I am apparently a good teacher. Well, I've won awards and I've got some good comments from my students. Now those indicators are external, but there's some good internal stuff as well. Sometimes I just know I've taught a superb class.
For all that, my view at the deepest level, is that I should be doing much much better. I have some general ideas of what the problem is but it's not all that clear what the course-by-course, class-by-class, topic-by-topic implications of that are. I know I want my students to have fun with the material, to let loose, take risks, and find themselves flying through an awesomely beautiful universe. At the same time I want them to understand that mathematics offers them enormous technical power, the possibility of some effective control over the small universe of ideas they are engaged with, a sense of real independence, of being in the driver's seat, and that mathematics offers them that in a way that no other subject can, and that this is a kind of ultimate freedom. But that this can only be theirs if they bear down on the technical ingredients of those ideas.
A big question has to do with the systematic nature of the subject. How crucial really is it that the students learn A before B, that they get everything they need (or most of what they need) at one level before moving on to the next? Do we really have to teach everything?I wrote an essay last March (07) on Future directions for undergraduate learning at Queen's, as I believe that Queen's is well placed to provide real leadership in what I regard as important changes in the nature of undergraduate education. [Actually, the essy now posted is a slightly updated version of the original.] I received significant commentaries on this essay from Kim Nossal, Christine Overall and Peter Kennedy (SFU). In November 07 I had a discussion session on these issues with the Arts&Science Heads and following some feedback I posted some additional remarks. Finally I have written this "call to action" which I hope will entice a group of faculty to join me this fall in meeting to formulate a plan.
|ASUS Teaching Award||1986|
|MAA Distinguished Teaching Award, Seaway Section||1992|
|3M Teaching Fellowship||1994|
|Golden Apple, Faculty of Applied Science, Queen's||1995|
|OCUFA Teaching Award||2003||CMS Adrian Pouliot Award for Mathematics Education||2006|