International Development Studies
- Symons Award for Excellence in Teaching (2009-10)
Prof. Shaffer joined the Department of International Development Studies in January 2007 as an Assistant Professor. He teaches “International Development Studies in an Economic Context” (a third year course) and “Advanced Topics in Development Theory and Research” (a fourth year course). In addition to his undergraduate teaching, Prof. Shaffer is the Director of the Trent-in-Ghana Program, a position he has held since September 2008, and a faculty advisor to the annual SAID Conference, organized by students in the International Development Studies program.
His research interests include interdisciplinary poverty analysis, methodological pluralism, poverty reduction strategies, gender and poverty, impact assessment and monitoring of development programs and policies, political economy of development, development economics.
This award recognizes Prof. Shaffer for his teaching, mentoring and support of students in the International Development Studies Program at Trent University. The nominations refer to his respectful, encouraging and generous attitude, his commitment to ensuring an accessible learning environment, his innovative and effective approach to teaching, and his use of humour to help relieve the stress in learning to what some students feel are difficult topics.
In response to hearing the news of the award recognizing his colleague, Prof. Haroon Akram-Lodhi, the Chair of the International Development Studies Program commented: "Professor Paul Shaffer is without doubt one of the most accomplished teachers that I have met in more than 20 years of teaching. Engaged, accessible, and capable of enabling students to be the best that they can be, he personifies the Department of International Development Studies at its best. I am not surprised that he has received the 2010 Symons Award for Excellence in Teaching; I am only surprised that it has taken so long!"
In speaking to his effective pedagogical approach, one nominator commented: "When teaching something particularly theoretical or difficult to understand, he commonly takes a ‘What the haul!?’ break and asks the students to help explain the concept to him in what he calls ‘human speak’ without development or academic jargon. As a student, I cannot stress enough how helpful Paul’s ‘What the haul!?’ moments are. Lectures can be so intimidating, professors can use jargon that even as fourth year university students we are not familiar with, and these moments really do make me feel like it’s okay not to know everything. These moments, while light hearted and often funny, demonstrate Paul’s sincere desire to ensure that his students are actually understanding the material and grounding them in real life examples. I come out of every lecture knowing more because of Paul’s very down to earth way of teaching."
Another nominator commented: “Professor Shaffer is an economist by training, and his goal in his teaching is to make the language of economics accessible, and help students understand the application of economics to the real world, and in the context of the entire world, not simply our Western enclave.”
It is clear that students are deeply impacted by their experiences with Prof. Shaffer. “It is because of his approachable character, respect for his students and dedication to see them succeed that makes him an outstanding teacher,” explains one of his nominators. “At Trent University students learn to make a world of difference, and Paul has facilitated this learning process for me and many other students both in and outside of the classroom. In many ways, Paul Shaffer has made a world of difference in our university education.”
In learning about this award recognition, Prof. Shaffer commented: “I am very fortunate to have great students and excellent colleagues who share this award.”
Prof. Shaffer received his B.A. from the University of British Columbia, his M.A. from the University of Toronto, and his D.Phil. from Sussex University.