Lakehead University Professors Receive Teaching Innovation Award

April 22, 2014 – Thunder Bay, ON

Three Lakehead University Associate Professors from the School of Nursing have won the COUPN Teaching Innovation Award for a mask-making project introduced to nursing students in September.

This award recognizes teaching innovation in a baccalaureate or graduate nursing education program, and acknowledges an outstanding contribution to nursing education through teaching innovation.

The Council of Ontario University Programs in Nursing (COUPN) will present the award to the Lakehead University School of Nursing’s Dr. Michelle Spadoni, Associate Professor; Dr. Patricia Sevean, Associate Professor; and Karen Poole, Director/Associate Professor at a ceremony in Toronto on April 23.

The goal of the project was to teach students about caring by helping them understand themselves, others and the world they live in. Called An Aesthetic Expression of Caring Through Mask Making and Storytelling, the project was funded by the Associated Medical Services Phoenix Foundation: Call for Caring Grant.

More than 200 Bachelor of Science in Nursing students worked together to create the masks. Each student had to cover their partner’s face with plastic wrap, providing a small hole to breathe through. Next, four layers of plaster were applied to the person’s face.

The outside of the masks were painted to represent the way students believe people see them while the inside was painted the way students see themselves. The experience will help shape the nurses they will become.

“Often as teachers it is easy to be caught up in discussing all the knowledge pieces that need to be covered in class. You can forget to examine how we teach and what gives meaning to a true learning experience,” said Dr. Spadoni.

“This approach to teaching and learning can best be described as transformative learning, where you start from a relational perspective – see, feel, change – in the doing. You learn with one another, it requires conversation, sharing thoughts, questioning one’s values, beliefs and pre-conceived ideas,” said Dr. Sevean.

“As an arts-based teaching method, first-year nursing students were engaged in a non-traditional learning environment that provided the space for greater awareness of themselves and others, a critical aspect in all nurse-client interactions,” said Professor Poole.

"This award recognizes the outstanding work of three very dedicated faculty members, as well as the School of Nursing's long-standing commitment to providing students with an education that is innovative, engaging, and meaningful to their future practice,” said Dr. Lori Livingston, Dean of the Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences.   

The COUPN awards recognize nurse educators and scholars in Ontario and clinical settings who provide exemplary nursing education, research, and placements that help to advance the profession of nursing.

“Anyone who has ever been cared for by a nurse, or had a loved one cared for by a nurse, understands the extraordinary value of these men and women to the health care system,” said Dr. Jennifer Medves, Chair of COUPN and Vice-Dean (Health Sciences) and Director, School of Nursing at Queen’s University.

“Patients benefit tremendously from research into the practice of nursing being conducted at Ontario universities, and our institutions’ innovative approach to nursing education. The COUPN awards recognize these remarkable nurse educators and scholars.”

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In 2015, Lakehead University will celebrate 50 years of exceptional education. Guided by a new Strategic Plan (2013-2018), our University is known for providing an education focused on independent thinking, unconventional scholarship, and a close sense of community. About 9,700 students and 2,000 faculty and staff learn and work in ten faculties at two campuses, in Orillia and Thunder Bay, Ontario. Home to Ontario’s first new Faculty of Law in 44 years (Fall 2013) and the Northern Ontario School of Medicine's West Campus, Lakehead is among Canada’s Top 10 undergraduate universities (2014 Maclean’s University Rankings), as well as 1st in Ontario and 2nd in Canada for its innovative research (Re$earch Infosource). Our Orillia campus is the first in North America to be built entirely to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) standards. Share your Lakehead story as it relates to our Strategic Plan at, and learn more about Lakehead at