University of Calgary
UofC Navigation

Michele Jacobsen

PhD 1998, M.Sc. 1995, B.Ed, B.A. (University of Calgary)

Michele JacobsenAs a four-time Alumnus of the University of Calgary, I have deep roots in the Werklund School of Education and incredible pride in my University. I started my first semester as an undergraduate student while the 1988 Winter Olympics were in Calgary. I pursued my goal to become a high school English teacher by completing a dual degree pathway: a Bachelor of Education in Secondary Education and Bachelor of Arts in English in 1993. As a back up plan to teaching high school, I had submitted my application for graduate studies. I got an offer to teach at the same time that I got accepted to the Master of Science program along with landing a sizeable graduate scholarship.

I completed both my M.Sc. and my PhD in Educational Psychology, in the learning and development program in computer applications.  My M.Sc. thesis was a study of the implementation of an integrated learning system in a middle school. My SSHRC funded doctoral work explored the adoption of technology by university faculty for teaching and learning. Given the cross-disciplinary nature of my study, my supervisor encouraged me to complete doctoral courses in computer science, psychology and human resource management, while I also completed several courses in educational psychology.

During my doctoral studies, I was awarded the first Gallagher Galileo Research Fellowship in 1997.  As the Galileo Doctoral Fellow, I learned alongside Dr. Pat Clifford and Dr. Sharon Friesen in their Grade 6 classroom at Banded Peak School, in Bragg Creek Alberta; this relationship grew and continues to this day as I conduct research with Galileo Network. Upon completion of my doctorate, I studied distance education learning environments with colleagues in the Software Engineering Research Network via a post-doctoral research fellowship in computer science. In 1999, I was offered an assistant professor position in what was then the Faculty of Education. I had my first baby in 2003 the same year I was awarded tenure. I had my second baby in 2005 at the same time I was promoted to associate professor, edited a peer-reviewed journal and finished writing a book.

As a new professor, I taught with Pat Clifford and Sharon Friesen both online and in classrooms in the Werklund School of Education. The three of us published papers about engaged learning and teaching with technology and presented our research at conferences. Pat and Sharon’s unwavering commitment to designing and studying intellectually engaging student learning experiences inspired and shaped me as a teacher; their dedication to disrupting commonly held ideas about teaching and leadership has forged me as a researcher. Pat and Sharon’s belief in my promise and their investment in an emerging new scholar enabled me to build visibility for my research on engaging learning with technology and to develop as an educator. As a Professor, I continue to be engaged in collaborative, classroom-based research with Sharon Friesen and the Galileo Network.

Currently, I am the Associate Dean, Graduate Programs in Education, and a Professor in the Learning Sciences specialization in the Werklund School of Education.  I am proud of the quality and diversity of undergraduate and graduate programs that the Werklund School of Education offers to learners in our extended global community. The Werklund School of Education is a destination of choice for highly qualified undergraduate and graduate students by providing relevant and rigorous research and professional education programs that are designed to develop innovative classroom teachers and leaders in contemporary classroom, scholars of the profession, and scholars of the discipline.

My own research program focuses on technology-enabled learning and teaching in both real-time and online Kindergarten to Grade 12 classrooms and post-secondary education using case study, action research and design-based research methodologies. Informed by current research from the learning sciences, I examine learning designs that shift instruction from standardized delivery and testing to participatory pedagogies in learning environments that sponsor knowledge building, intellectual engagement and use assessments for learning. I also explore my interest in research ethics, especially the development of policy and guidelines to inform Internet research methodology. Supported by two funded grants, I am carrying out research on peer mentoring in graduate education. In one project, I am evaluating the impact of our Graduate Peer Mentoring Program in Werklund School of Education, and in another, I am working with colleagues in Nursing, Medicine and Social Work to investigate peer mentoring across our four disciplines.

One of my chief strengths as an educator and researcher is a deeply felt commitment to knowing more, to questioning deeply, and to knowledge building – in short, I see research and teaching as a reflexive and iterative process of learning.  I do not see teaching as “delivering the news” and technology as the “delivery truck” – instead, I see teaching as a scholarly and mentoring relationship that is discipline rich and technology as the way we support knowledge building, active collaboration and sharing, and engagement with a connected global community of ideas and experts.  The tension between received and perceived knowledge, and the creative act of generating new knowledge as a contribution to our collective understanding, sustains my passion and attention to the pursuit of knowing more, and to pursuing deeper understanding and leading innovation using disciplined methods of inquiry. 

Graduate supervision is one of the most important types of teaching and mentorship that I do, and thus, I invest a great deal of effort into building productive, research-focused mentoring relationships with graduate students.  In addition to stretching me as a researcher, graduate supervision is time-intensive, emotionally demanding and hands-on work that is both a privilege and an honour. I learn a great deal from my role as a graduate supervisor and committee member for education, nursing, computer science and psychology graduate students, and also as a researcher who mentors graduate research assistants.

As part of my service to the discipline and the profession, I serve on the Board of Directors for the Canadian Educational Association (CEA), the Editorial Board for Education Canada, and currently Chair the CEA Awards Committee.

Along my own tenure track pathway in academia, while balancing research, teaching and a family life, I have learned that saying YES to diverse and unexpected invitations and opportunities to become involved in committees, engaged in projects, new initiatives, innovative course design work, editing a journal, collaborative research teams, writing a book, trying a new technology in my teaching, working with educators in the ministry and leaders in the classroom, has expanded and enriched my career in rewarding and exciting ways. A diverse range of projects, courses and leadership and service roles in the Werklund School of Education and at the University of Calgary have challenged me to learn, grow and change in ways I could not have planned for and certainly didn’t imagine when I started my initial teacher preparation program in 1988. Ten years apart, in 2002 and 2012, I was honored as the recipient of Werklund School of Education Excellence in Teaching Awards. In 2012, it was my privilege to serve as the distinguished alumni at the June Convocation and to read the graduand’s pledge with the Education graduates. In 2014, I was awarded the Werklund School of Education Leadership In Education Award.