UBC Psychology’s Dr. Catherine Rawn receives the Killam Teaching Prize

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Awarding Excellence

On Friday, May 22nd, UBC Psychology professor Dr. Catherine Rawn crossed the Chan Centre stage in order to accept her Killam Teaching Prize. The Prize, awarded each year by an adjudicating committee chaired by the Associate Dean, recognizes distinguished teaching at all levels of instruction.

If Dr. Rawn’s teaching style is distinguished – which it certainly is, judging both by her Killam Prize and by her slightly less official but still seriously impressive rating of 4.0 on ratemyprofessors.com – it is also, and equally, distinctive. Call her anything but stagnant: Dr. Rawn is an avid student of education who works consistently to keep up with the latest findings on what makes an effective teacher, and to refine and re-shape her classroom technique accordingly.

Adventures in Teaching

Dr. Rawn identifies her present teaching theme as “community building,” and with that in mind, she’s working on making changes to her courses that will require students to collaborate in order to learn the material. “Peer-to-peer interaction is really where teaching is headed, and data shows that it’s best,” she explains. She’s already taken some professional steps towards this initiative, having recently implemented a two-stage testing model (in which students complete each exam once on their own and then again in small groups) in some of her classes.

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As one of the more Twitter-savvy professors on campus, Dr. Rawn (@cdrawn) is currently using social media to develop a course on social media. Her PSYC325, scheduled for Term 2 of the 2015-2016 school year, will be a “social/personality take on engaging in social media, with a focus on issues of identity”. She cites new UBC Journalism head Alfred Hermida’s book Tell Everyone: Why We Share and Why It Matters as a significant inspiration for the course. She’s also contemplating starting Facebook groups for her Introductory Psychology classes with the hope that such groups might foster a better sense of community among the 2000+ students who take the course each year. “I want to do a total overhaul of Intro [Psychology],” she says.

On top of all that, she’s also working on two other significant projects: finalizing a program outcomes analysis for the BA Psychology degree, and working with Dr. Peter Graf to develop a peer review quality enhancement training program that will be implemented in the fall.

To hear Dr. Rawn talk is to instantly realize that there is a cohesiveness and a deliberateness to the (at first glance) seemingly divergent projects and topics she’s involved in. She is a vocal supporter of open science and an academic who is driven by a clear sense of purpose, able to simultaneously keep both the big picture and the small-scale student experience in view. Above all, however, she is an undeniably excellent teacher who is constantly striving for better.

“There’s always a tension about how much I “cover” and how deep into the material we actually get,” she says. “I’m working on that tension.”

-Katie Coopersmith