Philosophy Senior Lecturer Ian Schnee chosen for the prestigious 2020 UW Distinguished Teaching Award!

Submitted by Kate Goldyn on
Ian Schnee
Ian Schnee's last day of teaching in Kane Hall in March 2020. He was live streaming on two platforms: Zoom and Pantopto, while using Poll Everywhere and Zoom chat to take student questions as a back channel.

The Department of Philosophy is excited to announce that Senior Lecturer Ian Schnee has been awarded the 2020 University of Washington Distinguished Teaching Award! This award recognizes UW faculty for outstanding dedication in teaching, mentoring, public service, and commitment to public values. Awardees exemplify extensive knowledge and mastery of their subject matter; innovation in course and curriculum design; ability to inspire, guide and mentor students through independent and creative thinking; and serving as a mentor, collaborator, and consultant to other faculty and teaching assistants by helping to enrich the scholarship of teaching and learning.

The students who nominated Ian attest to his fascinating class discussions and passion for ensuring that all of his students are engaged in learning. They remark on his ability to make even courses like Intermediate Logic fun and accessible for all, and on his skill at listening to students’ ideas in a way that makes them feel heard and validated, encouraging their growth in philosophy. However, what truly makes Ian an excellent teacher is his tireless dedication to improving and expanding his pedagogical skill set and generously mentoring and encouraging other teachers to do the same.

Shortly after joining the philosophy faculty in 2015, Ian joined the Evidence-Based Teaching (EBT) Pilot Program. By 2017, Ian became one of the leaders in the program and helped transition it from a pilot program to a permanent program within the UW Center for Teaching and Learning. Colleagues of Ian attest to his passion for student learning and using effective research-based approaches. One comments, “Ian was not just exceptionally knowledgeable in evidence-informed pedagogies but he was an enthusiast in the use of technologies to create inclusive learning environments and enhance students’ higher-order thinking.”

Over the years Ian has led classes for UW faculty focusing on Poll Everywhere and other technologies in an effort both to enhance students’ learning and to enrich faculty teaching through better classroom management. This year, Ian led the creation of an online version of the Evidence-Based Teaching course in order to reach faculty who could not attend the in-person class, demonstrating his enthusiasm for improving teaching campus-wide. As campuses around the world were forced to go online this year, Ian and philosophy colleague Paul Franco organized a series of online workshops to help instructors around the country seeking suggestions and guidance for teaching their philosophy courses online.

Impressively, in response to his and his students’ frustrations with dry and uninspired logic textbooks, Ian seized the initiative and created his own interactive e-book for his class—one that was both based on empirically supported pedagogy and was fun and engaging for his students. When interviewed about his book, his students responded enthusiastically. One student, Alex Saveau, explains, “what really makes a difference is that you can engage with the textbook. For other classes, I find myself fighting to not drift off into a daydream while reading the textbook.” Instead, Ian’s e-book challenged him constantly with quick short quizzes, even after just reading a few sentences. Saveau found that, by requiring answers to frequently-presented problems before allowing students to move on to another section, the e-book kept them “focused and accountable.”

Philosophy department chair Andrea Woody best sums up why Ian is so deserving of this award when she explains “the bottom line is that Ian Schnee is an excellent teacher by design. He cares deeply about teaching, and his scholarly devotion makes him both reflective and creative. He is the epitome of an ‘evidence-based’ teacher, collecting data about the effectiveness of his techniques and refining his courses in response. He is always learning how to teach, and teaching how to learn. He is a gem for this campus.”

The faculty members who receive this award are inducted into the UW Teaching Academy, where they are able to participate in a variety of Academy-sponsored projects and events to further excellence in teaching and learning at UW. Plans are in the works for providing a way for the university community to celebrating Ian Schnee and other winners of the 2020 Awards of Excellence while the Stay Home order is in place.

Please join us in congratulating Ian Schnee on this well-deserved honor!