Author Archives: choessler

Time of the Great Digital Upheaval

It is mid-March 2020, in a week that has seen most institutions in Canada, the US and much of the world change how they teach, how they communicate and how they gather. Institutions are announcing the cancelling of in-person classes, the moving of classes to remote and online delivery, the closure or restriction of access to campus, cancelling or making optional course evaluations, sending staff home to work remotely as kids are also home from school, 

Questions of access equity, including internet access and how to assess fairly in the midst of work and home disruptions in so many of our lives. Self are self-isolating to protect family members, others have returned from travel and self-isolate to protect their community. Kids in many jurisdictions are home from school and non-essential travel is curtailed, community events, concerts, sports (including NBA, NHL, Football season in Italy) and more are closed, paused or moved online. The Berliner Philharmoniker concerts are now only digital. Coffee meetups with friends are now FaceTime’s, Zoom meetings and Google Hangouts. 

Some institutions are already cancelling spring and summer courses, and some have already cancelled current classes, though most are trying to move remotely. Professional organizations are approving 75% hour completions as completions for practicums.

Work, Higher education, and life are disrupted, reprioritized.

And in the midst of it, we are seeing each other as human. As family members with partners, kids, cats and dogs. As team members in figuring out our options. As people frustrated and grieving lost opportunities and moments, and some grieving those we have lost to the virus. A massive rewriting of daily life, and of the roles and ways we interact.

How we teach, how we learn, how we assess…what does a good early ending look like when we don’t have the usual milestones? What does mentoring look like when we can no longer hand over a book? What is fair for the students? What is credible and will look reasonable later to our peers and to anyone reviewing this year.

We will redefine what it means. Each time we chose what makes sense, what is honest, what makes sense, what is needed. Each time we see the human in the learner, in the peer and in the educator. We are all in extraordinary times, let us be extraordinarily considerate and remember what will matter most is what we learn about the world from each other’s choices. Let them be good ones.

For resources on teaching:

For peace of mind, remember this does feel and is new and yet the birds are still returning to their summer grounds.

Birds returning

(Workshop) Plotting a Dynamic Journey: Intermediate Excel To Master Pivot Tables And Conditional Formatting For Quicker Thematic And Data Visualization

In many projects, I find myself in a room of stakeholders discussing the data. As questions emerge, it becomes evident that they are interested in just-in-time data.

It takes skill as an evaluative leader to guide the discussion through increasingly complex datasets and even more complex interpersonal and power dynamics: being able to utilize and adapt pivot tables, charts, and conditional formatting can inform evidence-based change through engaging data discussions with stakeholders. This workshop is intended for individuals familiar with data entry in typical Excel datasheets with rows and columns.

Sample of conditionally formatted table and pivot table about session attendance and interest data

Through this workshop, you will develop technical practice competencies related to analyzing and interpreting data (new CES competency 2.8) and group facilitation skills related to data discussions (new CES competency 4.5). Recognizing and planning for the use of pivot data tables and charts that auto-update has additional implications for effectively using human, financial and technical resources (new CES competency 4.3).

Session: CES Workshop, Halifax, May 29, 2019
Register via CES conference registration select member or non-member registration and then select Plotting a Dynamic Journey May 29th workshop list
Interested and unable to attend CES, complete the contact me form to be notified of upcoming workshops or to arrange to host a workshop.

About Carolyn Hoessler:
I am passionate about respectful, meaningful, efficient discussions that unlock pathways towards meaningful change and alignment of goals, activities and measures. I bring to our conversation, 12 years experience in facilitating learning, assessment and program development within higher education and beyond. And as a methodological geek, I draw on quantitative, qualitative and mixed method analyses to explore questions of change, contribution, and evidencing value.

