Labour Studies prof lauded by students for teaching approach

Simon Black just got a big nod of approval from his students.

The assistant professor in the Department of Labour Studies was recently honoured with a Teaching Excellence Award by the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) after being nominated by Brock students.

The OUSA annually presents Teaching Excellence Awards to educators who excel at unlocking the potential of Ontario’s young people.

All professors who receive the honour are from the OUSA’s member campuses and have been nominated by students from their respective schools.

“It’s particularly special to be recognized by students,” says Black. “We have wonderful, passionate, committed students here at Brock, and it’s an honour to have the opportunity to engage with them in the classroom and in the university community more broadly.”

The teaching award is the second Black has received this school year. In December, he received the Don Ursino Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Large Classes, presented annually by the Centre for Pedagogical Innovation (CPI) to an outstanding teacher who demonstrates commitment to the improvement of student learning in a large class.

Two teaching awards in such a short span of time is a noteworthy accomplishment for any professor, but rings particularly true for Black who is only in his sixth year of teaching at the university level.

“On behalf of the Faculty of Social Sciences, I would like to congratulate Professor Black on this remarkable achievement and thank him for his dedication to teaching excellence,” says Ingrid Makus, Interim Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences. “He exemplifies our commitment to providing students with an outstanding experience both inside and outside the classroom.”

Black views his students both as learners and as engaged citizens. He focuses his teaching practice on three key commitments: an emphasis on active learning, the creation of a learning environment that is inclusive and empowering, and ongoing efforts to become a stronger and more effective educator.

“As a teacher and a scholar, I am in the process of becoming,” says Black. He therefore tries to refine and improve his pedagogical practice “through engagement with research on teaching and learning, creating spaces for informal student feedback, and through critical reflection on my teaching philosophy and its actualization in the classroom.”

Inspired by scholar bell hooks, whose beliefs about education Black keeps posted in his office, Black asserts that education is “the practice of freedom, and the classroom is a space of transformation.”

“That’s why teaching is rooted in hopefulness. And my hope for a better world emerges, in part, from the classroom.”

Black is also quick to point out that his efforts in the area of teaching are well supported at Brock.

“I’d like to shout out the valuable supports for teaching at Brock, especially CPI and Experiential Education,” he says. “These folks have made me a better teacher and I’ll continue to learn from them.”

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