By Mary Chan
They are the apples of their students’ eyes.
Two University of Calgary professors recently received national teaching awards for exceptional undergraduate university teaching and educational leadership. Dr. Allan Jones of the Faculty of Medicine and Psychology professor Dr. Donald Kline have each been named one of 10 national 3M Teaching Fellows.
"I think it’s a wonderful honour," said Kline, one of 52 nominees this year. "It’s a peak experience for someone who cares about teaching."
The award, jointly sponsored by 3M and the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, aims to recognize and reward outstanding Canadian university teachers. Though there is no financial award, winners receive a trip to a resort for a three-day retreat, life membership in the society and possible support from the society for future projects.
According to 3M Fellows Program Coordinator Dale Roy, the award strengthens winners’ influence at their institutions.
"It lets them have more of a voice on their campus and elsewhere," he said. "These are people who are keen on doing things and this is a national organization who says they are on track."
Nominees were judged by a six-member panel in two equally weighted categories: teaching excellence and educational leadership, which includes creating new programs, training colleagues or writing about teaching in higher education.
Both U of C winners focus on students when talking about their teaching styles.
"I’m a big believer in setting a climate so that students are in a situation where they are comfortable making mistakes, comfortable speaking out, comfortable critiquing their work and my work," said Jones, who is also the associate dean of undergraduate medical education.
In his nomination package, students called Jones "a specialist without an ego;" a "born teacher" who "makes material understandable."
"He provides a shining example of compassionate, respectful and professional care of patients, and actively teaches this to both medical students and residents," said Neal Church, a resident in the Division of General Surgery for the Calgary Regional Health Authority.
Kline finds the interaction of a classroom an appealing part of teaching.
"If you have a good class and students react, then it’s very enforcing because it’s immediate," he said.
In addition to humour and visual aids, Kline also likes to integrate a sense of intrigue or mystery into his lectures, hoping to have an emotional impact on his students.
"Things are best remembered if they affect you emotionally," he said. "I try to use a lot of affective approaches to things. I want students to go, ‘Ew, yuck.’"
"To find a professor as knowledgeable and as personable as Dr. Kline is a rarity," said former student Allan Gallant. "His passion for teaching shines through."
Jones and Kline also contribute to the U of C in ways beyond teaching. Kline, a former department head of psychology, works to integrate research and teaching. Jones, in conjunction with medical students, has developed a student code of conduct, a peer "study buddy" program, career counselling and created a model for evaluating residents entering a specialty.