David Hutchison believes that teaching excellence cannot be achieved alone.
It takes passion from the professor, support from the administration, ongoing collaboration with colleagues and buy in from students.
The Brock professor of 18 years is being recognized with the University’s 2017 Distinguished Teaching Award, which honours a faculty member who has made an outstanding contribution to teaching and learning. Hutchison said he could not have earned the prestigious prize were it not for the partnerships he has forged with students in his project-based learning courses.
Through project-based learning, students collaborate with their peers on real-world projects that are sponsored by clients outside of the course. Hutchison — a cross-appointed Professor in the Department of Teacher Education and the Centre for Digital Humanities, where he serves as Director — has been an enthusiastic adopter of the method at the post-secondary level. He has actively used project-based learning to enhance his teaching and connect his students’ experiences to real-world outcomes. Hutchison has also pursued studies which have led him to become a certified project manager.
To emphasize the collaborative nature of his teaching method, Hutchison pointed to one of the Brock University Design Studio (BUDS) projects he led last year and the diverse cross section of students who participated.
“In partnership with the St. Catharines Museum, I worked with students from Labour Studies, History and Interactive Arts and Science to develop a digital exhibit for the City of St. Catharines’ Welland Canal Fallen Workers Memorial,” he said of the immersive experience. “The History and Labour Studies students largely wrote the content for the exhibit, while the Interactive Arts and Science students worked on the user interface and back end code.”
The exhibit will be launched in November.
Hutchison credited the Brock community for playing a significant role in helping him to enhance his teaching.
“I am indebted to the Centre for Pedagogical Innovation and their many workshops and presentations, as well as the teaching best practices shared by colleagues,” he said. “Overall, Brock is an institution and community that values teaching. A lot of my work is collaborative and this is a very collaborative University.”
Hutchison said when he reaches out to colleagues, there is a “really good chance they will want to work together.
“The work that I have done would not have been possible without a strong sense of collegiality, as well as ongoing attention from the University administration to teaching quality and the needs of students.”
It is this sense of collaboration, and the new possibilities it brings, that drive Hutchison’s teaching.
“Each year in my courses, I am meeting students from different backgrounds and different academic departments,” he said. “I like learning about where they have come from, what they are looking for in their studies and where they are headed, both academically and career wise. I value the collaborations that we have.”
This is not the first time Hutchison’s contribution to teaching has been recognized. He received the University’s Faculty of Education Teaching Award in 2013 and the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education’s Brightspace Innovation Award in Teaching and Learning in 2016.
Brock’s Provost and Vice-President, Academic, Tom Dunk, emphasized the substantial contribution Hutchison has made to teaching excellence at the University.
“Brock is known nationally for its leadership in experiential learning and transdisciplinary programming,” said Dunk, “and David’s ongoing commitment to project-based learning within his teaching is key to our leadership and continued innovations in these areas.”
As he continues to promote and implement project-based learning throughout the University, Hutchison sees this most recent award as acknowledgment of not only his own work, but also the work of the University community as a whole.
“For me, this award recognizes the importance of experiential learning at Brock,” he said. “I think the award reinforces our commitment to experiential learning as one of the defining characteristics of the University.”
That commitment, he said, has become a huge draw for students and faculty.
“Over the last few years, we have really seen Brock emphasize the numerous types of experiential learning activities students can engage in,” he said. “And my work fits into that context. If I wasn’t at Brock already, the focus on experiential learning is something that would have made me want to work here.”
Hutchison will be presented with the Distinguished Teaching Award at Brock University’s Fall Convocation ceremony on Friday, Oct. 13 at 10 a.m. in the Ian Beddis Gymnasium.