October 25, 2016

The Importance of Learning Communities and Collaboration for Mylène Saucier: an AQPC Honourable Mention Laureate

This text was initially published by Profweb under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 International licence, before Eductive was launched.

Receiving the 2016 AQPC Honourable Mention for Dawson College is just one of the many accomplishments for this young and inspirational teacher. Mylène Saucier is a strong advocate of collaboration. Her view of student success includes collaboration between students, among teachers, as well as the support services and personnel throughout the college.  Having been the leader in the design and implementation of the new Physiotherapy Technology Program at Dawson College, she has set the tone for this department; making it one of inclusion, teamwork, professional development, and the use of ICTs to enhance the pedagogical approach of learning.

From Therapist to Program Developer to College Teacher

Mylène, a certified athletic therapist, was working at Dawson College as the Head Athletic Therapist, while completing her Master’s Degree in Exercise Science in 2010. She was solicited by the college, to help them develop a new program in physiotherapy technology. It wasn’t long before she took the lead on the design and the implementation of the program. This experience provided her with a pedagogical background that guided her to being hired as the first teacher in the program. Mylène has become the heart of this program, being involved in the hiring of all 9 department members.

A teacher and two students

Photo credit: Roger Aziz

Mylène wanted to broaden her pedagogical education, so she signed up with Performa in the Graduate Certificate in College Teaching program. A program that most of her colleagues are also taking.  In order to help alleviate the heavy load of these new teachers, she fought to obtain release time giving them the occasion to build their courses, develop course material, at the same time as gaining pedagogical knowledge through Performa courses. One of the main topics at department meetings is pedagogy! They not only examine tools and approaches, they also discuss marking, test design, and ways to redo an activity that did not work out in class.  Collaboration is at the top of their agenda! So much so, that one of her colleagues suggested they use Google Drive to share documents, which includes everything from teacher schedules to assessment rubrics!

Engaging Students with the Help of Active Learning and ICTs

When she first started teaching, she joined an active learning community at Dawson. She was also learning about active learning in the literature from Performa courses, and considering the type of program she was teaching in, this seemed like the ideal approach for her. Mylène learned a great deal from this community and she now uses a combination of the flipped classroom, active learning and collaboration as a means of engaging her students in their learning.

In order to engage students, they need to feel they have some power over what is happening in the classroom.

Using many different pedagogical approaches might seem overwhelming, but Mylène has discovered several ICTs that make it easy.

Flipped Classroom and Feedback:

Moodle: This learning environment helps Mylène flip her classroom and poll her students. She uses the forums resource and pre-class quizzes to review notions or homework and start discussions.

Purpose Games: A great tool for testing knowledge from previous classes or for a short terminology review at the beginning of class.

Screenshot from the website showing the anatomy of a skull

An example of a Purpose Games terminology quiz that Mylène uses to make learning essential vocabulary fun.

She likes to use quizzes to ask students about their understanding and what elements they are most interested in.  She uses this sounding board to stay in touch and to adapt her teaching methods to the group.

Active Learning and Collaboration:

Google Drive: Used to conduct team based learning activities that are carried out over the entire semester.  As previously mentioned, this tool is also used by her department for sharing documents.

A Google Document with students' comments on the side.

An example of team based learning, where students contribute to a Google Drive document, to share their knowledge and build on each other’s understanding.

She uses group learning to deepen understanding and engage students through analysis. She reuses assignments collected previously and asks students to assess themselves, or their peers, on the original answer. They then make changes to improve the answer; explaining and justifying their modifications.  

The department has created a community of learning for their students, and some activities even involve alumni. One activity that comes from this community is called Open Labs. Mylène explains this activity :

Open labs bring together students from 1st year, 2ndyear, and 3rd year, where they discuss various topics related to their field of study. This exchange helps 1st and 2nd year students understand certain concepts and create links between courses they are taking. It also provides 3rd year students with an opportunity to mentor and “teach” the others.

Peer and Self-assessment to Motivate Learning:

YouTube: YouTube becomes a recording medium for peer or self-assessment. The assessments are based on a second or third recording and the students’ ability to observe and make improvements from one recording to another, while justifying their analysis.

Palpation of structures

Screenpresso: In conjunction with YouTube videos, she will use this free tool, allowing her to record verbal feedback on students’ techniques over top of their video recording.  

Screenshot of Screenpresso interface: view of the video and the teacher's comments side by side.

An example of how Mylène uses Screenpresso to provide feedback to her students. She also uses it to incorporate self-assessment as a way for students to improve their techniques.

Peer assessment and self-assessment are also methods Mylène puts into practice as a way for students to self-regulate their learning. In the discipline of physiotherapy technology, there are technical skills that must be practiced and practiced again, in order to perfect them. Video recordings allow students to view themselves, analyse these skills and make adjustments. She uses various methods of self-assessment and peer assessment to develop these important competencies of the program.

Mylène explains that she has adopted these different tools to keep her teaching student-centred and it also gives her the flexibility to adapt her strategies to each cohort. It is important in this type of program to keep the in-class time as practical as possible.  It is also important for her to be supporting her students, which is where the feedback and interactive aspects of her pedagogy come into play. She can discern weaker students or those having difficulties with a specific element early on and she can then provide support in the most appropriate way.

Mylène is not only an inspiration in the classroom. She is very involved in the Dawson community, as a member of the Senate and as Secretary of the Dawson Foundation’s Board of Directors.  Being at the heart of the only Physiotherapy Technology Program in the English language sector, she has reason to be proud of its success. The first two cohorts of students have now graduated and the college is very pleased with the outcome. I am certain that this will not be her last success story, as she continues to explore her professional career as a teacher, a mentor, an innovator, and an inspiration to all who have the pleasure of meeting her!

About the Teacher

Mylène Saucier is originally from Quebec City, where she completed her DEC at CEGEP Champlain-St. Lawrence. She completed her Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Sciences with a Specialization in Athletic Therapy at Concordia University, in Montreal, where she also completed her Master’s Degree. After several years of private practice, and having worked with numerous sports teams of all levels, such as the Canadian deaf athletes during their Olympics and Paralympics games, she was hired by Dawson in 2008. While working as the Head Athletic Therapist for Dawson, she also served as the Director of Education for the Corporation des Thérapeutes du Sport du Québec, from 2010 to 2012. She is now working on completing her Graduate Certificate in College Teaching with Performa from the University of Sherbrooke.

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