Dr Dawn Adams, from the School of Education and Professional Studies in Arts, Education and Law is the winner of a 2019 Griffith Group Learning and Teaching Citation.

What motivates and inspires you in your teaching? 

The real life differences that I know students will go on to make for individuals on the autism spectrum once empowered with the knowledge and skills that we support them to learn.  

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? 

Teaching online is not just about putting content on a website, it requires different pedagogies and approaches to support students in their learning journey, and it is likely that these will have to change and develop as technologies change and as we learn more about how students study online. This has shaped my approach to teaching as I don’t see my course and course site as a static item I’ve developed and will keep delivering, I see it as an “vehicle to learning” that cross many different terrains over the forthcoming years and so will need different approaches to do this in the best way possible. Having this mindset allows me to view technological changes as an opportunity rather than an inconvenience. 

How do the learning approaches in your courses prepare students for their future careers? 

Students taking the courses in the Graduate Certificate and Master of Autism Studies complete a range of assessments which can be complied into a portfolio for students to share with future employers.  They can chose to complete all activities in this portfolio for a single case study or for a range of case studies, depending on whether they wish to demonstrate deep learning or a broad range of experience. This has been well received by employers who employ our students, such as the Department of Education and the AEIOU Foundation. 

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 feel incredibly fortunate to teach in an area that I feel passionate about and want others to feel passionate about. This motivates me to try and engage students and to help them when they feel stuck.  Using real-life examples and concrete explanations of why students need to learn specific topics or skills, especially if they are difficult skills to learn, helps students to engage and ask for help if difficulties occur. 

I’ve learnt that when something doesn’t work, don’t just blame the students.  Students and educators both have a role in learning, but as the only behaviour you can guarantee to change is your own, take time to identify what you can do to make it work better next time.  If your instructions weren’t followed, it’s likely that they can be improved.  If they didn’t discuss a specific area you would expect them to discuss in an assignment, it is likely that you could make the importance of that area clearer.   

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? 

Speak to students about what they would like to use and for what sort of tasks and (genuinely) look at your SEC and SET and use this to review what is working and what could be improved in your course.  Ask your colleagues about what they are using, how, why and learn from their experience.  Try to look at the course sites of others and see how technology is used and how successful the application is. Enrol in a free online course (such as a MOOC) and get some ideas of what it is like to be on the other side of the table! 

What is something new you are looking forward to trying in your learning and teaching practice over the next year or so? 

Online MESS sheets 😊  

What advice do you have for educators looking to enhance their teaching practice? 

Develop time to writing about Learning and Teaching. That could be a HEA fellowship application or an application such as a learning and teaching citation – it gets you really thinking about what you are doing, why and where you plan to go from here!