Fika at the Taylor Institute

By Rachel Braun, Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) Program Specialist of the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning

In the June 2017 Director’s Corner, Dr. Nancy Chick captures takeaway insights about the Swedish phenomenon of fika from Katarina Mårtensson’s keynote (delivered at our annual conference). I’ve turned Nancy’s insights into action, spending the summer designing and orchestrating the launch of Fika at the Taylor Institute in September 2017.

What is fika? Fika is a Swedish word for “coffee break,” but it’s more about slowing down and connecting with others than drinking coffee. Both a noun and a verb derived from the Swedish word for coffee (kaffee), fika is a chance to relax and socialize in the company of colleagues while enjoying coffee or tea (and sweet pastries).

How does one fika? As Anna Brones identifies, fika is about slowing down to appreciate the simple things. It can happen alone or with colleagues, at home or at work. What’s essential is that you do it. This is very different from North American coffee culture, where grabbing a 16-ounce grande whatever in a paper cup is more about fueling up and going fast. In Sweden, a coffee break is something to look forward to. It is time to slow down, restore, and enjoy the simple pleasures of a fresh coffee and sweet pastries. While there are many traditional treats enjoyed at Swedish fikas, there are no rules about what you ought to do. As long as you have something brewed, something tasty, and some time to enjoy it, you’re having a fika.

Who does fika? Anyone can fika. Inspired by insights from 2017 Community Cafés for students and instructors, we invite all students, postdocs, faculty, and staff to join us for monthly fika starting September 2017. Each session is co-hosted by me and an invited member from the University of Calgary teaching and learning community.

When is fika? The Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning launches Fika in the TI Gallery on September 28. Each session is open door, allowing participants to come and go as their schedules and appetites require. No registration is necessary, and coffee and sweet treats are provided.

Why fika? Whether it be via fika at home, in departments, or at a Taylor Institute Fika session, I hope participants will benefit from incorporating fika into their teaching practice in three main ways.

First: I hope they’ll engage in time to think and talk about teaching and learning with colleagues and students. As Nancy reflected in June, the importance of this time resonates in the mandate of The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy by Maggie Berg and Barbara K. Seeber.

Second: as Katarina shared, engaging in conversations and scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) can improve both the quality of teaching and student learning (Trigwell & Shane, 2004). These processes do not happen in isolation, but rely on significant and collegial conversations within the dynamic contexts that influence them. I hope these sessions will inspire such conversations to flourish.

Third: free coffee and sweets, of whose benefits speak for themselves.


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