Skylight Supper Series

Skylight's Supper Series on science education provides a place for faculty members to participate in interactive seminars on teaching and learning issues presented by their colleagues. Meet your peers, enjoy a light meal and refreshments, share your thoughts, and hear about the exciting progress our science community is making in learning and teaching.

Organizers:  General enquiries:
Alice Campbell,




Upcoming Seminar

Thank you for your interest in our Supper Series! We have postponed our March event and will reschedule it at a later date.

Previous Seminars

This event explores concrete examples of how STEM faculty meaningfully embed Indigenous knowledge and voices into their courses and curricula. Eduardo Jovel will discuss how his teaching practices have been shaped by his experiences working with Indigenous communities. This includes making specific decisions about content, such as inviting Indigenous voices into the classroom, and using land-based pedagogies. It also involves adapting the classroom environment to encourage and value the perspectives of Indigenous students and community members.
Over the past few years, we've developed a new Computer Science course in which UBC CS alumni teach workshop-style classes on the latest technologies used in industry. The alumni speakers teach skills that are directly relevant to the field and are founded in best practices that have been shaped by real-world experiences. Students taking the course practice these skills on a full-term group project, which are assessed by both faculty and other industry guests.
Learning to interpret scholarly scientific literature is critical training for evidence-based decision makers. There are several published methods for giving students directed practice with reading research papers, but many of them are resource intensive to implement. We will present data demonstrating that a simple template, Figure Facts, can effectively direct students to practice interpreting graphs and can promote their comprehension of selected research papers.
While licensed textbooks are commonly assigned in undergraduate courses, they can be cost prohibitive for students and, in some cases, they may not quite fit the content instructors wish to teach. Open textbooks can help overcome these obstacles. In this session, we’ll hear about two open textbook initiatives at UBC Science. Leah Edelstein-Keshet (Math) will describe a multi-year process that culminated in an open textbook designed for teaching first-year Calculus with applications from Life Sciences (
We will describe the benefits and the challenges of using modern technology for designing and implementing in-class science demonstrations. We suggest that state-of-the-art instrumentation, such as a fast-speed video camera, can turn traditional lecture demonstrations from mere entertainment to an effective means for physics learning. We will showcase a Slow Motion Chamber, an experimental set-up that we have used as a demonstration tool in large introductory physics lectures.
Critical-thinking, decision-making, and processing skills are essential in Chemistry and other STEM fields; however, few courses offer opportunities for students to practice these skills and receive feedback. We have developed a pedagogical method and a prototype online tool, code-named "Alchemy", that addresses this gap and helps students learn and practice expert-like thinking.
Small classes that enact student-centered pedagogies have been shown to be effective in developing students’ problem solving skills, conceptual understanding, and facilitating effective peer-to-peer engagement. Small, active classes are pedagogically superior, but university resources do not afford all courses to be taught in this manner. In this talk, we will share a blended teaching model that splits this difference. In the blended model, three weekly lectures are replaced with a single faculty-led lecture and two smaller graduate student-led classes.
As part of the Flexible Learning Introductory Statistics project, we created StatSpace, an online repository for teaching and learning resources in introductory statistics. StatSpace will be a platform for collaboration in teaching introductory statistics, for sharing teaching resources, experiences, and best practices. Currently, StatSpace contains a suite of resources for teaching statistics across various disciplines; these resources were developed by a team of UBC statistics instructors from the Faculties of Science, Arts, and Medicine.
Imagine the possibilities if you could design and build a B.Sc. degree program from scratch. Our team of 11, including 9 past or present UBC science educators or science education specialists, is involved in exactly that scenario now, as we work on our UBC/UCA partnership project to develop a 22-course BSc program in Earth and Environmental Science for the new University of Central Asia campus in Khorog, Tajikistan.
At a time when life-beyond-university decisions begin to loom, many upper-year undergraduate students struggle to relate their course-based skills to potential career paths. Time spent in the classroom often builds important skills, but students are not guided through activities or discussions in class that encourage them to make connections between these skills and their future careers.
The transition from Connect to Canvas as the Learning Technology Environment (LTE) has given us an opportunity to examine and renew our relationship with the online environment we create for our students. Studies conducted throughout the LTE Renewal process identified concerns with how Connect was used: instructors faced time constraints to get their courses up and running, and students struggled with the lack of consistency between Connect courses.
Helping students improve their scientific practices is a key goal—and challenge—of university science programs around the world. Inquiry is a method of teaching scientific content and practices together: students ask their own questions about a phenomenon, investigate their question in a small group, and then synthesize and share their results.
