Finding connection and purpose in transition
May 15, 2023
Professor of Teaching
Okanagan School of Education
Okanagan (Kelowna, BC)
PhD, Education, University of British Columbia
Master of Education, University of Saskatchewan
Bachelor of Education, University of Saskatchewan
“We’re all learning together—there’s no hierarchy in my classroom. I see myself more as a learning architect; someone who is responsible for creating supportive environments, but it’s the students who are empowered to create knowledge and teach peers.”
WHILE SOME MIGHT SEE A BLANK CANVAS AS DAUNTING, Dr. Peter Arthur sees the endless possibilities of what it might become—a philosophy formed through his research and experiences supporting transition in higher education.
Dr. Arthur has been a steady and supportive presence in the evolving landscape of education and the campus itself. A faculty member since the days of Okanagan University College, Dr. Arthur has experienced and led transformative change both in his classroom and in the wider teaching and learning community.
“It was a crazy time,” he says of the early days of UBC Okanagan. “A lot of people rolled up their sleeves, pitched in and worked hard to transform this campus and build a community. It’s gratifying to see that vision unfold into the campus we know today.”
Dr. Arthur notes many similarities between the transition of Okanagan University College to UBC Okanagan and the journey each student takes when they transition from high school to university.
Following in the footsteps of his eldest brother—who taught at the high school Dr. Arthur and his other siblings attended—Dr. Arthur spent his first ten years as an educator teaching in the K-12 system before joining Okanagan University College. The vastly different experiences highlighted how students learn in Kindergarten to Grade 12 versus university environments.
“When students come to university, they’re beginning to paint a picture of the rest of their lives,” Dr. Arthur explains. “Like the early days of UBC Okanagan, students have a blank canvas in front them, and it’s up to them to create their future by design and decide what they want in life.”
Dr. Arthur found a deep passion for supporting students on their educational journey through his research on metacognition and self-regulated learning. This focus area was inspired by his time as founding director of the Centre for Teaching and Learning, when faculty members approached him with a concerning problem—some students were struggling and unprepared for learning at the university level.
Again, Dr. Arthur rolled up his sleeves and got to work. Drawing on his experiences in the classroom and his research, Dr. Arthur created curricular interventions to help students become more successful in their learning. Many of his strategies have been shared and adopted around the world. But most importantly, Dr. Arthur seeks to build connections with his students so they feel supported.
“My role is to help students learn and to help them succeed, not only in the classroom but in life,” he explains. “We’re all learning together—there’s no hierarchy in my classroom. I see myself more as a learning architect; someone who is responsible for creating supportive environments, but it’s the students who are empowered to create knowledge and teach peers.”
Dr. Arthur believes that connecting on a personal level is essential to building strong connections and communities.
“Each student is an individual and I want to know who they are personally. Knowing who they are as people is so important to building that connection, and to also help them find the best pathways to achieve their goals.”
Dr. Arthur has played a pivotal role in shaping the teaching and learning community at UBC Okanagan and beyond, earning him the 2023 Killam Teaching Prize in recognition of these outstanding achievements and impacts.
“I’m always pushing myself to grow, but there’s so much more we can learn together,” says Dr. Arthur. “Bringing people together to share innovations and help one another out is really special, and a big part of community building.”