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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

  • Health ministry award comes to UW
  • Thai students respond to teaching model
  • Medical school, and other notes
Editor:
Chris Redmond
credmond@uwaterloo.ca

Pitch-In Canada Week


[Five smiling faces posing with certificate]

Health minister George Smitherman (far left) with Hirdes, graduate student Jeff Poss, and "Ideas for Health" staff Lois Cormack and Kristein Reidel.

Health ministry award comes to UW -- from the UW media relations office

A research team led by the UW-based "ideas for Health" research group is one of five recipients of the inaugural Ministry of Health and Long Term Care Innovation Award. The team's research was selected from more than 600 projects submitted for consideration for a showcase event held last week at the Metropolitan Toronto Convention Centre. The UW group's full name is Innovation in Data, Evidence and Applications for Health -- or Ideas for Health.

John Hirdes, a UW professor of health studies and gerontology as well as the scientific director of the Homewood Research Institute, is the principal investigator of two research projects on primary care and mental health, which received $3.5 million in combined funding over two years from the Primary Health Care Transition Fund. "The central aim of this research is to demonstrate ways to make health care in Ontario function as a system rather than a collection of isolated islands that don't communicate or work together," Hirdes said.

The study spans the health-care system with 15 different sub-projects conducted in primary care (doctors' offices and nurse practitioner clinics), home care, long-term care, acute care, in-patient psychiatry and community mental health agencies. By the time the study is finished in August 2006, it will have reached 13,000 people who are receiving health care from 89 organizations, and about 750 staff will have been trained in new techniques for identifying and responding to the health needs of Ontarians.

The research activities include the testing of new assessment, screening and risk-appraisal systems for Community Care Access Centres (CCACs), emergency rooms and crisis units in psychiatry. Several projects deal with improving collaboration and communication between different sectors of the health-care system.

For example, five CCACs pilot-tested a new approach to sharing health data with family physicians and providing client education on falls, depression, medication, flu shots and breast screening. The mental health research embraces the creation of new methods for benchmarking the quality of in-patient psychiatric services, testing new care planning strategies and developing a Geropsychiatry Placement System (GPS). The system will aid in identifying the most appropriate care setting for older adults with mental health needs.

Roger Mannell, dean of the faculty of applied health sciences, said that research by the ifH group exemplifies the faculty's "commitment to the development of knowledge and programs that can have a positive impact on the health and well-being of Canadians."

The research also has a strong international connection. Hirdes and Katherine Berg are fellows of the interRAI consortium of researchers from 26 countries. The ifH initiative is drawing a great deal of attention from other countries that are experiencing the same health care challenges as Ontario.

As part of the final phase of the research, Hirdes and colleague Edgardo Pérez will host a 10-country research meeting to plan for the dissemination of the mental health findings and launch a multinational collaborative on in-patient and community psychiatry. Pérez is the chief executive officer of the Homewood Health Centre and director general of the Homewood Research Institute.

Co-investigators come from UW and other local organizations, the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health, and other points in Canada and the United States. The team also involves about 25 research and clinical staff members, along with two Knowledge Exchange Boards with more than 20 senior advisers from the health ministry, service providers and professional associations.

[Richards]

Thai students respond to teaching model

A technique that everybody said wouldn't work was so successful that class time became "magical", says UW's Les Richards (right) about a five-week course he taught last fall at a university in eastern Thailand.

Richards, who is senior advisor in the distance education office and the Centre for Learning and Teaching Through Technology, will be speaking tomorrow about the experience -- or, as he calls it, "What I Learned about Learning in a Developing World Practice". The talk starts at 3:00 Thursday in the Flex Lab on the third floor of the Dana Porter Library.

He was at Ubon Rajathanee University to give the course, on "Designing for E-Learning", to fourth-year computer science students, and also to do some teaching at the graduate level and run a workshop for science instructors.

The assignment came with a warning: "I was told there are historical and cultural differences between students in Thailand and North America and these differences pose different teaching challenges. Students come to class unprepared. Class time is wasted covering basic information. There is no time to cover all the content in class. Students have their own agenda while attending class. Students don't show up for class." In short, "The challenges identified by instructors in Thailand were the same as those identified in North America."

