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Making a difference

After documenting teaching behaviours and strategies that she appreciated as a student this Unit Coordinator shared her information with colleagues. Using innovative approaches in her lessons resulted in her receiving teaching awards and promotion to lead teaching and learning in her university school. More...

Since my arrival here as a junior employee I adopted a different approach to teaching and encouraged other lecturers to look for the best in their students. I thought I could be a successful teacher by documenting what I liked and disliked from my own experience of undergraduate lecturers so I wrote down the positive characteristics to ‘paint a picture’ for myself. When others were interested I shared my thoughts with them. Two years later and feeling constrained, I coordinated a unit written by a colleague, in which there was poor alignment between assessments and the unit content. I saw insanely complex assessment tasks with no skills support for the students I was teaching, so understood why I received poor student reviews. I knew changes were necessary so with approval I altered the unit content delivery and assessment to help students learn. To my embarrassment I won a national teaching award when student feedback for the unit shifted from the lowest scores in the school to the highest.

As head of teaching and learning now, I also coordinate a large discipline unit and I am reviewing our course. Nearly everyone in this school has unit coordination responsibilities and as we have several campuses, sessional staff often coordinate units as well. Our teaching teams are usually groups of four people who work together without a specified leader. Because our unit coordinators are often appointed at Level A and Level B coordination is not viewed as a leadership role. Mediating between unit coordinators and the teams is part of my role. In one unusual situation a young unit coordinator persistently refers to the team as ‘his staff’ which they dislike. I know one long serving and highly professional academic takes offence at this attitude so alerted the unit coordinator but there is no visible change in his manner yet. I regard this situation as a work in progress.

Some unit coordinators here are fantastic and care very much about their students, while others, especially off campus coordinators care much less so. In my view it is important to choose the right person for the job to ensure there is appropriate expertise and interest in every unit. Sometimes people need the opportunity to demonstrate their strengths so I work to empower people to take risks and be prepared to recognise the value of new ideas.

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