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Director of teaching and learning: Wendy Burton on passing the torch

As UFV interviews candidates for the director of teaching and learning position, outgoing director Wendy Burton has some ideas about how it has evolved and where it needs to go to be more successful.

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By Jess Wind (The Cascade)– Email

Print Edition: October 2, 2013

Burton is responsible for all things teaching and learning.

Burton is responsible for all things teaching and learning.

As UFV interviews candidates for the director of teaching and learning position, outgoing director Wendy Burton has some ideas about how it has evolved and where it needs to go to be more successful.

Teaching and learning lives in an office near the library, where it provides support services to faculty and students alike. It offers workshops, encourages feedback on the teaching and learning processes at UFV, and also aids in creating or workshopping course content. It’s a flexible area of UFV administration, and it tackles  the core of what a university’s about: teaching and learning.

After taking on the role of director of teaching and learning in 2009, Burton has executed many initiatives and incorporated different programs into her responsibilities.

“When I started in 2009, we didn’t have a job description for me and the educational technology services department. At that time instructional media services didn’t have a leader,” she explains “As the years have gone along…my [job description has grown] larger and larger.”

Burton administers classroom orientations and teaching workshops. She was also instrumental in the restructuring of institutional learning outcomes, something that was mandated by the government after UFV had already begun the four-year process.

“We were well ahead of other institutions in the province,” Burton says. “Just at the time that we finished them the government said, ‘Individual institutions [have] got to develop ILO’s, so we were there,” she says.

Going forward, Burton has a clear idea about what she thinks the position requires.

“I feel that the director needs to be an advocate. Not necessarily for the faculty, but rather an advocate for effective learning for the students. I think that advocacy is really at the heart of everything,” she explains. “I’m hoping the director will have that attitude as well. When I’m working with a faculty member, we are both working for the student. As long as we don’t forget that.”

Burton notes that taking on a position like the director of teaching and learning at UFV is different than taking it on at a larger institution.

“UFV [is] unique, not because we think [we] are, they actually are unique. I think that the director either needs to come from a similar place or be really aware,” she says.

While Burton has made many strides forward in the position, she still sees areas for improvement as she passes the torch.

“We need to provide more pathways for students to complain, to have a voice, to be able to say something about what’s going on because you’re in the best position to see it: you’re there. I just haven’t figured that one out,” she says, adding that she hopes to see the implementation of a method for students to prompt faculty evaluations.

Burton also tries to focus on preparing students for the future. She works closely with the UFV Career Centre and feels positively about the development of the co-cirricular record.

“It really disheartens me when I hear young folk…are just coming to the end of their degree and they’ve worked so hard and they don’t know what they’re going to do with it. That troubles me,” she says. “By the time you get to fourth year, I’m hoping you know what you’re going to do with it. Because [that means] we have done something, we have taught you what you’re going to do with it.”

Ultimately, Burton’s role requires her to look at coming trends and adjust accordingly. She always tries to remain a step ahead.

“One of the strengths that I bring to this position is that I can see what’s going to happen down the road,” she says. “I think we need to adjust to what’s coming as opposed to what’s happening right now.”

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