Professor Greg Evans (ChemE) has received a 3M National Teaching Fellowship from the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. The award is Canada’s most prestigious recognition of excellence in educational leadership and teaching at the university or college level.
“One of the things that makes it special for me is that this year three of the winners are in engineering education, which is one of my passions,” says Evans. “I’m very honoured to be in such good company and it’s wonderful to see engineering education gaining profile in Canada.”
Evans’ teaching philosophy involves changing the traditional role of professor from the stereotype he calls “sage on the stage,” toward becoming a “guide on the side.” In class, he encourages his students to generate solutions as a group rather than look to him for the correct answer, and to relate classroom concepts to practical situations.
“I teach environmental chemistry, and it’s great for that kind of thing,” he says. “For example, a bottle of water lists the levels of carbonates and dissolved ions. So I have the students compare the different brands they may be carrying, and discuss why the values may be different in each one.”
Evans is the inaugural Director of the Collaborative Program in Engineering Education, which has created a community to promote engineering education research and to share best practices in effective teaching and learning. Evans is also the chair of the Canadian Engineering Education Association’s 2017 annual conference, to be held in June at U of T.
“We’re asking attendees to imagine how we will educate the engineer of 2050,” he says. “We hope to provoke people a bit by proposing various scenarios, whether utopian or dystopian, and thinking about how we would educate engineers under those circumstances.”
Evans is one of three engineering professors to receive a 3M National Teaching Fellowship in 2017, joining Professors Alan Steel of Concordia University and Gordon Stubley of University of Waterloo.
“Engineers work across disciplines and borders to create meaningful solutions to complex global challenges — we need approaches to engineering education as innovative as the profession itself,” said Chris D. Roney, President of Engineers Canada. “We are tremendously proud to see three engineers among the 2017 recipients of the 3M National Teaching Fellowships — this honour recognizes the profound commitment of these professors to preparing the next generation of engineering leaders.”
The 3M Fellowship is the latest accolade to honour Evans’ leadership and innovations in teaching. He has received the University of Toronto’s Joan E. Foley Quality of Student Experience Award (2008), the Northrop Frye Award (2013), and most recently, the President’s Teaching Award (2015), U of T’s highest teaching honour. He has also been awarded the Engineers Canada Medal for Distinction in Engineering Education (2010) and the OCUFA Teaching Award (2015).
Evans says his efforts are inspired by the educators who helped shape his own career, including the late Professor Robert Jervis (ChemE), who gave him his first summer research project. He also fondly remembers his co-curricular activities, such as Skule Nite™, a musical theatre review performed by engineering students.
“A university education really is an immersive experience, and a lot of the real transformative moments actually happen outside the classroom,” says Evans. “What we do is bring really bright people here, surround them with other incredibly bright people, and get them talking. When you do that, it’s amazing what happens.”