The University of Saskatchewan was founded in 1907 as the provincial public university of the then new province of Saskatchewan. It now has over 20,000 students of which more than 3000 are graduate students. The annual research budget exceeds $200 million and the University is a member of Canada’s U15 group (the top 15 Canadian research Universities). The University has a full range of professional faculties including medicine, dentistry, nursing, pharmacy, engineering, law, agriculture, veterinary medicine, education, business, kinesiology, and environment. It is the home to Canada’s only Synchrotron as well as one of Canada’s top infectious disease research facilities. About one quarter of undergraduate students and nearly half of the university’s graduate students are registered in STEM disciplines. Graduation rates for undergraduate STEM students hover about 70% to 75%. The University has a significant Aboriginal student population (over 10%) and both participation and success rates for Aboriginal students in STEM disciplines have been very low.
The University of Saskatchewan is undergoing a significant re-examination of its curriculum, programs, and student learning outcomes. Student engagement, improved student retention/completion, experiential learning, and efficacy in teaching are priorities. The University has recently instituted a novel freshman transition program and has been conducting studies of faculty attitudes and practices as they (hopefully) shift toward more evidence-informed teaching. (http://www.usask.ca/gmcte/sites/default/files/2012/Bayview%20Alliance%20Report.pdf)
Through activities inspired by the Bay View Alliance, the University of Saskatchewan is more carefully documenting changes in faculty approaches to teaching. A major project is underway to engage faculty in a process of defining learning outcomes for all academic programs and inspecting, mapping and aligning curricula in many academic programs. We are also engaged in several learning analytics projects, bringing “big data” to bear on analyzing, modeling and predicting student outcomes. Because of the realization that culture change in an institution can be best achieved through increased faculty reflection, awareness, and conversations about teaching, we are hopeful that these BVA-inspired activities will lead to greater acceptance of evidence-informed teaching practices. We intend to demonstrate that through inter-institutional discipline-specific focused discussions on program-level learning outcomes and longitudinal student learning gains, individual faculty members (especially STEM faculty) will become more engaged in reflective and student-centred teaching. The University has an effective administrative structure (led by the Vice-Provost Teaching and Learning) and a well-functioning and well-supported teaching and learning centre (the Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching Effectiveness, focused on both service and research). BVA activities and central funding to support curriculum innovation and experiential learning at the University of Saskatchewan is coordinated through the Gwenna Moss Centre.