Acfas prizes for two McGill professors 

Acfas awards Professors Michel Biron and Susanne Lajoie with research prizes for their exceptional contributions to their fields. 
McGill professors Michel Biron and Susanne LajoieOwen Egan / Joni Dufour

Canada’s most prestigious French-language learned society announced the recipients of its research awards today, and two McGill professors are among the winners.

At its 77th virtual gala ceremony, the non-profit organization Acfas, l’Association francophone pour le savoir, awarded McGill Professor Michel Biron the Prix André-Laurendeau and Professor Susanne Lajoie the Prix Jeanne-Lapointe.

“I am delighted to celebrate the outstanding contributions and excellence of the McGill researchers recognized by Acfas,” said Martha Crago, Vice-Principal (Research and Innovation). “My sincere congratulations to Professors Michel Biron and Susanne Lajoie on these well-deserved honours. Dr Lajoie has made a remarkable contribution to education and Dr. Biron to French-language scholarship in Canada.  I am delighted to see these two McGill professors recognized by Acfas.”

One of the most respected and influential literary specialists in Quebec

Michel Biron, a full professor in the Département des littératures de langue française, de traduction et de création was awarded the 2021 Prix Acfas André-Laurendeau for his contributions to literary history and socio-criticism. His studies of literature particularly those penned in Quebec, France, and Belgium in the 19th century through to today are among the most influential in his field.

“I was extremely surprised when Sophie Montreuil, the Executive Director of Acfas, contacted me to tell me the good news,” said Biron. “I thought she was simply asking me to participate in a committee. Once I understood the reason for her call, I felt touched and honoured by this Acfas prize, even more so if I look at the list of former laureates, especially the literary people I admire, such as Laurent Mailhot, Marc Angenot or François Ricard. For me, this award is a great encouragement to continue my research.”

Biron’s research explores many literary forms including fiction, poetry, essays, and criticisms. His publications are regularly cited, studied, and discussed among students and researchers interested in the literature and culture of Quebec. In particular, he co-authored Histoire de la littérature Québécoise (2007), the first comprehensive history of Quebec literature to be written since Pierre de Grandpré’s Histoire de la littérature française du Québec (1967). Biron’s book filled a significant gap between the 1960s and today and is considered one of the most important reference books in Quebec literary criticism.

Some of Biron’s most notable publications include L’Absence du maître (2000) and La Conscience du désert (2010), two books about Quebec modernity which have played a major role in the revitalization of Quebec studies. He also authored the first biography of the Quebec poet Saint-Denys Garneau, De Saint-Denys Garneau (2015) and recently released previously unpublished letters from the poet, titled De Saint-Denys Garneau, Lettres (2020).

He has received many accolades over the course of his career. Some honours of note include the Lorne Pierce Medal from the Royal Society of Canada in 2020 and the Prix Victor-Barbeau in 2011. He has been the recipient of two awards more than once, the Prix Jean-Ethier-Blais, which he won three times (2001, 2008, and 2016), and the Prix Gabrielle-Roy, which he was awarded twice (1993 and 2008).

 A visionary in the field of instructional design and learning technologies

Susanne Lajoie, a Professor in the Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology and Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Advanced Technologies for Learning in Authentic Settings, was awarded the 2021 Prix Acfas Jeanne-Lapointe for her visionary and transformational research in the fields of instructional design and learning technologies. She is the second recipient of the prize that was created in 2020. The prize is sponsored by le Ministère de l’Éducation et par l’entremise du Conseil supérieur de l’éducation, et par le Fonds de recherche du Québec – Société et culture.

Lajoie’s research focuses on the convergence of educational psychology, learning sciences, artificial intelligence, and digital learning. She designs and builds interactive, technology-rich learning environments (TREs) that help students develop expertise in the context of solving real-world problems, engaging their emotions and advancing their thinking.

“It is a great privilege to receive the Acfas Jeanne-Lapointe prize for research in education. My belief is that everyone is capable of learning with the right guidance and emotional support,” said Lajoie. “My research demonstrates how technology can be designed to adapt instruction to specific learning trajectories to maximize learning and performance outcomes and enhance engagement. I am honoured that my research efforts are being recognized by this Acfas award.”

She has continued to extend her research beyond academia by working directly with schools, the medical community, and industry partners to bring about profound transformation in educational practices to various fields. For example, Lajoie co-led an initiative that developed a digital and video-based tool called HOWARD that assists medical students in Montreal and Hong Kong to learn how to monitor and manage emotions when communicating bad news to patients from different cultural backgrounds. Her TREs are also used to train medical students to practice their diagnostic reasoning in a safe environment which can reduce dangerous diagnostic mistakes in the future with real patients.

One major project that greatly increased international visibility to Lajoie’s work in Quebec was called Learning Environments Across Disciplines (LEADS), which brought together educators, psychologists, computer scientists, engineers, physicians, and students across six countries, 18 universities and 13 partner organizations to design and implement TREs of their own. A total of 19 LEADS projects helped teach 21st century skills to students from middle school to university in multiple domains.

Lajoie was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2018, in addition to being a Fellow of the American Educational Research Association in 2009, and a Fellow of the American Psychological Association in 2002. In 2015, she received Acfas’s Prix Thérèse Gouin Décarie for research excellence in social sciences.

Read the Acfas citation for Michel Biron

Read the Acfas citation for Susanne Lajoie