2011 Teaching Awards
Dr Therese Arseneau, School of Social and Political Sciences
Therese says that for her there are three essentials to being an effective teacher – being clear, informative and interesting. Her ambition is to make politics relevant and vital to every student. She brings the study of politics to life by bringing the politicians to the student with guest lecturers, most notably John Key on the role of the Prime Minister. She also brings students to see politics up close – each year she organises the programme for the New Zealand politics honours students’ field trip to Parliament. Students typically call this experience “life changing” and the “highlight of their honours year” with meetings with various politicians, bureaucrats and media. After three days of their visit, three years of lectures finally make total sense.
Therese also believes in the importance of university academics breaking out of the ‘ivory tower’ and becoming relevant to the general public too. She teaches outside the university at for example probis clubs, the officer training school at Woolston and the UC spring lecture series for the community and has participated in a national speaking tour for the Electoral Commission explaining the options on the MMP referendum. She also feels that her appearances in the media, particularly around elections, are an extension of her teaching of New Zealand politics, just to a wider audience.
Therese says that she finds New Zealand politics utterly fascinating and she wears her passion for the subject on her sleeve in the classroom.
Dr Andrew Bainbridge-Smith, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Andrew is widely acknowledged to be passionate about teaching and the University. His outstanding contributions are evident in both the courses he teaches into, the curriculum development in his department and his contributions to the faculty as a whole. He is known as a teacher who works hard at improving his teaching – by reviewing and reflecting with his students on their learning, by surveying students on all his courses and through subsequent curriculum development. He says that he believes teaching is an art which must be practised with the aim of always doing better.
Andrew has also introduced some innovative techniques into his teaching including the development of a small inexpensive microprocessor board that allows students to develop code at home and the introduction of a project in which students are divided into software engineering teams that mimics the design of large software projects in industry. He has also developed new courses which join together previous offerings from Electrical and Computer Engineering and Computer Science and Software Engineering which has resulted in an improved laboratory experience for all students.
As well as his classroom teaching, Andrew spends many hours with undergraduates in his office giving advice and instruction one-to-one and one-on-few. One student said of him “Bambi” – (the nickname he was given when he was the youngest member of the academic staff) –“is an excellent teacher, I went from hating computing to loving it. I don’t know how he did it.”
Associate Professor Peter Falkenberg, Centre for Fine Arts, Music and Theatre
Peter is one of a very small number of UC teachers to be nominated for his award by his students. They say that he never talks at his students, but talks with them, holding class like a discussion among peers, providing each student with a rare opportunity to engage in theoretical discussions about the world around them, growing their confidence.
Peter’s philosophy, since founding the Theatre and Film Studies programme in 1988, has been to integrate theory and practice and bring together theatre and film. As a highly innovative and internationally respected theatre performer, film maker and scholar, Peter brings his creative work into the classroom, lecture theatre and studio so that students consistently have the opportunity to share actively in his research, learning alongside him rather than simply receiving existing knowledge.
He is also senior supervisor for a wide range of PhD students covering topics as diverse as horror film, disability performance and community theatre. According to his students, working with Peter is always “exhilarating, stimulating, challenging and immensely rewarding.”
Professor Dave Kelly, School of Biological Sciences
Dave believes that the best teachers are enthusiastic and entertaining, value their students as individuals and present material in ways which generate maximum engagement by the students. His own work reflects these values and his nomination for this award, from the School of Biological Sciences Teaching and Learning Committee, demonstrates the respect his colleagues have for his work.
Dave has been involved in a variety of innovative teaching techniques, one of which – podcasting – in hindsight proved extremely useful preparation for the post-earthquake teaching in 2011. He trialled the technology, not just because it was becoming more accessible, but to see what effect it would have on learning. He kept notes of class attendances during his trial and asked students in customised teaching surveys how they had used the podcasts. Students were very positive about the podcasts, there was no fall-off in lecture attendance and the most common use of the technology was to listen to short excerpts that students had found confusing in the lecture. All good learning outcomes which led Dave to successfully propose that all biology undergraduate lectures be podcast, an incredible resource for when parts of the campus were not accessible following the 2011 earthquakes.
Dave is also a committed postgraduate supervisor whose research students have gone on to successful positions in nearly all the New Zealand universities, several Crown Research institutes, iwi organisations and overseas.
Dr Richard Lobb, Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering
Richard’s nominator, a previous award winner himself, says of him: “he is absolutely focussed on the students’ educational experience, he accepts no compromises in teaching effectiveness, he meticulously designs courses, assessments and lectures so that they grab students’ attention, he is a key departmental advocate for updating and optimising our curriculum, he has led technical innovations and breathed life into out student’s participation in international programming competitions. In short I have found teaching with Dr Lobb inspiring, humbling, exhausting and fun.”
Richard confesses to being first captivated by computer programming in 1966 and indeed one of his students says “Richard’s enthusiasm and hundreds of years of experience is almost unsurpassed”. His commitment to his students is plain – when the February earthquake hit, he was in the first week of teaching a large first year course. In order to ensure continuity of teaching, within days he started producing the “Ruffazgutz” series of videos covering key concepts, praised in course feedback and he also coordinated LiveZilla, call centre software which allows remotely distributed students to have live chat sessions with their tutors. He believes in “learning by doing” and has designed an ‘autotester’ that allows students to submit their code for testing as they complete each step then e-mails them their current “correctness mark” every night. Richard’s colleagues say that he brings a rare intensity of focus to his teaching in relentlessly pursuing opportunities to improve the student’s learning experience.
Mr Russell Wordsworth, Department of Management
Russell believes that learning should be a multifaceted experience, whereby students learn from engaging with their lecturer and course material, from interacting with each other both in and outside the lecture theatre and through experiencing what is taught in lectures as part of their everyday lives. He has put this theory into practice by introducing weekly online quizzes for his students, including YouTube and other technologies to produce applied examples and exercises, bringing textbook theory to life. This tool has proved an effective way to enhance student attendance and engagement in class. He has also designed a course in which his students are required to undertake a major experiential learning project related to the design and delivery of a training programme, giving them valuable in-course real-world learning experiences whilst supported by a teacher who is known as being always easily accessible to his students. In fact he has been nominated for the UCSA Lecturer of the Year Award every year since joining UC.
Russell says he wants to break away from the stereotypical view of human resource management as a dull and boring field, practised by bureaucrats in brown suits, as he feels the subject can provide great opportunities to challenge students to think and question experiences in their everyday lives.