Move-In Day at Queen’s University [Photos]

Photos from Move-in Day at Queen’s University.

By the way, have you seen my photo essay on What is Queen’s Tricolour?


What is Queen’s Tricolour Spirit? [updated]

In this photo essay, I try to unpack Queen’s legendary school spirit through my photographs.

I ask: What is the “Tricolour Spirit”?

As a three-time alumnus and current doctoral student, I hold enormous pride for my alma mater.  Queen’s University, located in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, is renowned for its school spirit and traditions. In only a few days, over 3000+ new undergraduates will arrive on this beautiful campus, effectively joining the family of students, grad students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Residence and faculty orientation week soon follow. It not only serves as an induction but also a capstone experience that catapults school spirit into feverish state.

[Update: This post has been viewed over 1200+ times in under 21 hours in 11+ countries. It’s been tweeted 31 times and Facebook shared 58 times. It’s also been picked up by the official Queen’s University social media channels and various campus groups! Thanks for all the love. Keep sharing and keep tweeting. Cha Gheill, Chi]

Class of 2016, Are You Ready?

Is Tricolour Spirit about being decked out in fans gear…

girl cheering…or is it showing off your school pride in every possible way?

Is Tricolour Spirit about being painted in tricolour along with your floormates?

Is Tricolour Spirit about ingenuity in climbing the grease pole…

…or hugging the adorable school mascot, Boo Hoo the Bear?

Is Tricolour Spirit fighting as a golden Queen’s Gael?

… or cheering on the Queen’s Gaels?

… or welcoming froshies in disguise?

Is it being purple?

Is Tricolour Spirit about singing Oil Thigh in a stadium full of 3000+ fellow Gaels…

… or moshing in frosh week…

… or celebrating the end of exams by wearing and slamming your Queen’s jacket proud?

Is Tricolour Spirit about returning to campus, sharing in the glory of winning the Vanier Cup, as a Principal and as a Mayor?

… or, finally, leading frosh week cheers?



The fact is, the Tricolour Spirit is all that…
and more.




Tricolour Spirit is about belonging.

Tricolour Spirit is about being a part of something big.

Tricolour Spirit is about building lifelong friendships.

Tricolour Spirit is about daring to think
and see different(ly).

Tricolour Spirit is sometimes about singing Happy Birthday!

… and getting your hands dirty and having fun.

Tricolour Spirit is about coming home.

Tricolour Spirit is about a thirst for knowledge
the intellectual pursuit that goes with it.

Tricolour Spirit is about dressing up in neon because you feel like it.

Tricolour Spirit is about building memories.

Tricolour Spirit is about perseverance.

Finally, Tricolour Spirit is about being yourself.




Welcome to Queen’s University!



The challenge I have for the incoming Class of 2016: How will you be willing to be shaped by Queen’s? And, how will you shape Queen’s for those who come after you?

PS: If you like what you see, show me some love by sharing it on Facebook, tweeting it to your friends (#TricolourSpirit), and leaving a comment below. I would love to hear your reactions and feedback. Thanks!

PPS: If you know a Queen’s alumni, please consider sending this to him/her! 

All photographs are copyrighted (c) Chi Yan Lam, 2008 – 2012.

Graduate Student Development

Why are grad students sometimes reluctant to ask for practical help regarding writing?

In this part-one of a two part series, I examine why grad students are often reluctant to ask for practical help regarding writing. In part two, I examine why profs may sometimes be poor at giving practical help and what graduate students and professors can do to help develop scholarly writing skills in graduate students. 

So… Why are grad students sometimes reluctant to ask for practical help regarding writing?

Those of us who are graduate students can agree that writing and writing well is important if one is to succeed in graduate school and beyond. Writing is the primary mean with which we communicate the significance of our work to others. With a limited labour market, the pressure to publish early is never more important. Yet many of us struggle over writing–what to write, how to write, when to write, and even why we write!  It would seem logical that we ask for help when help is needed. Yet, many of us don’t.

Here are some reasons to why I think graduate students may be reluctant to ask for practical help regarding writing.

It takes time to get used to writing scholarly. Scholarly writing is a genre of writing that comes with its own sets of conventions, style, rules, and practices. Expressing complex ideas in ways that make them comprehensible to others can be a challenging task (let alone attending to formatting, citation rules, and style). Writing ought to be succinct, precise, and parsimonious. Clarity is most important when you are communicating complex ideas. The best piece of advice I’ve been given is this: Don’t let the language get in the way of your ideas. Because scholarly writing is a genre of writing few of us get any exposure to or practice in until we begin our graduate education, it can be difficult to pick up these implicit, invisible rules about convention and practices.

Admission of Guilt.  Being able to read and write have traditionally been associated with intelligence and academic success. Afterall, one of the many goals of public education is to prepare a literate citizenry. Since graduate students are not anything but those who have mastered schooling, seeking help may sometimes be construed as an admission of inadequacies, when in fact, it should be viewed as a sign of strength.

Getting it right. Years of schooling have ill-conditioned students into thinking that writing ought to be done right—at the first go. Writing, then, becomes an exercise of precision. While that is an important outcome of writing, writing (i.e., communicating) well requires time be spent to refine the message and in choosing the right diction and sentence structure. Yet, that is not what is taught in school. Graduate students may sometimes carry this notion that a piece of writing is to be subjected to a summative judgement of its quality when submitted to a professor, when in fact, it should be judged formatively to identify areas of improvement.

