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Chemistry professor devises formula for successful teaching

Philip Dutton says that the development of his style of teaching drew on his experience in martial arts: “Observe good demonstrations, practice observed techniques, and if you remove all of the mistakes, what is left is not only correct, but is efficient.”

Philip DuttonA former head of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Dr. Dutton has observed speakers and instructors to figure what to do—and just as importantly, what not to do. The technique came to him as a graduate student watching a visiting scientist present a seminar, he says: “I promised myself never to do what he did.”

Honing his skills has paid off for Dutton’s students, and earned him the Alumni Award for Distinguished Contributions to University Teaching, which he will receive at the Wednesday, June 12, afternoon session of Convocation.

In letters supporting his nomination for the award, current and former students praise Dutton’s passion for his material and commitment to his charges.

“Dr. Dutton’s enthusiasm helped me rise above my obstacles and strive for excellence,” wrote Sara Ghoneim. “He always challenged his students and engaged us in his lectures in ways that made the course material unforgettable.”

His colleagues tout his versatility, teaching courses in a variety of subjects, including large introductory classes, and helping to develop a redesigned undergraduate curriculum.

At the root of his commitment is what Dutton calls the true reward of the teacher: “There is nothing more satisfying than watching students move through the training of their undergraduate and graduate carers and go on to be successful contributors to society.”

The awards, established by the University of Windsor Alumni Association in 1987, recognize excellence in all areas of teaching, including classroom presentation, curriculum development, versatility, teaching methods, and student support. In addition to Dutton, education professor Kara Smith and English professor Dale Jacobs will receive the honour during the University’s 99th Convocation ceremonies this week. Click here for a list of past recipients.