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Learning Sciences alumni profiles

On this page:  Reza Feyzi-Behnagh, Phd '14 | Laura Naismith, PhD '13  | Aliki Thomas, PhD '11 | Salman Mufti, PhD '10 Jonghwi Park, PhD '09 | Krista C. Ritchie, PhD '09Robert Saggers, PhD '09 | Andrew Chiarella, PhD '09 | Nancy Lavigne, PhD '00


Reza Feyzi-Behnagh, PhD '14

Assistant professor, University at Albany, State University of New York

Reza Feyzi-BehnaghWhat did you specialize in during your doctoral studies?

I specialized in how students self-regulate their learning; science learning with computer-based learning environments; multimedia learning; metacognition and metacognitive judgments; metacognition in medical diagnoses with intelligent tutoing systems.

What is your current position? Please describe what you do.

Assistant professor, University at Albany, State University of New York. As a junior faculty member, currently I am setting up a research team and new projects, applying for research funding, and collaborating with colleagues in different fields in interdisciplinary projects.

How did your doctoral program help prepare you for this position?

During my doctoral studies, I learned about the state-of-the-art research methodologies used in Educational research today, interacted with nationally- and internationally-renowned professors at the department, learned about tasks a future faculty member would be asked to handle (manuscript reviews, writing publishable papers and research grant applications, effective conference presentations, managing and interacting in a collaborative research team), learned about the foundations and most recent issues in educational research, learned effective teaching in higher education classes, and gained great experience by teaching a graduate-level course to apply what I had learned to practice.

What is your greatest professional accomplishment?

I’m proud that I was part of several interdisciplinary research teams (education, medicine, computer science) during my doctoral studies and presented my research in many national and international conferences.


Laura Naismith, PhD '13

Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University Health Network in Toronto

Laura NaismithWhat degree did you earn through the learning sciences?

PhD in Educational Psychology

What is your current position? 

Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University Health Network in Toronto.

Please describe your current position.

I hold the Ray Chang Postdoctoral Fellowship, the aim of which is to promote educational research and scholarly initiatives to improve clinical care. I hold this position jointly through two education centres at UHN: The HoPingKong Centre for Excellence in Education and Practice and The Wilson Centre for Research in Health Professions Education. My current research focuses on how to optimize simulation training in internal medicine, in order to help trainees develop their skills as efficiently and safely as possible.

How did the learning sciences program help prepare you for this position?

The Learning Sciences program helped me to prepare for my current position by giving me broad exposure to a range of learning theories and a firm grounding in quantitative research methods and statistics. The opportunity to train within an active research laboratory also helped to prepare me for my many collaborations with physicians, medical trainees, and other education researchers.

What is your greatest professional accomplishment?

My first research study as a postdoctoral fellow was accepted for publication in the top journal for medical education research.


Aliki Thomas, PhD '11

Assistant Professor and Associate Director of Occupational Therapy Program, School of Physical and Occupational Therapy, McGill University

Aliki Thomas, PhD

What did you specialize in during your doctoral studies?
MAJOR: Instructional Psychology, MINOR: Applied Cognitive Science

What is your current position? Please describe what you do?
I am an Assistant Professor at the School of Physical and Occupational Therapy with a cross appointment at the Center for Medical Education, Faculty of Medicine, McGill University. I earned a doctorate in educational psychology specializing in instructional psychology and applied cognitive science. I completed post-doctoral training in knowledge translation for evidence-based practice at McMaster University. My research is on education and knowledge translation. I am interested in the development and assessment of advanced clinical competencies including evidence-based practice, decision-making and the development of professional expertise. My work spans three major areas of occupational therapy education and practice, from admissions, to professional education (including curriculum design and assessment), and clinical practice. In addition to my research in education, I am involved in studies on how to bridge the evidence-practice gap where I use an educational psychology perspective to examine the factors that promote the use of evidence in clinical practice and the impact of various knowledge translation interventions on clinicians’ use of best practices. Most recently, and as part of my postdoctoral work, I became interested in the concept of scholarship of practice and the outcomes of clinician-researcher partnerships on rehabilitation education and clinical practice.
I am also the Chair of the OT programs curriculum committee. In this role I oversee the design and assessment of the OT curriculum, am leading the accreditation process and am instrumental in several new ipedagogical and curricular initiatives.