Language: English

Learning outcomes:
By the end of this full-day workshop, attendees will be able to:

  • Create pivot tables and then adapt them to address additional questions
  • Create charts and visuals that auto-update from refreshed pivot tables
  • Organize data effectively to create pivot tables with consideration of row identifiers, demographics and the aggregation across rows but not related columns.
    o Note: if you have 3 scorers rating the same outcome variable represented as 3 columns, the pivot table will treat each column as a separate variable (and separate column or table).
  • Conditionally format data and pivot tables based on both colour scales and specified criteria
  • Thematically code qualitative data and organize results with a pivot tables to analyze and summarize for both simple coding and multiple codes per quote.

Please note that this session will include demonstrations in a Mac interface. There will also be Windows-based examples and instructions. Hands-on guidance for Windows-based will be provided. To request a Windows-based workshop, complete the contact me form

Subject Matter Expertise: I have facilitated national and international workshops on statistics from a practitioner lens, mentored faculty on qualitative and quantitative analysis in the evaluation of course and program design for over 6 years, and taught graduate courses in statistics, qualitative research methods and mixed methods, I routinely conduct surveys and focus groups with responses from up to 200 students and analyze them in excel for internal reports for program improvement, and work in large-scale datasets.

Facilitation Experience: I have led workshops on teaching and facilitating learning (10+ years), on statistics nationally (CES 2018, ISSOTL 2017, EDC 2011, STLHE 2009) and internationally (ICED 2010), data visualization nationally (STLHE 2018, EDC NJAW 2018) and on evaluation in educational development nationally. I have also taught small group sessions on excel for evaluation project teams.

Teaching for Success: How we can Increase Students’ Internal Locus of Control to Address Anxiety and the Behaviours that get them Fired

Why it matters:

Dr. Dreher connects the high levels of anxiety to external locus of control feeling like the outcomes of their lives are decided and controlled by others. Separately documented yet deeply connected the top fireable behaviours identified by reflect both expected results of such external locus of control and may even contribute to them. 

What educators can do:

The goal is to build a strong internal locus of control a sense of connection between the decisions and actions we make and the outcomes that happen. 

Sunset water Drop phone by Joe Dyer CC-By (Flickr)

First, Let’s model it

Focus on the factors we can control as educators. While factors we cannot directly control as educators very much do impact our students, so too can what we teach and how we teach it. When challenges come up in the classroom, note the parts we can control. The slide projector stops working – we have laptops and the ability to email slides. The internet is down, we can shift the order of our activities. 

Second, Let’s expect it 

Speak of the what’s next, and ask what they can do. In our first class, I note: Life happens, first be safe then call or email me. I also ask what resources are available on campus as it helps the newer students learn from those who have been on campus for a while. Asking what part of the readings most relates to your project? What’s your next step on the project this week? Who could you do an informational interview with to learn more? 

Third, Let’s reward it

One of the ways to change mindset is to change patterns behavior. Rewarding indicates which behaviors to increase. We shape behavior; constantly reinforcing what has been learned prior or disrupting it. I have my students write a scope proposal (what will look at, time estimates), then an update, then a draft, then and a final version with a note indicating what they changed.  The assignments intentionally build so that early decisions and feedback inform later stages. Their decisions matter! How and if they respond to feedback matters! It also helps identify common issues early like too large a question, leaving the literature review to last minute. It has them identify their challenges in the updates and a revised timeline, and also the edits they made from the draft to the final version and the areas of the rubric they worked on so I know what to look for (Bonus: saves searching for what has changed!) 

When the degree is not the ticket to a job, what can educators and job seekers do?

The goal for many is to be prepared for careers and get hired.

Yet in an era where top companies no longer require a degree and a degree is not a golden ticket, what does it means to be prepared?

“One of the ingredients in Shopify’s success has been to completely ignore academic credentials in hiring,” Tobi Lütke, Shopify’s CEO said recently on Twitter, in line with other tech companies.

Degrees are no longer exclusive indicators of success and prerequisites for job interviews. Rarely will a company ask to see your transcript and few will care if you graduated fifth or fiftieth. Even for graduate school, standardized tests and references carry much of the weight in addition to degrees.

Yet there are things that both job seekers and educators can do.

Job Seekers:

1) Stating naming what you can do and have learned: mine the outcomes of your program. Increasingly, programs have program outcomes as well as the course outcomes listed on syllabi.  Consider what you have practiced, shown you can do, and gotten better at from your summer jobs, hobbies, volunteer work, and family contributions.