[Many peaks on red roof]

Tourists at the cultural centre on the Ubon Rajathanee campus. Photo by Yer Yang for the Sheboygan Press, by permission.

Ubon had expressed interest in the "T5 model" for teaching, developed at UW by Richards and colleagues Tom Carey and Diane Salter. Its guiding principle is a learning-centred approach that promotes student engagement with the content, with an emphasis on prompt feedback. Says Richard: "The T5 model emphasizes Tasks and Tutoring (learning tasks with deliverables and formative feedback), and Teamwork (collaborative work). Cultural and historical factors in Thai higher education did create a context in which this approach requires sensitive adaptation to be successful."

He goes on: "When developing curriculum, faculty often focus on content coverage and/or presenting content, rather than on promoting engagement with the content. . . . In the typical lecture model, class time is generally instructor directed for 90-100% of the time. However, when a teacher stands at the front of the class and lectures, students' engagement is optional. Many students listen passively, resulting in little actual learning taking place. In contrast, in a task based, learning-centred environment where deliverables are required of the students, engagement with the content is not optional but is a condition of successful completion."

His idea was to "shift the lecture out of the classroom", breaking the structure that's even more accepted in Thailand than in North America. "Typically, Thai students do not look at content out-of-class," Richards observes. "I wanted my students to come to class with some of the background information that they needed and I wanted them to be able to participate in a more meaningful way during class time.

"Moving all of the class content to student time freed up class-time for me to take on the role of a coach. . . . Students were required to complete team tasks prior to each class, a final team presentation in week 5, plus weekly papers. I made attendance mandatory so that students could interact with their colleagues -- both within their groups and with the entire class during presentations."

He says he was warned that the students wouldn't participate, or would drop out of the course. But that didn't happen: "No team missed handing in their pre-class task, and no one dropped out. Initially it was difficult getting the class to question the other presentations, but by the end class-time was their time for thought provoking questions and issues." Evaluations at the end of the course found only a few participants who "would have preferred all lectures" and didn't like the task format.

"I found the experience extremely rewarding," says Richards. "It certainly made class time magical." He'll be retiring from UW this fall, and plans on going back to Thailand, with a new version of the "Designing for Learning" course at Ubon scheduled to start in November. His report on last fall's experience is available online.

WHEN AND WHERE
Smarter Health Seminar: Judith Shamian, VON Canada, "New Strategies for Health Care in the Home", Wednesday 3 p.m., Davis Centre room 1302.

Royal Society of Canada spring conference, "Collaborative Partnerships and Connecting Research with the Community", Thursday, Centre for International Governance Innovation and Perimeter Institute.

Computing Help and Information Place (CHIP) closed Thursday 12:00 to 1:30 for staff meeting.

Computer Science Distinguished Lecture Series: Andries van Dam, Brown University, "Immersive Virtual Reality in Scientific Visualization", Thursday 4:30, Rod Coutts Hall room 101.

Ontario Psychology Undergraduate Thesis Conference, hosted this year by UW, Thursday evening (reception), Friday (talks and poster sessions), details online.

Innovate Entrepreneurs Bootcamp sponsored by Enterprise Co-op, co-operative education and career services, Friday-Saturday, details online.

Guelph-Waterloo Centre for Graduate Work in Chemistry and Biochemistry annual general meeting, seminar, "Quantum Chemistry at Guelph: Then and Now", graduate student poster session, and reception, Friday 1 p.m., Davis Centre room 1302.

Robot Racing involving eight teams from three universities, Friday 1 p.m., greens north of Math and Computer, spectators welcome.

Athletics Hall of Fame induction ceremony and dinner Saturday 6 p.m., South Campus Hall, information ext. 5433.

DaCapo Choir, based at Conrad Grebel University College, "Rhapsody", featuring "Te Deum" by conductor Leonard Enns, Saturday 8 p.m., St. John's Anglican Church, Kitchener, $15 at the door (students and seniors $10).

