Pioneering researcher on using digital technology to enhance learning earns McGill Medal

Education Professor Emerita Susanne Lajoie honoured for excellence in both research and teaching


Professor Emerita Susanne Lajoie receives her McGill Medal from McGill President Deep Saini (left) and Provost Christopher ManfrediOwen Egan/Joni Dufour

Professor Emerita Susanne Lajoie, known for her pioneering research on how to best use digital technology to enhance learning, was awarded the McGill University Medal for Exceptional Academic Achievement on May 30.

“Professor Lajoie has left an indelible mark on McGill University and the international academic community,” reads her award citation. “She is a most worthy recipient.”

It’s the latest in a long list of honours for Lajoie, who taught in the Faculty of Education’s Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology for 32 years before her retirement in 2023. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, a Distinguished Fellow of Quebec’s Order of Excellence in Education, and a two-time Tier 1 Canada Research Chair.

Lajoie said she couldn’t believe it when she heard she won the award.

“I was completely thrilled,” she said. “I am humbled and honoured.”

Developed computer-based learning environments

Lajoie joined McGill’s Faculty of Education in 1991, where her research pulled from the fields of psychology, education and computer science.

“For years I’ve been interested in how different individuals learn and solve problems: discovering how subject matter experts think, and then modelling it so that others can learn more rapidly,” she said.

Lajoie developed computer-based learning environments in multiple disciplines – including for  medical students, avionics technicians, and pilots – that modelled deep, sustained learning. One of her biggest projects involved 17 universities from around the world.

“We brought together experts in AI, medicine, psychology, and more,” she recalled. “That was one of my biggest grants, and it was a lot of fun.”

Department chair with a stellar teaching record

In 2001 she began an eight-year team as Department Chair. Under her leadership, the unit recruited its first Canada Research Chair and obtained critical accreditation from both the Canadian Psychological Association and the American Psychological Association for professional programs in counselling and school psychology.

“Being a female Chair of the department – back then it was a first,” she recalled. “I was definitely encouraged by the dean at the time [Ratna Ghosh, Education’s first female dean]. You learn a lot by taking on leadership roles like that.”

She also established a stellar teaching record: mentoring an impressive number of students, co-publishing research papers and winning the Carrie M. Derick Award for Graduate Supervision and Teaching at McGill. Most of her advisees now hold academic positions around the globe, and two have held Canada Research Chairs.

“The Carrie M. Derick Award was important to me,” said Lajoie. “It shows my support for students and their support for me. I’ve collaborated with so many wonderful students – none of these important research innovations are done alone.”

Lajoie received the McGill Medal during the Faculty of Education’s convocation ceremony. She is the award’s 17threcipient.

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