Klassen has been an APA member since 2003.
What he does:
Klassen is an associate professor of educational psychology at the University of Alberta. He began his career as a junior high school French and music teacher, then became a school psychologist, with stints in Canadian, Australian and English schools. While in Europe, he presented a study at his first academic conference and discovered a new passion. "That's what spurred me to take academics more seriously," he says. He earned a doctorate in educational psychology from Simon Fraser University in 2003.
Motivated by motivation
Klassen's research explores motivation in students and teachers. "I reflect on my own academic patterns and motivations as an adolescent—the choices made and the reasons behind them—and wonder about the universality of these patterns," says Klassen. One line of research focuses on motivation and emotions in at-risk adolescents. "I've always been interested in figuring out how ... the way we think about ourselves and our own abilities influences the way we end up behaving," he says. Even within his own family, he says, the motivation patterns of his three kids—college students Andrea and Danielle and high schooler Joel—vary tremendously. Other research explores the relationship between teachers' psychological characteristics and their effectiveness. While past researchers have focused on teachers' "relatedness" with colleagues as a motivating force, Klassen has discovered that it's the connection with students—not colleagues—that drives teachers.
A world traveler
"On the Road" and other travel books he read as a teen inspired Klassen to see the world, he says. "That's one of the great things about being an academic: You can combine your work and traveling to other places," he says. On his last sabbatical, he combined trekking and lectures at the University of Kathmandu. He then headed to Cyprus, where he explored families' role in motivation, and Crete, where he's launching more research on how teachers' relationships with students affect their motivation. His collaborators in cross-cultural research include scientists from Oman, Korea, Australia, Indonesia and many other nations.
"Anti-car," Klassen is a fan of self-propelled travel. Even in Alberta's long, cold winters, he often heads to school on a bike equipped with studded tires. Once home with wife Lenore, a special education administrator, he loves to cook dishes inspired by his travels. His most recent obsession? Cypriot cuisine, which he describes as being as delicious as Greek food but with Middle Eastern influences. "When I get home," he says, "I have a glass of wine, get out my chef's knife and get to work."