queen's university peter taylor - home biology education biology publications mathematics education education publications courses teaching students

I am apparently a good teacher. Well, I've won awards and I've got some good comments from my students. Now those indicators are external, but there's some good internal stuff as well. Sometimes I just know I've taught a superb class.

For all that, my view at the deepest level, is that I should be doing much much better. I have some general ideas of what the problem is but it's not all that clear what the course-by-course, class-by-class, topic-by-topic implications of that are. I know I want my students to have fun with the material, to let loose, take risks, and find themselves flying through an awesomely beautiful universe. At the same time I want them to understand that mathematics offers them enormous technical power, the possibility of some effective control over the small universe of ideas they are engaged with, a sense of real independence, of being in the driver's seat, and that mathematics offers them that in a way that no other subject can, and that this is a kind of ultimate freedom. But that this can only be theirs if they bear down on the technical ingredients of those ideas.

A big question has to do with the systematic nature of the subject. How crucial really is it that the students learn A before B, that they get everything they need (or most of what they need) at one level before moving on to the next? Do we really have to teach everything?

I wrote an essay last March (07) on Future directions for undergraduate learning at Queen's, as I believe that Queen's is well placed to provide real leadership in what I regard as important changes in the nature of undergraduate education. [Actually, the essy now posted is a slightly updated version of the original.] I received significant commentaries on this essay from Kim Nossal, Christine Overall and Peter Kennedy (SFU). In November 07 I had a discussion session on these issues with the Arts&Science Heads and following some feedback I posted some additional remarks. Finally I have written this "call to action" which I hope will entice a group of faculty to join me this fall in meeting to formulate a plan.

ASUS Teaching Award1986
MAA Distinguished Teaching Award, Seaway Section1992
3M Teaching Fellowship1994
Golden Apple, Faculty of Applied Science, Queen's1995
OCUFA Teaching Award2003
CMS Adrian Pouliot Award for Mathematics Education2006
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