Lee Gass (1999)

gassAffiliation at the time of the award: University of British Columbia, Zoology.

Citation: Lee Gass joined the Zoology Department at the University of British Columbia in 1974, after ten years of teaching in high schools and colleges. From the beginning, he taught by inquiry and mentored his colleagues on increasing participation by students. He was instrumental in developing the Science One Program, an honours level, interdisciplinary first year program at UBC. He taught in the Program for three years, setting the standard for excellence in team-teaching an integrated curriculum in all of Science. This approach has spread to several other new programs in the Faculty of Science. Lee collaboratively designed and delivered the first integration course, “the sizes of things” in a new Integrated Sciences degree program, launched in 1998. The program allows students to design their own degree programs by selecting existing disciplinary courses and taking three upper level courses that explicitly cut across disciplines. In these courses, students learn how to integrate information through self-directed learning with problem-based classroom activities, group projects and presentations. Also collaboratively, Lee created Science First!, an independent lecture series for undergraduates in which scientists tell the story of their life work without “teaching” the students anything. Since Lee gave the first Science First! lectures in 1996 and1997, this series has attracted large and diverse audiences of students, graduate students, and faculty.

In the last three years, Lee has visited several universities in the United States and Singapore to talk about educational innovations at UBC, to teach in programs there, and to help teachers and administrators design and implement integrated programs that suit each university’s own needs. Lee has been actively involved in peer consultation and program development across the Biology program at UBC.

Lee is a gifted teacher with a brilliant and incisive approach that invites students to engage in the joy of learning. His unique teaching style combines narrative and story telling with lecturing and Socratic questioning; it builds students’ trust and self-confidence and leads them into deep analysis of the course material and the learning process. In April of this year, he was awarded the University’s Killam Prize for Excellence in Teaching.