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Mairi Cowan

Mairi Cowan receives Excellence in Teaching with Primary Sources Award

August 13, 2021

Mairi Cowan, an associate professor, teaching stream, in the department of historical studies at the University of Toronto Mississauga, has won the Canadian Historical Association’s Excellence in Teaching with Primary Sources Award.

The annual award recognizes instructors teaching in historical studies fields who emphasize student engagement with primary sources in effective, critical and innovative ways.

“Threaded throughout her courses are innovative assessments and dynamic pedagogical approaches to the use, interpretation, and critique of primary sources,” the association said in its citation. “For example, students not only listen to music played by professional musicians in class, but also sing a medieval chant themselves while encouraged to critically analyse music as they would any other primary source.”

A historian of the late medieval and early modern world who specializes in the social and religious histories of Scotland and New France, Cowan also undertakes pedagogical research. She has published on the development of critical thinking skills in large history courses and on the gaps that separate high school preparation from university expectations. Her latest project investigates the effectiveness of different kinds of feedback on students’ work.

“Teaching history means guiding students through the process of discovering, understanding, and engaging with the human past,” Cowan said. “The study of primary sources is fundamental to this process in the formation of a history student, and I am delighted to have won an award recognizing the importance of this work.

“Sustained, critical, and thoughtful engagement with primary sources is at the forefront of my teaching. I hope that our work together helps students deepen their understanding of the past – and their present – in creative, original, and historically responsible ways.”