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UTSC faculty honoured for innovative approach to language teaching

Desire2Learn Innovation Award from the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education for her innovative approach to teaching language skills. (Photo by Ken Jones)

When Elaine Khoo first started at UTSC’s Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL) it was her dream to one day use fun and engaging methods as an effective language teaching tool.

Her desire was to develop an effective approach to academically integrate students whose initial language and culture-related obstacles made it a challenge for them to participate fully in university. Now more than ten years later her dream is officially being recognized through a Desire2Learn Innovation Award from the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE).  The award recognizes innovative approaches to teaching and learning in post-secondary education both nationally and internationally.

“The programs developed by Elaine and her team show the tremendous opportunity available when engaging students to learn in an enjoyable and personally meaningful way,” says Rick Halpern, UTSC dean and vice-principal. “That innovative approach to language training continues to be highly effective and is a source of great pride for the University.” 

Under Khoo’s guidance the English Language Development Centre (ELDC) has developed a series of innovative programs aimed at empowering all students, particularly international and first-generation Canadian students, to overcome initial barriers they may experience arising from language and culture.

“Too often students feel defeated or stigmatized because they are placed in a remedial English class,” says Khoo, who is coordinator of the ELDC and a senior lecturer with CTL. “Our guiding philosophy is that we feel every student is worth empowering. We want to help our students feel connected and build their confidence so they can reach their full potential.”

Among the successful programs developed by the CTL is the flagship Communications Café where students build confidence and fluency with academic English through learning activities disguised as games.

Reading and Writing through Email is another program that helps students develop academic writing and critical thinking skills through personalize interaction with writing instructors. The Facilitation Training Certificate (FTC) program also trains students–many of whom are former participants in CTL programs–in the Communication Café model so they can run the workshops themselves.

“If our students can share their unique perspective with peers and empower them in return, I believe it leads to a better learning experience for everyone,” she says.

Khoo will be honoured during a special presentation at STLHE’s annual conference June 18 at Queen’s University and at Desire2Learn’s Fusion Conference July 14-16 in Nashville, Tennessee.


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