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2016 Cmolik Prize winner engages students' imaginations

April 06, 2016
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The Faculty of Education has awarded this year's $50,000 Cmolik Prize to Dr. Kieran Egan whose “imaginative education” initiatives benefit students and teachers around the world.

The Cmolik Prize for the Enhancement of Public Education in BC recognizes recipients who have developed and implemented an invention, innovation, concept, process or procedure that enhances educational practice in the K-12 public school system in BC. 

After Egan became a Canada Research Chair in 2000 for his work on imaginative education, he founded the Imaginative Education Research Group (IERG) to introduce new theories, principles, and practical techniques for making education more effective and more engaging for students and teachers.

“Students learn better when their emotions and imaginations are engaged,”  Egan says. “It seems dead obvious, but at the same time it’s too much ignored.”

IERG trains teachers to bring learning to life outside of textbooks. One of their programs, Learning in Depth, has students learning about one topic that interests them throughout their entire school career, K-12. Students become an expert in that topic, which feeds their imagination and promotes an understanding of the nature of knowledge.

The IERG trains schoolteachers to bring the content of the curriculum to meaningful life in the students’ minds. One such program, Learning in Depth (LiD), has students spend some time each week learning about a single topic throughout their entire school career, k-12. Students become expert in their topic, which feeds their imagination and promotes an understanding of the nature of knowledge. Most students take to LiD with great enthusiasm.

Egan says much of the prize will go toward hiring facilitators to further develop IERG programs and make them accessible to teachers.

Dozens of different countries currently implement IERG programs, and hundreds of B.C. schools experience it through the work of teachers who have learned to engage their students’ imaginations and emotions in the content of the curriculum.

The award was endowed to the Faculty of Education, Simon Fraser University by Russ and Ellen Cmolik.

“The genius of Egan’s Imaginative Education, and the specific application of Learning in Depth, is that it provides a means by which every student becomes an expert in at least one topic, and through this process, their creativity and imagination are unleashed in remarkable ways,” says Kris Magnusson, SFU’s dean of education.

“Learning in Depth may very well be one of the most important educational innovations of the last half century, and could be the mechanism by which the potential of 21st Century Learning can be realized.”

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