Learning Technology jottings at Goldsmiths

Thoughts and deeds

What do students value in their teacher?

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Yesterday the London School of Economics had its first annual Teaching Day. It was an impressive and very worth-while event (maximum credit to Athina Chatzigavriil, who planned and coordinated it and also to the Teaching and Learning Centre (TLC – cute) and the Centre for Learning Technology. I was lucky to be there – I hadn’t realised that other than me it would be an entirely internal affair. For this I have Sonja’s chutzpah to thank (Sonja will be working there from July).

There were two plenary sessions, four break-out sessions, a civilised 15 minutes between each, various stands and poster presentations over lunch, and a wine reception on the top floor of the law building at which the 2008/9 Teaching Excellence Awards were presented.

LSE’s Teaching Excellence Awards are a student union initiative funded by the Teaching and Learning Centre. Nominees can be anybody employed by the LSE to teach over 20 hours that academic year. Nominations involved 7 students completing a nomination pack (linked from the bottom of the page above). There has been a high degree of motivation to nominate tutors, fluctuating somewhat depending on the effectiveness of the publicity. A student panel weighs up the submissions.

The head of the TLC told me that the warmth of the nomination statements was remarkable, and Athina had had the bright idea to have the day’s final plenary presented by five students, each of whom had nominated a teacher. It was actually very moving to hear them – here are my notes from that session. Sadly, I don’t have a list of the names, so some I can’t link to.

Uli (Ulrike Theuerkauf I think – Economics and Government)

  • Pre-class prep. Clear slides. Understanding of obscure points – footnotes of the reading material. Rx reading. Ability to justify reading choices with respect to key aspects.
  • Clear and varied delivery methods. Group work, brainstorming. Simulation. Structured discussion.
  • Ensuring focus on a course with a huge range of time and geo-location. Teasing out of key themes; anticipating where these might be lost
  • Availability – reliable in office hours and approachable outside them; flexible
  • Feedback on written work extended to paragraphs.
  • Solid exam support
  • Extra stuff: extra class in week 5 Michaelmas term; passion for the course; gained respect and accommodation of the students – goodwill

PG Programme in Economic History – Tim Leunig

  • Enthralling story-teller; quick witted; comedic; articulate; interesting;
  • Good judge of audience – adapts a lecture to the audience; a tweaker; responsive; sensitive
  • Excellent structuring of the programme: keeps smaller classes; divide into rotating groups of 3 or 4; present a topic question each week as well as coordinating as a team and gaining experience presenting – v. motivating; followed by Q&A, then breakout sessions for discussion. Then Tim would tied everything together for the final 20 minutes. Format was conducive to preparations for exams. Everybody felt very confident. They had been active in preparation throughout the year. Proctor said he’d never seen a group of students so relaxed before.
  • Mock exam with thorough feedback and follow-up email with further feedback.

Masters in Human Rights – John Gledhill

  • Gave students the impression that teaching was his first priority – that he cared about them
  • Passionate
  • Very well-structured classes, reminders about reading lists prior to each class, including thought-provoking questions to make reading more interactive, and the sessions themselves more stimulating.
  • Adaptive and flexible to student needs. If students were shy, he broke the group into smaller groups to ensure that they were included
  • Synthesised theoretical work with the real-world to keep the subject alive and relevant to the ongoing debates and struggles in human rights.
  • Feedback was thoughtful, in-depth and concrete.
  • He was approachable, engaged, interested, cared about students’ interest in the subject
  • Arranged extra-curricular stuff like video nights, which communicated that the subject was important.
  • Left student with a deeper critical understanding, and the tools and skills for analysis in the subject

UG Accounting – Annette (I can’t find her)

  • Annette brought out students’ personality. You didn’t feel shy. You could try out bizarre ideas. She had a good sense of humour.
  • All the most crucial information about the industry and adjacent industries. Real-life cases to stop you getting lost in numbers.
  • Comfort in the classroom made presenting more fruitful.
  • You felt like you had a personal relationship with her, even in a single hour a week.
  • She was reassuring – you felt that she was there to support you through the pressure, and you could make a fresh start.

Denisa Kostovicova – From Empire to Globalisation

  • An atmosphere of respect, enthusiasm and academic discovery. You looked forward to coming to class every week.
  • As LSE students, we thrive on structure and feedback. We make strategic decisions about which seminars to prepare for. Denisa achieved a place in our priorities through positive reinforcement
  • We posted questions we had about the readings. Denisa made sure that our questions had a response. We knew somebody was listening, and that they cared. You are desperate for feedback and attention from your tutors, and Denisa went above and beyond. She would send email feedback about what we could improve on – to have that sense of engagement from your tutor was a huge benefit
  • She brought a sense of discovery and interest to class which I didn’t always feel with my other seminars.
  • You had the sense that Denisa thought we might say something interesting and relevant. She was listening hard from what we were saying. Sometimes she would praise us, and that would make us hungry for more praise.
  • She knew our names, and she used this to structure the class and organise the discussion. We were not all the same. We listened to our peers. Those of us who were shy had a chance to participate – everybody was encouraged to respond and to listen respectfully.

These were only five of the many nominations.

Written by Mira Vogel

June 10, 2009 at 10:11

Posted in teaching

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