UBC Instructor Named 2019 3M National Teaching Fellow
Steven Barnes, a senior instructor and Associate Head of Undergraduate Affairs in the Department of Psychology, was recently named a 2019 3M National Teaching Fellow. The award, jointly sponsored by 3M Canada and the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE), is the highest recognition of individual teaching excellence and educational leadership in Canada.
Barnes is UBC's first 3M National Teaching Fellow from the Faculty of Arts in the past 12 years, and joins the 19 other 3M National Teaching Fellows that UBC counts among current or former faculty or alumni.
A teacher at UBC since 2007, Barnes joins nine other honourees from across Canada and will receive a lifetime membership in STLHE. The award recognizes, in part, Barnes’ work exploring non-traditional methods of teaching and learning.
“I’ve done a lot of work looking at the factors that impact student mental health,” he said. “Part of that is looking at the learning environment and the way professors structure the course, how they communicate with students, and being available outside of the classroom.”
His eagerness to delve deeper into learning methodologies led to the creation of Tapestry, a tool used to model online course content and promote non-linear presentation materials. The project, a team effort involving several faculty, staff and students, is now entering its second year of a Large Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund grant.
Barnes also takes exploring non-traditional learning methods to heart. In collaboration with UBC film production alumna, Linnea Ritland, he’s developed a series of stop-motion blackboard videos that animate cell nuclei, DNA strands and chromosomal gene sequences. He is also in the midst of editing a new edition of his biopsychology textbook, due out next year.
A mixed-methods visual artist who works in paint, animation and new media, Barnes said he attributes his artistic side in helping him become a better educator.
“Art has been heavily influential in my teaching and writing,” he said. “I need to have art as an outlet and having that integrated into my teaching is both therapeutic and hopefully serves an education purpose for students — the animations make it memorable.”
Soma Barsen, one of Barnes’ former students and UBC alumna, reflects that it’s his creative approach to learning and engaging with students that makes him an exemplary educator. Barsen recalls Barnes pushing students to take a non-traditional look at how they completed work in class. An assignment might require students to engage in community work or interpret information in an artistic way, she said.
“He doesn’t apply a cookie-cutter approach,” she noted. “His teaching has an impact because of how he engages and encourages students with different levels of learning.”
That kind of interpretive understanding of the material facilitates learning for all different kinds of learners, she said, producing students who are cognizant and purposeful in their lives after academia.
“This is about societal outcomes and Steven’s impact is long-term and that’s what counts.”