Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Quality university teaching

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra. Professor Ian Young, Vice Chancellor, has just announced that he will be releasing the ANU's new strategic plan on 23 September 2011. Professor Young was introducing Dr John Minns, Winner of the 2010 Prime Minister's Award for Australian University Teaching, speaking on "What is quality teaching?".

I could not find an on-line summary of the talk, but you can see a demonstration of John's teaching style in "Culture and Politics in Latin America" (POLS8003).

What makes a good teacher:
  1. What makes a great teacher: passionate about the topic, respect for the students, a collegiate atmosphere, establish a rapport,
  2. Creativity in lectures: Don't just prepare 50 minutes of talking. As n example he played some music (Una ramika de rud (Wedding Song) by Ensemble Saraband) used in a lecture on Markets in International Political Economy. The second example was Guantanamera (a little obvious). John pointed out that 50 minutes was beyond the attention span for a monologue and that a dialogue was needed. One technique he uses is to have the students "vote" on propositions. Obviously there is now technology to do this ("clickers"), but the point was to have interaction in some way. Dr. Minns pointed out that students need to be introduced to research in a gentle way, otherwise it will be too difficult for them. He emphasized the need to show the practical results of the research and its effect on society. AN example is how markets effect food production and so if there will be enough for millions to eat.
  3. Research: John modestly called his efforts in teaching as trial and error. One example was how to get the students to plan their work and not leave assignments to just before the deadline. Just making suggestions as to when the student should do what did not work. Providing crossword quizzes to make it interesting did not work either. He related how his part of ANU had a structure of two lectures and a tutorial per week. He changed this to have a free flowing forum after the lectures, which worked well (similarly I found I was able to abandon lectures and examinations at ANU). John argued that the innovation would come from the teachers, as well as the formal high level initiatives of the university. He recommended a culture of discussing what works.
One of the audience asked if there was research on how Australasian university students learn. So I did a quick search and found "Cross-cultural education: learning methodology and behaviour analysis for Asian students in IT field of Australian universities" (Jie Lu, K. L. Chin, Juan Yao, Jun Xu, and Jitian Xiao. 2010, In Proceedings of the Twelfth Australasian Conference on Computing Education).

John also mentioned
Paulo Freire, Brazilian educator.

A note of humor was introduced after John cited Socrates, but one of the audeicen pointed out that Socrates was not keen on writing. I interjected that I was blogging, in the style of Plato.

1 comment:

murcha said...

Thanks for sharing your notes on this wonderful presentation. I shall look at all your links as I am really interested in what was said and has been done.