Edinburgh University Students’ Association’s Student-Led Teaching Awards are back to recognise outstanding members of learning and support staff. After a challenging year for everyone, we’re celebrating our worthy nominees by shouting about their successes across our digital platforms.
What is your full name?
What is your job title?
What school or service do you work in?
School of Mathematics
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your role.
I joined the School of Maths in April of 2019, so this is my second year teaching at the university. Prior to joining UoE, I was at Duke University for many years, teaching statistics and data science. Within the School of Maths, I’m affiliated with the Statistics and Education themes, which is a great way to bring two of my passions together. My responsibilities in the school include running the Introduction to Data Science course (which has tripled in size between the first and the second year of its offering here at UoE) as well as organising and overseeing MSc projects for the Statistics with Data Science program. I also serve on the Bayes Education Committee and organise DataFest, a weekend-long data science competition for undergraduates.
What does it mean to you to have been nominated for a Teaching Award this year?
I am thrilled and honoured to have been nominated for this award. This year has been (and continues to be) a difficult one for all of us, and I am so glad to hear that my course has been a highlight for my students. In the design of the course, I tried to balance quality pre-recorded content with virtual face-to-face hours with students, and I am so delighted that students enjoyed this experience as well. I would also like to note the importance of the work of the course tutors on the student experience — their willingness to jump into Zoom breakout rooms and help during the tutorials as well as timeliness for returning feedback to students has undoubtedly helped the student experience as well! Teaching and interacting with my students is the most rewarding part of my academic career. Much of my own success as a student has been driven by devoted professors, and I hope that my dedication to teaching and enthusiasm for statistics and data science education similarly motivates my students.
What’s your favourite part of your role and working with students?
The favourite part of my role is teaching (and learning new things to teach) and the favourite part of working with students is the questions they ask that I’ve never thought about myself that makes me look at the material I’m teaching with a completely new perspective. I also love seeing students’ growth on a subject and being a part of that.
How have you adapted your approach to teaching and supporting students under the Hybrid Model this year?
I’ve always prioritised organisation of information, but this year this has been even more important. I started each week’s content with a video titled “Keeping up with IDS” where I summarised what we did the previous week and what’s coming up that week as well as reviewed commonly missed questions from the weekly quiz. I also tried to keep the course videos high quality and varied in format (sometimes lecture slides, sometimes live coding videos). This year we added an additional synchronous hour to the course for a live-coding session on Zoom, where I picked a dataset and applied that week’s methods to it while students provided direction for what we should try next on the Zoom chat. I think these were fun for everyone involved — they kept trying to find things I didn’t know how to do so I’d have to admit I didn’t know it and we’d Google it together. It kept the hour light but informative, and I’ll definitely be holding on to this component of the course even when we go back to teaching in person. The weekly tutorials where students worked in teams also worked very well, many students commented at the end that they were able to form meaningful relationships with their teammates by the end of the semester.
What’s been the biggest challenge in your role this year?
Balancing academic responsibilities with childcare responsibilities has been very difficult throughout the lockdown. This meant, at a minimum, recording many videos after the little one’s bedtime. Additionally, it’s been a lot more challenging to have meaningful and occasional conversations with students since there is no more walking out of the classroom together or running into each other getting coffee. I can’t wait to return back to normal times, even though what we’ve learned about effective education this year will stick with us, in a good way.
What would you say to the student(s) who nominated you, or students who are considering submitting a nomination for a staff member who has had an impact on them?
It means so much for one’s work and dedication to be recognised in this way, especially from students. So keep them coming! We can all use a bit of motivation boost, especially this year, and these nominations from students certainly help.
To find out more about the Teaching Awards and browse nomination categories, please visit the Students’ Association’s website.