2012 Medal Winners | francais

The 2012 CAP Medal for Excellence in Teaching Undergraduate Physics

is awarded to

David Harrison

"This award is, of course, thrilling for me, although I suspect that my very small number of successes is due to many students through the years suffering through my many many failures." winner citation

The Canadian Association of Physicists (CAP) is pleased to announce that the 2012 CAP Medal for Excellence in Teaching Undergraduate Physics is awarded to David Harrison, Dept. of Physics, Univ. of Toronto, for his leadership and innovation in introducing research-based pedagogical techniques to his physics courses at the University of Toronto, and for his significant contributions to the on-line physics teaching community and the Ontario Association of Physics Teachers. announcement

It is difficult to imagine a person more deserving of the Medal for Undergraduate Teaching. David is the linchpin of our large first year teaching efforts at Toronto. With over 1000 very demanding first year biology and pre-med students, our largest courses represent a significant challenge for any teacher. Over many years, and especially in the last decade, David has taken on a leadership role in bringing modern Physics pedagogical techniques to these courses. He has relentlessly scoured the world for the best in Physics Education Research and then done the hard work necessary to roll out sweeping changes to the way we teach Physics to these students. The benefits are enormous; greatly improved student satisfaction, and a new higher profile for the department as a place for teaching innovation are just two.

A major part of David’s work has been the complete renovation and replacement of our old first year labs and tutorials with new Physics “Practicals”. These combine all the best available ideas in hands-on, experiential Physics pedagogy with new purpose-built rooms and an entirely new set of activities and labs. These innovations took several years to implement and cost more than $1 million to realize. David tirelessly drove this project from start to finish, attending to every aspect. David is also central to the suite of “Physics for Humanities” courses that we offer.

David has taught thousands of non-Physics students to appreciate and delight in Physics, as well as extensively writing on this topic. He has made his notes for students at various stages available on the web for the last decade. This collection has grown to hundreds of pages of that amounts to an online free book called The Physics Virtual Bookshelf. These documents have been consulted millions of times. He is also the author of a very large and well-regarded collection of Flash demonstrations, again freely available online. These are particularly suited for use in the classroom and are downloaded at a rate of around 1 million times per year. nominator citation

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