DR. JOHN-TYLER BINFET
Associate Professor, Education
Okanagan School of Education
Since I was an undergraduate student, I knew I wanted to be a professor. I started my journey as a public school teacher and school counsellor, attending evening and weekend classes at UBC’s Vancouver campus to complete my Master’s and PhD in Educational Psychology. I was fortunate to find a strong mentor in Dr. Kimberly Schonert-Reichl, who took me under her wing. After graduation, I found work at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, where my students were new teachers working to support students in underserved communities. When I started my position at UBC Okanagan, I decided to pursue research that would bring me joy and generate joy for others—that has been my focus for the past ten years as the Director of UBC’s dog therapy program “B.A.R.K.” (Building Academic Retention through K9s), as well as in my classroom, where I explore with my students what it means to be kind and how to demonstrate kindness within the school environment.
My research has two distinct foci: I investigate the effects of spending time with therapy dogs on undergraduate students’ well-being, including reductions in stress and homesickness, and I explore how students in K-12 conceptualize kindness in school, including how they define and enact kindness to themselves and others. I consider myself an applied researcher and do my best to “walk the talk” as it were—I typically leave work covered in dog hair after a B.A.R.K. session, and my kindness research sees me integrate kindness into my teaching, crafting assignments for my teacher education students that require them to design and deliver acts of kindness as part of their coursework.
“My goal is to create inclusive spaces where students are challenged to think differently and move forward through the world in creative and meaningful ways.”
What excites me most about teaching is the challenge of taking a group of strangers and cultivating an intellectually rich, inviting, and supportive class climate together that advances our thinking and practice. I’m mindful of the importance of class climate in fostering an environment where students are comfortable taking intellectual risks and engaging with course content, as well as with me as their instructor. My goal is to create inclusive spaces where students are challenged to think differently and move forward through the world in creative and meaningful ways.
Students play an integral role in my teaching and research. Much of the B.A.R.K. program research is only possible thanks to the student research assistants who help with data collection, data entry and analyses. UBC has a deep pool of talented student researchers, and my research has been enhanced by the insights and skills of student researchers. I honour the expertise and hard work of my students by co-authoring publications with them to share and celebrate the findings we’ve uncovered together.
When I first came to UBC Okanagan for my interview, I remember arriving in a taxi on Innovation Way. During my time here, I’ve seen that Innovation Way is more than just a road sign: UBC provides a teaching and research climate where faculty can be innovative, from exploring creative and different approaches to teaching that enrich learning experiences to new approaches to conducting research. The B.A.R.K. program is a great example of this: when I pitched the idea of bringing therapy dogs on campus to support student well-being, many supporters stepped forward to pave the pathway for me. We now have 60+ dogs in on-campus programs, thanks to the support for innovative applied research here at UBC Okanagan.
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