Professor Debra Grace, from the Department of Marketing in the Griffith Business School is the winner of a 2019 Griffith Group Learning and Teaching Citation.
What motivates and inspires you in your teaching?
My motivation and inspiration definitely are derived from my desire to make a meaningful difference in my student’s lives. My philosophy is that if I can teach students at least one key point, which they remember and carry with them through their post-graduate years, then my job is done. Hopefully, they will take away more than one key point, but my goal is to have some influence, however small, on all my students. In my opinion, the two key aspects associated with achieving such a goal relate to teacher authenticity and learning relevance.
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?
The teaching practices in my discipline have undergone dramatic change of the past 5 years. I was one of the first convenors in the GBS to experiment with new modes of teaching using online lecture videos (to replace the traditional face-to-face lecture) coupled with increased tutorial time through 2-hour weekly seminars. In this sense, students do not have to attend lectures which, for large classes, are really one-way communication vehicles anyway. Instead, they can view the lecture material at their leisure and, in doing so, benefit from increased face-to-face time in their 2-hour weekly seminars. This mode of teaching has been well received by students who appreciate the greater flexibility offered within this type of course structure.
How important is it for graduates to develop self-marketing skills and how do you facilitate your student’s development of these skills?
Given the highly competitive job/career marketplace, I believe it is extremely important for students to learn how to effectively market themselves to prospective employers. Graduating students are bombarded with numerous resources to help them write effective resumes and cover letters and appropriately address interview questions and, don’t get me wrong, these are valuable resources for them. However, drawing from product marketing we know that successful marketing is all about bringing the overall product offering to the market in a consistent and cohesive manner and, thus, enabling marketing communications to have a strong synergistic effect. This basic marketing principle underpins my Self-Marketing course (3029MKT), which means that this course is much more about creating an overall self-marketing strategy, rather than creating marketing materials, such as resumes, cover letters etc. This course pushes students to self-reflect on a deep level to understand exactly what “product” they are offering to prospective employers and how they can effectively capitalise on their strengths and minimise their weaknesses. Such a self-reflective exercise then enables students to make strategic decisions in relation to such things as career choices, career objectives, self-design and self-presentational aspects and, importantly, career evaluation and contingencies plans. This course is unique and student feedback has been incredibly positive.
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?
As the majority of my teaching, over the past 18 years, has involved large undergraduate classes (i.e. > 200 students), I suppose the biggest challenge I have had relates to designing my courses to accommodate a myriad of learning styles and student competencies. Over and above providing numerous resources for those students who may be slower learners than others, I try to design assessment items that students enjoy doing and that provide relevance to them. I find that engaging students through their assessment tasks is a great way to facilitate knowledge retention and course satisfaction.
When I first developed the Self-Marketing course, I allocated 20% of the assessment marks to student course engagement. As the video lectures were available online, I really felt that it was imperative for students to attend and engage in the 2-hour face-to-face seminars each week. However, what I learnt is that not all students want to engage, or they feel uncomfortable engaging in class and, this being the case, they felt they were being penalised because they did not fit a particular learning style. I realised that I had made an assumption about others based on my own preferences and was quick to withdraw the 20% course engage mark the next semester.
Given it isn’t always easy to innovate within learning and teaching context, what advice do you have for colleagues looking to try something new in their teaching?
I would definitely encourage my colleagues to innovate in their courses. However, the key to effective innovation is knowing your audience (i.e. students). Remember, any innovation must be made with the goal of assisting students to achieve the learning outcomes of the course. If the benefits of course/teaching innovation are not clearly communicated to students, then it may be perceived by students as being disruptive, rather than supportive. In other words, don’t just innovate for the sake of innovation or don’t fix a wheel that is not broken – make sure the benefits to student learning can be clearly articulated and appreciated.
What is something new you are looking forward to trying in your learning and teaching practice over the next year or so?
Before I try anything new with 3029MKT Self-Marketing (which is a relatively new innovation in its own right), I want to conduct a lot of research with the students who take this course. As this course has no prerequisite requirements and accepts students from all degrees in the university, it is quite unique. This makes me wonder whether, in some way, I can capitalise on the cross-fertilisation of student disciplines to enhance the overall student experience in future offerings of this course. Watch this space!