Innovative and generous ped counsellor recognized with SALTISE Award
Working with a team of faculty to revise a CEGEP program is an intense job that often takes one or two years to complete.
“I’m like a doula,” said Dawson Pedagogical Counsellor Monica Lopez in an interview with the Communications Office. “I accompany the faculty through the revision process, with all the emotions it involves, and then I hand back their ‘baby’ and step back.” Each program revision is a distinct project with different teams, cultures, styles and approaches.
Physiotherapy Technology revision recognized
For her work on the Physiotherapy Technology Program revision, Monica was nominated for a SALTISE Award for Pedagogical Counsellors or Educational Developers by the Physiotherapy faculty team. She will receive the award during the SALTISE Conference taking place June 2-3.
“Monica flips seamlessly between the roles of diplomat, advisor, coordinator, and pedagogical expert,” their nomination letter stated, “bridging the administrative and logistical aspects of program revision with those of pedagogical innovation and current best practices. Without her guidance, our program would not have had the confidence to adopt the novel teaching and learning approach that was the basis for our program revision. Undertaking such a great shift in pedagogy takes leadership, expertise, and devotion. Monica is the epitome of these qualities, for which we are ever grateful.”
Monica is also feeling very happy and grateful to have had this experience at Dawson.
“When you do something you love, something you are good at and then get recognition on top of that – I can’t ask for more!” Monica said.
One of the things that Monica appreciates about the experience is the chance to be welcomed into a team. “You have to dive in to the program and get to know it very well. You have to become one with the teachers and develop close relationships with faculty.”
The faculty team said: “She became so comfortable with our disciplinary language and thinking that we often joke that she should receive an honorary DEC in Physiotherapy Technology once this revision process is complete!”
The process to revise Physiotherapy Technology began in the fall of 2020, while most of the College staff and students were at home. At that stage, the team involved faculty members Vanessa Gangai, Alison Gelinas and Mark Mattei. She says that Dawson went beyond the ministry requirements and they managed to do this during the early part of the pandemic.
Course Flow tool adapted for program development
One additional innovation in the Physio Tech program revision was their use of the SALTISE Course Flow tool for curriculum development and program alignment and mapping.
“The Physio Tech team will use Course Flow as their program management tool, where they can map the program and courses, make connections between program competencies and course outcomes,” Monica said.
Course Flow developer Jeremie Choquette said that Monica went above and beyond her role in the program revision: “Monica has volunteered a large amount of her time to helping design the tool, as well as agreeing to trial the tool to provide feedback. Her clarity of thought with regards to the pedagogy of program design and implementation, as well as her ability to formulate the complex relationships between competencies and courses in simple to understand terms, have been indispensable, as has her insightful feedback. Most importantly, Monica readily makes herself available to those who want to understand the processes of program design, implementation, and revision whether they be instructors, developers, or researchers.”
Room for innovation
Monica is grateful for the support of the Dean of Academic Development, Catherine LeBel, who she says is a great boss because she gives lots of room for innovation and trusts the professionals on the team.
“This project was a pilot project because Catherine allowed me to keep working through the curriculum development and integration stage with the faculty,” she said. “This way I could make use of all the knowledge I had gathered in the program revision stage.”
“Monica is very invested in her work,” Catherine said, “and seeks to contribute to the development of knowledge and evidence-based tools to support faculty and her colleagues. Those who work closely with her can see her passion for education and for helping to find solutions to educational challenges. She generously shares her expertise and ideas. This award is a very nice recognition of her innovative spirit.”
Monica has worked closely with Cathy Roy and the rest of the Physiotherapy Technology Department, and contributing disciplines, for the second stage of the project: curriculum alignment. The Physio Tech team is ready to welcome the first cohort of the newly revised program this fall. The curriculum work will continue over the next two to three years with faculty and Monica’s role will decrease over time.
“It has been an amazing experience working with the Physio Tech team!” Monica said. “Most of the Physio Tech faculty members have embarked on professional development as teachers. The pedagogical conversations were so enjoyable.”
Unusual career path
Like the Physio Tech team members, Monica also had a life before entering the field of education.
She holds a master’s degree in Industrial Engineering and was always interested in the human side of engineering and the work of helping people adapt and adopt systems and technology. Her turning point came when she worked on a big national project in her home country of Colombia to bring the internet to remote regions. Among other tasks, she had to train teachers.
After moving to Montreal to join her husband in 2001, Monica did a master’s degree in Educational Technology at Concordia University.
“Studying engineering shapes your mind,” she says. “I apply a systemic way of looking at the world to program revision.”
Prior to joining Dawson in October 2019, Monica worked in a similar role at Marianopolis College, which offers pre-university CEGEP programs.
“Physiotherapy Technology was my first technology program and it really helped me understand the competency-based approach,” she said.
In addition to Physio Tech, she is very close to completing the Social Science Program revision and has also worked on the creation of the new Medical Ultrasound Technology Program, added an ATE to Computer Science and created a new Indigenous Filmmaking profile for the Arts, Literature and Communication Program at Kiuna College as well as revising the Indigenous CEGEP’s Social Science Program. Her next assignment is Dawson’s program revision of Science, which begins this fall.
Acknowledging contribution of OAD colleagues
Monica wished to acknowledge the work of Office of Academic Development colleagues and mentors Madeleine Bazerghi and Julia Lijeron, who developed Dawson’s program revision process, which Monica says is “very well established.”