Biology professor Paul Grogan receives top teaching award
Throughout his career at Queen’s University, Paul Grogan, a professor in the Department of Biology, has received numerous teaching awards from students, and from his fellow faculty members.
Now, Dr. Grogan is the 2023 recipient of the university’s top teaching award – the Chancellor A. Charles Baillie Teaching Award – which recognizes undergraduate, graduate, or professional teaching that has had an outstanding influence on the quality of student learning at Queen’s.
“I’m literally thrilled! It’s a huge honour and it makes me think of all those who have contributed directly and indirectly – ‘it takes a village,’” Dr. Grogan says. “My family (passed and present), my academic colleagues and friends, my course program associates and graduate teaching assistants, the instructional staff at the Centre for Teaching and Learning, and the Queen’s administration – all these people have in one way or another contributed to what I teach, and how I teach. And there’s one last all-important group – the students. Their enthusiasm and curiosity over the past 20-plus years have truly inspired me along this journey of mutual learning.”
Dedication to students
During his time at Queen’s, Dr. Grogan has won or been nominated for a number of teaching awards, including receiving the Biology Department Student Council Award of Excellence in Teaching in 2010-11 and 2021-22 and has been nominated multiple times for both the Frank Knox Excellence in Teaching and Barnes Teaching Awards. He is also a two-time recipient of the Biology Excellence in Teaching Award in 2012-13 and 2021-22, voted upon by other faculty members.
“Paul Grogan’s teaching practices, along with his ability to encourage and inspire others to be excellent teachers, make him an ideal recipient of the Chancellor A. Charles Baillie Teaching Award,” says John Pierce, Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning) and chair of the 2023 Chancellor A. Charles Baillie Teaching Award Adjudication Committee. “He has shown dedication to his students through innovative pedagogy, commitment to his department by providing educational leadership to his peers, and engagement in the support for curriculum development at Queen’s.”
Promoting progressive teaching practices
In the classroom and lecture hall, Dr. Grogan sees himself as a facilitator – providing guidance rather than lectures to classes; advising rather than supervising thesis students. His goal, he adds, is to facilitate deep learning – to move students beyond ‘being told what to do or memorize’ by helping them to develop their potential for critical thinking and independent learning. To achieve this, he engages students with a broad question or problem, focusses the theme down into a central foundational concept or mechanism, and then guides them to explore the implications of that concept or mechanism in a broader context, including making links to bigger ‘real world’ environmental and life issues.
“As I have noted several times in our annual/biannual reports, Dr. Grogan is the most reflective faculty member that we have, always seeking ways to improve his teaching and student experiences, incrementally and consistently,” says Brian Cumming, professor and head of the Department of Biology, in his nomination letter for his colleague, adding that Dr. Grogan uses innovation as a teaching practice and continues to educate himself in new ways of teaching.
“For example, Dr. Grogan was utilizing learning outcomes before they were required, encouraging active learning through problem-solving and breakout groups, and more uniquely, using contemplative practices in upper-year courses,” Dr. Cumming says.
During this past academic year Dr. Grogan created a guidance document on ‘Teaching practices to help promote Indigenization – Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, Accessibility, and Anti-Racism (I-EDIAA)’ to raise awareness and promote progressive teaching practices. The document provides guidance and resources specific for the Department of Biology but also more general guidelines to help all teachers integrate I-EDIAA practices into their curricula.
“Each time I stand up to speak in a big lecture course, or to lead a small seminar course discussion, I’m consciously aware that every member of my audience is a fellow human being deserving the very best I can offer,” he says
That awareness, Dr. Grogan explains, is his primary source of inspiration.
“I genuinely consider being a professor as an enormous privilege, and therefore that it confers on me a profound responsibility to continue striving to advance the quality and depth of the learning experiences I offer,” he says. “For me at this stage in my life, people and relationships are what matter most – and I’ve recently realised that teaching is a natural extension of that philosophy. The Chancellor A. Charles Baillie Teaching Award is a huge boost to my confidence and energy, and I hope for many more years on this wonderful journey.”
Note: This story originally appeared in the Queen's Gazette.