Dr. Moens wins Cormack Teaching Award

Professor Moens is among the 2015 winners of The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences’ Cormack Teaching Award. The Cormack Teaching Award recognizes excellent and innovative teaching within the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

In reflecting on his teaching, Professor Moens stated that:

“The culture of learning is shifting and with it the cognitive skills and preferences of the students. I have noticed two changing needs in recent years: students need to communicate with each other, and they need more visual material.

In Pol 349 on the first day I ask my students to create groups to compete for the best group name based on their interest and the key topics in the syllabus. I write detailed learning outcomes on each section of the course so that they can check their expectations. “The Brussels Sprouts” and the “Humanitarian Peace-Mongers” shared first price in a recent third year course on ‘Canada, NATO, and the European Union.’ During each class students confer with their groups on problems I present in my talk. I may speak for about 15 minutes and then ask them to make a specific connection. For example, in my second year US Politics course (Pol 232), I will outline the current problem of deeply antagonistic parties in Congress. I will then ask the students to pull up Federalist Paper 10 on the web and explain what James Madison called ‘faction’ and how can this be compared to what we today call polarization?

I encourage my students to have their laptops, i-pads and smart phones always at the ready. I try to keep them so busy that they have no time for social media. My students use governmental and international websites for immediate problem solving. For example, I will ask them: find the most informative, analytical and comprehensive EU map out there and explain why you think this one is best (there are scores). I give them a tight deadline.

In between classes they discuss their findings and opinions on larger questions I give them in Google Docs. I have observation status and can follow their chats on the topic.

I have learned over many years of experience that students do not want too much of their credit to come from group work. They value that I allow for individual expression and their interest. I use a three step research paper: a proposal, a draft, and a final paper. In my American foreign policy seminar, students write three short papers that each centre on a thematic book. Instead of students buying $150 plus textbooks, I have them buy two or three ‘hot topic’ trade books. These trade books carry the big themes in the course, while my lectures fill in the more traditional textbook material.

A significant part of my third and fourth year courses is devoted to training students for internships and practical experience. In May 2014, six students were involved in all aspects of organizing an international conference which we held in the Asia-Pacific Hall. Some courses have a simulation component. Students become ambassadors and military representatives for member countries. They begin preparing for the ‘emergency’ NATO meeting that has been called by Canada. Ottawa is proposing five (over the top) robust resolutions for NATO on how to deal with Russia and the Ukraine crisis. Students learn how the North Atlantic Council, the Political Committee, and the Military Representatives function and how they compromise and bargain to find an acceptable solution.

This summer will be the third year that I offer Political Science 497 (Practicum) or Pol 498 to students who are enrolled to participate in Model NATO Youth Summit. The course prepares students for an international week-long student conference that meets every year in another country to model a NATO summit. Students fundraise, create Facebook and websites, organize interviews with local Consuls who have NATO experience, plan their trip and train the next class after their return. This year we are adding another week of NATO Field School. My goal is to help create a full NATO Summer School program. I adopt a mixed style: teacher, mentor, and coach. ”

His students know him for his kind, helpful nature and his commitment to student engagement.  He advises student delegations to model NATO conferences, SFU student speaker series, and co-authors papers with his students.

Dr. Moens is the second member of the Department of Political Science to win a Cormack Teaching Award after Dr. Ayers won one in 2011.

Click here to learn more about the Cormack Teaching Award.

Click here to learn more about Dr. Moens and his research.

Congratulations Professor Moens!