Dr Natalie Loxton, from the School of Applied Psychology in Griffith Health is the winner of a 2019 Griffith Group Learning and Teaching Citation.
What motivates and inspires you in your teaching?
Assisting students with challenging course content motivates and inspires me to develop approaches to presenting material in an interesting and interactive way. I think this is particularly important in teaching courses such as statistics, where students have high levels of anxiety, and have difficulty seeing the relevance to the field of Psychology. I love technology (ask my colleagues) so it is natural that I’ve turned to this as a solution for assisting my students.
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?
With the increasing need for students to manage multiple responsibilities while they study, new technology, especially mobile technology, has greatly changed where and when students engage in their learning. Having access to a host of new apps and programs I have been able to create a suite of innovative course resources that students can access on their phone, tablets, and computers. By providing a wider range of technologies than in the past students are able to engage with course material wherever they choose (at their desk, on a bus, anywhere really). These technologies also help with overcoming the anxieties that are often elevated in Psychology students in statistics courses by providing resources that break down larger learning tasks into smaller more manageable chunks that they can work on privately and revisit as required.
Can you tell us more about the immersive and interactive teaching resources you developed and use in your statistics course?
The teaching resources I have developed range from worksheets that students complete during lectures, to online “Spark” pages that students can use as self-paced tutorials when revising their notes for assignments, exam preparation, and that they can access after they complete the course. I particularly enjoy teaching this course and use these resources to convey my enthusiasm for the content, to actively engage students, and to reduce the stress and mystery often associated with statistics. Many students (some even years later) have told me how much they have enjoyed the course and especially the resources that I have developed such as lecture-specific crosswords, animated lecture slides, in class worksheets and games, and screencasts embedded within the online Spark pages. One of the Spark pages can be found at this link.
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?
It is often difficult to gauge if a learning experience designed to engage students will work. Sometimes the experience works well for a proportion of students but not others. In such cases thoughtful feedback from students has led to changes that have resulted in a different approach that then engages most students.
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?
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and experiment. Seek feedback from students as to things that work and those that do not. I find technology enjoyable and so that is the space in which I tend to find inspiration and avenues to enhance my teaching. However, innovation does not need to be limited to technology. My advise would be to use look at aspects of your world that keeps you interested and motivated and that maybe something that may lead to a new approach in your own teaching practice.
What is something new you are looking forward to trying in your learning and teaching practice over the next year or so?
One of my courses is being modified to be offered in a blended mode in 2020. This will provide an opportunity to introduce online content such as podcasts and greater use of active learning experiences in the classroom.
What advice do you have for educators looking to enhance their teaching practice?
Similar to my response above, find things that interest and motivate you. Look outside of usual learning and teaching sources. For example, I tend to listen to podcasts and read about technology, productivity, design, etc. These perspectives are then incorporated into my teaching. Overall though, my advice is to have fun.