My prior academic experience occurred in other city universities where academics received enormous professional trust. In my first year of teaching a large first year unit it was tough and I felt that I was lucky to survive. On arrival I received no handover or background information about the units I was taking responsibility for and learnt quickly, the reason for poor student feedback in the past. I saw an inappropriate curriculum, texts which were much too complex for students to comprehend and complex assessments which required simplification. In addition and unknown to me initially, partnerships with other institutions were formed so that student numbers were in the thousands. In my view, students were expected to cover too much material superficially; they depended too much on text book learning and were generally overwhelmed. I worked with staff who appeared out of touch with the new generation of students, and resentful of their heavy workload and the lack of support available while teaching in the unit. I understood why many taught in the unit one or two years before moving on. There was a lack of trust between unit chair, campus coordinators and teaching staff. As coordinator I knew I was responsible for introducing change.
At the end of my first year I sought the Dean’s approval to rebuild the unit from scratch in order to better manage the complexity of the program. He agreed to ignore student feedback in the unit and accept a lower research output from me for the next two years while I focused on the rebuilding. From the outset I fought for better teaching and student workloads so that a balance between content and experience was achieved. I worked to empower staff, take risks together and develop positive team relationships among them. I convinced management of the need for a co-chair to work with me and managed multiple assessments across the six campuses so that the trading of solutions ceased among students.
I reduced fragmentation of the program across multiple campuses by visiting other sites, watching other classes closely and keeping in touch with across campus tutors so we reassessed student understanding together. We used technology to support our teaching, assessment and support of multi-cohort students groups. As the team’s understanding of teaching technologies is strong I was confident about making changes in this setting. I was also confident in my own and the teams’ ability to understand student needs so that they received experience in the discipline rather than only facts. I introduced project work as our priority, as the driving learning force, so that lectures were used to report information and tutorials used for authentic hands on practice. Each year since, the teaching team has strengthened to become a happy and empowered team.