Eileen Wood is an associate professor in the Department of Psychology and a 3M National Teaching Fellow. During her 30 years at Laurier, Wood has been awarded and recognized for her contributions to teaching and research within and beyond the university. She has many peer-reviewed publications focused on cognition, academic integrity and the impact of technology on learning. Curiosity sits as the cornerstone for both her research and teaching, and one of her fellowship projects was spurred by her curiosity as to whether classroom diversions could be harnessed in meaningful ways to enhance students’ learning experiences.
Perhaps the most important goal in my teaching is to convey the joy, passion, interest and fun that is learning. Courses that allow students and I to have fun are my favourites. Reminding my class that learning is natural and immensely rewarding (though at times challenging), is fundamental for engaging them in the learning process. The challenge for me, then, is to seek out real-world applications, intriguing research examples, novel ideas, and demonstrations to encourage interest in students. Humour is an important part of my teaching style. With humour, we can approach even the most challenging tasks and not know that what we are exploring is difficult.
Every day of our lives we notice things we have never seen before; things we do not understand, things that puzzle us because they ‘don’t fit’ or just ‘don’t make sense’. In my years as a researcher I have observed hundreds of infants, children, adolescents and adults tackle novel tasks in just this way. As a teacher, what strikes me is how tasks that are truly intriguing elicit curiosity, a desire to explore and encourage persistence even if the task is challenging. What follows these experiences –when learners conquer the task – are palpable and sometimes visible expressions of delight, excitement and pleasure (which is openly displayed in children and more subtly so in adults) which, subsequently, often leads to the task being repeated or shared with another.
This, to me is the natural path of learning. Creating learning environments that encourage students to approach tasks, persist even when the task is a little challenging, and then want to repeat their discovery, serves as the core design requirement in my teaching. My goal is to intrigue students, initiate their desire to know, discover and explore.
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