Faculty Members

Dr. Lyn Sonnenberg

Associate Professor

Department of Pediatrics

Division of Developmental Pediatrics
    Contact details are for academic matters only.

About Me

Academic Appointments                                         

2009 – 2017           Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, U of A

July 2017 –            Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, U of A

July 2017 –            Adjunct Associate Professor, Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, U of A

September 2017 – Director, Academic Technologies, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, U of A

Clinical Appointments                                        

2017 – Present    Medial Lead, Infant Preschool Services, Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital

2014 – 2017          Medical Lead for 123Go!, an Early Assessment and Intervention Program, Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital

2007 – Present    Consultant Neurodevelopmental Pediatrician, Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital, Stollery Children’s Hospital

Post-Secondary Education

Master of Education in Health Science Education 

University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

September 2010 – August 2014 

Doctor of Medicine

McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

September 2000 – May 2003

Master of Science, Physiology

York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

September 1997 – December 1999

Honours Bachelor of Science, Biology, Magna cum Laude

Roberts Wesleyan College, Rochester, New York, United States of America

August 1993 – May 1996

Teaching Awards

Canadian Association for Medical Education (CAME) Certificate of Merit Award 2017 

To promote, recognize and reward faculty committed to medical education in Canadian medical schools. This nomination is put forward by faculty and residents at medical schools across Canada.

PARA Clinical Teaching Award of Excellence, 2015 

Since 1988, the Professional Association of Resident Physicians of Alberta (PARA) has presented an award to physician preceptors who have shown excellence in resident physician education. Each year, this Award of Excellence is given to a preceptor at the University of Alberta, the University of Calgary, and a rural site. The nomination is put forward by the residents and the award recipient is chosen by PARA. 

Dr. Keith J. Goulden Award for Teaching Excellence, 2013 

Conferred by the Developmental Pediatric Trainees, University of Alberta. 

Awarded to one physician annually, recognizing teaching excellence to Developmental Pediatric Subspecialty Residents and Clinical Fellows, while promoting dialogue about teaching excellence. 

Presentations - Invited

National / International

  1. Everything You Need to Know About Developmental Pediatrics to Pass Your Exam. Canadian Paediatric Review Program, February 2015, January 2016, January 2017.
  2. Preparing Your CV for Use throughout Your Pediatric Career. Canadian Paediatric Society Annual Meeting, Developmental Pediatrics Section, June 2015.
  3. Medical Ethics. Vanguard College, March 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017.
  4. Developmental Pediatrics. Canadian Comprehensive Review Course in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Edmonton, Alberta, February 2014.
  5. Does Limited Screen Time and Exercise Improve Behavioural, Neurocognitive, and Scholastic Performance in Children with ADHD?  Co-presented with Paul Thiessen, Canadian Pediatric Society Annual Meeting, June 2013.
  6. Advances in Autism: Strengthening the Front Lines.  Pediatric Grand Rounds, US Naval Hospital, Okinawa, Japan, April 2010.

National / International

  1. Selecting the Ideal Electronic Portfolio Platform for PGME Residency Programs. International Conference on Residency Education (ICRE), October 2014.
  2. Twitter for the Busy Pediatrician, Canadian Pediatric Society Annual Meeting, June 2015.
  3. Creating an Electronic Portfolio from Start to Finish, International Conference on Residency Education (ICRE), October 2015.
  4. Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) Use in the Management of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD): the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly! Canadian Pediatric Society Annual Meeting, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, June 2016


The purpose of education is not about giving one the answers; rather, it is about asking one the right questions.  An educator is a guide—one who has gone before, made and learned from mistakes and wishes to aid others in the journey of discovery.

I used to believe that education was about acquiring and imparting knowledge.  However, the more time I have spent accumulating knowledge, the more I realize that the old cliché is true: it is not about the destination; it is about the journey. The role, then, of the adult educator is just that—a guide to help along that journey.  Directing and encouraging the learner is a key role for the educator, having gone before on a similar journey, but not necessarily the same journey, into discovery.  The role of the adult learner, in keeping with the same premise, is not to amass a large sum of knowledge; it is to journey alongside other learners—learning from the experiences of others in an attempt to glean help along the way toward the goal.  Although it is important to have a clear goal to pursue, there must remain the need to be flexible in the path one takes to get to that destination. The beauty is that the destination is often not where the learner expected to go; it is often richer and more rewarding. The joy of partnering an adult educator with a learner is that you get to arrive there together. Dewey put it best when he said 100 years ago, “the teacher is the learner, and the learner is, without knowing it, a teacher, and upon the whole the less consciousness there is, on either side of either giving or receiving instruction, the better” (Dewey, 1916).

The differences among adult learners stem from the background experiences each one brings to the “classroom”.  Although we are all in the same class together, our destinations and motivations are all vastly different, in keeping with Knowles’ assumption that experience provides the basis for learning activities (Knowles, 1970, p. 45). Our learning styles and expectations are also diverse.  Bringing this set of experiences together creates a richer environment from which to learn. The adult educator must provide a common point from which we all start together, despite the varied background of each learner. It is from this point that our joint path diverges and our individual journeys commence—trains on the same set of tracks, each with a different heading and destination. Yet there is commonality as each learner must achieve a similar level of competency across the whole of learning.

From a young age, I wanted to be an educator.  And now that I am an educator, I realize that I have much more to learn. Thankfully, I am surrounded by passionate educators and those who value education as much as I do.  Pursuing my Master of Education in Health Sciences Education at the University of Alberta has already provided me with a rich resource from which to further develop my adult learner expertise.  I believe the purpose of higher education is to guide the learner through the journey of learning. The role of the University is to provide the infrastructure and a supportive and stimulating environment. The learner needs to be open, committed, active in participation and reflective in order to optimize the learning experience.  

