The Working in International Communities – Nepal Program Team: Dr Stephen Larmar, Dr Jennifer Boddy, Professor Patrick O’Leary and Amanda Smith from the School of Human Services and Social Work, received a 2019 Griffith Group Learning and Teaching Citation. Dr Stephen Larmar is the Program Lead.
What motivates and inspires you in your teaching?
I always strive to teach with the primary outcome of facilitating experiences of transformation for the students I partner with through the learning journey. I believe that transformative learning outcomes are achievable for all students. It is always my hope that I would inspire all students to see learning as a potentially life changing, transformative process.
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 practices in the area of human services and social work education have changed rapidly in the last ten years with the introduction of new technologies. The learning space has become far more flexible which has served to increase student accessibility. The major challenge for human services education is to keep ‘the person central’ in the midst of rapid technological change and expansion.
How do the active and authentic learning experiences of the program prepare students for future careers?
Students engaging in international programs of this kind recognise how working ‘on the ground’ with other experienced practitioners as well as beneficiaries of the various social services they are exposed to, prepares them for interfacing with diverse organisations and service users back in Australia. Many students through their engagement with the filed component ot the program experience moments of profound realisation as they see theory and practice come together within the international community space.
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?
My most profound learning in the process of creating supportive and engaging teaching and learning spaces is that expressing your passion for the content you are teaching represents half the battle one in terms of motivating students to take their education seriously and to recognise education as a potentially transformative process. I am a big believer in respecting a student’s agency in taking control of their own learning. However, as a facilitator of learning I also need to be working alongside students to see whether further support is required to help them to reach their learning potential.
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?
If you are going to try something new, be courageous and consider how you can approach the new idea as creatively as you can. Be confident in your delivery but walk humbly when it is time to assess the effectiveness of the introduced innovation. It may be that you might need to let some new ideas go!
What is something new you are looking forward to trying in your learning and teaching practice over the next year or so?
I am hoping to improve my ‘teaching presence’ in the online space. I thoroughly enjoy teaching face to face and so I want to think more carefully about how I might translate some of my on campus teaching strengths to the online classroom context.
What advice do you have for educators looking to enhance their teaching practice?
Recognise that teaching and learning is not primarily about information acquisition…it can (and should be) so much more than this. Education has the power to radically transform lives. I have had the priviledge of seeing this tranformation first hand with some of my students. It is what motivates me to be a better human services educator and remain resolute in my commitment to constantly improving my practice.