Cited for his innovative courses and dedication to student learning, York Professor Richard Murray (graduate programs in Biology, Electric Engineering & Computer Science and Psychology) was awarded the 2019 Faculty of Graduate Studies Faculty Teaching Award.
At York, Murray has developed two graduate courses (Computer Programming for Experimental Psychology and Statistical Modelling of Perception and Cognition) that have become cornerstones in the Brain, Behaviour and Cognitive Sciences area of specialization. Murray’s achievements extend beyond the classroom: he is a member of the Centre for Vision Research (and he established its Brain, Behaviour and Cognitive Sciences Recruitment Day) and is a core faculty member of York’s Vision: Science to Applications (VISTA) program.
“Current and former students consistently note his ability to make truly difficult concepts fully understandable, and to guide students to figure out how to solve complex problems for themselves,” said FGS Dean Thomas Loebel, presenting the award to Murray at a Faculty Council meeting on April 4.
Letters of nomination noted Murray’s dedication to training, generosity with time and ability to connect with students. Teaching evaluations from graduate courses taught since 2008 have averaged 4.74 out of five, with a consistent five out of five score in the category of “respecting students.”
Nomination letters praised his unique approach to grading. Rather than heavy-weighted assignments at various intervals of the term, there are instead biweekly, low-weighted tests that draw on material from recent discussions. In combination with these small tests, low-weighted assignments are frequent to encourage students to apply their learning to solve novel problems. This culminates with a large project at the conclusion of the course that is moulded to students’ research interests.
“It’s a strong focus on enabling students to actually achieve the learning outcomes of the course – to actually internalize the crucial knowledge and skills being offered,” said Loebel. “His stellar record of teaching has helped shape how psychology is taught at the graduate level at York University.”
Accepting the award, Murray said, “I’d like to thank my colleagues and graduate students who just make graduate work so easy to do and so rewarding.”