My purpose as an educator is to strive to ensure that the core content is mastered. To do that, my role needs to be that of partner and guide, providing relevancy to the material and giving feedback to the learner. I choose to edify my learners and provide them with a safe and positive space in which they can learn.  By living authentically to who I am, and modeling competency, my goal is that learners will be able to see me as a role model for their careers in medicine.

Having been educated in liberal arts and progressive settings personally, I have been shaped by those experiences. I believe that Essentialism needs to be present; the core of curriculum needs to be essential knowledge.  As Lawson put it in 1975, “the task of the teacher in adult education is to make choices about those things that are educationally worthwhile”. It is often difficult for learners to know what they need to know, not having yet experienced the reality of working as an independent clinician.  I like how the educator, William Bagley, put it.  “Gripping and enduring interests frequently, and in respect of the higher interests almost always, grow out of initial learning efforts that are not intrinsically appealing or attractive” (Bagley, 1941).

However, the Existential piece cannot be undermined. There is a need to focus on the Humanistic side of development within our learners and foster the intrinsic desire to grow and attain all that one can be.  Existentialism is about development of the whole person.  Elias and Merriam describe this approach best by stating that “the student is the center of the process, the teacher is a facilitator, and learning is by discovery.  The student is free to learn what he or she wants to learn and in a manner desired by the learner” (2005, p. 124). This educational approach is embraced at the University of Alberta, particularly in the undergraduate medical education program and reaches into postgraduate medical education as well.  Elias and Merriam go on to say, “learners are encouraged to bring all their uniqueness to a situation or problem, grapple with it, and in so doing discover or learn whatever is most meaningful.  Learning through experimentation and discovery is that learning which will become a part of the person” (2005, p. 128).

My educational balance lies in between these two approaches and my teaching philosophy most emulates that of Progressivism, where learner and educator each play an active role in the learning process. The subject material is important for ensuring medical competency; however, the learners are highly involved in determining where their learning needs lie and how they wish to achieve them, remembering that learners come with differing backgrounds and abilities.  Clinical problems and challenges need to be solved by reflection in order to provide the appropriate context for retention and the ability to apply the knowledge learned to other settings. The Social Development philosopher, Lev Vygotsky, speaks of a ‘zone of proximal development’ (1978). It is my role to correctly identify where learners fall within that zone and help guide them toward independence and confidence within themselves, all the while, ensuring that the content is mastered.  It is within this educational theory that the “educator contends that if the mind is educated, then the person will be able to apply this knowledge to any number of areas.  Skills are more easily learned through experience, and, when an intelligently formed mind gains in experience, it can acquire the skills needed for particular situations” (Elias & Merriam, 2005, p. 35).  As a bedside teacher, I daily model this form of apprenticeship, uniting the real world experience with the knowledge needed from the curriculum.  However, the learner still takes precedence over the subject material.  I like how Lindeman expresses this concept in his thesis, The Democratic Man, “the teacher… is no longer the oracle who speaks from the platform of authority, but rather the guide, the pointer-out, who also participates in learning in proportion to the vitality and relevancy of his facts and experiences” (1956).

And finally, the primary lens that I use in analysing the needs around me is that of a compassionate Christian worldview.  Ideally, seeing and responding the way I would expect Jesus Christ to would be my ultimate goal.  Treating others the way I wish to be treated—a universal golden rule seen in nearly all religions around the world, is a key guiding principal in my life and the principal I wish to pass down to my children and fellow learners and educators alike.  I am excited to have arrived here at the University of Alberta and to work with a dedicated faculty and student body, but I am more interested to see where this journey takes us!



My current area of research is a national validation of a conceptual framework for the roles in required in academic technologies.  This is a collaborative project with the University of Ottawa with a modified delphi study soon to be rolled out across the country to those active in the field of academic technology.  The conceptual framework model is published here, in MedEdPublish.  

The focus of my educational research is on the evaluation of Interprofessional Collaboration and Communication as core competencies in medical education.  Currently, no assessment tool exists for Interprofessional Clinician assessment of learners.  My Master of Education’s training helped me to lay the groundwork for the development and evaluation of this tool. In 2013, I received competitive funding ($23, 492) from the Provost’s Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund (TLEF) Grant for this work (the sole FoMD recipient of the TLEF Grant awarded that year), and then presented the results at the International Conference on Residency Education (ICRE) in 2014.  A manuscript, Assessment of Resident Physicians’ Communicator and Collaborator Competencies by Interprofessional Clinicians: A mixed methods studyhas recently been published in Teaching and Learning in Medicine (TLM).  

My goal of strengthening research mentorship for the Developmental Pediatrics residency program has been realized through formal and informal mentoring of all the Developmental Pediatrics Residents. These efforts have resulted in a WCHRI trainee grant and an accepted publication on the Emotional Intelligence of Pediatric Residents, in the Canadian Medical Education Journal as the senior author, with my trainee as the first author.  Another of my trainees presented a poster with me at the International Association for Medical Education in Europe (AMEE) focused on research of the “Training Needs for Developmental Pediatrics in Saudi Arabia”.   Additionally, I sit on a PhD Candidacy Examination Committee in the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, and I am an ad-hoc reviewer for clinical and educational journals.  

Research Keywords

Conceptual Framework, Educational Technology, Emotional Intelligence, multi-source evaluation, assessment, Communicator,, Physician-Patient Relationship, Professional Identity, Resident, Roles and Competencies, Validation Study