Love of teaching drew Jill Scott to vice-provost position
By Wanda Praamsma, Communications Officer
Jill Scott admits she surprised herself a little when she decided to take on the role of Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning) last year. A professor in the departments of German and Languages, Literatures and Cultures at Queen’s since 2001, Dr. Scott says looking back, “I was the person with research written all over me.”
But underneath that research – primarily into conflict resolution, social dynamics of mourning and grief, and law and literature – there has always been a deep love of teaching, a willingness to experiment, and a desire to understand how the classroom experience impacts students.
“I didn’t know it back then, but I was always pushing for active and collaborative learning, trying to work out how, even in a class of 100, you can still give students an intensive learning experience, and give them a sense of community,” says Dr. Scott. She did that by trying new things, and trying out new physical spaces so her classes could be fluid – students could move around, work in groups, talk to one another, instead of listening solely to her lecture at the front of the room.
“I really want every student at Queen’s to have a transformative learning experience, and that is my work as vice-provost,” she says. “I want them to leave the university feeling fundamentally changed – seeing themselves and the world differently, through a new, broader lens. And I want them to leave as expert and lifelong learners.”
When she gets going, Dr. Scott will talk non-stop about her ideas and the recommendations being put forward to enhance the student learning experience at Queen’s. Her eyes brighten at the thought of Ellis Hall and the recent classroom transformations. Having flexible teaching spaces that are able to adapt to different instructors’ desires and needs, and the needs of the material, is crucial to engaging students, she says.
“Students who come out of these rooms are raving about them. And for professors, the rooms are like sandboxes – they get to go in, experiment, see what they can do with it.”
Also crucial to transforming the learning experience is embracing technology and using it in a thoughtful way to enhance learning (and the Ellis Hall rooms do this), says Dr. Scott. The vice-provost wants to provide ample support and resources for instructors adopting eLearning (online learning) and blended learning methods.
“We really have to meet this generation and the next ones where they are,” she says. “This is such a visual generation – they are astute observers of visual culture. When I was teaching a class in German, I used films to engage them, and from there lure them into analyzing the literary texts.
“We have to ask, what skills do they have? And work with those skills in new and different ways.”
Together with Dr. Brian Frank, Professor and Director of Program Development in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, Dr. Scott co-chaired the Provost’s Task Force on the Student Learning Experience, which has already put forward an action plan to enhance the student learning experience at Queen’s. The Teaching and Learning Action Plan includes 15 recommendations, all with the goal of supporting initiatives that are high-impact, sustainable, cost-effective, and informed by evidence-based practices in teaching and learning.
“This is a really exciting time – there is so much happening,” says Dr. Scott. “Teaching in particular is going through a huge shift and it’s wonderful that at Queen’s there are so many people who are enthusiastic about moving forward in new and innovative ways.”