Dina Fanara

Assistant News Editor

 

Two of McMaster’s very own faculty members were named 3M National Teaching Fellows on Feb. 9, the highest honour in education at the university level in Canada.

Dr. Marshall Beier and Dr. Susan Vajoczki were named recipients of the honour, which is awarded to only ten professors each year.

Since 1986, 268 instructors have been chosen to receive this fellowship for their want to improve the quality of education for university students. Students and colleagues nominate potential candidates, with over 33,000 eligible candidates this year.

“In my mind this award is the penultimate accomplishment in university teaching and learning and recognition in teaching and learning in Canada…all of that work with students over the years. There was real value and recognition of that activity,” said Vajoczki.

“The most meaningful thing I get out of my teaching is talking to students about things that work for them and talking to them a year or two after a course and they talk about how important something was,” she added.

Dr. Vajoczki was a faculty member of the department of Geology and Earth Science for over ten years at McMaster, and led several trips with upper year undergraduates to Costa Rica for a field course on river erosion several years ago. She has also held the position of director of the Department of Experiential Education and is currently the director of the Centre for Leadership and Learning.

With a background in large class and inquiry teaching, Vajoczki found a way to solve the question ‘How do you do field work with 300 students?’ With her first year earth science students, Vajoczki incorporated a field trip for each student at some point in the first month of class, allowing all to have practical. When asked about her next steps, Vajoczki had some very exciting news to share.

In October of 2012, the Centre for Leadership and Learning will be hosting a conference at McMaster entitled, “International Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education,” for 500 delegates from around the world.

Beier, a professor of Political Science, said that “the most important thing for me is that students are encouraged to critically think about the material I teach.”

“I think it’s important that whether it’s a seminar, a lecture, or if it’s what’s going on in tutorials for a course that I teach, that it is always a safe space where we’re always expected to take responsibility for our perspectives . . . but it’s safe to take risks.”

Beier believes that “everyone needs to feel like they’re a part of the equation,” and this can be achieved by “trying to bring undergraduate students more into the research that we do.”

When asked what influenced his teaching methods, Beier stated that, “the very best teachers I had were the ones that me feel like I was a part of the process . . . students aren’t just here to become repositories of the knowledge that we’re developing, but rather they have an important role to take . . . to the production of knowledge.”

Both recipients underlined their gratefulness to be a part of McMaster. Vajoczki said that, “we are so fortunate to be at McMaster when it comes to teaching and learning.”

Similarly, Beier said, “I’m very grateful to be in a place like McMaster and in a department like the Department of Political Science, where all of my colleagues really take teaching seriously.”

“Your research makes your teaching better.”

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