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Faculty of Law
UNB Fredericton

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Kerri Froc recognized for excellence in the classroom

Professor Kerri Froc has received the 2019-2020 UNB Law Teaching Excellence Award. This designation was based on her deep engagement with participatory learning, her consistent effort at trying new pedagogical approaches and soliciting feedback on how they work, and the strong endorsements she received from students across all three years of the JD program.

“It is meaningful to me as someone who doesn’t regard herself as naturally talented in teaching. I have to work really hard at it—I think about it a great deal, I read about it, I talk to colleagues, mentors and my mom, who is a teacher…I was joking with someone that maybe it is the ‘most improved’ award. To me, it feels like a message from students and colleagues to keep going, that I am on the right track.”

Kerri employs various active learning techniques in the classroom, focusing on balancing theory with practical application.

“I use hypotheticals drawn from my own experience in real cases. I was a practising lawyer and also someone who is deeply immersed in constitutional interpretive theory. I try to integrate those perspectives when I am teaching a class or interacting with students. It is with their academic success in mind, but I also want to equip them for their lives as trained legal professionals.”

Kerri focuses on student-driven teaching. In her advanced constitutional law class, she utilizes TQE’s or “thoughts, lingering questions and epiphanies” (a technique from teacher Marisa Thompson, which she discusses online). At the beginning of each session, students are given 20 minutes to discuss the day’s readings in small groups, focusing on items that stood out and any questions about the material. Kerri then creates a master list from the groups and the class decides what topics to discuss.

“It is important to experiment with different teaching techniques, but it has to be done advisedly, with the students contributing. You have to make sure that you bring them along and share the concepts behind the techniques you are using. I don’t want to experiment on them, I want to experiment with them.”

Kerri strives to show her students that the work they have done in class doesn’t need to simply sit on a bookshelf—her goal is to equip students to think through practical applications. In her class, she gives students the choice of writing either a law reform letter or op-ed as an assignment.

“What is most satisfying to me is when I hear about a student taking what they have learned in class and operationalized it or having thought about it in a way that is meaningful to them personally. For instance, Samer Alam and I co-authored a piece for the Canadian Bar Review on section 28 of the Charter. This publication came directly from his work in class.”

The award was made all the more meaningful to Kerri when she read feedback stating that students felt her classroom was inclusive and that they felt safe to address issues like mental health, a topic that is particularly close to her.

“I came out of private practice about 15 years ago, at a time when lawyers weren’t particularly good at dealing with mental health issues. Worry and anxiety felt incredibly stigmatized. It is almost a way for me to look back on those experiences and put a more positive spin on them. I see them now as helping inform the way I support students. I think UNB really has a student-first culture and I am happy to be a product of that.”

 

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