2) Create networks – Connect with classmates, faculty, speakers, parents, and friends. Find out more about the many ways you can work in this world, and learn what a day looks like then try it out as a volunteer or part-time job.

3) Talk about your skills in context: connect experiences to what you can do and what makes you a good fit.

Universities and colleges:

  1. Show examples of the skills in context. Even writing a paper is about persuasion, communication, synthesis, and research. It is about learning the language of a group and working from there.
  2. Embed career readiness into courses and programs including training in principles of teamwork, strengths, and conflict resolution.
  3. Show examples of the skills in context.
  4. Create and share meaningful relevant program outcomes that identify for students what learning they have gained.
  5. Assess and recognize competencies through competency-based education
  6. Provide the scaffold and expectation for developing a portfolio where students can collect, name, and showcase evidence of their learning.

Finally, it is time to end the debate of education for career or life or society. Communication, interpersonal skills, creativity, and teamwork matter just as much on the soccer field, the neighborhood fundraiser, in research teams, and on the job


They say that the one constant in life is change, and this academic year has definitely been about change.

I will be finishing at the University of Saskatchewan on January 31st. I have accepted a two-year position as a Curriculum Development Consultant at Ryerson University, in Toronto, starting in February.

In the fall, I also got to experience being a student again, and seeing the classroom experience “from the rows” after years of being “at the front” and working with instructors through consultations and classroom observations. The experiences add to the lenses through which I could see alignment, expectations, engagement and communication manifest in our classrooms.

Last Friday I also facilitated my last (for the foreseeable future) TA training session. It is where I started on this journey as an educational developer and there have been many such sessions throughout almost 12 years.

I wish you all the best in your journeys as well, which even when not easy may they be one of our greatest teachers.


(un)Guided Transitions: Why our students are unprepared

The complaint that high schools poorly prepare students for university rings frequently in the halls each fall, with students perhaps knowing the content and having gotten A’s seem unable to read a syllabus, to complete readings, take notes and engage in classrooms appropriately. Scoffed at in comparison is the equivalent complaint that our graduates enter workplaces perhaps knowing the terms and theories and having gotten at least B’s seem unable to attend meetings, prepare relevant documents, engage in workplace meetings and with clients appropriately.

What’s going on? The content knowledge and skills are there. Initiative and being “good”, however looks profoundly different as the expectations and norms shift.

To be a good student in high school, one must be within appropriate pace within the class working with and completing the tasks assigned by the (flexible perhaps) deadline, participation in class is to say relatively little and to be a team player among peers.

To succeed in university is more individualistic in many courses, to exceed in the pace of reading and learning, to speak when opportunity exists, to demonstrate one’s keenness within social norms that privilege quick and connection-laden answers. Even something seemingly tangible like expectations for good essays and sufficient citations are different.

To succeed in the workplace is to place group before self, yet leverage group interactions to show one’s capability as a team player. To paradoxically either shine to be mundane: To excel when in the appropriate seat or with supervisor-identified problems, and to blend in when seen as one of many workers. Unique edges or common middle that must be in sync. To seek to be unique in the middle is perceived as discordant and outside one’s role.

So the transition path from guided growth to individualistic intelligence to context-attuned shining mundaneness, speaks to an unspoken set of norms and cultures that our students are ill-informed and prepared for.

At the crux is that to develop to succeed at one game leads to ill-success at the next game. To be dutiful in waiting for the teacher succeeds in high school but fails in university. To predict where the teacher is going fails in high school but succeeds in university. To be able to work in teams but privilege individual growth succeeds in university but fails in many workplaces. To blend in allows for comfortable success in workplaces but risks potential lost opportunity in university, particularly where accessing graduate degrees or reference letters matter.

How do we already strive to scaffold this transition of expectations and norms? What do we already explain, and what remains hidden and without words? What strategies, examples, cases, rubrics, senior peer mentors, informational interviews and more do you use?