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Roger Slee became Dean of Education in January 2004, coming to McGill from the Ministry of Education in Queensland, Australia; previously, he had been Dean of Education at the University of Western Australia. Since coming to McGill, he has initiated the McGill Education Project to redefine the faculty's strategies and objectives.
Just what is the McGill Education Project?
McGill Education Project is really an umbrella heading for a number of activities and processes that involve looking critically at where we are and identifying how we can move ahead. Through building on our solid expertise and our new appointments, we want to put ourselves on the map, so that the faculty is instantly recognizable as a centre of excellence in research, scholarship and teaching. We've made fantastic progress in developing an infrastructure to support research across the faculty, setting up a new office of Associate Dean, Research and Graduate Students, which has ensured that our faculty members and graduate students have information and support for getting funding, both internally and externally. We have also been awarded two Tier 1 Canada Research Chairs, and we're increasing our interdisciplinary connections with other faculties, such as medicine, social work, music and science.
In the past you have stressed the need to raise the faculty's research profile outside the university as well. Does this remain a priority?
Yes, we're strengthening our research connections with other universities. We've made connections with the Institute of Education in London, and, in Canada, with OISE and UBC, and we've formalized a faculty exchange agreement with the National Institute of Education at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, which has one of the world's largest research efforts in pedagogy and curriculum. We also want people to see us as a resource, so that McGill's education research isn't a well-kept secret.
So the faculty is becoming a global actor in research. What of more local activities?
Among other things, we want to push hard on science and math education. The Quebec government - like every other educational jurisdiction - has realized that recruiting good science teachers and maintaining the quality of science education are difficult. Many secondary school science teachers learned their science some time ago, and it doesn't correspond to that being practised in universities. Part of our aim is to improve the quality of science education through professional development, so it's a question of generating links between the teaching in schools and scientific research in universities and industry. In Queensland, I organized the Science Summit, bringing together the chief science officer for the government, key industry leaders, university science education researchers, and also some biomedical people, to look for ways of improving science education, which included persuading industry to fund projects across schools. McGill could be a catalyst for that kind of initiative. In addition, the Faculty of Education is working more closely with the Faculty of Science, especially with the appointment of former education professor Brian Alters as director of the Tomlinson Project in Science Education. Alan Shaver [former dean of science] and [current dean] Martin Grant have also been very supportive. And now that Martin's in the band...
Ah, the band. You're the drummer and Martin Grant is the guitarist for Diminished Faculties, and you've played together at a number of events, including most recently the Centraide benefit on December 7. Is it safe to say that, in terms of science education, you and Martin are marching to the same drummer?
I don't think we could say that. But we're on the same song.