Kenneth J. Ragan is a Professor at McGill University’s Physics Department where he holds the William C. Macdonald Chair in Physics. His physics research centers on gamma-ray astrophysics and includes collaborations with the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory of the SAO (Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory) and the VERITAS (Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System) project.
Professor Ragan’s interest also extends to the development of pedagogical approaches for his undergraduate physics courses, notably: PHYS 101, An Introduction to Mechanics for the Life Sciences, and; PHYS 131, Mechanics and Waves. Enrollment for the Mechanics course often reach over 600 students. Professor Ragan has been engaged in making large enrolment courses more successful by adopting active learning strategies such as peer-instruction.
Professor Ragan gave the keynote address at the 2009 McGill Workshop on “Learning to Teach” , hosted by the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (GPS) and Teaching and Learning Services (TLS).
D.Sc., physique corpusculaire, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland
B.Sc., Honours Physics, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB
Any expertise I have comes from the practice of science (specifically physics) education at the university level over nearly 30 years. In particular, I have taught large freshman introductory physics courses (enrollments of several hundred students) for more than a decade. This has led me to think about, and experiment with, techniques like active learning, peer instruction, just-in-time teaching, flipped classrooms, etc.
My projects are all focussed on having an immediate impact in MY classrooms – which are currently the large freshman physics courses at a major university (primarily the mechanics part of the curriculum).
- Peer mentoring
Using students who have taken the course in the recent past (last one to three years) to actively engage the current cohort in tutorials and in the classroom.
- Re-design of undergraduate labs
Using support from a grant from the AAU to redesign freshman mechanics labs to provide for a more intuitive, hands-on, self-directed approach to data-taking and analysis.
2007 the J.D. Jackson Award of Excellence in Teaching (McGill’s Department of Physics)
2011 the Faculty of Science's Leo Yaffe Award for Excellence in Teaching
2013 the Principal's Prize for Excellence in Teaching
2016 Pedagogical Innovation and Lifetime of Contribution Award
SALTISE Conference 2016