Dr. Sean Maw joined the USask College of Engineering in 2014. (Photo: Submitted)

Maw honoured with Celebration of Teaching Award

Dr. Sean Maw is the College of Engineering's 2019-20 winner of the Provost's College Award for Outstanding Teaching.

By Donella Hoffman

Tireless. Passionate. Visionary. A dreamer and an optimist.

These were just some of the words used to describe Prof. Sean Maw, the University of Saskatchewan (USask) College of Engineering’s 2019-2020 winner of the Provost’s College Award for Outstanding Teaching.

"From the moment Dr. Maw joined the Graham School of Professional Development (SoPD) in July 2014, he has invigorated our school with his visionary thinking, his almost boundless energy, his excitement for teaching and his sincere and deep commitment to students,” wrote Deb Rolfes, director of the SoPD and one of Maw's nominators.

Maw is the Jerry G. Huff Chair in Innovative Teaching and an associate professor in the SoPD. He currently teaches first-year general engineering courses in statics and mechanics, as well as upper-year design courses.

"He is very passionate about exploring new ways to help students learn and to understand their learning," wrote Ryan Banow, educational development specialist in the Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching and Learning.

He points to Maw leading the development of TrussVR, virtual reality software that helps students better learn how trusses work. Maw also helped create the Virtual Reality Teaching and Cloud-based Learning (ViRTCL) lab in the Engineering Building.

Maw also leads the multi-disciplinary Innovative Teaching and Research in Engineering Education Group (inTREEg), which meets weekly to discuss issues around teaching and learning.

Nominators also highlighted that Maw is the driving force behind the College of Engineering's years-long initiative to redesign its first-year engineering program. Joel Frey, Maw's co-lead on the project, says that daring to reimagine the program highlights Maw's key trait.

"He has the courage to do what is best for students and put in the work necessary to see it done right."

Maw's involvement in the project has also spotlighted his commitment to better assessment, as he advocated for the adoption of competency-based assessment in the redesigned program, Frey said.

The goal "is for students to be assessed fairly based on their competence in certain skills and not in how they perform in relation to their peers," according to Banow.

While Maw's passion for teaching is noted by his nominators, they place as much focus on his commitment to his students.

"I am constantly astounded by his ability to set aside his busy-ness to devote his full attention to students, and he will work with them for as long as it takes for them to discover their own mastery of the material with which they are struggling. . . . Sean has sincere and deep regard for each student," wrote Rolfes.

Fourth-year engineering student Andrew te Linde, who took one of Maw's first-year engineering courses and has worked as his research assistant, said Maw seeks to make personal connections with his students.

"His ability to guide students in a humble and authentic manner sets him apart from other educators and helps his students reach their full potential," he said in his nomination document.

Maw says his teaching philosophy is based on three principles: rigor, fairness and good coaching.

Students "will hopefully enjoy the sensation or feeling of truly understanding something or applying knowledge to solve a problem," he writes in his statement of teaching philosophy. "And they will hopefully learn to be confident in not only their knowledge and skills, but also in their ability to acquire knowledge and skills on their own."