Everyone contributes, says award-winning teaching team
One in a series of articles on winners of the 2022 Dr. Gerry Kelly Outstanding Teaching Awards.
Two is always bigger than one, but is it better?
For students taking a course at Royal Roads University on the science of climate change and its impacts, the answer is, likely, “yes” because they have two teachers.
And for their efforts leading the online course, Rob Newell and Leanne Pyle were honoured in the Team Teaching category off RRU’s annual Dr. Gerry Kelly Outstanding Teaching Awards.
Leanne and I, when we talk about things and design courses, we can take the best of what’s worked in other classes and experiment with some ideas that we can bring together to create an interesting and varied educational experience.
Although Newell and Pyle don’t teach math, the awards selection committee noted the pair “skillfully complement your different teaching styles to demonstrate ‘1 + 1 > 2’ in a well-organized and balanced approach for learning and knowledge sharing.” The committee also lauded the duo for modelling “how to share space gracefully and respectfully and to enrich the learning experience with their individual gifts and talents.”
Individually, their backgrounds are quite different. Newell is an RRU assistant professor and was previously an associate director of the Food and Agriculture Institute at the University of the Fraser Valley. Pyle is an associate faculty member at RRU in The School of Environment and Sustainability and professional geologist whose main job is as a geological consultant with her own company, VI Geoscience Services Ltd.
Their different qualifications and approaches don’t present a challenge in developing a cohesive learning environment, they say. Instead, each brings different experiences to the virtual classroom.
“Leanne and I, when we talk about things and design courses, we can take the best of what’s worked in other classes and experiment with some ideas that we can bring together to create an interesting and varied educational experience,” Newell says.
Says Pyle: “We use an expanded balloon model for what we offer learners to explore their thinking and approach to various assignments.”
What I’ve learned is it’s really important to be yourself and show there’s a human behind these course facilitators and make everybody feel like they’re contributing.
Aiming to foster sharing of information among students and instructors, the pair also is aware that learners are people first with families and communities and worries, an acknowledgement that comes in handy, for instance, when discussing the destructive and dangerous effects of climate change.
“The stuff that we’re teaching, presenting it in a fairly objective and maybe flat way would be a fairly typical approach to teaching science topics and subjects,” says Newell. “But what we’re actually telling students is, ’These are things you’re going to experience in your communities and you’re going to experience them more severely as time goes on.’ And it’s important to recognize the emotional challenges that comes with.”
In addition, Pyle says, “What I’ve learned is it’s really important to be yourself and show there’s a human behind these course facilitators and make everybody feel like they’re contributing.”
Dr. Kelly, the awards’ namesake and RRU’s first installed president, serving from 1996 to 2002, says of all the award winners: “The relationship between teachers — who now become knowledge facilitators, learning facilitators — and learners is at the centre of Royal Roads’ existence.”
Both Team Teaching winners say they’re pleased to receive the recognition of the Kelly award.
“It meant a lot to me,” notes Pyle, “especially from Royal Roads University, which really prides itself on its learner-centred model.”
Read stories about all the 2022 Dr. Gerry Kelly Outstanding Teaching Award winners:
- Outstanding Teacher: Justice and empathy are embedded in Stéphanie Vieille’s teaching
- Outstanding Workshop Facilitation - Diane Lloyd: It’s never ‘just business’; it’s always personal
- New Teacher Award - Sarah Wolfe: ‘Students are not just cogs to be processed to fit an economy’
The Dr. Gerry Kelly Outstanding Teaching Awards are open to all RRU faculty members who are actively engaged in teaching for-credit or non-credit courses. They were created in recognition of Dr. Gerald O. Kelly, the first installed president of Royal Roads University, through an endowment fund. Dr. Kelly, a teacher by trade, believed universities should be built around the learner. With students top of mind, he encouraged Royal Roads instructors to strive for excellence in teaching. Learn more about the awards.
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