Jenni HotteJenni Hotte, a doctoral student of social work, won an award for best poster presentation at the Windsor-Oakland Teaching and Learning Conference.

Student honoured for application of permaculture principles to teaching

As an avid gardener, Jenni Hotte understands something about working with nature to encourage growth and productivity within an ecological system.

The doctoral student of social work applies that principle to her teaching, an approach that earned her the Wilbert McKeachie International Poster Prize for top poster at the Windsor-Oakland Teaching and Learning Conference, May 18 and 19 on the Oakland University campus.

“I adopted the integrative approach of permaculture as my teaching philosophy,” says Hotte, who employs permaculture principles with her husband in their home garden. “It’s all about promoting inter-connected relationships.”

She says that much like teaching, permaculture reveals opportunities for complex systems to support change and promote growth.

“The dynamics in the classroom matter—what you bring, what the students bring, the pedagogy of the program, even the season,” she says. “The learning environment is continuously changing, no matter what. You have to be open to learning from these experiences in order to promote growth.”

Hotte says she developed her teaching philosophy while working toward her University Teaching Certificate through the Centre for Teaching and Learning.

“As teachers, we have to recognize the systems at play and highlight the opportunities that are unique to the current learning environment,” she says. “It’s transformational for the students, but also for you.”

The University of Windsor and Oakland University Teaching and Learning Conference brings together academics and graduate students to share discipline-based teaching and learning research. Its poster session competition aims to promote the importance and value of posters for the communication of teaching practice and research, and honours Wilbert McKeachie, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Michigan and author of a standard textbook on teaching at the post-secondary level.