Documentation:World Cafe/UBC's Teaching Environment

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Context for Conversation



  1. Describe a really good teaching experience you've had recently. What made it good? Why?
  2. What are the necessary ingredients to support great teaching experiences?


Themes were generated by 7 participants during brainstorming and refined during grouping and the generation of themes related to the ideas discussed. We further refined and summarized in 3 ways:


Wordles (word clouds) are graphical representations of words, with greater prominence to words that appear more frequently. Teacherswordle.jpg

Mind Map

Mind maps arrange words and ideas intuitively to better understand the information and its interrelationships. This is the same content as in the text table below.Expandable map view.

Teaching environment.png

Text Table

Note: Numbers in parentheses indicate a similar/same idea that was repeated more than once.

Themes Focus: Ideas & Examples

University Support

  • University to provide visible and personal support (3)
  • Funding must be prioritized
  • More awards and honours: linked to tenure
  • Maintained and supported classrooms: flexibility, adaptability, acoustics, sight lines

Peer Support

  • Community of practice: respect, encouragement, acknowledgement, share experiences (7)
  • Peer mentoring program across faculties (e.g. support for experimenting new teaching styles) (2)


  • Multiple information dissemination channels: gives professor more flexibility and move students away from note takers to participants (3)
  • Knowledge of alternative pedagogies: team-based learning (TBL), case-based, process oriented guided inquiry learning (POGIL),
    classroom assessment techniques (CATS), large class discussions
  • Question-focused
  • Collaborative learning
  • Passion

Locus of Control

  • Student-centric (2)
  • Independent research capability


  • Interdisciplinary (e.g. faculties not an effective way of organizing learning—should revolve around themes) (4)
  • Relevant and linked to real-world issues
  • “Web of understanding”
  • When developing curriculum, must consult the community in shaping it (e.g. Land and Food Systems)


  • Student empowerment and engagement (2)
  • Expect contributions from students
  • Students have to buy into the content
Actions / Engagement


  • Adaptive and responsive: address all learning domains, facilitate discussion ("Teaching With Your Mouth Shut"), “read the crowd,” be fluid and
    allow for spontaneity and time for reflection (5)
  • Make and demonstrate relevance of content (2)
  • Having flexibility within pre-requirement courses to accommodate students who don’t want to be there
  • Set and achieve learning objectives for students
  • Interact with students: make lectures fun, put on related songs, move around the room
  • Play with numbers: make team-learning possible by breaking large classes into smaller teams to promote collaboration


  • Student motivation: high attendance and passionate (3)
  • Power should be shared to students—they must take ownership of their learning
  • Should consist of diverse voices and ensure equality of participation

Role of Technology

The prevalent idea that emerged during the Teacher sessions was that technology (supporting the learning environment) should be: easy to use, consistently available and properly maintained and supported. The focus was mainly on technology used in the classroom. Examples included:

  • Up-to-date projectors.
  • Working microphones/audio systems.
  • Robust (and flexible?) course management system.
  • Use of clickers and scantrons during assessments so focus can be on discussion, problems, cases, team based learning).
  • Other ways of disseminating lecture content so students are not scribes, but can actively participate.
  • Visible support for technology (CTLT, ITS, Classroom Services, Facilities).


The following seem to have emerged as the sticking points in the conversation so far. An ideal learning environment involves:

  • Small-scale: based on relationships.
  • Real dialogue and content contribution between and among learners and faculty (non-hierarchical).
  • Many ways to engage with content.
  • Engagement in real-world issues, projects and questions.

An ideal teaching environment:

  • Functions as a community of practice (respect, encouragement, acknowledgment, sharing).
  • Supports flexible and responsive teaching.
  • Motivates and engages students.
  • Is effectively supported by the institution (physical space, technical support, personal support).

Questions for Further Reflection

  • Is change [of the learning/teaching environment] itself sufficient?
  • Because UBC is primarily a research-intensive university, does this sideline providing quality teaching?
  • When a new framework or syllabus is in place, how can you tell if it is successful or not?
  • What does successful learning look like?


Do you have some ideas about what makes an ideal teaching/learning environment? Please share with us! Login to your UBC Wiki account using your CWL and add in your thoughts on the Discussion page (look for the tab at the top of this page).

See Also