Trent University is pleased to announce that Dr. Craig Brunetti, a full professor in the Department of Biology, has been named the 2013 recipient of the Award for Educational Leadership and Innovation.
Professor Brunetti joined the Department of Biology at Trent University in 2003. He is a biologist whose research focusses on how viruses interact with their host in an effort to understand how viruses cause disease and to develop better ways to treat viral infections.
In receiving this award, Prof. Brunetti is recognized for the “distinctive contribution he has made to the undergraduate Biology program at Trent,” explains Dr. Gary Boire, provost and vice-president Academic. “He is praised for his development of innovative teaching methods aimed at better engaging students in large classes, his insight in helping to develop a policy on social media in course delivery, and his unfailing commitment to excellence in teaching through sharing his experiences with faculty colleagues and through presentations to the Board of Governors.”
Central to Prof. Brunetti’s approach to teaching, is his philosophy of integrating learning activities into the everyday life of his students so that their learning doesn’t stop at the end of the lecture period. He is always looking for ways to push the boundaries between what is done in the classroom and what is done outside of the classroom. He achieves this goal in many ways. “In essence, Craig strives to interact with students using the media that they are familiar with,” explains a colleague. “To address these challenges, he has utilized social media tools such as Facebook and twitter to increase student engagement. Craig also used a Wiki site as a part of a group class project where students worked in groups collaboratively.”
Another way Prof. Brunetti achieves the goal of extending student learning beyond the 50-minute lecture is to provide students with videos to watch that expand and enhance the material that is covered in class, which encourages them to continue thinking about biological concepts outside of class. This past fall, in his fourth-year course, Prof. Brunetti developed a quick system for podcasting his lectures by providing audio narration over a movie of his lecture slides. In working collaboratively with members of Trent’s Information Technology department, they were able to identify an add-on feature to the Panopto lecture capture called Unison, which enables seamless video uploads to the Blackboard Learning System. His efforts do not go unnoticed by his students, who are appreciative of his innovative nature: “He puts so much effort in making videos of all the lectures to support his students,” explains a nominator. “These videos allow a critical second look on topics that may not be understood the first time.”
Prof. Brunetti is also praised for his non-technological approaches to teaching. He is described as a professor who has shown “an interest in the educational well-being of his students.” His students appreciate “the use of every day viral-related illnesses to emphasize the characteristics of the virus, plus giving case studies and treatments,” his “use of documentaries, diagrams, tables and pictures to illustrate concepts,” and the “infusion of research into his teaching.” Another way he enhances student learning is “by telling stories that that give us insight into ourselves,” explains Prof. Brunetti. “For example, in my first-year biology class rather than explain how small changes in a person’s DNA can lead to differences between humans, I instead talk about how blue versus brown eye colour forms in humans. By making the material personal, I think it makes the material more relevant for the students.”
In learning about this award recognition, Prof. Brunetti commented: “I am very pleased to be given this honour. When I joined Trent I had very little teaching experience, but at Trent, I found a tremendous community of people who were dedicated to innovation in learning and teaching excellence. It is the passion of the faculty, staff, and students here at Trent that continues to inspire and motivate me to create the best learning environment I can for my students. Trent offers a number of wonderful resources that are designed to help in-course delivery, including the Disability Services Office and all the amazing people in Information Technology. Finally, the Instructional Development Centre always provides a number of thought-provoking seminars each year that highlight what is going on in the Trent community as well as broader educational trends.”
Prof. Brunetti will be among four teaching-award recipients recognized at a special reception celebrating Trent’s teaching excellence on Thursday, March 21, 2013 from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Alumni House in Champlain College. Presentations will begin at 6:45 p.m. All are welcome.
To learn more about Trent’s teaching excellence visit: www.trentu.ca/teaching