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Skip to 0 minutes and 6 seconds The basic principles which underline my approach is that, well, with physics, students learn by actually working on problems and learning from what they can’t do. So, in lectures, I take as active a learning approach as I can. So asking lots of questions and getting lots of feedback from the students so that I know what they’re struggling with. So some of the principles that underlie my approach to teaching include collaboration. I think collaboration is really, really important both in a learning context but also in getting things done outside university. It’s really important to me that students have a chance to get feedback from each other, from their peers, from co-collaborators. That they’re able to work together on projects.

Skip to 1 minute and 0 seconds I think it’s very important to foster a sense of a learning community. This sense that you can develop things together, so I try and foster that wherever possible. A lot of the work that I do with Sonic Arts involves things like obscure machines or hardware, software, very technical based experimentation. And it’s important for me to get over that barrier of fear around technology, so give a sense of a safe space to really try things out and see what happens. I think it’s good to have a lot of feedback from a lot of different angles from peers, from educators, even from people in the wider community where that’s possible.

Skip to 1 minute and 50 seconds I think it’s that desire to– to communicate the course, to communicate the concepts and do it in an interesting way. Do it in a memorable way and to try and involve this– involve and get the students to be active participants in their own learning. It’s definitely more of a constitutive approach. So rather than the sage from the stage standing up front and boring students with 100 slide decks, now it’s definitely a lot more like the guide by your side, where you work with the team to figure out what problem they’re working on. You throw questions at them to help tease out the answer from them.

Skip to 2 minutes and 30 seconds You don’t tell them the answer, but you consult them to help them define a problem in a way that they can solve it.

Skip to 2 minutes and 41 seconds I think, for me, a good teacher is one that has infinite patience. A good teacher is one that recognises the body language of students when they don’t get it. A good teacher is one that does not let the students get frustrated because then they stop learning. I believe that good teachers listen to their students a lot and respond to how the students answer questions. And from the looks on the students’ faces, you can tell if they’re engaged or not. So I think a good teacher listens to their student– students and seeks feedback and then acts upon that feedback.

Skip to 3 minutes and 23 seconds So I think, yeah, I mean, good lecturing is also breaking up the lecture because students can’t concentrate for a full hour so mixing it up a bit. Maybe doing one lecturing to them and then having a break. In physics, we might show them a demo and get them to vote what they think is going to happen in that demo before performing the demo or giving them a question for them to work on in class and possibly getting them to vote on it. Definitely being really interested in what you’re doing. Students can tell whether you’re not as engaged yourself. And you have to be authentic. A lot of it is about that relationship and about your enthusiasm that captures other people.

Skip to 4 minutes and 13 seconds As a scientist, we talk a lot about curiosity, and if people are curious, they are more engaged in what they’re doing. So trying to capture that curiosity is important for me. A good teacher needs to be able to really foster a sense of community to have– create and curate a culture. So as much as conveying information. There’s lots of different ways to convey information, but that information needs to be conveyed in an environment where amazing things can happen. And I think one really key role of a teacher is to facilitate that kind of environment.

Skip to 4 minutes and 54 seconds Obviously, it’s important to know your material and to be able to point students in the right direction to explore things for themselves to make those little interventions that will really make a difference in their own research. From my own personal experience, I would say the qualities of a good teacher are definitely engagement and interactivity but this sort of ground level quality. So I think that the process of taking students through a reflective journey, a critical thinking journey, allowing them to take ownership of the task and scaffolding that process. And it’s sort of like a guidance through that process. However, not all students can respond well to that.

Skip to 5 minutes and 40 seconds So the teaching needs to be adaptable as well, and I think adaptability and knowing your student cohort and their thinking helps those qualities in a teacher to develop further. The qualities of a good teacher, I think, would go back to that principle of being– of the role of a teacher which is to create good student learning. And so, I guess the first characteristic of a good teacher would be one who teaches effectively. One who monitors when their students are learning and what they’re learning and how. One that uses effective strategies to teach and so to create that learning efficiently and effectively. One who monitors that student’s learning and adjusts teaching strategies accordingly if they’re not working, for example.

Skip to 6 minutes and 36 seconds And one that involves respect for the students and respect for the students’ learning. And a teacher that imparts that through– through liking the students, through respecting their intellectual engagement with the material and assuming that the students are here to learn, intellectually engaged, and curious and students who want to be here and want to engage with the material in which you’re an expert.

Good teaching focuses on what the student does

Refer back to the good teaching qualities you prioritised in Step 2.1. In this step you will hear teachers at UNSW talk about the principles that form the basis of their practice and what they believe are the qualities of good teaching.

Teaching staff were asked the following questions:

  1. What are the basic principles that underlie your teaching approach?
  2. What are some of the qualities of a good teacher?

Talking point

Think about this question while you watch the video.

Which idea or comment resonates with your views about good teaching?

Now share your thoughts with your peers.

Academics in context

Information about the academic staff in this video and their professional contexts may be found in the Academics in context.pdf document.

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This video is from the free online course:

Introduction to Learning and Teaching in Higher Education

UNSW Sydney