Making Learning Experience Accessible For Students

Dan Bousfield, 2017 recipient of the Marilyn Robinson Award for Excellence in Teaching at Western

Dan Bousfield says he tries “to meet the students where they are.”

Bousfield is the 2017 recipient of the Marilyn Robinson Award for Excellence in Teaching at Western.

Bousfield’s aim is to make the learning experience more accessible for his students. It’s this approach that leads the assistant professor in Political Science to always be experimenting with the use of technology and social media in his classes.

He also aims to make lessons applicable for students. For the past six years, Bousfield has focused on community engaged learning, working with the Student Success Centre. Bousfield thinks this is important to give students skills and engagement they may not otherwise get in a university setting.

Bousfield tries to approach his subject matter through shared interests with his students, bringing in what he describes as “found objects” – such as social media and pop culture - to engage the students.

“If I don’t find it interesting, I don’t know how students will find it interesting.”

This includes videos from YouTube to provide introductions to theoretical concepts, using Facebook, Twitter and wikis to provide platforms for ongoing discussion, or recording lectures via Periscope. He records his classes so students do not have to focus on taking notes, and can instead engage with the materials during class.

Bousfield says bringing technology into the classroom is never intended to make more work for the students, and is never required.

“All the technology use is optional. If it’s required, the tech becomes too onerous,” said Bousfield.

As technology, and the way people use it, changes, so too does Bousfield’s approach to technology in the classroom.

“I think it is my job to figure out tech for them and they decide whether they want to use it.”

The Marilyn Robinson Award for Excellence in Teaching at Western. recognizes a continuing member of full-time faculty who is appointed either as Limited Term or Probationary at Western or at an Affiliated University College, and who usually has seven years or less of full-time university teaching experience at the time of his or her nomination.

“It’s nice to be recognized,” said Bousfield, “but I don’t do it for that. I do it because I find it interesting and I hope the students find it interesting as well.”