Professor Peter Sankoff Earns 2016 Brightspace Innovation Award in Teaching and Learning

Sankoff is the first professor from the University of Alberta to earn this prestigious international award.

Law Communications - 18 May 2016

The University of Alberta Faculty of Law is proud to congratulate our colleague, Professor Peter Sankoff, for earning the 2016 Brightspace Innovation Award in Teaching and Learning from the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE). Professor Sankoff is the first professor from the University of Alberta to earn this honour.

Established in 2012, the award - sponsored by software leader D2L - recognizes up to five post-secondary educators from around the world each year for their innovative approaches to student-centred teaching and learning. The award criteria stipulates that recipients must demonstrate a record of innovation in areas including pedagogical approaches, teaching methods, course design, curriculum development, assessment methods, and various tools or technologies that enhance learning and have had a significant impact on post-secondary education.

In the award announcement, Professor Sankoff was lauded for his "consistent willingness to explore the use of new techniques and technologies in a continuing effort to augment the learning experience for his students. His innovations include thoughtfully integrating technology and experiential learning to engage his students. Peter has fundamentally transformed what a traditional law class looks like by becoming the first Canadian law professor to use the flipped classroom model."

In his "flipped classroom", Professor Sankoff shifts lecture-based instruction to non-classroom time through the use of downloadable "capsules" of 15-25 minutes in length. After students watch the capsule and read assigned material, they arrive in class and are quizzed on their understanding of the material using online clickers (available through an online software program called Top Hat). Professor Sankoff addresses any misunderstandings before moving on to a series of problems that become more complex as class unfolds. Students are often assigned to argue the problems as Prosecutor / Defendant or Plaintiff / Defendant. In class "active learning" strategies are a key component of the flipped classroom.

"I am excited and honoured to have won this award," said Professor Sankoff. "Since coming to the University of Alberta, I've made it my mission to try and change the way in which I teach to better meet the needs of today's students. Not every innovation has worked, but it's gratifying to know that the effort has been recognized! I hope to continue trying to evolve my teaching methods, and thank the many students in the Faculty who have provided helpful comments and feedback encouraging me along the way. I also wish to thank the University of Alberta, which helped this process along through a Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund grant at the outset."

Professor Sankoff's commitment to innovation and teaching excellence within the Faculty of Law is well known. He is the recipient of numerous awards for his teaching and research, most recently the University of Alberta's Information Technology Innovation Award (2014) and the Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund Award (2013). In 2015, he was a nominee for Canadian Lawyer's Top 25 Most Influential Lawyers in Canada.

Professor Sankoff is also committed to making criminal law and the law of evidence accessible to students, lawyers, and the general public. His library of video lessons is available on his website.

"Peter Sankoff has been a leader in developing and implementing creative ways to harness technology to rethink the way in which law professors teach, and law students learn, both at the University of Alberta and indeed across Canada," said Faculty of Law Dean Paul Paton. "This sort of risk-taking isn't always rewarded in the academy, and it's been great to be able to support Peter's efforts and to see his initiatives garner the sort of recognition they deserve and this award provides."

Professor Sankoff and the four other award recipients will be honoured at the 2016 STLHE Annual Conference in London, Ontario in June, and at FUSION, Brightspace's global conference in Orlando, Florida in July.

For more information on the award, visit the STLHE website. The 2016 award announcement can be found here.