Last update: October 15, 2018

The pursuit of a degree is a meaningful experience for students, ripe with moments to learn about who they are, what matters to them, and how they want to contribute to the world. Each day in class, students are enhancing their personal and professional development by focusing their attention towards new ideas, skills, or approaches to their academic discipline. As an instructor, you can further their personal and professional growth through a few simple techniques.

The following list of activities can help you to illustrate and accelerate personal and professional growth for students in your class.

Course Introductions

As part of a first class, instructors often take time to review the syllabus and discuss their goals for the course as well as how those goals will be achieved. In addition to the instructors, students bring their individual goals in to the course. Scheduling time for introductory activities that encourage students to share their prior experiences, existing knowledge, and motivations for the course can help them identify those goals.

Critical reflection, storytelling, and strengths-based pedagogies can ensure that these questions are explored with rigor and personal insight. Possible activities include: values inventory or classroom assessment techniques that assess prior learning or recall.

Icebreaker activities can also help to form peer groups that students draw support from and contribute to the success of others. This provides an opportunity for students to expand their personal networks and engage with a wider representation of the campus community.

Skills students can gain from common class activities*​

Mode/Method Skills Gained
  • Relay information to provide context or extend information offered from textbook or readings;
  • Explains concepts;
  • Addresses challenges or misconceptions;
  • Introduce new content;
  • Provide necessary background for assignments;
  • Organizing notes and keeping accurate records
  • Practice listening, thinking, and communicating ideas;
  • Sharing and relating prior knowledge or personal experience;
  • Giving/receiving feedback;
  • Evaluating arguments;
  • Forming, articulating, and defending clear positions;
  • Disagreeing with respect;
  • Attend to emotional dimensions of learning;
  • Learning about different frames of reference;
  • Facilitate praxis
Case Studies
  • Apply discipline-specific knowledge;
  • Practice critical thinking skills such as application, analysis, synthesis, evaluation and creation;
  • Practice problem solving; practice collaboration;
  • Practice presentation skills;
  • Observe content in context and illustrate implications of discipline-specific knowledge;
  • Practice problem solving in complex settings;
  • Attend to emotional dimensions of learning;
  • Learn about different frames of reference;
  • Facilitate praxis
  • Draw connections across ideas and concepts;
  • Practice articulating an idea and defending an argument;
  • Organize thoughts and ideas;
  • Apply academic writing style, grammar principles, and spelling;
  • Develop task management skills (i.e. creating timelines and breaking responsibilities into smaller tasks)
  • Develop technical or disciplinary specific skills and methods;
  • Give and receive feedback;
  • Collaborate with others;
  • Manage resources (time, materials, equipment);
  • Evaluate work product and process;
  • Simulate real life situations
Group Projects
  • Identifying and articulating common purpose;
  • Communication and conflict management;
  • Identifying individual and shared responsibilities;
  • Project management skills (setting timelines, milestones, etc.), practice collaboration;
  • Address problem solving in complex settings;
  • Facilitate praxis


We can help you 

1. Identify the skills students might gain through your course 

The syllabus is a rich source of information for students and instructors where expectations, assignments, and additional responsibilities are often outlined. Explicitly naming the skills students will gain through the course can help accelerate student’s independent reflection.

2. Create lessons that surface or maximize personal and professioanl development alongside discipline-specific content. 

Career Educators at the Centre for Student Involvement and Careers can help to co-design and develop activities and assignments. Through this collaboration, personal and professional development runs in parallel with the disciplinary knowledge and expectations you have set for your course.

3. Facilitate activities in your class 

Bring in a Career Educator to deliver specific activities, reflection, or other components that you might appreciate a helping hand with.

4. Create career development components throughout the academic experience. 

Courses and curricular learning offer special opportunities for students to notice and pay attention to the skills they are learning for their life within and beyond UBC. Through partnerships with faculty, the university can expand the places and ways in which students are asked to think about themselves, their work, and the impact their discipline has on the way they see the world. 

Download resource pack here. 


Calls to Action

1.     Talk to a professor doing this work

        a.     Jason Read, Senior Instructor

                Faculty of Medicine, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

        b.     Peter Ostafichuk, Professor of Teaching 

                Faculty of Applied Science, Department of Mechanical Engineering

        c.     Verena Griess, Assistant Professor 

                Faculty of Forestry, Forest Management

2.     Talk to a career educator

        a.     Kimberley Rawes, Career Educator

                Centre for Student Involvement and Careers

        b.     Shagufta Pasta, Career & Experiential Learning Educator (Faculty of Arts)

                Centre for Student Involvement and Careers

Practical Tools

Icebreakers to facilitate effective introductions, networking, and class expectations.

Overview of Classroom Assessment Techniques (CAT) provides useful background information.  

50 CATs by Angelo and Cross ideas and instructions for in-class activities.

Most Significant Change technique for monitoring and evaluating learning

Team Based Learning resources, videos, and book for developing teams in class.

Centre for Student Involvement and Careers Sample lesson plan: Personal Values and Team Dynamics in FRST 424 

Additional Reading

Evans, K., Guile, D. & Harris, J. (2011). Rethinking work-based learning: for education professionals and professionals who educate. In M. Malloch L. Cairns & K. Evans The SAGE handbook of workplace learning (pp. 149-162). London: SAGE Publications Ltd

Lopez, S. J., & Louis, M. C. (2009). The principles of strengths-based education. Journal of College and Character, 10(4).

Ostafichuk, P., Hodgson, A., Bartek, S., & Naylor, C. (2010, June). Teaching Team Dynamics: Experiences in Second Year Mechanical Engineering Design. In Proc. CDIO Conference (Montreal, QC, 14-17 June, 2010).

Ostafichuk, P. M., Sibley, J., & Van Der Loos, H. M. (2012). Peer-to-peer assessment in large classes: A study of several techniques used in design courses. In American Society for Engineering Education. American Society for Engineering Education.

Sibley, J., & Ostafichuk, P. (2015). Getting started with team-based learning. Stylus Publishing, LLC.

Valley, W., Wittman, H., Jordan, N., Ahmed, S., & Galt, R. (2017). An emerging signature pedagogy for sustainable food systems education. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, 1-14.