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?
Tutor for History of Art 1
What school or service do you work in?
Edinburgh College of Art
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your role.
I started tutoring at the University of Edinburgh this past fall. I am a PhD student and taught four sections. This was the first time that I have tutored.
What does it mean to you to have been nominated for a Teaching Award this year?
Being nominated really fills my soul. Obviously you go in to teaching wanting to help others share the joy and passion you have – in my case it is for Art History. Knowing that this was going to be 100% online was daunting- and I really thought hard about how to make a virtual space feel like a safe community. I put a lot of work in behind the scenes because I wanted the students know that in coming to an online class they could still make friends, build their own community, and see value in spending an hour with me and each other every week. It means so much to know that they felt like they had a somewhat “normal” class experience in a VERY abnormal year.
What’s your favourite part of your role and working with students?
I LOVE watching it click- when students realize that they can do something they thought they could not. I also love it when there is an ease to coming to class- after those first few meetings where people start to laugh an joke and everyone realizes that it’s just a “room” full of people who love looking at and talking about art.
How have you adapted your approach to teaching and supporting students under the Hybrid Model this year?
I knew that I would really have to alter my approach. I decided to use the Harkness discussion model, which is a teaching strategy to generate quality conversation. Essentially I do not talk during the session, unless to answer a question no one else can or to clarify something. In the first class I went over what good participation looks like, and what type of comments contributed to good conversation. I then spent the class taking notes on what each student said, looking for specific patterns in their responses (did they always focus on colors? design? iconography?). At the end of every class I sent every student an individual email to comment on what I saw as her/his/their strong points, and what to maybe think about in the future. The goal was to help students see where their natural strengths lay and what they needed to more consciously think about (in this case, for visual analysis). I also wanted to maximize the time we had and let them talk.
I also paired students up in exercises to “lead” an intro exercise every week- they and a partner (I picked for them, based on similar research interests) could choose any artwork related to the lectures from the week and take the class through it – I think in working with partners they connected with people that they might not have otherwise – and they also developed an appreciation for how hard it is to talk to black screens. When other classmates asked people to turn on cameras, it was a lot more effective than me asking 🙂
What’s been the biggest challenge in your role this year?
I think the size of the sections given the time. My smallest section had 12 students, which means that even if everyone showed up on time and there were no technical glitches, the maximum any student could talk was about 4 minutes. My larger sections were more challenging to manage. I think in the future if classes are going to be online, they need to be much smaller. Online learning takes more time- there are things that cannot be expressed through body language- the technology is clunkier, etc. I think have discussion sections capped at 10 would have been great.
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?
Thank you- It is lovely to know that you enjoyed class so much and that you felt “seen’! I am so sorry that we could not all meet in person in class, and I am so happy you felt there was some community! There is nothing more rewarding than hearing that someone else’s passion has been ignited!
To find out more about the Teaching Awards and browse nomination categories, please visit the Students’ Association’s website.