50 Years of Stories

Dean's Foreword

Since its inception in 1965, the Faculty of Education has been regarded as leaders of educational thought and practice. Our innovative programs reach students in every nook and cranny of the province and around the world; there are over 30,000 alumni of the Faculty of Education working to improve educational practice around the globe. 

Despite our relatively brief history, our saga is replete with rich and marvelous stories of transformations—of ideas, of practices, of individuals and of entire communities. In our 50th year, we wanted to both reflect upon and celebrate these stories, even as we are setting the foundation for the next 50 years of educational excellence. To that end, we invited people who had connections with us to submit their stories and memories of their experiences with the Faculty. This book is the result of their sharing. 

Our Foundations

Simon Fraser University recently adopted “The Engaged University” as its tagline, and the vision for the University speaks of engaging students, engaging research and engaging communities. This “new” vision for the University could not have been a better description of the first 50 years in the Faculty of Education; indeed, our entire history has been a testimony to the transformative power of genuine educational engagement on students, research and communities. The Faculty has always understood that “education” is a broad, multi-faceted and life-long construct and that we have a responsibility to attend to all aspects of educational experiences.

Teaching in the Faculty of Education is of the highest calibre. Students are actively engaged in the process and challenge of learning, and invariably deepen their conceptions, competence and connections with educational practice. Our programs are historically anchored in the desire to respond to educational need rather than to available delivery structures. 

The first radical departure from accepted practice was the teacher education program that became known as the Professional Development Program (or PDP). We were the first to make extensive use of master teachers in the delivery of the teacher education program; the rich contributions of our Faculty Associates continue to transform education practice throughout BC. The traditional model of sequenced courses leading to brief practicum or internship experiences was blown apart in favor of integrated, problem-based, inquiry focused and reflective professional development for teachers, long before these became fashionable terms in educational circles. The model relied on close collaboration with educational partners—primarily school districts—which in turn fed the development of other programs in the Faculty. For example, the Diplomas in Field Programs arose out of the need to address specific professional growth issues for practicing educators. The Faculty also responded to the need to broaden access to educational opportunity: community-based M.Ed.’s were developed to provide graduate experiences in a wide variety of site-based educational issues in locations around the province. We were the first faculty at SFU to bring programs to the people, rather than relying on bringing people to the programs. Our innovative EdD program was designed to meet the demands for creative and effective leadership in educational settings. And, throughout all of these innovative programmatic responses to educational needs, the Faculty offered research-intensive programs of the highest quality, enabling students to develop and hone their research skills to answer critical educational issues. 

The Faculty of Education is a community of world-class researchers engaged in the exploration of a wide spectrum of educational issues; we currently have 14 active research centres and institutes. Since our early days, we have characteristically “punched above our weight” in terms of both the volume and quality of scholarly contributions to the literature in and practice of education, and we have also historically “overachieved” in the rates at which our research is funded by external bodies such as SSHRC. Graduates of our research degrees can be found informing educational practice at educational institutes around the world, and students come from around the world to work with our faculty members. And, we have been leaders in recognizing and honouring diverse ways of knowing and learning. The extent to which our research has engaged both the scholarly and applied educational communities is truly phenomenal.

Our programs and our research have intersected in special and remarkable ways in our communities of practice. When people in BC’s northern communities described the difficulties of finding teachers to stay in those communities, we created the Alaska Highway Consortium on Teacher Education (AHCOTE) and brought our high-quality PDP to northern BC. When people working as aides within classrooms expressed frustration over the barriers preventing them from becoming certified teachers, we created the Professional Linking Program (PLP), and brought it to diverse communities such as Fort Ware and Quesnel. We created opportunities for reciprocal community development in the creation of the International Teacher Education Module (ITEM), giving students the opportunity to experience educational practice in places such as Trinidad and Tobago, Cuba, China, Northern India and Mexico, and to develop a global perspective on educational practice. 

The Friends of Simon Program reaches into our local community and links university student mentors with students in the K-12 system to help develop literacy skills. We share facilities with L.A. Matheson School in Surrey, and run our high-demand graduate counselling clinic from that facility. And, very recently, the Cmolik Prize was initiated to recognize excellence in educational practice in BC. In these and countless other ways, programs and research of the Faculty of Education have enriched, and been enriched by, our deep community engagement.

