“If we are to address the daunting problems that face our planet today, we need a radical transformation of our educational system…a student-centered, hands-on, inquiry-based, collaborative model in which all the capacities of the marvelous machines we have in our heads are fully harnessed in an engaging enterprise of discovery…”
David Helfand, The Globe and Mail, 2014
RADIUS, Groundswell, and Ashoka Canada are proud to announce that Dr. David Helfand, founding president of Quest University Canada will be the opening keynote speaker at ReSchool: transform the future of learning, May 29 & 30 at SFU Surrey.
There are few educators in North America that have done more than Dr. Helfand in moving the needle to not just rethink education, but demonstrate what it could be. Bold and relentless in his pursuit of innovation in education, the New York Times summarized some of his greatest accomplishments in transforming higher education :
Dr. Helfand had his share of crusades at Columbia: he waged a long campaign to have a science class added to the core curriculum (he won); he declined tenure, arguing that senior professors’ performance should be reviewed every five years by an ad hoc faculty committee (he won for himself, but Columbia kept the tenure system for everybody else).
At Quest, he is playing out an even bolder agenda: creating a model to attack the ennui that plagues so much of higher education. Quest has no departments, no tenure and no classes larger than 20. It uses the block system, in which students take one course at a time for a month. Students get a grade, plus a faculty assessment of whether they are “contributing to, and benefiting from, the intellectual life of the classroom.” And students spend their last two years focused on a single question of their choosing.
We are thrilled Prof. Helfand will be joining us to share his wisdom, insights and hard won lessons in creating the future of education and learning.
Be sure to join us on May 29 and 30 at ReSchool to be part of a national effort to build 21st century models of learning and doing and connect to an international community of education innovators. Reserve your space now.
About Prof. David Helfand
A leading doer in the radical reform of higher education, David J. Helfand has served on the faculty of Columbia University in New York for thirty-eight years, for nearly half that time as Chair of the Department of Astronomy. He has also spent three years at the University of Cambridge, most recently as the Sackler Distinguished Visiting Astronomer, and was a visiting astronomer at the Danish Space Research Institute and the University of Copenhagen. At Columbia, he taught primarily undergraduate courses for non-science majors, including one of his own design that treats the atom as a tool for revealing the quantitative history of everything from human diet and works of art to the Earth’s climate and the Universe; this course was released as a 24-lecture set by The Teaching Company. Ten years ago, he finally succeeded in implementing a vision he began working on in 1982 that has all Columbia first-year students taking a science course as part of Columbia’s famed Core Curriculum. He received the University’s 2001 Presidential Teaching Award and the 2002 Great Teacher Award from the Society of Columbia Graduates.
In 2005, he became involved in the effort to create Canada’s first independent, non-profit, secular university, Quest University Canada. He served as a Visiting Tutor in the University’s inaugural semester in the Fall of 2007 and was appointed President & Vice-Chancellor in the Fall of 2008; he is now on a long-term leave from Columbia to devote full-time to this innovative experiment in higher education.
In 2011, Prof. Helfand was elected President of the American Astronomical Society, the professional organization of astronomers, astrophysicists and planetary scientists in North America.
A decade ago, he appeared weekly on the Discovery Channel’s program Science News, bringing the latest astronomical discoveries to the US television audience. More recently, his television appearances have been limited to more serious matters on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show and the National Geographic channel series, The Known Universe. He believes he is a better cook than astronomer and, ambiguously, most of his colleagues who have sampled his gastronomical undertakings agree.