Dr Christopher Love from the School of Environment and Science in Griffith Sciences is the winner of an Australian Awards for University Teaching 2019 Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning.

Chris received a citation for the development and implementation of innovative active learning and student-staff partnerships for enhanced engagement, learning and success in biochemistry and molecular biology.

Congratulations, Chris!

What motivates and inspires you in your teaching?

I do enjoy teaching, and I love interacting and engaging with students. I’m inspired and motivated by my students’ success, and watching them develop into scientists of the future.

What have been the most effective pedagogical approaches you’ve implemented in your courses?

By far the most effective strategy I have implemented would be the Students as Partners (SaP) approach, involving students as co-creators of the course curriculum and assessment. This approach, provides an opportunity for students to be involved or have a say in what they learn, and negotiating the terms of the partnership. Thus, students feel empowered, and in my experience, this leads to enhanced engagement and learning.

How have teaching practices in your discipline changed with the introduction of new technologies?

There is an abundance of new technologies available although I have focused on the PebblePad and Echo360 in recent times. I don’t necessarily think that the technology has changed the teaching practices but certainly the way we deliver the content is constantly changing. However, as we move more online, one of the most important changes I have introduced is the requirement for student to evaluate their own performance and reflect on their learning. These reflective practices are not only important for students to regulate their own learning, but provide a valuable insight for educators. Student reflections provide a unique perspective which can be used to tailor a course to the specific needs of a diverse range of learners.  

What is something new you are looking forward to trying in your learning and teaching practice in 2020?

I am planning to extend the PebblePad digital workbook for first-year biochemistry students which I introduced last year to develop their metacognitive skills. Student were required to create study plans by using effective learning strategies, as well as evaluating and reflecting on their performance. The workbooks were designed to encourage self-regulated learning and improve student success, and indeed, resulted in improved student performance. The aim this year is to further develop the digital workbooks to incorporate disciplinary knowledge and employability skills while maintaining the study plan creation. A combination of non-graded study skills components, reflection and evaluations embedded between graded authentic active learning tasks in biochemistry. Interestingly, the COVID-19 pandemic forcing courses to be taught online provides the perfect opportunity to further develop digital workbooks to engage with student online.   

What do you see as the biggest challenge or next big shift in learning and teaching?

I think we all know the big challenge this year is teaching online in the COVID-19 pandemic. Moving from face-to-face to online teaching in a matter of weeks has been extremely challenging, and not without its ups and downs. In just a couple of weeks, I have had to upskill on the use of online learning platforms that I have never used before, as well as determining the best ways of engaging and interacting with students online, and in particular, judging student understanding without any body language cues.  Regardless, the challenge has resulted in many positive outcomes, for example, it has provided opportunities to upskill, to try new technologies and to adapt to teaching in the online space. My first classes have been a roller coaster ride, the engagement in some classes has been fantastic while others have left me a little demoralised but this will lead to changes in the way we teach in higher education, and how we engage with students who are, in many ways, more technologically advanced and adaptable to change. It is certainly a very interesting time to embrace the challenges and know that this pandemic will change future teaching forever.