Access, Inclusion and Place-based Teaching

In this community of practice, we seek to explore and share our teaching and learning strategies and practices with a focus on how we can better centre access and inclusion in active, experiential, and place-based pedagogies. This is achieved through building relationships within our membership and creating shared spaces to observe and support each other as we learn. We encourage discussions on how we position ourselves and connect with place to guide our practices towards equity, diversity and inclusion.

Inclusive excellence is a core area in UBC’s Strategic Plan, and the forthcoming accessibility plan asserts the importance of access in teaching and learning. Place-based teaching and learning can take many forms and stems from a commitment to the specificities-of and obligations-to place, which includes an imperative to decolonize our classrooms and teaching approaches. These priorities are important to many of us, yet we lack open, shared spaces to dig into the specificities of our practices and reflect on new possibilities in a supportive environment.   

In teaching, one of the best ways to learn from each other, and also one of the most rarely used, is to invite others into our classrooms and workshops so that we can see one another in action. Thus, part of this community of practice’s approach will be to open our teaching spaces up to each other in a non-evaluative mode, so that we can observe and learn from each other. 


We explicitly invite all educators (faculty and staff) and interested Postdoctoral Fellows to join this community of practice. 

When the option of observing a class or workshop is not available, the members engage in conversation about curriculum choices, an exploration of pedagogical material or something else adjacent and relevant to the group. 

Our Community of Practice includes UBCO members in its majority as well as a UBCV member

Learning by doing, learning by observing, and learning in dialogue are the professional development pedagogies we hope are enacting and making space for through this community of practice.   

While creating an open space to discuss ideas, challenges, successes, and scholarly literature on access, inclusion, and place-based teaching and learning is the broader goal of this community of practice, we propose to reach this goal by following a Teaching Squares approach to facilitate a space to reflect on our practices through non-evaluative observation of the practices of our peers. Practice in this context might refer to teaching, facilitation, curriculum design, curriculum support, and other. Non-instructional staff and Postdocs are explicitly invited to join us. 

Teaching Squares, sometimes re-purposed as Teaching Triangles is an approach where instructors are clustered in small groups of 3-4 that emphasize diversity of discipline and diversity of social connectivity within each group, as well as non-conflicting teaching schedules. Each member of the group observes the teaching (or discusses pedagogical material or curriculum choices or something else relevant if observing teaching is not available), of at least two other members of the group, and then the group meets for conversations that focus less on what the instructors did (feedback), and more on what the observers learned about their own teaching, by reflecting on the practices of their peers and the effects of those practices on students (self-reflection). 

Each Teaching Square is facilitated by at least one of the facilitators and, depending on the level of interest in this community of practice, several Teaching Squares run simultaneously, with whole-group meetings to complement the learning happening in those smaller clusters.

The commitment to join this community of practice and participate in one cycle of the Teaching Squares engagement will be approximately 10 hours over the course of two terms. More information about the format of the time commitment is as follows:  

  • At the beginning of each academic year, we hold an initial 1.5 hours-long meeting and information-sharing session where we explore and co-articulate our group priorities and approaches. After this meeting, the groupings for Teaching Squares or Triangles are formalized by the facilitators, integrating relevant preferences and constraints from the participants.  
  • Each group of 3-4 meets once (for 1 hour) to describe the specifics of their course, including exchanging syllabi, understanding the context of the course within their teaching trajectory and goals, and understanding why each participant has chosen to join the group. This meeting is also devoted to creating a robust agreement of expectations and confidentiality between the participants such that, for example, participants agree to confine specific details of an observation to the ensuing discussion, while using the ideas generated in the discussion beyond the boundaries of the group without identifying names. The date of these smaller meetings will be determined once the groups are formed.  
  • Each participant will be expected to observe two classes (2 x 1.5 hours), meet for two post-observation brief chats (2 x 0.5 hour), engage in a reflection discussion with their group of 3-4 (1 hour) and attend a whole-group end of Teaching Squares cycle wrap-up and get-together in Term 2 (1.5 hours).  
  • A winter whole-group optional check-in meeting (1 – 1.5 hour) will provide participants with an opportunity to exchange learnings and refine goals and process.

This Community of Practice has been active since October 2023. 

Over the 2023-2024 academic year, the whole group meetings were:  

  • Initial meeting: Thursday, October 12th at 2:00 pm in the Central Courtyard by the Science Building (UBCO) 
  • Optional winter check-in meeting: Monday, February 5th at 12:30 pm in SCI 331. (There was full attendance from our UBCO members in this optional meeting signaling how much we value coming together and connecting!

You may expect similar or earlier occurrences of the whole group meetings for the 2024-2025 academic year. 

If you have any questions or would like to participate and the initial meeting time/place doesn’t work for you (as announced in the CTL Newsletter and Teams Channel), please reach out to Natalie, Robin or Electra over email.