The story of the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University is truly a remarkable one. In the sharing of these stories, we can only provide brief glimpses into what it has meant to be associated with the Faculty. Many of these stories are highly personal—amusing anecdotes, pride stories and depictions of experiences from another era weave together to form a tapestry of life in the Faculty. I hope they will inspire as fond memories and deepened sense of pride for you as they did for me.

Afterword

These days, educators spend much of our time justifying our existence. Governments demand accountability reports while continuously tightening the financial constraints on operations. The Academy, in its broadest sense, encourages the reporting of publication statistics, research dollars generated and numbers of students who successfully complete programs. But, behind the numbers, are the people. The stories in this book have shown that it is the quality of the people and the nature of their experiences that withstand the test of time. I would like to thank each person who contributed to this publication, and salute the thousands of people whose lives have been touched by this Faculty throughout the years.

Where to Next?

There is a saying that applies to any competitive venture: Get better, or get passed. With increased demand, and decreased sources of funding, there is little doubt that the provision of education has indeed become a very competitive venture. With that in mind, what does the future hold for the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University?

Space Renewal

We now operate out of all 3 campuses. In Vancouver, we have secured on-going office space at Harbour Centre, and we continue to lobby for the use of performance and artistic space at the Woodward’s Centre. At the Surrey campus we are seeking to expand our office, classroom and student meeting space, and have embarked on renovations to improve the working space and conditions for staff and faculty there. And, at the Burnaby campus, we are engaged in an entire building renewal project over the next two years. Although the renovations were prompted by the rapidly deteriorating health of the building, we will be using it as an opportunity to create new learning and working spaces reflective of modern educational practice. We have already begun that process with the creation of the Learning Hub and the redesign of one of the faculty office wings. Through the renovations, we will challenge traditional concepts and methods of teaching and learning, and create spaces that are open, transparent, collaborative and inspirational. While the physical space will be transformed, our core values will remain constant: a commitment to scholarly excellence; to innovative teaching practices and curricula; to community engagement; and to diversity, ethical practice, equity and social justice. 

Engaging Students

We are placing a high priority on developing stronger programs of support for graduate students, through scholarships, bursaries and awards. We need to attract the best minds in education if we hope to continue to be leaders in the field. We have begun an ambitious review of both the Professional Development Program and the graduate programs, with a view to responding to changes in expectations and needs. We are also creating new pathways to educational practice through our bachelor of general studies and are seeking partnerships with industry so that we can offer an expanded suite of co-op and/or internship experiences for our undergraduate students. 

Engaging Research

Research has direct implications for educational practice; the more we understand about the conditions and means by which learners learn, the stronger the foundation we can build for the next generation of educators, scientists and entrepreneurs, and the stronger our contributions will be to an equitable and democratic society. We explore ways to support research for faculty members and graduate students, to leverage existing funding sources for financial support for research, and to establish funded research chairs through public donations.

We also work to include areas of educational research expertise into larger university initiatives; for example, recent changes to the University Priorities Fund have led to the inclusion of significant Faculty of Education involvement in $9 million worth of strategic research funding. 

Engaging Communities

We live in exciting times of educational practice, and the walls erected between the various forms and levels of educational institutions are becoming more and more porous. We will still rely on school districts as community partners, but the nature of our collaborations will continue to grow to include increased sharing of programming, facilities and research.

Our relationships with our other educational partners—colleges, institutes and other universities—will also lead to fascinating opportunities for collaboration, all in the service of meeting learner needs in our communities. And, our relationships with our learning partners—aboriginal communities, international communities and groups with specific interests (e.g., French heritage and language; immigrant groups; at-risk learners, vulnerable members of our society; etc.)—will provide focus for both programming and research. We also need to respond to the virtual communities of educational practice, through mechanisms such as innovation labs, on-line learning and community development, open education, on-line repositories of educational interventions and the use of social media for educational and social development.

If you have read this book, it is likely that you have made a significant contribution to our first 50 years. We invite you to help us tell the story of the next 50 years of educational innovation. We do have audacious goals—but that is nothing new for this Faculty! 

Kris Magnusson
Dean, Faculty of Education