By Heidi Wicks |
Nov. 28, 2007
The Canadian Council of Learning recently named Dr. Dale Kirby of Memorial’s Faculty of Education a Minerva Scholar. Dr. Kirby teaches in both the bachelor of education (post-secondary studies) and master of education (post-secondary studies) programs.
The tremendous acclaim will send Dr. Kirby across the country this February and March to deliver lectures on his research. The Minerva Lecture series was created to foster discussion between Canadian learning researchers and citizens from across the country, and is a unique opportunity to understand how research can inform and affect learning for all Canadians at various stages and from all walks of life.
“I think it’s important for academics to bridge the ivory tower/real world divide and reach out to people outside of the immediate academic community,” said Dr. Kirby, “Certainly if you look at the CURA (Community University Research Alliance) research, it’s an embodiment of the whole Wisconsin idea of bringing academic research and the work of academics to the general public.”
Why is Dr. Kirby’s research relevant to the man who works at Belbin’s, or the lady who answers the phone at Macdonald Drive Elementary School?
“I’m primarily interested in the barriers that exist to further education for Canadians,” he explained.
Though today he is an acclaimed scholar, Dr. Kirby doesn’t forget his days as a student activist, where he enthusiastically (he’s a self-professed former rebel) argued that financial blockades were the main deterrent from gaining post-secondary education.
He recognizes more than just a financial obstruction in today’s educational barriers.
“The institutional, situational, dispositional and academic barriers, what they are and why they are barriers for certain groups in Canadian society,” he identified as some of the areas in which he is interested.
"What we can do to encourage more people to participate in post-secondary education is another important part of my research," he added. "I hope my research will help spread the word about the importance of lifelong learning, especially to the people who hold the reigns of power. I hope they’ll be encouraged and to step up and help provide these solutions that we need so desperately for many reasons.”
The assistant professor also maintains a wildly successful blog – www.post-secondary.blogspot.com - which has nearly 15,000 hits from practically every country in the world, including the United Kingdom, Africa, Mexico and Bhutan.
The blog is one aspect of how Dr. Kirby’s research extents well into the current technological, e-learning world.
In terms of his blog as a means of expanding public discourse, Dr. Kirby said, “I teach primarily online and use my blog as an interactive tool to discuss issues with students, members of government and members of the public. I blog every day, post links in my course discussion forums and ask students, ‘What do you think about this?’” he said.
“I post reports on education that are released every day … my blog is a tool for exploring particular research papers or projects. But also, I see it as expanding academic discourse, which is relevant to my academic interest,” he said.
On being recognized by the CCL, Dr. Kirby is honoured at this relatively early stage of his career.
“I think it reflects positively on our post-secondary education studies programs here at Memorial, and I'm also thrilled to bring attention to the post-secondary policy and student access issues that have been important to me for so long,” he commented.