Campus news

High honour for educational innovator

Image of Steve Joordens

When Steve Joordens stands in front of a large class, he sees not a mass of people, but a chance to build a learning community.

His commitment to student engagement and his innovations in classroom technology have earned him one of the highest teaching honours in Canadian postsecondary education—a 3M National Teaching Fellowship.

It was while teaching his large, first-year Psychology class that Joordens began to think of more ways he could get his students to think critically and creatively about their work. His solution was peerScholar, an online educational software package that enhances cognitive ability through peer-assessment and peer-feedback. The software has since been adopted by universities across Canada, the United States and Europe.

“I really enjoy the challenge of trying to present information in both a clear and entertaining way,” says Joordens. “Engagement is the front door to learning and there’s nothing else about teaching style as important as that.”

His embrace of technology as a learning tool also led to a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a massive open online course (MOOC). He’s also lent his expertise to the Global Teenager Project, an initiative that brings young people from 40 different countries together to learn about issues of child rights through online learning circles.

Now, Joordens is one of only 10 educators across Canada, and the only U of T faculty member, to earn the 3M fellowship. A partnership between 3M and the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, the fellowship is the only pan-Canadian, cross-disciplinary recognition of educational leadership and excellence in university teaching.