By day, Agnes is an academic and a grammar lover. By night, she is a reader, dreamer and zombie lover. Both day and night, she is a mischievous, curious, feminist mother.
As our Teacher of the Week, Agnes shares some of her thoughts about all things teaching below:
What are your main teaching commitments?
For the past five years, I have taught in Macquarie’s postgraduate program in Higher Education. Last year, I created a new unit on Higher Education Contexts and Futures, which explores cultural, political and technological changes in higher education. Students spend the semester gazing into crystal balls and reading the tea leaves to predict and evaluate possible futures for higher education in Australia. This year I am in a transition period as I take on the new role of Senior Teaching Fellow in the Faculty of Human Sciences. I continue to supervise MRes and PhD students whose research has a higher education focus.
2. What’s the biggest challenge you face as a university teacher?
Teaching fellow academics can be a challenge! When academics are also students (as is the case for many studying in the postgraduate Higher Education program), they challenge everything and offer very honest feedback. This covers everything from the design of the iLearn unit, to the structure of the assessment tasks, the blend of f2f and online learning, the content of the reading list, and the quality of the welcome video. I have needed to be open to critique, have the flexibility to change and also articulate reasons for my teaching.
3. What has helped you improve your teaching most and why?
After I finished my PhD in 2010, I became a student again and completed a Postgraduate Certificate and then a Masters in Higher Education. The program gave me so much – fantastic teachers modelling great practice, theoretical knowledge, research opportunities, an understanding of the higher education sector and skills in critical reflection. I have become a more thoughtful teacher as a result. It also gave me a lot of empathy for my students. Being a part-time postgraduate student studying online is hard!
4. What’s been your most memorable moment in teaching?
I still remember teaching my first ever tutorial in Cultural Studies sixteen years ago. I was given a unit outline and a room number. I started the class by introducing myself, and a mature age male student said loudly ‘I don’t want to be taught by a chick.’ I suggested he could find another class, but he decided to stick around for the semester and make my life difficult by testing my knowledge of different theorists (usually unrelated to the course content). There have been tricky moments since then, but most of them seemed manageable after that.
5. What is your favourite book/film/music?
My favourite book so far this year the Australian dystopian novella Welcome to Orphancorp by Marlee Jane Ward. The film I saw most recently is The Witch, but my longstanding favourite is Children of Men (another dystopia). Lately, I have been listening to podcasts such as Serial rather than music while driving, but when that is done I will be switching on Double J or streaming Clare Bowditch or The Unthanks.