Tim Newans, from the School of Allied Health Sciences in Griffith Health is the winner of a 2019 Priority Area Award – Sessional Academic.
What motivates and inspires you in your teaching?
The ‘lightbulb’ moment when a student synthesises the knowledge for themselves and can clearly articulate the concept to a fellow student. In statistics, there is a stigma that it is difficult, boring, and irrelevant. When these three hurdles are overcome, students gain an appreciation for statistics and realise the applications and necessity for statistics. While content is crucial to their understanding of how to perform statistical tests, their ability to discern and make statistical decisions for themselves is of greater importance and joy when accomplished.
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?
Statistics is a one of the subjects that can be more easily transferred into the digital space than many other courses. While this seems like a simple move, the genuine student interaction needs to be maintained, or else we risk the hurdles of statistics being difficult, boring, and irrelevant becoming increasingly higher. Technology can facilitate students to see statistics in action in a way that a textbook cannot accomplish, yet is can also distract a student’s attention at the same rate. If the technology can facilitate and not distract, statistics can become a great advocate for teaching in the digital space.
How have you created learning experiences for your students that are authentic and industry informed?
When developing a student’s ability to master statistics, I believe the best approach to influence students is through viewing them as apprentices. Once students see me go through the process, together as a class we work through another example, allowing members of the class to slowly take ownership of the tasks until eventually they are working the problems out with little to no input or guidance from me. By doing this, students feel a sense of both accomplishment and mastery, enabling them to have the confidence to tackle problems independently. In this way, each student can see the result, set out a plan to get there, and produce solid reasoning which develops them as a statistician.
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?
In a world where technology is automating most processes, the genuine interaction of an educator with their students is a major motivator in student learning. Through experimenting with a collaborative-learning tutorial format, students struggle to engage with technology-based learning and many students yearn for a personal connection to drive their learning. Students become inspired to learn if there is passion in the delivery of teaching, and this passion is often obfuscated through technological barriers.
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?
Start small and expand. Whether that be starting in a smaller cohort of students before expanding, or starting with minor innovations before moving onto major innovations, starting smaller allows you to gain the confidence in your innovation and prepares you for student’s responses to changes.
What is something new you are looking forward to trying in your learning and teaching practice over the next year or so?
I am looking forward to developing new ways of providing genuine personal interaction to motivate student learning in an increasingly-distant technological landscape. Intergrating technology without losing the connection with students that allows them to be inquisitive and comfortable to express uncertainty is a tough task, but one I’m looking to tackle through the coming years.
What advice do you have for educators looking to enhance their teaching practice?
Never underestimate your influence over a student’s ability to learn. Through influencing students by viewing them as apprentices, through motivating students by treating them with respect, and through inspiring students to learn by teaching with passion, I thoroughly believe that students can develop their own desire and drive for learning.