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March 21, 2016

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At the beginning of each new term, Carol Duncan, a professor in Laurier’s Department of Religion and Culture and 3M National Teaching Fellow, is faced with the challenge of fostering passion within her students for the course content she is set to teach.

It’s a task that might seem intimidating, but not to Duncan.

Engaging students is a challenge she has welcomed repeatedly over the last 20 years at Laurier, and it’s what inspires her most as a teacher.

“I create student engagement by demonstrating my own passion for the subject matter,” says Duncan. “But I also show my students that I am open to learning about what’s important to them.”

Keeping up with the issues that matter to students allows Duncan to understand them better and establish common ground. She challenges her students to investigate relationships between the course content and their own personal interests. Striking this balance between a structured curriculum and the flexibility to let students personalize their learning is key to Duncan’s approach to teaching.

While the Laurier environment primes students for personal and academic growth, it also empowers faculty members to pursue excellence as educators. Duncan applauds Laurier’s academic culture as one that values teaching in the same way it values research.

“Often as professors we are presented with teaching and research as divergent paths – if you’re an excellent teacher, it’s impossible to be an excellent researcher,” said Duncan. “What I have found in the Laurier community is support and value for both.”

Teaching doesn’t come at the sacrifice of research for Duncan. The questions that her students put forth during classroom interactions often fuel her research pursuits.

Laurier’s teaching environment is one that Duncan is proud to be part of, citing collegiality and support for the creation of courses that incorporate new and emerging ideologies that highlight real world-to-classroom connections for students.

Duncan has been widely recognized for her teaching excellence. In addition to being named a 3M National Teaching Fellow, she has received an Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations Teaching Award, the Laurier Faculty Award for Teaching Excellence, and Laurier Faculty of Arts Teaching Scholar award, among other honours.

Accolades aside, Duncan finds genuine reward as a teacher. She attributes much of her career satisfaction to the dialogue that she is able to have with her students. More than just conversations, Duncan finds inspiration in dialogue that explores new ideas, tackles complex issues and produces “a-ha” moments for her and her students.

“As a teacher, the best thing I can do for my students is to help them develop the ability to ask good questions and to learn for themselves,” says Duncan. “If I’ve done that, then I’ve done my job as a teacher.”

Teaching Excellence at Laurier

Laurier prides itself on a culture that fosters, supports and celebrates teaching excellence. Learn about Laurier’s other award-winning teachers and how they engage students and inspire a love of learning.


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