Updated: Insights From Reflections of the EUSA Student-Led Teaching Awards Nominees

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Image Credit: Text Portrait Design by Joe Arton. Original colour photo credit by Prince Akachi on Unsplash and WordCloud created by WordClouds.com.

In this post, we summarise, visualise and outline trends in the reflections from the nominees for the Edinburgh University Students’ Association’s Student-Led Teaching Awards based on written questions posed online to all nominees and featured on the Teaching Awards Page.

The purpose of this page is to provide users of the Exchange key insights as well as the opportunity to identify patterns, outliers, and unusual distributions through visualisation and captured quotations to stimulate further research and ideas.

Since the start of the pandemic, across schools, colleges and units, staff have developed strategies within hybrid and digital to support students in meeting their learning objectives. These reflections from the nominees reveal the individual, embodied experience of academic staff delivering on that goal. While the reflections are certainly worth reading in full, there are four initial insights that offer potential cues on areas for concentration for future curriculum transformation efforts.

  1. Knowing What Works: The nominees built on what they knew already worked and adapted holistically to what students needed as the public health situation evolved. In practice this meant developing new digital capabilities while also recontextualising habitual practices such as delivering lectures, designing group work, and building a sense of community and belonging.
  2. Optimism: There were repeated references to keeping in place pandemic-related changes made to teaching and learning. This suggests a level of optimism for experimentation around pedagogy among the nominees. Moreover, the questionnaire’s intentional inquiry into what worked well, not only revealed sites of best practice for future learning but also a positive and energised mind-set for transformation of teaching and learning at the University.
  3. Student-Centred: Nominees who described prioritising student well-being, listening to and learning from their students, and in the process building meaningful connections with their students explicitly connected this practice with their own levels of satisfaction and gratification with their teaching work. Inversely, not being able to adequately meet the emotional and social needs of students was reported as one of the negative inflection points of teaching during Covid-19. These reflections demonstrate that good practice is about teaching the people in the room rather than focusing exclusively on the content.
  4. Institutional Archiving: While being mindful of overinterpretation, there is a strong correlation in the reflections between high-student satisfaction with specific teaching practices and the models, work in progress, ideas, resources and scholarship featured on The Hybrid Teaching Exchange (linked to in the quotations below). From an institutional strategic learning perspective, these reflections serve as a metacognitive strategy; processes to help staff think about their learning around hybrid and digital. They also encapsulate the value of having provided a curated, institutional digital archive of strategic learning from hybrid for future curriculum transformation work.

    Image Credit: Designed by Joe Arton. Original photograph of Darwin Library Kings Building from University of Edinburgh Collections.

For the visualisations and captured quotations, the focus is on three areas in the questionnaires:

  • Adaptation: How have you adapted your approach to teaching and supporting students under the Hybrid Model this year?
  • Challenges: What’s been the biggest challenge in your role this year?
  • Satisfaction: What’s your favourite part of your role and working with students?

Adaptation: How have you adapted your approach to teaching and supporting students under the Hybrid Model this year?

Image Credit: Word Cloud generated from interviews conducted with Teaching Award Nominees on the question of How have you adapted your approach to teaching and supporting students under the Hybrid Model this year? WordCloud.com

I teach a subject that is fundamentally interesting to most people, but this year in particular I tried to add extra fun and make things as interactive as possible.


I’ve learned that the more opportunities for learning, the better, so we use a real combination of live sessions (in large and small groups), discussion boards, emails, chat boxes, telephone.


I’ve tried to break lectures down into smaller, more easily digestible, bites.


On the online platform I have found students feel more confident to speak out and present solutions, which was often too intimidating in in-person sessions.


Spending extra time checking in, getting attuned to emotion and expression and making sure ‘how are you doing’ comes before ‘what are you doing’ over Teams and emails has been important.


We moved to group personal tutor meetings and have actually found that these are very helpful in creating peer interaction. It is likely that we will retain group meetings going forwards.


I refer to events that involve the whole class as ‘live sessions’, rather than ‘lectures’ … [and] Students also make suggestions/requests for how to spend our time together … I love the interaction and sense that we’re spending time on what students need. 

Challenges: What’s been the biggest challenge in your role this year?

Image Credit: Word Cloud generated from interviews conducted with Teaching Award Nominees on the question of ‘What’s been the biggest challenge in your role this year?’ WordCloud.com

Balancing academic responsibilities with childcare responsibilities has been very difficult throughout the lockdown


I’m a full-time clinician in the middle of a global pandemic with a young family and a teaching role that required development of a complete lecture series online


The biggest challenge is sustaining student engagement with online teaching


Adapting to online teaching was challenging at first and I feel I made a lot of mistakes


My biggest challenge has been finding more time to be there for the students during this challenging period and at the same time being able to be there for my own underage son


Like most of us it has been WiFi and how to ensure that WiFi issues do not impact too much on the student experience.


Satisfaction: What’s your favourite part of your role and working with students?

Image Credit: Word Cloud generated from interviews conducted with Teaching Award Nominees on the question of What’s your favourite part of your role and working with students? WordCloud.com

 

Our students especially come from such diverse academic backgrounds, their approaches to problem-solving are all so different and they learn massive amounts from each other. 


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 enjoy seeing students grapple with difficult questions and arriving (largely on their own!) at innovative, challenging, and insightful answers. 


Although I’ve never met any of them in person (as far as I know), I really feel I’ve got to know many of them. I think this has been the best part.


I enjoyed watching the students apply theories of race and coloniality to make sense of their own lived histories and intellectual projects. 


Teaching is a special kind of conversation, and the more people feel confident to express their views to me and one another the happier I am. 


I love working 1-on-1 with students. (Lecturing is not as fulfilling as we might wish!) From a teaching perspective, this is when I can begin to see where a student is struggling, and why.

 

 

Author: Dr. Joe Arton – Academic Developer at the Institute for Academic Developer (Curator, The Hybrid Teaching Exchange)

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