Previous Best Practices Symposia

May 3, 2017 Symposium


Alice Campbell | Judy Chan | Vishakha Monga and José Rodríguez Núñez | David Ng | Anthony Paré | Rosie Redfield | Amber Shaw and Ashley Welsh | Sarah Woodward, Andrew Santos, Shervin Mortazavi, and Kirstin Brown | Robin Young


Alice Campbell
SCIE 113 and Skylight
Scaffolding writing assignments to teach written argumentation in SCIE 113

SCIE 113 is a one-semester writing-intensive course in which students write several argumentative essays. These have historically been stand-alone essays at the end of a unit which have been used to assess student learning. In response to instructor concerns about students’ ability to write an argumentative, rather than a descriptive, essay, we re-designed our written assignments. We scaffold student learning by breaking each assignment into stages which are integrated within the units. This way, students learn the domain-specific content while also developing their writing skills. While the first assignment is heavily scaffolded, we gradually remove the scaffolds so that by the end of term, students are equipped to successfully write an argumentative essay on their own.


Judy Chan
Faculty of Land and Food Systems and CTLT
Translating scientific knowledge for a global audience via Wikipedia and YouTube

What do balut egg, tequila, Indian ice cream, and smoked salmon have in common? A quick Google search on these foods will lead you to Wikipedia pages with scientific information contributed by students in FNH 200, Exploring Our Foods, as a team project. In addition, students also created short videos to highlight an interesting fact they learned in their research. Knowing that their work will be viewed by audience outside of the traditional classroom, students were engaged and proud of the work they produced. At this roundtable discussion, Judy will share with you how she designed the assignment and prepared the students for these non-traditional forms of academic work.

A summary of all projects:


Vishakha Monga and José Rodríguez Núñez
Department of Chemistry
Oral communication as a means to enhance the in-lab learning experience

Second and third year Chemistry students perform and are assessed using different assessment tools including activities requiring effective oral communication in a laboratory setting.  These activities range from student-led prelab talks, to oral discussions, and oral reports.  A description of the background for designing these activities and benefits and challenges of these activities will be presented along with information about the actual assessment.


David Ng
Michael Smith Laboratories
Game based learning in the STEM setting (or how to mix Pokemon and D&D into your pedagogy)

David Ng will showcase two game base learning projects, developed by his lab, and currently in use in a variety of different educational settings.  One is an open source trading card game that focuses on STEM topics, and which heavily utilizes game design activities to support deeper learning.  The other is an innovative approach to help students critically apply interdisciplinary perspectives into their work, by way of a table top role playing game.


Anthony Paré
Language and Literacy Education
Fine-tuning writing assignments across the curriculum

 Every communication situation consists, at minimum, of these elements: a writer/speaker, a reader/listener, a topic, and a purpose or intention. Even minor adjustments in those elements alter the situation and open thinking and learning opportunities. A scientist writing to a funding panel about her research must re-conceive her relationship to her readers and her stance on her topic when writing to high school students. This session will engage participants in the development of writing assignments designed to promote different ways of thinking by altering elements of the communication situation.


Rosie Redfield
Department of Zoology
Editing Wikipedia: student projects that benefit everyone

Our students work hard, so let’s give them assignments with real-world value.  When we ask them to edit Wikipedia they get:

  • Adult responsibility
  • Scholarly respect for information
  • Incentive for clear writing
  • Extensive support (also for instructors)
  • Deep appreciation of copyright and plagiarism issues

I’ll describe how my Human Ecology students create Wikipedia pages about Vancouver issues and resources, and we can brainstorm about ways your students could use Wikipedia in your courses.


Amber Shaw and Ashley Welsh (in absentia)
Academic English Program, Vantage College / CTLT, Skylight and Vantage College
Strategies for enriching English language learners’ writing and communication in the sciences

At UBC students are invited into an academic culture where expectations and cultural norms are often implicit. Students’ struggles with theses implicit norms may materialize in their writing and communication. Within this session, we will discuss how we invite English Language Learners (ELL) as participants in the larger scientific community. We will share explicit strategies and resources for supporting ELL students’ science writing and communication, which stemmed from a unique collaboration between science and language faculty members teaching SCIE 113 in Vantage One. Participants will also have the opportunity to share their own experiences in their engagements with ELL students.


Sarah Woodward, Andrew Santos, Shervin Mortazavi (in absentia), and Kirstin Brown (in absentia)
JEMI, Department of Microbiology & Immunology
JEMI-Methods: Creating a self-sufficient student-run instructional video series

We will introduce JEMI-Methods, a new arm of UBC’s Journal of Experimental Microbiology and Immunology (JEMI), featuring student-made videos that break down scientific techniques into their theory and applications, and provides visual demonstrations of technique performance. JEMI-Methods will develop into a student-led initiative, with student teams writing methods protocols, producing videos, and publishing them as instructional tools for their peers. Here we will share a completed video, our step-by-step breakdown of the video-making process, and our experience guiding student teams throughout the developmental process. We will highlight the challenges we faced, and suggestions to educators wishing to implement similar programs within their departments.


Robin Young
Botany Department
A novel tool for teaching students to read, interpret and communicate science: The Press Release

A central skill in any biology discipline is the ability to read, interpret, and communicate about the primary research – however, teaching this skill presents unique challenges within biology classrooms, especially in the large classrooms that have become the norm. BIOL200 uses a unique approach, in which graduate teaching assistants choose papers that undergraduates will then use to write ‘press releases’ to communicate key findings. Press releases work well for both students and graders, as they by nature are short, dynamic and required to summarize the key findings in ‘plain English’. I will be happy to discuss the versatility of this assignment as a tool, as well as some of the unique challenges this assignment poses in a high enrolment science class.