Cathy Roy honoured with SALTISE Award for College Instructors
Since joining Dawson in 2015, Cathy Roy has sparked an excitement for new adventures in pedagogy, fostering greater collaboration and creativity within the Physiotherapy Technology Department.
Her ingenuity has won her a 2022 SALTISE Best Practices & Pedagogical Innovators Award, which she will receive at the 11th edition of the SALTISE Conference on June 2-3.
“There is no room for boredom or stagnation in teaching. No two days have felt the same since I started,” said Cathy.
A hidden passion
After graduating from the University of Alberta in Physiotherapy, Cathy jumped from one clinic to another, rarely staying more than two years in the same place.
Not expecting to one day turn to teaching, Cathy described her transition to education as “the happiest accident of my career.”
“I happened to be working at a clinical site where one of my now colleagues, Vanessa Gangai, was teaching with student groups,” she recalled. “I had recently made the leap from private to public employment, and a major reorganization in the healthcare system meant I got laid off. Vanessa suggested I apply at Dawson. I thought her work with students looked interesting, so I thought, ‘Hey, why not? It looks fun.’”
It didn’t take long for Cathy to fall in love with the profession: “I didn’t know I would love it so much. I have found my home in teaching, and learning about pedagogy,” she said.
Community with a growth mindset
In response to the honour, Cathy credits her department and the teachers she met along her teaching journey for continuously challenging and inspiring her. She describes a supportive culture which has given her the space and confidence to grow and thrive as a teacher.
Inspired to keep learning, Cathy’s been slowly working towards a PERFORMA Master of Education in College Teaching since she joined the college and has been involved in the UDL, DALC, IPE, and SALTISE communities of practice at Dawson.
“I am part of such an amazing team within my department, the college’s communities of practice, and teachers from across the network,” she said. “Everything I do is borrowed, adapted, and learned from the teachers around me in one way or another — we are all part of this community of practitioners.”
“Cathy has been such an inspiration to the physiotherapy technology department,” said Vanessa who is the Clinical Coordinator at Dawson’s Physiotherapy Technology Department. “Working with her is so much fun because you get to tap into her creativity. Her excitement for pedagogy is contagious, so you get to share the joy of creating new and engaging learning experiences. She reminds me how awesome teaching can be.”
Rethinking active learning
For Cathy, all learning is active in the mind of the learner. She believes the defining feature of an active learning strategy revolves around how well teachers support what is happening in the student’s mind, which depends on how well they can observe and guide the learning process.
“Active learning (AL) is all about getting the students to show me (and each other) their learning processes. The more we see their understanding, the more we can see the holes or the misconceptions. The key piece of AL strategies is not how much the students are moving around and ‘doing stuff’ — though I think movement helps our brains work better — but how do the tasks and supports encourage the kind of thinking I want them to do,” she explained.
Learning through serving the community
In collaboration with CRLT and Dawson, Cathy helped her colleague Vanessa Gangai to launch a much-needed community outreach project off the ground.
“We saw where our students’ need for authentic learning in a geriatric setting met a need in the community for seniors to participate in health maintenance,” told Cathy.
As part of their learning activities, students design and implement group exercise classes and other health promotion events for seniors at Saint-Raymond Community Centre.
“The biggest reward with this project as a teacher is the heart-warming experience of seeing students develop relationships with the seniors, expand their ideas about getting older and how we can support healthy aging.”
Towards a new Physiotherapy Program
Cathy has and continues to play a pivotal role in the revision and implementation of the new Physiotherapy Technology program expected to launch in the fall of 2022.
This past year, with the help of Monica Lopez, she has led the implementation phase of the new program revision designed by the department writing team Vanessa Gangai, Alison Gelinas, and Mark Mattei. The group researched how to best represent the learning in the discipline and came up with a case-based learning approach founded on cognitive apprenticeship theory and supported by active and inclusive learning methodologies.
“The challenge with many health professions is to break down holistic tasks in a way that supports students’ integration of all the different parts without overwhelming them,” said Cathy.
The new program design is highly integrative and shifts from a one-course, one competency design to an approach that combines competencies, so they are functionally integrated into the real-world practice of the profession and improve students’ clinical judgement.
“We are trying to reduce cognitive load by creating cross-course cases and learning activities, helping students see the client from different perspectives, and understand the links between the various courses and learning objectives with the eventual client as the central organizer,” she said.
In collaboration with the Office of Academic Development and SALTISE, Cathy also spearheaded the adoption of the CourseFlow platform for use in program development expected to contribute to ongoing curricular alignment and increased student success.