An undisputed highlight of this year’s Learning and Teaching Week was students Daniel Sturman, Rochelle Martin, Cindy Huang and Timothy Zhang taking the stage for the Merit Scholars Panel (chaired by Georgia Scapens). Taking their cue from a recent ‘social investigation’ of student engagement at Macquarie, the four Merit Scholars spoke persuasively and candidly about what worked for them – and what didn’t.
Here are some of their most memorable insights for Macquarie academics:
1. “I did best in the two units taught by convenors who remembered my name.”
The power of basic human connection shouldn’t be overlooked. This also comes into play during lectures: “It’s as simple as turning from the whiteboard and making eye contact with the class – you’ll know immediately from their faces if they understand the material or not.”
2. “l learn more from weekly assessments worth 10% than from exams worth 60%.”
Ongoing assessment encourages students to develop and maintain knowledge and understanding over time, whereas heavily weighted exams tend to encourage ‘learning to pass exams’ rather than learning for understanding.
3. Students see huge opportunities with PACE.
They value the chance to incorporate real world experience into their degree and getting external recognition for it. They wish there were even more PACE opportunities available.
4. “If there was no assessment in my unit, I would just buy the text book instead.”
What’s really important is feedback, and being challenged to learn. Assessment gives a sense of achievement or accomplishment, and a sense of reward (depending on the outcome!).
5. Be aware of what students are learning across their whole program.
Students don’t want to repeat the content they’ve just covered in the previous unit.
6. Students appreciate face to face time.
They see it as the best way of staying involved in a unit.
7. Macquarie needs to consider employment opportunities for its international students, as well as ongoing English Language support.
One great example of this is an optional tutorial which goes over key terms and phrases relevant to the unit at hand.
8. Macquarie lecturers should have more fun!
9. ‘Rent-a-discussion’ works.
Mandatory commenting in online forums as part of assessment, aka ‘rent-a-discussion’, does actually help keep students engaged.
10. “What really made my experience amazing was my fantastic lecturer!”
Extra learning resources, perfectly administrated units and flexible study are all valuable additions to the Macquarie experience, but teachers are what makes the difference. It all comes down to learning and teaching in its purest form, and finding enjoyment in that sharing of knowledge.