Anna Webb, from the Department of Accounting, Finance and Economics, received a 2018 Griffith Learning and Teaching Citation for course transformation through implementation of real-world activities and industry engagement opportunities that have inspired student learning.
We asked Anna to tell us a bit more about her teaching practice and the active and authentic learning experiences she has facilitated for students.
What motivates and inspires you in your teaching?
As corny as it sounds, seeing the students ‘get it’ and seeing them get excited about their future career path.
How have teaching practices in your discipline changed with the introduction of new technologies, and how has technology changed the way you interact and engage with your students?
Other than teaching significantly more online, I don’t think my overall teaching approach or that of our discipline has really changed with the new technologies. Instead, I believe there’s just more opportunities to interact and engage with our students in different ways by using the technology to support their learning. For example, we’re able to use software students would use in practice in their assessment items and provide more ‘just in time’ guidance around assessment and their learning by using short-online video’s.
How do the active and authentic learning experiences in your courses prepare students for their future careers?
Most students have no idea what financial planning really is until they do my course. Therefore, giving them the opportunity to put what we are learning into practice by providing advice to a client really helps them see how practical the course is and whether this is something they would want to do as a career. This also gives them a solid foundation for future FP courses which extends the advice process further. Accordingly, when they do finish their degree, they are well prepared to not only provide advice, but to also communicate often quite complicated concepts to clients, both written and verbally.
What have you learnt throughout your academic career about creating an engaging learning experience for students, and what have you learnt from experimenting with new approaches that didn’t quite work out?
I’ve learnt that you must get students engaged and interested in the first few minutes of any course if you want students to actively participate throughout the rest of course. This not only sets the scene early that student interaction is both encouraged and expected but also that this is a safe learning space in which to do so.
I’ve also learnt that no matter how engaging or interesting you think the content is, every cohort is different and what may work for one, will not work for another, so being adaptable is very important.
With approaches that didn’t quite work out, I’ve learnt to explain to students upfront why I’m trying x and to ask for feedback about what they liked and what could be improved along the way, again, re-emphasising the purpose of the approach. While something may not quite work out the way you expected, students often do give you credit if they can see you are trying something different for their benefit.
Given it isn’t always easy to innovate within a learning and teaching context, what advice do you have for colleagues looking to try something new in their teaching?
Where possible, try any innovations on a smaller cohort – this allows tweaking when it either doesn’t work, or, when something unexpected occurs (e.g. an interaction that you didn’t anticipate happens). These issues are much easier to fix with a smaller cohort.
Bouncing ideas off other colleagues works well too, some may have already tried it (and figured out what did / did not work), so there is no point in re-inventing the wheel.
What is something new you are looking forward to trying in your learning and teaching practice over the next year or so?
I’m looking forward to trying gameful learning 🙂
What advice do you have for educators looking to enhance their teaching practice?
Firstly, try not to everything it all at once! Small, incremental improvements that are done well over a longer period of time are likely to work better than attempting several large improvements all at once, particularly if you don’t have the time to be fully across everything. It’s also harder to figure out what worked and what didn’t if you are changing several variables at once.
Finally, take advantage of the trainings offered by Learning Futures, the Peer Evaluation of Teaching Program and your peers. We love to help 🙂