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New CoLab spurs innovations in pedagogy

Valuable support from The Molson Foundation will bolster a novel approach to education

Three students from the Trafalgar School for girls working on a robotics project

A new partnership between McGill’s Faculty of Education and Trafalgar School for Girls – known as the CoLab – aims to advance collaborative research that will address the evolving needs of both educators and students. Unlike traditional laboratory schools at Oxford, Columbia, UCLA and the University of Chicago, which operate as an adjunct to a university, this new venture will be a true partnership, the first of its kind in Canada.

Supported by a gift of $2.5 million from The Molson Foundation, this investment represents the first half of a $5-million commitment from the foundation in honour of McGill’s upcoming bicentennial.

“We believe in continuous improvement when it comes to teaching and learning,” says Andrew Molson, President of The Molson Foundation. “At a time when the educational landscape is ripe for bold new partnerships, The Molson Foundation is pleased to participate in this venture.”

Suzanne Fortier discussing CoLab with representatives from Trafalgar School for Girls.

Dilson Rassier, Dean of McGill’s Faculty of Education, welcomes The Molson Foundation’s support and says it will be invaluable in building an exceptional collaboration between McGill researchers and an innovative Montreal high school.

“This venture will break silos between theory and practice, tackle educational and societal challenges in creative, innovative, consequential ways, and contribute to shape the future of education,” he says. 

Current plans call for Trafalgar to relocate to a new home at Purvis Hall on the McGill campus (adjacent to the Faculty of Education), where university researchers and school educators can interact on a daily basis. The new facility is expected to open within the next few years. Plans also include the creation of a $10 million endowment fund at McGill, which will support joint research and programming between the two institutions; The Molson Foundation is the first benefactor to step forward with a major investment in this partnership.

McGill’s Lisa Starr is one of the Faculty’s leaders developing the CoLab. An assistant professor in the Faculty’s Department of Integrated Studies in Education, with a longstanding passion for innovation in school practices, Starr is working closely on the project with Katherine Nikidis, BEd’91, Trafalgar’s Head of School.

“One of the things we know is that the traditional model of education isn’t necessarily what the world needs today,” says Starr. “We’re dealing with some complex problems like sustainability challenges and a global pandemic. These challenges are going to require more than the single subject knowledge that’s been historically featured in our school curricula where we learned about math or science and social studies in isolation.”

The collaborative work of the CoLab will be facilitated by the characteristics of Trafalgar School.

“Since Trafalgar is small, nimble, and embraces innovation, we can model this novel, synergistic CoLab relationship allowing educators and students from both schools to inspire each other and benefit from the free-flow of ideas,” says Nikidis.

Ultimately, the CoLab aims not just to foster innovative research and practice in education, but also to serve as a generator of similar collaborations across the country, and share best practices with schools across Quebec and Canada. Through the CoLab, McGill Education students and graduates will have the opportunity to be part of a growing network of change makers in education.