After graduating from the University of Lethbridge in 2004 with a combined Bachelor of Science and the Bachelor of Education degree, Lisa Patten settled in as an assistant principal in Calgary. At the time, it appeared to be the culmination of an educational journey that began in 1999 at the U of L, and continued as Patten travelled across the ocean to teach in England.

It was during her time in Calgary when Patten decided to strengthen her own learning by pursuing a Master of Education degree. Returning to the Faculty of Education was an easy decision, as during her undergraduate work, Patten appreciated the opportunities to grow as a learner and educator.

My experiences were meaningful and worthwhile and I felt prepared for a career in teaching upon graduating."

"My memories had established the U of L as a welcoming, close-knit community with a strong focus on lifelong learning. In 2015, I continued my own learning journey by joining the Faculty of Education's graduate studies' Curriculum and Assessment program,” says Patten.

While engaging in graduate courses, it became evident further pursuing some of the curriculum and assessment topics she had been researching was an important path to explore. Through consultation with several Education instructors, namely Drs. Sharon Pelech, Amy Von Heyking and David Slomp, Patten was able to determine continuing her degree through the thesis route would be the best path.

“I appreciated their support and guidance in the decision, as it was one I did not take lightly. Over the past few years, I have been conducting my own research, exploring students' perspectives of place-based learning. In March of 2021, I successfully defended my thesis, which completed my MEd degree.”

Why did you choose to become a teacher?
Although it sounds cliché, I have wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember. Looking through the memory book that still sits on the shelf in my parents' home, 'teacher' had been selected as my profession of choice every year since I was in Kindergarten. Playing school with my sisters, babysitting for the neighbourhood kids and having the opportunity to be a camp counsellor only further solidified my choice to pursue a career centred on working with children.

I feel fortunate to have found a profession that feels so much a part of who I am. It is my belief lifelong learning is one of the most important aspects of our lives. I am passionate about helping students find a love of learning and continue their own journey as lifelong learners. It is a privilege to be part of something as powerful as watching the mind of a young child learn and grow. Witnessing those special moments when a student makes connections in their learning is one powerful reminder of just how rewarding it is to be in a career that allows us to build those experiences for students each and every day.

What was your most memorable experience in the Curriculum and Assessment program?  
Although, I could probably write another thesis centred around all the memorable experiences I have had throughout my time at the U of L, perhaps what has left the most lasting impression was the opportunity to immerse myself fully within my learning. All too often we are overcome by the day-to-day work that needs to be done. While engaged in my graduate work, I was so grateful for the time and space to converse with others and reflect on important topics of teaching and learning. These moments in time are truly the most memorable of my experiences.

What is the most important lesson you learned from your MEd experience?
Continue to have the important conversations that help you to find purpose and meaning in your own learning journey. Take the time to find critical friends who are willing to ask the hard questions and broach tough subjects to assist in continually discovering what is important to you. These relationships will be key to your success. In my journey as a learner, teacher and assistant principal of a school, I am continually reminded of the importance of stopping and reflecting through meaningful conversations with others.

Is there someone specific who had an important influence on your Graduate Studies experience?
I feel so fortunate to have had the pleasure of working alongside several U of L professors in my career, each providing me with a different perspective on teaching and learning. However, my thesis committee members have had a profound influence on my graduate studies experience. My thesis supervisor, Dr. Sharon Pelech, continually offered her curiosity and thoughtful questions during my thesis work, allowing me to uncover and explore new ideas I had not initially contemplated. Her passion and commitment to continuing important conversations about meaningful curriculum for students provided me a sense of direction and purpose for my own curriculum journey. Additionally, Drs. Amy von Heyking and Dawn Burleigh, my committee members, shared thoughtful provocations that pushed me to continue to explore a variety of perspectives in my research. While these professors provided me with the support and encouragement I needed for my own educational journey, it was also a reminder to continually consider how I provide thoughtful questions and provocations to my own students and colleagues to uncover and explore new perspectives in teaching and learning.  

What advice would you give to those who are about to begin their graduate studies journey?
The importance of taking risks would be first. Over the past few years, I have had several colleagues inquire about starting their own MEd journey. My advice has always been: you have nothing to lose and everything to gain! I am a firm believer there is always a reason why it is not the right time to start something. Instead, it is important to take chances as they arise. You never know what you might discover about yourself in the process.

Second, and possibly the most important, is to continue to critically reflect on your own practice. It is through reflection we are able to see things anew and make changes that can profoundly impact the next steps in all aspects of our lives. In my opinion, reflection is the important skill an educator has at their disposal.  

How did you arrive at your thesis topic, and what drew you to that particular type of research, which had never been done before?
My MEd focus was curriculum and assessment, a topic I have always been passionate about. Throughout my course-based work, I began to more deeply explore place-based learning, a pedagogy which has arisen out of a desire to reconnect and reengage students with their world by engaging in experiences within a local context. I was deeply connected to this topic, as I had always focused my teaching and learning through exploring the places outside the four walls of the school. Place-based education places emphasis on learning that connects students with their local surroundings. This includes exploring the natural community and working with community members. Some examples of place-based learning include cleaning up a natural area, working with community members to design a new park, creating a community garden and educating the community about the purposes behind the local storm pond.

One of the goals of place-based learning is for students to develop a sense of place. Place-based experiences are thought to positively impact a student’s sense of place, which, as a result, cause them to care for and take action in their local communities. When students choose to actively participate in problem solving within a local context, they also demonstrate engagement in topics they are studying. These topics are more meaningful to students as a result, and allow further engagement in their own learning.

Through investigating the current literature, it became evident little research on the topic of sense of place and place-based learning had been completed from the perspective of the students. Considering the importance of student perception on engagement in learning and the relevancy of the topics they were learning about, this became an important topic to further investigate.

After my exploration of the topic, I decided to pursue a thesis with the intent of garnering a strengthened understanding of how students engage in place-based experiences and the potential impact place-based experiences have on sense of place and engagement of students. The focus of my thesis was to engage with two questions: How do place-based experiences cultivate a child’s sense of place? How do place-based experiences impact student engagement? Through interviewing and observing students engaging in place-based learning, I was able to offer further perspectives and understanding of the place-based learning and sense of place from the perspective of students themselves.

To link to Lisa's thesis, "Connecting in the Coulee: A Hermeneutic Study of Young Children’s Place-based Experiences" please visit here.

Writer: Lisa Patten and Garrett Simmons
Photo/Video: Lisa Patten

Why become a teacher? Who inspired? What lessons learned? Here are some voices from the Class of 2021 as well as a message from Dr. Robin Bright, Interim Dean Faculty of Education:
Congratulations to the Class of 2021 from the Faculty of Education
Shlomo Swan-Azmon (BSc '17, BEd '21)
Brad Aldridge (BSc '18, BEd '21)
Sara Bieniada (BMgt/BEd ‘21)
Ashley Hoisington (BA/BEd ‘21)
Dominique Point du Jour (BEd '21)

We'd also like to take this time to congratulate our annual award recipients. You may find their stories here:
• Faculty of Education Gold Medal: Lacey Rose (BEd ‘21)
• Alberta Teachers' Association William Aberhart Award: Sophia Larney (BEd ‘21)
• Faculty of Education Grad Studies Medal of Merit: Kathryn Desrochers (BSc/BEd ’13, MEd ’21)

Convocation 2021 Celebration Centre

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