Lakehead University Alumni Magazine

Swimming in the Deep End

History Professor Bruce Strang is the 2008 recipient of Lakehead’s Distinguished Instructor Award

Frances Harding
Published April 22, 2009

LAKEHEAD UNIVERSITY DISTINGUISHED INSTRUCTORS

  • 1988 Penny Petrone
    Faculty of Education
  • 1989 Manfred Kehlenbeck
    Department of Geology
  • 1990 Peggy Tripp
    Department of Biology
  • 1991 S. Ali Mirza
    Department of Civil Engineering
  • 1992 W. G. Heath
    Department of English
  • 1993 Victor Smith
    Department of History
  • 1994 Darlene Steven
    School of Nursing
  • 1995 Inderjit Nirdosh
    Department of Chemical Engineering
  • 1996 Jane Taylor
    School of Kinesiology
  • 1998 Kim Fedderson
    Faculty of Social Sciences & Humanities; now Orillia Campus Dean
  • 1999 Ken Brown
    Faculty of Forestry & the Forest Environment
  • 2000 Rick Holmes
    Department of English
  • 2002 Tom Potter
    Outdoor Recreation, Parks & Tourism
  • 2003 J. Michael Richardson
    Department of English
  • 2004 Margaret McKee
    School of Social Work
  • 2005 Walter Epp
    Faculty of Education
  • 2006 Ulf Runesson
    Faculty of Forestry & the Forest Environment
  • 2007 Philip Fralick
    Department of Geology

This year's Distinguished Instructor knows what it is like to struggle as an undergraduate and to be inspired by an exceptional teacher.

Professor Bruce Strang dropped out of university before completing the fourth year of a grueling double major degree program in history and economics at the University of Winnipeg. He returned four years later to complete an Honours BA in History, and fortunately met an outstanding professor – Robert J. Young – who put him on course for a career in academia.

It was Bob Young who suggested that Strang pursue graduate work. When he enrolled in the Master's program at McMaster University to specialize in European History (and later in the PhD program at the same university), he vowed to take every opportunity to learn how to become an effective teacher at the university level.

The central tenet of Bruce Strang's teaching philosophy is to "emphasize deep rather than surface learning."  In surface learning students "typically reduce the material to a series of unconnected facts to be memorized. Rote memorization increases students' short-term knowledge, but this activity does not fundamentally change the learner."

The deep or transformational approach involves "students attempting to make sense of what they have learned." Students begin to "see things in a different light and develop new ways to understand and to process information. More importantly, they should have experienced a transformation in their learning abilities that they will be able to apply to other subjects."

Strang focuses on small group learning and the development of effective writing skills.  He values all of his students and derives the most satisfaction in helping each student realize his or her potential. Not surprisingly he garners rave reviews from his students and his name shows up regularly on Maclean's [magazine] "Most Popular Profs" list.

Vice-President (Academic) and Provost Laurie Hayes believes that Professor Bruce Strang embodies two of the key principles contained within the Lakehead Academic Plan: that every teacher is a researcher and every researcher is a teacher.  Bruce Strang's students, she says, attest to his passion for his subject matter, his sensitivity to students, his high expectations, and his awesome job of making History interesting.

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