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Problem Solving & Critical Thinking ‑ with New Twists (Mike Smit)

Posted by SIM on November 23, 2017 in News

Smit, Mike

SIM Associate Professor, and Acting Associate Dean-Research for the Faculty of Management, Dr. Mike Smit, was profiled today in Dal News. He was awarded the Early Career Faculty Award of Excellence earlier this year, which is one of Dal’s top teaching accolades. In fact, SIM professors won three of the eight awards! We are very proud of our faculty here at SIM.

Sample from Dal News (read the full story here):

One group of students receives a set of instructions, the other a container of LEGO pieces. Together, they must work to build a structure. The only catch: they are in different rooms.

“People have to communicate how to build their thing online,” says Information Management professor Mike Smit, explaining one of the activities he uses to teach the concepts of teamwork and online communication.

While building LEGO using only instructions from people you can’t talk to in person may sound frustrating, Dr. Smit says students tend to thrive and show genuine understanding when put in such situations. “There’s a kind of a language that develops” between the groups of students, he says.

It’s the kind of interactive experience that stays with students, motivating them to learn and engage with the material. And it’s just the sort of critical approach to the classroom that landed Dr. Smit Dal’s Early Career Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching earlier this year.

An original style

Dr. Smit’s original approach extends to even the most basic building blocks of university courses: textbooks, readings, and essays.

He says being explicit about explaining what you’re doing and why (say, what course materials you’ve chosen and what assignments you’ve presented) helps impart the concept of teaching critical thinking — a key aspect of the university experience.

“I spend a lot of time talking about ‘why did I choose this textbook?’ ‘why is this assignment done this way?’” says Dr. Smit, who joined Dal as an assistant professor in 2013 and teaches master’s-level courses. “I think it’s important for them to see that students don’t do things because Mike Smit said so.”