Cormack Symposium 2016
The Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences presents up to four Cormack Teaching Awards annually, one each at the ranks of lecturer (or senior lecturer), assistant professor, associate professor, and full professor.
Recipients offer a public talk/presentation on some aspect of their teaching to FASS colleagues as part of a FASS-organized event (Fall semester); see below for the 2016 talks.
Lara Aknin (Psychology) Making Teaching and Research Relevant: Connections I try to Draw
I try to draw personal examples, to demonstrate connections to real central theories (for example, schema theory), popular culture references, and real world examples (where I assign “MeSearch” papers in social psychology). I draw connections between ideas and build them in complexity over the term. I encourage students at the end of each lecture to tear off a piece of paper and do a Lecture content check, where they write the main take away message each week, and I incorporate them or respond to them the next. I constantly invite them to make connections between people, one another, and the larger field. One of my recent innovations is the two stage test: they do a mid term independently and submit it and then join a group of 3 to 5 students to do it and mark it together. I actually have had students say to me they are looking forward to the test, and like the social support they get. I sometimes assign a group a paper to critique, and then surprise them by having the question they want to post the author posed directly to the author I skype in.
Sarah Walshaw (History): Come Tell Me What You Know
I think teaching is an invitation to dialogue, to relationship. It is a celebration of learning. You are a champion of your own learning process. It levels the hierarchy in university education. It lets students know what they bring is important. My international field school in Tanzania, participation in an international conference mentoring an international graduate student in Kampala Uganda making her own first professional experience, and then bringing this experience into my classroom here at SFU. Tell me what you know, what you want to learn, and who you are. What I teach is an area of history-African history—which is not often covered in K-12 curriculum, or when it is, is Eurocentric. I find history is a great place to have students learn the skills in public speaking, writing, argument forward communication which will benefit them anywhere. I start my teaching correcting misinformation. I am a fan of the Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s
tedTalk on the Danger of a Single Story becoming the only story. My student’s learn to take away previous misconceptions, correct popular ones, get to know what they do not know and ask better questions of the past. I call our exams opportunities for celebrations of learning. I take mid term surveys of what students want to see in class. My student-learning model is collaborative. It helps students build relationships, community, networks and develops long lasting ties to be meaningful.
Greg Dow (Economics) Authenticity and Economic Modeling
In teaching my third year seminar in Comparative Economic Institutions, I assign my students four books from scholars in different disciplines—an anthropologist, a political scientist, law professor and an economist. The focus is on how to solve economic problems in small -scale communities. Students get to see how economics can be applied to a wide range of things. I want to motivate them to learn about theory from real world observation. They wrestle with big, complicated, messy things, where there may be multiple explanations, maybe even competing perspectives or big controversies. Students find that really refreshing. It takes detective work, logic and evidence to determine which model makes more sense. Sometimes even the instructor does not know—and that is a revelation to students.
Richard Wright (Psychlogy) How to Get People to Pay Attention and Deliberate Practice
Developing my teaching has been a struggle, but it can be fulfilling and fun. I study neuroscience, sustained attention, and mind wandering. I have written books on how to get people to pay attention. I find millennials need structure. In the classroom, I vary what I do a lot. I make my classes informal. I start with a social contract: please interrupt me. Our goal is to turn lectures into a conversation. I start with a story or a hook for about 10 or 15 minutes, and then open the floor to questions. I will show short video clips to allow for mental reboots. I will blank the screen. It is important not to overload them. I have completely revamped my classes and my slides. I find business is further ahead than the academy on the design of slides. Some of my slides have just visuals. Some have just 7 words. I will give people a structured outline because they will understand and remember the class better. I love mindmaps. There is a lot of research on practice and its effect on performance. That old saying “practice makes perfect”. But not all of it does. I like “deliberate practice”. It is hard, not enjoyable, attuned to making errors and getting out of your comfort zone. If you haven’t already read him, try Anders Ericsson’s book The Peak. I’ll leave you with three thoughts: teaching style is unique and takes time to develop; be conscious of attention engagement, and don’t overload your students; and think about deliberate practice.