Dr Tommy Soesmanto from the Department of Accounting, Finance and Economics in the Griffith Business School is the winner of a 2019 Excellence in Teaching – Group Excellence in Teaching Award.
What motivates and inspires you in your teaching?
My teaching has always been student-centered. I am motivated to teach as it presents me with a highly rewarding opportunity in transforming knowledge and setting foundational skills for students’ success in their life and chosen career. I teach economics and statistics courses within the Griffith Business School. These courses have traditionally been perceived by students as technical and challenging. I am passionate in transforming student learning experience in these courses. I bring a lot of energy into my class with a repertoire of teaching skills to make studying economics and statistics engaging, insightful and relevant. The joy of seeing my students advancing their wealth of knowledge and having fun at the same time in their learning, motivates me to always teach to the best of my ability. My students do inspire me. Some of them need to juggle between work, family, and study. Despite the time constraint, they still strive to give their best and excel in their studies.
What have been the most effective pedagogical approaches you’ve implemented in your courses?
In teaching first-year courses I have found my use of P.P.P.R model (preparation, presentation, practice, and reflection) effective. It creates a safe learning environment to enhance student’s confidence in understanding new information and in developing what they have learnt over to new tasks.
Preparation: I direct students to some preparatory work prior coming to my lecture class. This involves reading from the prescribed textbook and engaging with other associated materials. To incentivise students I integrate this preparatory work into group activities in class. For example, at the start of my lecture I pair students to have a quick ‘initial thought’ discussion on the current issues and ask them to share their views to the rest of the class.
Presentation of new knowledge with examples: I actively utilise the instructional scaffolded approaches to help students in optimising their learning. For example, in teaching introductory economics I use strategies such as the ‘pre-teaching of the vocabularies’, and the ‘follow me’ activities in visualising and drawing the graphical models . I then collaborate with students in applying the models to real-world applications for authentic learning. I find students feel more confident ‘following the leader’ until they have practiced the new knowledge a few times.
Practice with feedback: I constantly present opportunities for my students to actively participate in practicing their newly gained knowledge. For example, I task students to work in groups in attempting questions similar to those I previously discussed. Feedback is then provided to students by ways of collaborating with them in solving the questions. In the process I actively use learning technology platforms such as Jpoll or Kahoot to make learning interactive and collaborative.
Reflection of Learning: At the completion of my lectures, I task students in writing one or two paragraphs on the key knowledge learnt from the sessions. In engaging with the process, students are driven to evaluate areas of difficulties which they can then raise in the workshop class.
What kinds of strategies and approaches do you find inspire and motivate your students to learn, even if they are facing challenges?
Success in my teaching has been largely contributed by my abilities in building rapport with my students in developing safe, inclusive, empathetic, and highly engaging learning environments. My students see me as their enthusiastic mentor whom they feel comfortable to engage with, and one who can effectively ignite their passion in learning. I genuinely care for my students and take great interest to see them succeed. I constantly remind them of this. I occasionally use humour in my teaching, present memorable illustrations using my personal anecdotes in explaining concepts and maintain my “never give up” attitude in teaching. At the same time, I set myself as a role model for respectful behaviour in class whilst always being proactive in acknowledging, celebrating and giving due recognition to student achievements.
What strategies have you used for creating an active learning environment in large first year courses?
Engagement through case-based learning: A key strategy I use in teaching introductory economics is the adoption of case-based learning. I start each lecture by discussing the (pre-assigned) news on current issues, videos or articles relevant to the weekly topics taught. This approach is useful to assist students to evaluate their knowledge base and contextualise theories to real-world relevance in obtaining authentic learning experience. I re-enforce on the discussion of the case studies at the end of the lecture to provide opportunities for learning reflection on the content taught. I then further embed the use of case studies in the workshop class to enable students to see the wider aspects of economics in the real-world.
Engagement through use of cross-cultural comparisons: In my teaching I emphasise the value of student diversity and how students can benefit from different individual and cultural viewpoint and perspectives. In teaching international macroeconomics, I make use of examples and case studies that draw on cross-cultural comparisons. One is the topic of “productivity and growth” as I draw examples from Singapore and Indonesia in their success in fostering growth. In the topic we also evaluate South Korea’s success in developing its popular music industry (commonly known by students as K-pop), and how Australia can learn from it. The implementation of this provides learning experiences which provides an inclusive context of respect and support to develop inter-culturally capable learners.
Engagement through innovation in course delivery: The introduction of new technologies has enabled us to deliver our courses in the non-traditional and more innovative ways. In addition to the face-to-face offering I have also developed and delivered my introductory economics course using the mixed-mode system. The mixed-mode course is a refinement to the pre-existing dual-mode course with the utilization of high-quality studio lecture recording and extended workshop time. This system has enabled me to provide my two cohorts of students, face-to-face and online, with a more equitable, engaging and interactive learning environment.
What is something new you are looking forward to trying in your learning and teaching practice in 2020?
I look forward to implement a modernization strategy for the first-year business statistics course in 2020. The focus here would be on the highly applicable nature of business statistics to solve practical everyday problems faced by businesses. I would like students to better appreciate and understand how to connect data analysis to business strategy.
What advice do you have for educators seeking recognition for their teaching practice?
Engage with the Teaching Excellence Recognition Scheme: The TERS scheme provides great opportunities for us to showcase and to be rewarded with scholarly funding on the contributions we make in learning and teaching in a wide array of aspects. These include delivery of positive student learning experience, teaching innovation, engagement in active learning strategies, dissemination of effective teaching practices, L&T professional development, scholarly activities, and many more.
Engage with the Higher Education Academy Fellowship: This year I have engaged in my application for Senior Fellowship with the Higher Education Academy program available at Griffith. The program has enabled me to thoroughly reflect, evaluate, and to be professionally recognised on my effectiveness as an educator in both facilitating learning and in the leadership in learning and teaching.
Engage with the Peer Evaluation of Teaching: I strongly recommend educators to participate in the PET program available through Learning Futures. Through the program I was grateful having my teaching observed and commented on by the assigned mentors. I was provided with tips and tricks which have been useful to enhance my repertoire of teaching skills and strategies.