New students welcome reception Monday (first day of spring term classes) 4:30 p.m., multipurpose room, Student Life Centre.

POSITIONS AVAILABLE
On this week's list from the human resources department:

  • Administrative assistant, engineering undergraduate office, USG 6
  • Senior demonstrator, engineering undergraduate office, USG 9-10
  • Web developer, student life office, USG 8
  • Cashier/receptionist, school of optometry, USG 3
  • Library clerk, school of optometry, USG 3
  • Receptionist/secretary, engineering undergraduate office, USG 3
  • Computer support specialist, Institute for Quantum Computing, USG 8
  • Office assistant, office of research ethics and grants, USG 4

    Longer descriptions are available on the HR web site.

  • Medical school, and other notes

    Waterloo Regional Council meets tonight (7:00 at 150 Frederick Street in Kitchener) and is scheduled to make a big decision: whether to make a contribution of $19 million toward construction of a building on UW's planned downtown campus to house a branch of the McMaster University medical school. The proposed Regional grant for the project has been a controversial topic in local media and political circles over the past month, with those who see the medical school as a too-good-to-miss opportunity countered by those who say it's the job of the provincial government, not municipalities, to pay for higher education. Things have been heated up by suggestions from the president of Conestoga College that the med school could have been erected on his campus for a fraction of the cost. Yesterday's Record said there seems to be growing support for making a grant, but reducing it to something like $15 million instead of the full amount requested by McMaster and UW.

    A side issue raised during the medical school debate involves the role of three local leaders -- the mayors of Waterloo and Kitchener, and the chair of Waterloo Region -- who will be involved in making the funding decision, and who are also members of the UW board of governors. People have asked how they got the latter role, which is alleged to put them on the university's side of any controversy. Answer: the Ontario legislature assigned them those seats on the 36-member board of governors when it passed the University of Waterloo Act 35 years ago. (Actually the Act refers to the two mayors and "the Warden of Waterloo County", an office later replaced by that of regional chair.) The K-W mayors were serving on the board even before that, however: they were invited onto the previous board of governors in 1959, according to historian Ken McLaughlin in his book The Unconventional Founding of an Unconventional University.

    The employee Wellness Fair winds up today with a morning-long workshop led by Diana Denton of UW's drama and speech communication department. She'll talk on "Managing Conflict: Lessons from the Past, Visions for the Future", to a preregistered audience in Davis Centre room 1350. Vendors who had tables in the Davis Centre lounge yesterday will be set up there again today, from 10 to 2.

    The annual Graduate Student Research Conference was held earlier this month, with more than 150 grads presenting their work in oral papers or posters. Six of the presenters were selected as winners, and here are their names. First, the "Best Judged Oral Presentation" in health, life and environment: Marsha Kisilak, vision science. In humanities and social sciences: Jennifer Robinson, sociology. And in physical sciences and technology: Matthew Stevens, chemical engineering. Now, the "Best Judged Poster Presentation" in health, life and environment: Jennifer Hunter, physics and vision science. In humanities and social sciences: Dessislava Marinova, psychology. And in physical sciences and technology: Jiazhi Ma, systems design engineering.

    Finally, I should mention that planning is getting into high gear for UW's annual Canada Day celebrations. The national holiday falls on a Saturday this year (so the university will be closed on Monday, July 3). Festivities on the Saturday will be held on the north campus as usual, with co-sponsorship from the university (through the Communications and Public Affairs office) and the Federation of Students. A hint of what's planned can be seen in a memo sent out the other day by Becky Wroe of the Federation, who's looking for volunteer student leadership in these roles: Activity World Coordinator, Arts and Crafts Fair Coordinator, Glow Stick Sales Coordinator, Children's Stage Manager, Concessions Finance Assistant, Face Painting Coordinator, Security Coordinator, Sponsorship Coordinator, Main Stage Manager, and Volunteer Coordinator. Information: e-mail rlwroe@feds.uwaterloo.ca.

    CAR


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