacter, 2013). Comparing students who were tested after every 5-minute segment and students who were only tested on the last of 4 segments, Szpunar and his colleagues found that the group who had be tested frequently during the lecture substantially outperformed the group that was only tested once. Keep in mind that the frequently-tested group was not being re-tested on previously learned material – the groups were only compared on how they answered questions from the last quarter of the lecture. The frequent testing appears to affect students’ overall arousal levels, such that they are better able to pay attention throughout the lecture.

I am acutely aware that students in my lectures engage in mind-wandering regularly. I try to combat mind-wandering in a number of ways – slightly obnoxious transition slides when I’m changing topics, multimedia presentations, discussion activities, and iClicker questions. I’m not sure I have the resources to test students 10-20 times per lecture (actually, I’m sure I don’t), but Szpunar’s talk has inspired me to add pop-quizzes to the arsenal – quizzes that aren’t for marks, but that might be surprising enough to bring students back to the lecture, and potentially, keep them there longer.

Dr. Dan Schacter:
Barb Fenesi:
Faria Sana:
Best practices for instructional design:
Dr. Katherine Rawson:
Dr. Karl Szpunar:

Totally, nailed it!

Ignore the New Year and springtime propaganda. Autumn is the best time to hit the restart button. Even though I am no longer in school, my body and mind process fall as a time for new beginnings. Thankfully, I’ve evolved past the return from summer determined to make this the-best-year-ever feeling (though, if I could put together an outfit of knee socks, pedal pushers and a k-way jacket, I would) and recognize the school school as an opportunity to retackle list(s) and start new projects; set the schedule, and make long term plans.

It’s also the time when I move items from last year’s list to this one. These are projects planned but never started. Or projects started but not finished. Or finished but require another try. Or two. Or six. During his Keynote Address at this year’s Teaching & Learning Symposium, Prof. Joseph Wong said that we, as an institution, need to facilitate audacity. We need to ask ourselves how we positively value failure? It’s all fine and easy to claim that we desire innovation but how do we encourage and facilitate it? And if we are asking this for and from our students, shouldn’t we be asking the same of ourselves?

Finding new ways to acquire and share information, experiences and research by and about our community can be sometimes daunting. There are the usual obstacles of available time and budget that can work as roadblocks but most of us (certainly the CTSI crew) find ways to circumvent and sometimes reinvent. This also means that projects and initiatives might also go through the “Saw it on Pinterest. Totally, nailed it!” phase.

It’s a good feeling when we don’t know what will come next. Anything can happen.

Fall seven times, stand up eight.






Canadian Journal of Higher Education – Call for Papers

Special Issue: Preparing Graduate Students for a Changing World of Work

Background: Geographer Andrew Ross described today’s ‘geographies of livelihood’ in terms of the changing demands of work and employment in a globalized knowledge economy:

Today’s livelihoods are pursued on economic ground that shifts rapidly underfoot, and many of our old assumptions about how people can make a living are outdated pieties. No one, not even those in the traditional professions, can any longer expect a fixed pattern of employment in the course of their lifetime, and they are under more and more pressure to anticipate, and prepare for, a future in which they still will be able to compete in a changing marketplace.1

These changing conditions of work are also true for doctoral students, many of whom pursue an advanced degree in hopes of obtaining a position as a faculty member in higher education. Many of our students, however, find that journey is difficult and long, with side trips into contingent employment or explorations of alternative career options. The question of how universities prepare their doctoral students for these shifting career trajectories is a timely and pressing challenge.

This special issue represents the growing interest in the support and development of professional knowledge and skills in graduate students. Over the past decade, interest in this topic has been building at both the national and regional levels. The Canadian Association for Graduate Studies (CAGS) supported a conference on innovation in graduate education in 2005 and the Tri-Council national research agencies (NSERC, SSHRC, CIHR) together with CAGS and the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE) sponsored a gathering of academics and professionals in Ottawa in 2007 to discuss the development of professional skills in graduate students. In 2011, an international conference on graduate student professional development funded by SSHRC was held at the University of Toronto and in 2012, the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario hosted a symposium on graduate students entering the workforce (academic or otherwise).

The chief aim of this special issue is to provide a space for discussion and debate concerning graduate student development, with the goal of publishing a selection of papers that highlight emerging issues in graduate education and successful strategies that can inform support for students within the Canadian higher education system. This publication will serve to broaden the conversation around graduate student development at a national and international level.

Focus: The need to prepare graduate students for a dynamic and changing labour market is an issue of international concern. This is of course a reflection of larger national questions around postsecondary education, skills development, and the labour market. We seek contributions that theorize the problem of graduate student development, report on empirical research, and/or illuminate comparative models for work in the Canadian context and that will inform the growing field of graduate student support in Canada.

This issue will bring together faculty members, administrators, educational developers, librarians, student support staff, professionals, and most importantly, students to examine the latest research and practices in graduate student development. We also aim to identify paths for administrators seeking to better support their graduate students.

Possible themes for consideration include:

  • Transferring teaching and research expertise outside the academy
  • Labour market conditions for advanced degree holders
  • Institutional collaborations or partnerships to support graduate student development
  • Certificate and co/extra-curricular programming models
  • Administrative or policy models for university responses to changing work conditions
  • Student support and mentoring
  • Cross-sectoral partnerships

Call for Abstracts: You are invited to submit an abstract (500 words) together with short biographical details by October 15, 2013. You will receive a response to your abstract by October 31, 2013. Completed articles (5,000 words excluding graphics, title page, & bibliography) are due by April 1, 2014, and will be subject to peer review with final submissions following revisions expected in September 2014.

For further information, or to submit an abstract, please contact the editorial assistant of the special issue via email at the following address:

Special Issue Editors:
Megan Burnett, Acting Associate Director, Center for Teaching Support & Innovation, University of Toronto
Sara Carpenter, Acting Assistant Director, Center for Teaching Support & Innovation, University of Toronto
Cynthia Korpan, TA Training Program Manager, Learning & Teaching Centre, University of Victoria
Carol Rolheiser, Professor, Department of Curriculum, Teaching, & Learning (OISE) and Director, Center for Teaching Support & Innovation, University of Toronto

1 Ross, A. (2009). Nice work if you can get it: Life and labor in precarious times. New York: NYU Press, pg. 2.