top of page

On May 2, 2018, she delivered a talk as part of the Teaching Matters seminar series for SFU faculty on how faculty can address what she sees as an increasing and concerning trend among students: an inability to cope with adversity. 

Students Who Fail Better, Fare Better

Do we really have to fail better to fare better? A critical and pedagogical approach to resilience

University of New Brunswick speakers series. November 30, 2020.  

Narratives of Change in Higher Education in the Time of COVID: Combatting Toxic Positivity with Critical Hope

Teaching Matters series, Simon Fraser University. July 27, 2020. 

Abstract: The way we tell stories about our situation matters. Acts of story-telling shape our – and oftentimes others’ – perceptions of reality. In the midst of a global pandemic, how we talk about the current COVID crisis shapes our own -- and others' - perceptions of reality. In this session, Dr. Riddell identifies two narratives have emerged in conversations around post-secondary education in Canada that imagine very different futures, which in turn exposes invisible power structures: 1. Toxic Positivity and 2. Critical Hope. Dr. Riddell will outline the theoretical framework of these narratives and invite participants to engage in critical reflection about the stories they tell and hear as we prepare for Fall 2020 and beyond.

Students-as-partners (SaP) and the co-design of COVID classrooms

Scientia Education Experience: Inspired learning through inspired teaching: Connections series. University of New South Wales (UNSW) Sydney. October 6, 2020. 

Naming, Claiming, and Aiming our Teaching Discomforts

Lisa Dickson, Shannon Murray, and Jessica Riddell. STLHE Keep Teaching National Series. JUNE 24, 2020

The Future of Higher Education in the light of COVID-19

Globe & Mail: May 12, 2020 

The Globe and Mail hosted a webcast on higher education in the light of COVID- 19. Jessica Riddell was invited to sit on a panel that included Neil Fassina (President of Athabasca University), Paul Davidson (President of Universities Canada/Universités Canada), and Catherine Dunne (President of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance). The panel was moderated by Joe Friesen (Postsecondary Education Reporter for the Globe and Mail). The Globe and Mail Panel on Higher Education had over 900 live audience members (prospective students, parents, and educators). 

Upcoming talks

Invited Keynote speaker, EuroSoTL conference, June 22, 2022. Manchester, UK.

Visiting Scholar at the Bader International Study Centre, UK, June 2022

Founding Fellow Keynote, One Garden, a virtual streaming platform for public scholarship and knowledge mobilization (UK based), June 2022

A Hopeful Pedagogy: Shakespearean Case Studies

With Drs. Dickson and Murray. IFNTF (International federation of National Teaching Fellows) Global Seminar Series. October 20, 2021.


Designing for Critical Hope in our COVID classrooms

Keynote speaker, Champlain College Professional Development retreat, August 18, 2021


Pedagogy, Innovation, and Curricular Change

University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) Faculty Development Speaker’s Series, July 21, 2021


How Shakespeare helps us grapple with the Me too Movement with the Merry Wives of Windsor

Stratford Festival Lecture Series. Guelph Public Library. March 30, 2021.

Building Resilience into the Classrooms

Emerging research suggests that for students to fare better, they need to fail better (cf. Carol Dweck, 2006). How students respond to failure is a strong predictor of future success, and the notion of resilience is increasingly prevalent in conversations about higher education. Resilience has a number of characteristics, including levels of persistence, effort, positive mindset, motivation, and self-regulation.  

So how do we build resilience into our classrooms? Are there ways to embed resilience into the content we deliver? This talk will explore the ideas of resilience, buoyancy and grit in the landscape of higher education and make a case for modelling failure as a means of building the reserves of both teachers and learners so we can move forward together with courage and hope. 

Finding Hope in the Humanities

Over the past few years there is a myth about Humanities grads turning into baristas. This talk will explore why this pervasive attitude finds currency in the face of all evidence to the contrary and ask, is there a way we can shift the terms of the conversation? This talk will explore how literature provides us with lenses to see our 21st century world with hope, courage, and delight. We will explore how we do not lose ourselves in old books: iinstead, we find our way in them, through them, to understand the world through new lenses. In the light of a new global reality - and an increasingly complex world - we must look back to our literary guides for purpose to inspire hope for the future, for courage to speak truth to power, and for moments of delight and surprise to sustain us in our learning journeys.

Jessica engages in public-facing activities and projects as an active contributor to public scholarship through her work as the most senior columnist for University Affair Magazine, as a keynote speaker at international conferences, and a visiting scholar most recently at Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK and the university of Oslo.


The Lessons of Wonder Woman for the Academy

Wonder Woman offers a model for our highest ideals of the academy and, by extension, our world. The 2017 film, directed by Patty Jenkins, was a phenomenon in breaking gender barriers and providing a new model of female super hero. But it did something more powerful: it provided models that we can integrate into the academy. In particular, the movie provides us with a metaphor of the shield, which represents a mindset of generosity, solidarity and humility that enables us to advance others so that they can reach new heights and exceed their individual capacities. The shield bearer is foundational to success but assumes none of the glory. He or she must be attentive to moments where their intervention can change the outcome. Essayist Rebecca Solnit, writing in the Guardian newspaper, describes hope as "the belief that what we do matters even though how and when it may matter, who and what it may impact, are not things we can know beforehand." The shield bearer is hope in action.This talk will explore the ethical imperative to be engaged as a shield for our students and colleagues, especially the marginalized and underrepresented members of the academy. Jessica Riddell presented this talk with UFV in May 2018. 

The Pedagogy of Critical Hope

Past Talks

In the classroom we are always caught up in the momentum of becoming: "We never are what we are," John D. Caputo writes, "something different is always possible." An academic vocation is among the most hopeful of professions.  We go into teaching and scholarly work because we believe that development, improvement, transformation are all possible when we are engaged in nurturing an insatiable intellectual curiosity, in ourselves and in our students and our colleagues. In a time of great cultural change both within and beyond the academy, hope is critical, in that it is both urgently necessary and located in the practice of navigating our complex and imperfect world, grappling with difficult knowledge and seeking ways to embrace complexity and discomfort in order to move toward a more nuanced and inclusive truth. Hope, Freire writes, "demands anchoring in practice." As a threshold concept producing an irreversible transformation of the self that reframes former understandings and ways of knowing, critical hope, once seen and adopted, demands a concomitant transformation and rethinking of pedagogy and our relationships with our work and with our students. In order to embrace "thinking which perceives reality as a process, as transformation rather than as a static entity" (Freire)-that is, in order to hope-we must, as Ira Shor argues, find a practice that "connects subjectivity to history while relating personal context to social context." In other words: HOPE IS A VERB; learning is embodied hope. If we are to nurture an evolving culture of critical hope, we must adapt and adopt practices that enable the efforts of students and teachers to live more "undivided lives" (Palmer) that connect principles of justice to the lived experience of the classroom. This talk intervenes in the persistent discourse of "just" teaching within an instrumentalizing academic culture to consider the potential of a pedagogy of critical hope for healing the "divided life" of learners.


  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn Social Icon
  • YouTube
bottom of page