Roger Beck (1986)

86-beckAffiliation at the time of the award: University of Alberta, Marketing Economic Analysis.

Citation: Dr. Beck is an outstanding classroom teacher at both the undergraduate and graduate levels who is considered by his students and peers to be among the first rank of teaching talent at the University of Alberta. He has devoted considerable effort to improving teaching at the University through the peer consultation process and has developed innovative classroom material and testing devices. For a number of years he devoted a great deal of research effort to the development of teaching materials designed to stimulate analytical economic thinking on current business and policy issues.

  • “Student and peer evaluations place him in the first rank of teaching talent”
  • Efforts to improve the teaching of others through a peer consultation process
  • Innovative materials to teach analytical economic thinking

Teaching Awards Since 1986

  • Labbat’s Award for Distinguished Teaching in the MBA/MPM Program, Faculty of Business, 1991.
  • Labbat’s Award for Teaching Excellence, Bachelor of Commerce Program, Faculty of Business, 1992.

Early and Continuing Impact of Selection as 3M Teaching Fellow

The Vice-President, Academic and the Alma Mater Fund recognized my selection as a 3M Teaching Fellow by providing $13,000 for the University of Alberta Inventory and Plan for Teaching Effectiveness. Dr. Christopher Knapper, currently Director, Instructional Development Centre, Queen’s University, completed the research and submitted the report in November 1988. A Core Group at the University of Alberta, which I coordinated, assisted Dr. Knapper. The goals were to identify the initiatives already taken to enhance teaching effectiveness here, and to learn from other universities. Our process raised consciousness about teaching and learning issues. It is hard to trace specific effects, except for the Board of Governors’ establishment of a fund to support innovation in teaching and learning, which disburses approximately $50,000 annually.

The 3M Montebello experience taught me that lecturing was not enough – students need to take more responsibility for their own learning and become independent learners. I edged in that direction with small changes until 1992, when – suddenly – my managerial economics class no longer worked. Students were not happy with the learning environment, and I began careful collection of data to define the problem. I requested a peer consultation, hired an unusually astute graduate student to provide a studen perspective on my course, listened actively to a student who had a problem-based learning background, and designed and administered a questionnaire to the class. Discussions with colleagues also were helpful. Careful analysis of these data led me to the following conclusions:

  1. Grade competition interfered with learning.
  2. Students were coming to class unprepared because I was lecturing.
  3. The textbook presented abstractions first and applications second.
  4. Students were overloaded.

The course was transformed to deal with these problems. A new text introduces theory after presenting a context. Students come to class having mastered the basics in the text and prove it in the first 20 minutes by achieving at least 80% on a multiple choice quiz (anyone who doesn’t completes the chapter’s learning by submitting a written analysis of the questions they missed). Mastering the basics throughout the term earns a grade of 6 (9 point system). The class then assembles in groups of five to share the one-page example each has written illustrating a concept from the chapter, and to solve problems from the text. Assembling the whole class again, the examples chosen to represent each group are explained to the class; then randomly chosen students explain their group’s answer to the problems. Students who contribute satisfactorily to group learning and have mastered the basics receive a grade of 7. Students who volunteer and successfully solve a difficult problem that requires extending the basics may earn an 8 or 9. I continue to develop this teaching and learning model inspired by my experience as a 3M Fellow.