Connect More with…Tanya Evans

Does ‘flipping’ really improve student engagement? Historian Dr Tanya Evans will be giving us her take on that topical question at this year’s Learning and Teaching Week. In the spirit of ‘Connect More’, we asked Tanya to share a bit more about her teaching world…

What’s your favourite technology or tool to use in teaching?

“Connect More” by  ©2015 Macquarie University
“Connect More” by ©2015 Macquarie University

I have flipped my entire undergraduate teaching this year and have become a huge fan of the OU blog tool. Panos Vlachopoulos recommended it during a series of workshops for flipping organised by Professor Sean Brawley in Session 2 2014. Thanks Panos!

I have set the OU Blog up in my 300 and 100 level units this year to allow students to reflect on their learning on a weekly basis. I keep these private – a space where students are communicating with me alone. This is where I can gauge what they have learned, what content needs expansion and clarification and what individuals think they need me to do to enable them to learn more. I also pitch it as a space where quieter students who may struggle to have their voice heard in large flipped classes can let me hear what they have to contribute to discussion. I can then draw on their knowledge and reference it in class. I hope that this builds their confidence to speak and articulate their own ideas within the group.

What has helped you improve your teaching the most, and why?

The training I have received from the Learning and Teaching team has been vital, providing me with resources, skills and ideas I would never have formulated on my own. Conversations with friends and colleagues, who are passionate about developing their teaching practice, have also forced me to constantly reflect on my practice.

What’s the biggest challenge facing university teachers today?

Our students are moving through a higher education system that is entirely different to the structure that produced most of us. When I went to university I gave no thought to what job I might do at the end. I had a grant and I worked through the holidays but never during term time. All I knew was that I wanted to live as far away from home as possible and read for the next four years, learning more about a subject that blew my mind. But I also had a lot of fun. Our students seem to have numerous demands on their time – many work and travel enormous distances to attend class. Learning how to prioritise their time is hard for them to get a handle on. I worry about whether students today are enjoying the privilege of attending university and spending time with their peers discussing their academic subjects. I hope that they relish the opportunity they have to think and reflect on the ways in which their skills and knowledge are developing and why they are important.

What are you researching at the moment? And how does this impact on your teaching?

I am beginning work on the construction of historical consciousness among family historians in Australia, England and Canada from the turn of the 20thcentury to the presentI am a public historian so I aim for my work on the history of the family to be consumed by the general public, as well as my tertiary students. Being aware of the needs of different audiences has enriched my teaching practice. My research has revealed some of the ways in which family history can empower researchers and I am interested in exploring genealogy as a form of lifelong learning and what impact this has upon the lives of individuals and their broader community. I want students, young and old, to appreciate the transformative impact that historical knowledge and thinking can have upon their lives and the ways in which they understand their place in the world.

What are you presenting on at Learning and Teaching Week 2015?

My presentation will report on the findings of a Faculty of Arts-funded learning and teaching project exploring the application of flipped classroom models to teaching and learning. My key research question is: Does the flipped delivery mode actually improve student engagement?

Dr Tanya Evans is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Modern History, Politics and International Relations.  Connect with Tanya at her Learning and Teaching Week session, Monday 14 September 11am-12.30pm (register here).