School of Education
Bishop’s is a hub of dedicated and passionate research activity conducted both inside and beyond the classroom. Future educators in particular are lucky to be involved in the work conducted by the husband-and-wife team of Christopher Stonebanks and Melanie Bennett-Stonebanks, who have been engaged in research at the School of Education since 2005.
Both award-winning faculty at Bishop’s, the professors are conducting research projects on several fronts which all involve students at the graduate and undergraduate levels.
The Research on Secularism and Education (ROSE) project is funded thanks to a 4-year grant by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). Professor Stonebanks is the Primary Investigator on the ethnographic research project which examines the secular nature of Canadian public schools.
‘‘In Quebec especially, there has been significant debate over the years about the division between church and state in our society,’’ says Professor Stonebanks. ‘‘I work with one undergraduate student and 3 graduate students, and together we look at teachers’ perspectives on this issue. It has become a hot button topic in our increasingly multicultural society.’’
The second research project is called Praxis Malawi, of which Prof. Stonebanks is the director since its inception in 2009. Professor Stonebanks has organized multi-university, interdisciplinary place-based learning endeavours in the rural region of Kasungu, Malawi. There, his students and others coming from universities in Canada and in Europe, work on curriculum development for the young students.
‘‘It was important for us to establish a consultation process with the local community of Kasungu,’’ explains Prof. Stonebanks. ‘‘We wanted to adopt a collaborative approach, and we wanted the process to be mutually beneficial.’’
Over the years, dozens of students have spent five to six weeks in Malawi. ‘‘Some students have returned several times, so they become leaders in the field,’’ says Professor Bennett-Stonebanks, who is the interim director of practice teaching at Bishop’s. ‘‘They receive credit for the work they do. It’s incredible to see them get involved and come back completely changed.’’
She adds: ‘‘Not only do the students help us advance our research project there and gain valuable experience on the ground, but the experience broadens their worldview. They know they will become better teachers as a result. As educators, they will be able to offer something much deeper to their own students than if they hadn’t gone to Malawi. It’s very powerful.’’