By Levi Garber, Master of Journalism student
When Political Science Professor Mira Sucharov began her teaching career in 2001, her lectures tended to be carefully scripted. Once PowerPoint became available, she embraced that as another way to deliver a well-planned lecture.
But eventually, she decided to release some of the control she held over the outcome of a class.
“I decided to treat the classroom as a much more live and unpredictable learning environment where we’re all on a learning journey together,” she explains. “We’re creating a real conversation between me and the students.”
Professor Sucharov was also one of the first professors in the Faculty of Public Affairs to employ blended learning: a mix of classroom discussion, online research and other assigned materials, such as op-ed pieces, graphic novels, films and traditional readings.
Professor Sucharov’s willingness to take risks in the classroom was one of the reasons she was recently recognized with the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) Teaching Award, the highest honour for post-secondary teachers in Ontario.
The confederation acknowledged her work in three areas:
New curricular offerings: Professor Sucharov introduced a course on graphic novels and political identity as well as one on political opinion writing. She is passionate about helping scholars and students master the op-ed form and is in the process of writing a book on the subject for University of Toronto Press.
Tackling challenging subjects in the classroom: Professor Sucharov helps students bridge politics by encouraging discussion of controversies in the classroom as opposed to “checking” political commitments at the door. She says this is evident in her evolving approach to teaching Israeli-Palestinian relations.
Whole student approach: Professor Sucharov pays attention to teaching the “whole student” through a particular focus on mental health and wellness.
Before pocketing the OCUFA award, Professor Sucharov also received a Carleton University Teaching Award in 2004, a Provost Fellowship in Teaching in 2011 and a Faculty of Public Affairs Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2015.
Moving forward, Professor Sucharov is working with a new teaching mentorship program at Carleton that encourages other instructors to become more creative with their teaching.
“I’ve tried to not only lead by example, but also create opportunities for my peers to come together to reflect on our teaching practices, learn new things and expand on them with the help of resident teaching experts at Carleton,” Professor Sucharov says about the new gig, which is offered through the university’s Educational Development Centre.
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