The Beaty Biodiversity Museum (BBM) is home to UBC’s biological research collections and contains over two million specimens—a wealth of potential for teaching and research projects. However, most courses in the Biology Program do not use the Museum as a teaching and learning resource and those that do interact mostly with the public displays. This project focuses on first-year students and is the first in a new initiative to integrate collections-based research experiences into Biology Program courses using the BBM’s research collections.
In this Supper Series we will present our work evaluating introductory Computer Science courses. We found that non-CS majors' experiences and outcomes in our existing introductory first-year programming course were worse than those of intended CS majors. In response, we developed a new introductory programming course that is aimed at meeting the needs of the diverse population of non-CS major students interested in our courses.
Is there a topic in your class that is difficult for students to learn and that you would like to investigate further? Enthusiastic graduate students would like to help you devise new approaches to your teaching practices and to measure the impact of these approaches on your students’ learning. The Centre for Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL@UBC, ) brings together UBC instructors with ‘Teaching as Research’ interns, graduate students who want to learn about and assess effective teaching practices.
Course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) represent broadly accessible opportunities for students to do real science. Since 2001, the Department of Microbiology and Immunology has been developing a laboratory-based CURE scaffolded on several writing assignments which culminates in the online publication of original research articles. These papers are used by students in subsequent terms to derive new projects.
In the last decade at UBC, there have been a considerable number of small and large-scale teaching and learning innovations within the Faculty of Science, each having had their impacts assessed with a variety of techniques. How then can we leverage these and other strategies to inform a more cohesive approach to science education reform at all levels, from small, local innovations to course-specific, program-wide or department and faculty-level initiatives?
Recent curriculum changes in the Department of Chemistry have focused on improving the learning experience in 2nd year synthetic and analytical laboratories. The delivery and assessment of three of our teaching laboratories (analytical and synthetic) have changed dramatically to include active learning elements such as oral reports and guided-inquiry projects. Oral reports allow students to hone-in their oral communication skills while receiving instantaneous feedback on misconceptions about experiments.
Wikipedia is the world’s biggest open education resource, and most of us use it every day. The best way to teach your students to use it wisely is to have them contribute to articles related to their course material. In doing so they’ll learn to evaluate evidence, to write clearly and without bias, and to credit their sources, all while completing work that they’ll be proud to show the world. This workshop will consider various ways to incorporate Wikipedia work into your classes and introduce you to the excellent resources that the Wiki Education Foundation has developed.
Encompassing first year physics, mathematics, biology and chemistry, Science One is a team-taught program that provides a unique educational experience by presenting scientific topics in an integrated format.
What’s an instructor to do when designing her first on-line course which happens to be a MOOC? First, get help. Second, use the same design principles that apply to face-to-face courses. Third, embrace the richness of experience present in the participant group. In this Science Supper Series event, we will discuss design and facilitation choices made and revised over 6 offerings of “Climate Change: The Science”, a free, open, online course offered on UBCx/edX. Fundamental principles of backward design guided the course structure.
We report on our experiences in conducting programming tests on a computer (rather than on paper) in a large, second-year, CPSC course for non-specialists. By adding a suite of in-lab programming tests to our regular assessments, we expected students to improve significantly in these areas: (1) programming ability as measured by final exam grades on programming-related questions, (2) confidence in programming ability, and (3) contributions/effectiveness in pair programming partnerships.
First year physics labs provide a rich environment for developing students' critical thinking. In a multi-year study at the University of British Columbia, we have developed a relatively simple form of scaffolding that dramatically enhances the quality of student reasoning. From the outset, students are asked to make comparisons after completing some measurements, to reflect on the comparison, make a plan based on their reflection, then execute the new plan.
Paired (or co-) teaching is an arrangement in which two faculty are collaboratively responsible for all aspects of teaching a course. Through the Harris extension to CWSEI, paired teaching is being implemented in the departments of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences and Physics and Astronomy in order to leverage the expertise that has been created through the CWSEI to encourage and disseminate the use of research-based instructional strategies.
Evaluation of a peer’s work — and the reflection it can prompt on one’s own thinking — is a valuable activity to support student learning. What if we could imagine a system that could help students judge the quality of their peer's submissions, while also reflecting on their own responses? Using only the input of peers in a cohort, could we produce a ranked list of submissions? And would those judged as "best" by students match those chosen by faculty? We have built a prototype online tool that does exactly this, using an algorithm of adaptive comparative judgment (ACJ).
