Lovely learning at 2015 ISW Spring Institute

Recently returned from the 2015 ISW Spring Institute at Tatamagouche Centre, Nova Scotia, Lianne Fisher spoke to me via Skype to share her highlights and thoughts about the experience.

N.B.  Lianne Fisher is an Educational Developer at the Centre for Pedagogical Innovation, Brock University

Lianne (reflecting on some of the sessions that took place)

“I really enjoyed the Appreciate Inquiry focus. I already use strength-based approaches when I teach but the Appreciative Inquiry helped me to think about switching that up. When you’re talking about an ISW workshop, to try saying ‘when did it really go well’ and ‘what really worked’ – that was a highlight for me.”

“Glynis did a session about narratives and storytelling and got us to do ‘Stories of Origin’ on how we came to be involved in ISW. We got to honour the history of the ISW and all the work that’s been done before and, it also allowed new people to become part of that history. It also felt like we were stretching out into the future as well. It was fun to hear how people came to the ISW and there were some fantastic “six degrees of separation” that happened in the room.”


quick drawing person“Cheryl led a session on quick ways to do visual notes. We learned how to draw banners, characters, etc. It was nice to have these really quick methods to use when writing flipcharts.”

“We did a “rapid rounds” talk where we shared questions that we use in ISWs (either in the feedback circle or in the hallway). I found that really useful. It’s not that I have ‘bad’ questions or ones that don’t work but I think it was nice to get some new ones.”

“A lot of the learning was facilitated by creative and expressive methods. For example, Glynis had made everyone these little blocks of wood, about the size of a Scrabble tile. The fact that she’d taken the time to do that made the learning more important. It made me think of the power of relationships in teaching and learning.”

“We got to do lots of creative work. I found that people were very intent and focused during the creative activities and it provided quiet time to think.”

Sylvia: Do you think you’ll be able to use some of these methods in your own teaching?


“Some will take some modification and a little bit of courage.”

“I was reminded of the importance of being creative and expressive in my own learning and in supporting other ways of learning. That’s something I’ll remember and think about the next time I teach.”

“I often use ‘Think-Pair-Share’ in my work, and encourage people to do so, but the ‘thinking quietly’ often gets lost. The creative aspect allows people to have that quiet time.”

Sylvia: You had never visited Tatamagouche before. Did you take some time to explore the Tatamagouche Centre trails and the local area?


750_trails2run3“At first I was hesitant about the time it would take me to get to Tatamagouche, but the drive was beautiful and allowed me to take some time to reflect and relax. The Tatamagouche Centre is lovely and there’s a beautiful path that runs right past the Centre so you can go out into the countryside or you can go into town and enjoy the farmers’ market, there’s pottery and a micro-brewery. You can walk there, you can run there, and you can canoe as well.”

Sylvia: Any final thoughts / highlight to share?


“One phrase that really resonated with me (Jeannie or Joan said it) was that ‘human beings are not a problem to be solved.’ When you work in higher education, you often hear that it’s the professors’ fault or it’s the students’ fault. By changing the way we frame our discussions, we can use different strategies to support people to be who they are.”

“I got to catch up with some people I knew, get to know some people better, and made some new friends. It was a wonderful mix of lovely learning and creative work.”


This is one in a series of brief interviews with participants who attended the 2015 Spring Institute. The purpose of these articles is to share what people value about ISW Institutes. If you have stories about your participation in an Institute that you’d like to share, please contact Sylvia Riessner at sylviar at northwestel dot net)