UNSW Learning and Teaching Forum 2019

Some Highlights from the Event

The events conducted by Pro Vice Chancellor (Education), or PVC(E) for short, are always quite interesting. I get to learn what the educators at UNSW have been working on. But best of all, I get to meet people that I wouldn’t have known about.

The 2019 Learning and Teaching forum was held in the John Niland Scientia Building, which has three auditoriums. You can generally expect amazing food here, so I try not to miss the events here.

There were parallel talks happening at the three venues and you could move between them to attend those that interested you the most.

The main venue had over a dozen posters by educators from UNSW. These were about their research and other projects based in the education sector. I found one on ‘Learning Theory and the Practice of Work’ by Associate Professor Leanne Piggott which got me excited because I had only recently learnt about this method of learning. She talked about Heutagogy in her poster. I hope to continue the conversation with her once I return to Sydney. Another one that got me excited was about ‘Academic Lectures- Conventional or Unconventional’ by Mehnaz Armat and Adina Stan. This was about creative approaches to stimulate engagement in the classrooms. Their methods could be useful for developing my idea and I hope to learn from their methods as well.

Kathryn Sutherland on Akoranga, Manaakitanga, and Whanaungatanga

Kathryn Sutherland presented the keynote on “Changing Contexts and People in Higher Education: Holism and Akoranga”. She noted that even though the student number in universities have been increasing over the last few years, the attendance has steadily gone down. This is something that I have been aware of through my research and I was excited to know that there are others trying to address this issue.

In some of her classes, Kathryn paired up students so that they could help one another. Students are sometimes timid and won’t ask questions by themselves. Pairing up helps the gain confidence and they can ask questions along with their mate.

Victoria University of Wellington has something called ‘Teaching and Learning Circles’. Here a group of educators watch each other teach and are able to learn from their colleagues’ methods. UNSW could use something similar. Some lecturers that I know of from the CSE (Computer Science and Engineering) faculty are pretty popular amongst the students for their teaching methods. I feel that their colleagues could learn a lot from their methods.

Kathryn noted that learning pronunciations of the names of students encouraged a sense of belonging. They would record students saying their names and attach them to their online profiles to encourage this process.

Dr Peter Neal on using Teams for communication and feedback

Dr Peter Neal from the School of Chemical Engineering at UNSW talked about using Microsoft Teams for CEIC3007 (one of the courses) to encourage student engagement. Teams has a benefit over other platforms because it mirrors the interface of social media. As a contrast, Moodle is not device friendly and is more like Web 1.0. UNSW uses Moodle and as a student, my experience has been quite bad on the platform- maybe we could work on something new.

CEIC3007 had channels for each class and team. This facilitated easy feedback. Tutors could join any of the channels if requested and solve doubts of the teams. I’m not sure if this would be useful in my courses where most students are more comfortable communicating in Mandarin. Maybe we could have a ‘tap-to-translate’ feature so that the communication is easier.

Dr Rebecca Collie on teaching practices to support student’s motivation and engagement

Another interesting talk was by Dr Rebecca Collie, who presented on ‘Teaching Practices to Support Students’ Motivation and Engagement’. According to her experience, students appreciate interactivity and being in groups. Giving authentic contexts and real-world applications of the questions resulted in students being more excited about the topic being taught.

These are just some of the talks that I found useful. I must admit that it was a long day and I was pretty exhausted by the end of it (not to mention the assignment that was due the next day). But the day was well spent and I am really glad to not have missed it!

Here is the link to the Forum programme with abstracts: 2019 Learning and Teaching Forum

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