Prof. Richard Felder and Dr. Rebecca Brent to Receive Honorary Doctorate Degrees

Drs. Richard Felder and Rebecca Brent
Prof. Richard Felder and Dr. Rebecca Brent

Professor Emeritus of Chemical Engineering Richard Felder and Dr. Rebecca Brent have been selected to receive honorary doctorate degrees from Concordia University. The citation for the award reads, “For helping a generation of STEM instructors teach more effectively”.

As marriage and business partners, Rebecca and Rich have pioneered the use of active learning methodologies, particularly in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, both in the U.S. and internationally. Their ultimate goal has been to enhance student learning by training teachers and professors to use educational techniques that require students to do (much) more than passively take notes during classroom lectures.

Rich is fond of noting that, “College teaching may be the only skilled profession for which no preparation or training is provided or required. You get a Ph.D., join a faculty, they show you your office, and then tell you ‘By the way, you’re teaching 205 next semester. See you later.’ The result is the consistent use of teaching techniques that have repeatedly been shown to be ineffective at promoting learning.” Active teaching techniques are designed to help students gain deep understanding of lecture material by embedding exercises that require them to actively apply the material as soon as they hear or see it in class.

Rich is the Hoechst Celanese Professor Emeritus of Chemical Engineering. For roughly the first half of his career, he carried out research on a variety of topics in chemical process engineering. In 1978, he co-authored Elementary Principles of Chemical Processes. Now in its fourth edition, the textbook has been adopted by more than 90 per cent of United States chemical engineering departments and translated into four other languages.

Beginning in the late 1980s, Felder shifted his career focus to educational methodologies in the STEM fields. His longitudinal study of engineering student performance and retention was the first engineering education research study funded by the NSF Division of Undergraduate Education and led to 15 publications.  His 1988 paper `Learning and Teaching Styles in Engineering Education’  remains one of the most heavily cited articles in the history of the Journal of Engineering Education and won one of his six ASEE best paper awards, and the online Index of Learning Styles he co-developed has been accessed by millions of users.

As president of Education Designs, Inc., an educational consulting firm in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Rebecca applies her more than 35 years of experience in education at the pre-college and college levels. She has authored or co-authored some 120 papers on staff development, teacher preparation, and educational program evaluation.

From 1991 to 2015, Brent and Felder co-directed the American Society for Engineering Education National Effective Teaching Institute. In 2016, they co-authored Teaching and Learning STEM: A Practical Guide, in which they emphasize student-centered instructional methods such as active and cooperative learning. They have presented more than 600 teaching and faculty development workshops and seminars and maintain a well-read blog.

Rebecca was named a Fellow of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) in 2014. Rich received the ASEE inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012.

Concordia is a public comprehensive research university located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada that offers over 300 undergraduate and 100 graduate programs and courses, including chemical engineering. Rebecca and Rich will receive their award at the Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science 2019 fall convocation on November 18. Following the presentation they’ll give brief talks.