This is how I teach

As part of the ongoing recognition of teaching excellence across the University we spoke with Dr Kathryn Hill, Postdoctoral Research Associate from the School of Biological Sciences, for this months ‘This is how I teach’.

What do you most like about teaching in your discipline?  Which aspect is the most rewarding?

I love to instil the joy of botanical knowledge into students - showing them the amazing things of which plants are capable!

How would you describe your approach to teaching/your teaching philosophy? – do you have word or phrase which best describes how you teach?

I try to consider the diversity of students in a class, this includes their background, their degree pathway and what they want out of the course. I helped coordinate a course in first semester and ran a “getting to know you” quiz online before the course started to help me understand the diversity of students and inform best teaching practices for all students. I tried to make it fun and informative and the students seemed to respond to this.

My teaching philosophy is to show students that I care by being inclusive, making lessons fun and thinking about why they are learning what they are learning.

Dr Kathryn Hill

Dr Kathryn Hill

One of the most outstanding features of our teaching staff this year is how they have turned the many challenges 2020 has created, into an opportunity for change and growth.  Is there a particular challenge you have faced this year, which has led to an unexpected innovation?

The opportunity to create online lectures came up when face to face lectures were cancelled in 2020.  This meant that I could change the way lecture material was delivered to and understood by students.

I pre-recorded what I called lecture modules.  Each concept that I wanted the students to understand was broken into short videos.  In cases where I would take ten minutes to describe something in a face to face lecture, I had the opportunity to fine tune my delivery and create a 5-7-minute video.

For each lecture module, I created a page that included a PDF of the lecture slides, the video with my voice over and a short, unmarked quiz to consolidate learning.  During the scheduled lecture slot each week, I was available to talk with students via Zoom

Our course coordinator also made Piazza available for students via MyUni so that students could ask questions anonymously

What changes did you observe during this change?  Were there any insights gained upon reflection?

Engagement was lower than for a standard lecture where I would often get 100% attendance, I would get around 30% attendance online.  I felt it was difficult for students to engage in online learning at the same pace as face to face learning. I still consider the lecture modules a success however, as they are short, palatable options for students and, when they do the quiz, I can see where they need help with their understanding.

Taking this into consideration, what adjustments are you thinking of making in the future? Do you have any advice for others?

I was really happy with how the modules turned out so would probably not adjust those in future.  We use software that can be challenging during the prac so I might also make a prac module to try and make the software use as straightforward as possible.
I found that creating a video via Studio in MyUni was best for me.  Then it was easy to insert videos and quizzes into the same page for ease of use. I suggest you find a Guinea Pig who can try your online quizzes on before you publish them.
My lectures were nowhere near as long as they would be face to face, so I was able to take my time to create a more seamless delivery.

Cath quiz example

An example of a MyUni quiz Kathryn provided to her students in semester 1.

What is your favourite way to use technology to enhance learning?

In-lecture quizzes  - I use PollEverywhere.
During face to face lectures it provides real time feedback of what students have understood during class.  It also helps me to see where they need further or different explanations.

How do you think your students would describe you as a teacher?   

I think (hope!) my student would describe me as someone who is open to describing things in different ways to help understanding, someone who is empathic and who wants students to love botany as much as I do.

What are you most proud of from your teaching this year?

This year I have tried very hard to think about what students learn and why the curriculum is valuable for them. I think this helped consolidate their learning, along with my introduction of fun quizzes.

Kathryn Quiz example - plant

An example of a quiz question created with a PollEverywhere plugin for PowerPoint

Tagged in #drkathrynhill, #thisishowIteach, #polleverywhere