How did your doctoral program help prepare you for this position?
My doctoral training laid the foundation upon which to build a successful program of research in education and knowledge translation. The upgrade of professional qualifications and the rising emphasis on evidence-based
practice in the health sciences has lead to a growing need for rigorous educational and knowledge translation research. I have been involved in research in both these areas in my
PhD studies and post-doctoral fellowship. My PhD research used an educational psychology perspective to elucidate how evidence-based practice competencies develop throughout the course of professional education in occupational therapy and how these competencies differ across different levels of learners and experienced clinicians. This work has resulted in three peer-reviewed publications, three conference presentations
and has had a direct impact on the Occupational Therapy program’s evidence-based practice curriculum.

What is your greatest professional accomplishment?
Obtaining an FRQS Junior 1 Chercheur Boursier (4-year Salary award to fund my research program)


Salman Mufti, PhD '10

Associate Dean and Associate Professor, Queen's School of Business, Queen's University

Salman MuftiWhat degree did you earn through the learning sciences?

PhD in Educational Psychology

What is your current position? 

Associate Dean and Associate Professor, Queen's School of Business, Queen's University, Kingston ON

Please describe your current position.

As Associate Dean I'm responsible for Executive Education at Queen's School of Business. We offer non-degree, short-format management programs for business executives and professionals. Website: http://business.queensu.ca/faculty_and_research/faculty_list/salman_muft...

How did the learning sciences program help prepare you for this position? 

I gained knowledge about how business managers think and learn, and have tried to apply this knowledge in shaping programs at my school.

What is your greatest professional accomplishment?

Becoming Associate Dean.


Jonghwi Park, PhD '09

Programme Specialist and team leader of the ICT in Education Programme at Asia Pacific Regional Bureau for Education for United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)

What did you specialize in during your doctoral studies?

My research focus was on the areas of investigating systematic changes that technologies brings to classroom practices from cultural-historical activity theory perspectives and design interventions for teachers to facilitate balanced changes in classroom culture and activity system beyond how to use technologies.

What is your current position? Please describe what you do?
I am the Programme Specialist and team leader of the ICT in Education Programme at Asia Pacific Regional Bureau for Education for United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The Bureau serves 46 Member States in the region, based in Bangkok, Thailand. My main role is to provide governments with technical advices on the effective integration of ICT in their education systems and context, ranging from conducting policy reviews and comparative regional studies on ICT in education, to providing technical supports for policy development, and to organizing high-level policy fora at the regional level (e.g. AP Ministerial Forum on ICT in Ed, Central Asia Symposium, etc.). My team also specialized in designing and implementing various capacity building modules for teachers and teacher educators to facilitate the effective ICT-pedagogy integration in classroom settings at different levels.


How did your doctoral program help prepare you for this position?
Although I am out of academia for now, I really appreciate the intensive training that I received during the doctoral program on analytical thinking, research methods and technical writing for proposals which I still use every day for my current work. Aside from such cognitive skills, I also learned tremendously on how to manage time and organize tasks under pressure during the doctoral program.

What is your greatest professional accomplishment?
Quite a few developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region have developed ICT in education policies and ICT teacher training policies, adapting from the review results and technical advice that my team provided.


Krista C. Ritchie, PhD '09

Assistant Professor, Educational Psychology,
     Faculty of Education, Mount Saint Vincent University
Adjunct Professor, Community Health and Epidemiology,
     Faculty of Medicine, Dalhousie University
Chair, Board of Directors, Homes for Independent Living

Krista C. RitchieWhat did you specialize in during your doctoral studies?

I completed my Master’s degree in Educational Psychology with a major in Instructional Psychology in 2005 and my PhD with a major in Applied Cognitive Science in 2009. The foci of my studies are now represented in the Learning Sciences program.
My dissertation focused on how high school science students engage in problem finding processes (aka how they learn to ask a good research question). I described the social, emotional, and problem solving aspects of students’ problem finding processes, and compared these experiences to students in regular science education courses. During my PhD I also gained valuable work experience on the Evaluation Team of the McGill Educational Initiative on Interprofessional Collaboration. In this role, I evaluated processes and outcomes of a group focused on understanding and promoting interprofessional education and practice in the health professions.

What is your current position? Please describe what you do.
I am an Assistant Professor of Educational Psychology in the Faculty of Education at Mount Saint Vincent University. I also hold a faculty position at Dalhousie University in the Faculty of Medicine. I teach and do research in both universities on topics very similar to my PhD studies.