Have you ever encountered students who believe to “have learned” certain facts, concepts, or skills, but whose course performance suggests otherwise? This exploratory study was conducted in a fourth year biology course precisely to gain insight into students’ own perceptions of what they were learning as well as into the “evidence” that they used to determine that they had learned. I will share the main elements of our methodology, including the frameworks used for our analysis, and our preliminary results.
The adoption of research-based instructional strategies in face to face (f2f) learning environments has recently been gaining momentum. Can the same be said for distance education (DE) courses? During this Supper Series event we will consider the challenges, opportunities and examples of converting successful classroom and lab exercises for asynchronous online learning.
We will present a worksheet-focused approach being used for the introductory Physics courses in the Vantage College science stream. The structure of an individual class is that we start with a brief reading quiz, follow-up with a short mini-lecture, have them spend the majority of class time working in small groups on worksheets and then wrapping up the class with a summarizing mini-lecture that targets common challenges from the day.
SCLT session on the emerging field of learning analytics--its methods and potential.
The Flexible Learning project in chemistry was piloted this fall in CHEM 121. In one section of this large-enrollment first year course, the newly developed online and in-class materials were fully implemented and assigned for course credit, while the online resources remained available for students in all sections to access at their own pace.
The first-year Biology Flexible Learning project (aka BioFlex) is being piloted with BIOL 112 (Biology of the Cell) and BIOL 121 (Genetics, Evolution and Ecology), both large enrolment, multi-section courses. In this presentation we will share some of the things we've explored and learned over the first year of the project, and how the trends are catching on.
Vantage College offers a unique first-year experience that combines credit coursework, academic English instruction, and additional learning and cultural transition opportunities in an 11-month program equivalent to the first year of a UBC degree. In August, we welcomed the first cohort of Vantage College Students. This supper series session will give you an overview of the Vantage College program, with a highlight on our innovative approach to content and language integration.
Efforts have been underway across the Faculty of Science to identify and articulate expected learning outcomes for courses and programs.
A multi-year collaboration between the Faculty of Science and the UBC Writing Centre has led to a collection of diverse science-specific writing resources for our students. The Writing Centre hired science-specific tutors, created a detailed science writing reference document, and gathers information about students who visit. For the classroom, we have developed a series of science-specific writing activities. We will share examples of the pre-, in-, and post-class exercises together with scoring keys and/or rubrics for each activity.
Science One is a rigorous, multidisciplinary first year science program at UBC. Science One presents challenges around team teaching, just‐in‐time teaching, curriculum coordination, siloed thinking and breaking down disciplinary barriers. On the other hand, this is an environment where students self-select and there is a high level of student engagement. Therefore, Science One represents an environment in which innovative teaching is welcome and possible. (Ding!)
Since May of 2010, a concerted effort by the Q4B group has been made to identify fundamental concepts in biology that students often have problems grasping and they often have misconceptions related to this misunderstanding. In this session, we will highlight the progress of this scholarship of teaching and learning work and explore whether what we consider to be biological concepts could also be universal across scientific disciplines.
Our final supper series event for the term will feature Rosie Redfield discussing her MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), Useful Genetics, which recently began a new session through Coursera. From Rosie: "I'll talk about the instructor-side view of a MOOC: Why create one (or not), how to do it, support from UBC, how interactions with students are the same and different, using MOOC material in a UBC class.
The Collaborative Research and Training Experience Atmospheric Aerosols Program (CREATE-AAP) is a multi-component training program designed to develop interdisciplinary competencies in atmospheric aerosol researchers ranging from undergraduate students to postdoctoral fellows.
While exams are typically used for evaluation in post-secondary education, two-stage exams are a simple technique that changes exams into a powerful learning experience. In two-stage exams (aka cooperative exams, group exams, or pyramid exams) students complete a test as individuals and then immediately complete the same, or very similar, test collaboratively in groups of about 4. The students' recent studying and the high stakes environment of the exam create very focused and useful discussions among the groups.
This supper series will explore the development and use of discipline specific attitudinal surveys in the Faulty of Science at UBC. These surveys measure shifts in students’ perceptions of the discipline against a novice-expert-continuum. Since 2006, thousands of Science students in lower and upper level science courses have been surveyed and provided invaluable insights into our understanding of student attitudes and beliefs in their discipline.