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Keith Adamson receives a 2022 University of Toronto Early Career Teaching Award

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Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream, Keith Adamson is among the recipients of this year’s University of Toronto Early Career Teaching Award, an honour bestowed on faculty who exemplify teaching innovation, pedagogical engagement and an exceptional commitment to student learning.

“Embracing a diversity of perspectives and the innovations that flow from them is key to realizing U of T’s goal of achieving inclusive excellence – and that often begins in the classroom,” Cheryl Regehr, U of T’s vice-president and provost told U of T News.

“By demonstrated their unwavering commitment to enriching students’ academic experiences, each of this year’s Early Career Teaching Award winners is helping to ensure U of T is not only delivering an unmatched educational experience but is ultimately preparing graduates to make the sort of changes our world so desperately needs.”

photo of Keith Adamson

From U of T News:

Adamson was asked in 2018 to create a course that emphasized how social workers can better support people with disabilities.

So, the assistant professor, teaching stream, in the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, turned to his clients at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, where he was senior director of collaborative practice.

“I wanted to create a course that honoured the voices of clients and families within the system and prepare future social workers to be sensitive to client and family needs and disability issues, and advocate for clients,” he explains.

The course, “Social Work and Disability Practice: A Client and Family Centered Approach” was co-created alongside community partners, PhD students, clients and their families to ensure that their lived experiences are reflected in the course content.

Recognized as the first of its kind in Canada by the Ontario Hospital Association, the course brings in six clients or families to actively participate in the teaching process for the entire semester. Adamson says that moving away from traditional lectures highlights the contradiction or relevance of theories when applied in real life and creates an avenue for students and client and family co-teachers to co-create new knowledge and questions about care.

In the course’s final class, students present a topic in disability studies that they are passionate about in a creative medium – such as poetry, music or comics. The project allows them to demonstrate their disability advocacy, which is a course objective.

“We established a community on the very first day,” Adamson says.

“The classroom has really become an arena for disability advocacy for the clients and families who come in to teach future social workers who will help people like them in the future.

“We didn’t wait until students reached the clinical realm to have these conversations with clients.”

Such conversations underscore Adamson’s overarching philosophy: deconstruct hierarchies within health care and academic institutions through collaborations that value social justice, equality and empowerment.

“Relationships are essential to my teaching philosophy,” he says. “For me, the educational alliance is caring about your students and helping them be the best clinician possible.”

> Click here to read about all five 2022 University of Toronto Early Career Teaching Award winners.