How did your doctoral program help prepare you for this position?
My doctoral program prepared me for work in academic and healthcare settings in more ways than can be described on a webpage. Highlights include providing me the autonomy to pursue my areas of personal interest through thesis, coursework, teaching assistantships, and volunteer experience. The autonomy I had was paired perfectly with mentorship and support from many of the professors in the department. I was able to carve my own path, and was encouraged and supported every step of the way. Special thanks for being my mentor still to this day goes to my PhD supervisor, Prof. Bruce Shore.

What is your greatest professional accomplishment?
I think it is early days in my career to declare a “great professional accomplishment”, but I can say that I am proud of how statistics-savvy I have become, and that I have the opportunity to teach statistics to many students and professionals in both education and healthcare. I am also thrilled to have just been awarded an NSHRF Establishment Grant that will focus on understanding how (and if!) students and early career health professionals develop knowledge, attitudes, and skills related to evidence based clinical practice. The Co-PI for this NSHRF Establishment Grant is Dr. Erna Snelgrove-Clarke, who graduated from McGill with a PhD in the Faculty of Nursing.
Personally, my greatest professional accomplishment has been reaching my early career goals while also having two beautiful children with my husband in our scenic hometown of Halifax, Nova Scotia.


Robert Saggers, PhD '09

President, Robert Saggers & Associates, Learning-Leadership Consultants Inc.

Robert Saggers, PhDRobert Saggers is the head of his own consulting practice dedicated to helping organizations improve their performance through enhancing their capacity to learn to change by tapping into and developing the leadership potential of their people. This entails leadership development, teambuilding, change management, coaching mentoring and trainer development. Dr. Saggers has also been associated with McGill for over 25 years as a graduate studies instructor in the School of Continuing Studies, and as a collaborator on a joint venture basis to develop and deliver coporate training programs and public workshops.

Dr. Saggers believes the Instructional Psychology stream in Educational Psychology (currently the Learning Sciences concentration) helped prepare him by providing a comprehensive theoretical foundation to complement his practical experience.


Andrew Chiarella, PhD '09

Assistant Professor in Educational Psychology, Centre for Social Sciences, Athabasca University

Andrew Lavigne, PhDAndrew Chiarella's research interests focus on the study of social annotation systems. He has designed and programmed a software application which aggregates the annotations of a community of readers and then adds text signals to the text based on this community consensus. Principles and characteristics of complex, self-organizing systems were used to design this software. His research examines how those signals develop over time, their quality, and their effects on readers.

Dr. Chiarella was recently awarded tenure at Athabasca University.

Andrew believes the training and education he received in the Learning Sciences concentration in Educational Psychology (formerly known as the minor in Instructional Psychology) provided a strong focus on research design and analysis (statistical and discourse/semantic). He was provided with opportunities to teach at the post-secondary level, as well as collaborate on, and assist with various research projects with students from different backgrounds, programs, and disciplines.


Nancy Lavigne, PhD '00

Associate Professor, School of Education, University of Delaware

Nancy Lavigne, PhDNancy Lavigne’s research interests lie in the broad areas of teaching and learning with a focus on cognition. Her goal is to create discipline-based learning environments that are effective in fostering students’ understanding and reasoning in the context of problem solving. Thus, Dr. Lavigne’s program has two strands of research where she investigates: (a) the nature of the knowledge and reasoning that are elicited in different problem solving contexts and (b) how instructional methods facilitate students’ thinking and learning, some of which are technology-based.

The Educational Psychology program provided a solid grounding in a range of cognitive theories, methodologies, and instructional methods, including the pivotal role that technology can play in learning content area disciplines (e.g., mathematics and science). In addition, active involvement in ongoing research projects, writing manuscripts for publication, and presenting at key conferences were a critical part of the training in the Educational Psychology program. These experiences provided the basis for obtaining funding during the Ph.D. (SSRHC and FCAR), developing relationships with other scholars in the field, and securing a Postdoc position upon graduation at the Learning, Research, and Development Center (LRDC) at the University of Pittsburgh, followed by an academic position as a faculty member at the University of Delaware (UD). Thus, the Educational Psychology program prepares its graduates well for academic and research-focused jobs.

Aside from the educational and training benefits, a key aspect of my experience as a graduate student in the Educational Psychology program that I valued was the relationships I developed with faculty and peers who were uniformally supportive and provided a safe environment for personal and professional growth.

 

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