Kirsty Spence has spent an intense few weeks immersed in research about Beginner’s Mind, the ancient Zen concept of mindfulness.
It wasn’t something she had planned to do. Spence, who is the Associate Dean, Teaching and Undergraduate Studies in Health Sciences and Associate Professor in the Department of Sport Management, has known about Beginner’s Mind for a decade.
Her interest was suddenly renewed after listening to one of her graduate students lead a recent discussion about Beginner’s Mind. She observed the growing engagement of the students who were hearing, for the first time, about the practice of deep learning — the state of having an open and ready mind in which you have the freedom to explore all the open possibilities of learning.
As Spence told colleagues and students during the 15th annual Tribute to Teaching celebration, it has led her to revisit how the concept now fits with her philosophy around teaching and leadership.
“I am extremely heartened that I can speak about concepts like mindfulness and the importance of purpose and meaning as related to leadership with students more so than as a beginning faculty member in 2004,” she said during the reception hosted by the Centre for Pedagogical Innovation (CPI).
“Luckily, we teach in an institution that values experiential learning, in which the context for Beginner’s Mind readily exists and can easily lend to such learning.”
By applying the concept, Spence hopes to create a dynamic learning space that is characterized by equality, humility, compassion, comfort in vulnerability, and the agility and openness to all possibilities.
This year’s Celebration of Teaching Excellence also featured the presentation of three awards to recognize outstanding contributions:
Assistant Professor Kyle Rich, Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies — Clarke Thomson Award for Excellence in Sessional Teaching
Rich has been teaching in the Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies since July 2016 and brings an innovative and thoughtful approach to teaching in an array of classroom settings, whether that be in traditional, online and blended formats, and with mature learners. For example, Rich has been instrumental in establishing the success of the Degree Completion Program for Professionals, a blended-format program offered to working professionals.
Assistant Professor Alex Christie, Digital Prototyping, Centre for Digital Humanities — Excellence in Teaching for Early Career Faculty Award
Christie, who began teaching at the Centre in 2016, moves between humanities theory and technical practice to cultivate experiences in which students reveal and rethink the design logics of social and technological systems. He also teaches in the Studies in Comparative Literature and Arts (SCLA) MA program and the PhD in Interdisciplinary Humanities (HUMA) program.
Professor Tim Murphy, Psychology — Don Ursino Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Large Classes
For more than 20 years, Murphy has voluntarily chosen to teach one of the more challenging and popular courses in the Department of Psychology — PSYC 2F23: Introductory Statistics and Research Methods. His dedication to teaching, particularly his success in PSYC 2F23, has earned him multiple teaching awards including the 2018 Brock University Distinguished Teaching Award and 2017 Faculty of Social Sciences Teaching Award.
The event also was an opportunity to recognize the 29 recipients of Chancellor’s Chairs for Teaching Excellence. The program, established by CPI in 2005, supports the scholarship of teaching and provides recipients with $5,000 a year for three years to pursue innovative projects.