You don’t know what you don’t know. The body of research on expertise tells us that one of that ways in which novices differ from experts is that experts have a wealth of strategies and patterns accumulated experientially from engaging in disciplined deliberate practice. Novices lack these patterns, or schemas, and thus are not attuned to the task in ways like experts do. This can be quite debilitating comes time to write.

To think is to write, and to write is to think. This is one of the hardest lesson to learn as a graduate student. Do you find that, first drafts are often replete with mistakes, half-completed thoughts, and generally take the most effort to write; subsequent draft often times do not get any easier. Why? It is because  the quality of writing is dependent on the quality of thinking. It is only after thinking is clarified, connections made strong, and you’ve experienced those ah-ha moments, can you clearly articulate your ideas. Paradoxically, one of best ways to clarify thinking is to write.

To sum up, it is prudent upon the graduate student to recognize scholarly writing as an integral component of graduate education. Though, this is complicated when a graduate student may not be aware of the deficiency simply because he/she lacks the capacity to recognize it in the first place. In this case, professors ought to create a supportive environment to help the student improve. More on that in part two.


This blog comes at the suggestion of Susan (@GradSchoolNinja), who I met over twitter quite serendipitously. She blogs about graduate student success over at She suggested the following topic for me: 

Lessons Learned

Key Learning from CSSE 12: Evaluative Thinking, Complexity, Assessment As Learning

The annual conference of the Canadian Society for the Study of Education is the premier conference for researchers, teachers, administrators, and policy-makers in education in Canada. This year it took place in the City of Waterloo, hosted by the University of Waterloo and Wilfred Laurier University.

Having attending a few academic conferences so far, I find that one of the best reasons to attending them is hearing others to talk about what they do, and why they do what they do. Among the educators, I find that there is often a sense of social justice, curiosity, and a genuine sense of trying to make a difference in the lives of children and learners.

The Ontario Ministry of Education, Student Success Unit, presented a lovely session on evaluative thinking, where they reported on their efforts on infusing evaluative thinking through all levels of their work. They used a prism metaphor to describe how evaluative thinking permeates all levels of the education system– from classroom teachers to school district, school boards, the Ministry, and to high-level policy makers. They drew attention to how developmental evaluation helps them remain adaptive to changing conditions on the field.

The theme of complexity came up in various sessions. There seems to be a growing recognition and acceptance of it. The question of what we can do about it (i.e. how to operate with complexity/lead within complex environments/manage complexity) seems, to me, to be emerging topics of discussions.  My supervisor, Lyn Shulha, and I are beginning to look into this in greater depths; the key may lie in operating at the interface of complexity and simplicity.

I attended a pre-conference workshop by Dr. Lorna Earl on understanding methodological and substantive issues in classroom assessment research. She provided a historical context to understanding the development of educational assessment and shows how classroom assessment grew out of that development. She  positions Assessment as Learning as part of the larger umbrella of Assessment FOR Learning.

A CCGSE workshop session on publishing and writing gave me the following tips:

  •  When responding to comments from a peer-review, think of it as a defense.  Reply with a cover page, detailing the  changes, and explain your reasoning behind your changes.
  • Collaobrating with another author can be energizing; but be careful to choose who can carry their own weight and one who could add to the project.
  • Consider about splitting up a masters thesis/doctoral dissertation for publication: lit review & empirical article. One angle, strand. Use tables, figures. Professional/practical aspects.
  • A good sentence is usually one that you can say in one breath.
  •  Find an editor
  •  Various software/websites could help with writing: Stylewriter, Whitesmoke.

Finally,  quick shout-outs to: my partner in crime, King Luu (@YGK) for being a wonderful collaborator; my new friends at CRAME, University of Alberta; and CERA, TATE, and CCGSE for having us!


Agile KM for me... and you?

Ten years into KM and this is perhaps the most frequent question I’ve heard or come across to date in the knowledge management field: What is knowledge? Time to shoot at it, or better: time to plant a shoot…
Currently again, there is a KM4Dev discussion about ‘knowledge banks’ (see word cloud below) and on the side, the ‘what is knowledge’ phoenix (1) is reappearing. At the bottom of this question lies another crucial question: do you see knowledge as a thing, i.e. a commodity, or not? This has a profound implication on the KM language you use, the assumptions around KM that you nurture and the KM activities that you might wish to undertake.

For me, it’s quite simple: knowledge is not tangible and is certainly not a commodity. And the noun ‘knowledge’ itself sometimes leads to delusional assumptions about what knowledge is. I find it more fruitful…

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Developmental Evaluation and the Graduate Student Researcher

This presentation was delivered on February 22, 2012 as part of the EGSS ScholarShare series.

This presentation introduces the discipline of program evaluation and offers a glimpse to how developmental evaluation responds to the call of providing an evaluation approach to working in complex contexts, such as social innovation. I conclude by introducing the notion of design and design thinking as a way of approaching problems we face in today’s complex world.

I discuss, briefly, some of the strategies I employed to manage my own thesis research as a graduate student researcher in education.