Teacher of the week – Beverley Miles

Beverley has a Bachelor of Ancient History (Honours) from Macquarie, completed a Human-Animal Studies fellowship at Duke University, and is working on a PhD in Egyptology exploring human-dog relations in Ancient Egypt during the Old Kingdom. In her #altac career she has a decade of diverse professional experience in higher education in learning and teaching – from transition pedagogy and widening participation, to multiple literacies and undergraduate research, to education design and development.

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  1. What are your main teaching commitments?

I’m thrilled to be back at MQ in this new (read: dream) role as a Learning Designer because I get to work with my ed design mentor (read: Yoda), Rebecca Ritchie! In addition to offering iLearn support to unit convenors, we collaborate with academics on strategic projects, with our main focus at the moment being the Faculty’s Learning and Teaching Plan.

I’m also continuing my Students as Partners (SaP) research and practice with my partners-in-crime: Dr Ronika Power (Department of Ancient History), and students from Tele’s Angels, the Macquarie Undergraduate Research Internship (MURI) program, and the BArch program Onsite/Offsite Insights project.

  1. What’s the biggest challenge you face as a university teacher?

I’m a huge advocate for the Students as Partners (SaP) approach, it has permeated all my learning and teaching practice. My biggest challenge is informing both students and staff about what SaP entails and why it’s important, and invigorating and empowering both parties to collaborate effectively together. I think the initial reticence from both participants stems from the perception of SaP as a non-traditional approach in education but it’s not – and you can read more about this in my co-authored Teaching and Learning Together in Higher Education (TLTHE) Special Issue ‘Australasian Stories of Partnership’ contribution in the new year – there is a long, enduring, and ancient origin story!

  1. What has helped you improve your teaching most and why?

So many things! Working across virtually all departments and units within the university, in a variety of capacities (student, mentor, advisor, tutor, academic, professional), and roles (learner, teacher, facilitator, advocate) – countless lessons I’ve learned.

Vulnerability: There is an anxiety accustomed to new facilitators who either: a) pose a question and do not receive instant responses from the group; or b) are asked a question to which they do not know an answer. We are trained to fear of that silence, that tangible absence of noise we should come to associate with the static that ‘learning is happening’. A critical lesson in this moment comes in the internal struggle: do I fill this space with my expertise or do I allow the group of individuals to fill this space in their own time? Or, do I tell them that I don’t know?

Compassion: my first year experience is quite palpable in my mind, the epitome of baptism by fire, part of the reason why I empathise and advocate for students from equity backgrounds who experience disadvantage as a result of the external stressors in their lives. I try to recall that time – the deer in the headlights, the feeling like you’re in a hole and not a soul cares to help you get out – when I’m feeling frustrated by a student (or staff).

Passion: as a student, even if a unit wasn’t structured so well, I never really minded because the teachers and tutors were passionate, and they often allowed my passion to be funnelled through the class discussion, and most importantly, the assessment tasks. I feel like that’s my real goal in my current role – how can I help unit convenors to facilitate and draw out their passion, as well as the enthusiasm and drive in their students, through our design of the learning experience and assessment? It’s not really possible to do this successfully and sustainably without bringing the students into this discussion and making them a part(ner) of the work.

  1. What’s been your most memorable moment in teaching?

Wow! This is a difficult one! Definitely from my early experiences tutoring for Myth in the Ancient World: when I tried to get everyone to correctly pronounce ‘Aeschylus’ – “everybody, Aeschylus” and they parroted me! I think that was the first time I recognised the power of the teacher in a room.

Another fond memory is one of the first times I ran the Philosopher’s Chair activity in the MURI program and had all the interns wear my ridiculously large collection of scarves as toga-sashes to put them into the sophist mindset to speak their mind. Also, seeing all the incredible MURI 1MTs (one-minute thesis) multimedia productions – from PowToon animations to painstakingly filmed stop-animation.

Finally, watching the first cohort of the Bachelor of Archaeology (BArchers) engaging with prospective students at Open Day in activities of their own design and delivery at the end of the Onsite/Offsites Insights project.

  1. Who is your favourite music band?  Why?

I love all (well… most) music and can’t pick one artist or band – from 80s gold like Pat Bentar’s Heartbreaker, to kitch 90s Return of the Mack by Mark Morrison, to teenage rebellion with The Foo Fighters, and surprise recent finds like Danish duo Quadron.

But shall we talk TV shows instead? I believe it’s the new measure of a (hu)man! The West Wing, Battlestar Galatica (2004), and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine are definitely all time favourites. I am a huge fan of non-traditional post-apocalyptic sci-fi (hold the zombies, please) so I’ve recently been taken with HBO’s The Leftovers, The CW’s The 100 (in spite of the early onset of teenage plot) and (on a technicality I’m including) HBO’s Stranger Things – most satisfying eight episodes of TV in a long while.

Documentaries? Well, you can’t go past BBC Horizon’s (2009) The Secret Life of the Dog (now on SBS OnDemand).

If you want to talk books, Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and Susan Cain’s Quiet have all recently given me that post-book melancholy.

Follow Beverley on Twitter

@beverleybmiles

In her spare time, Beverley can be found with her adorable furbaby Jubes (an active and yet gentle, super-intelligent border collie); running in the quiet and dark pre-sunlight hours; or drinking copious amounts of tea and engaging her foodie superpowers all across Sydney.

 

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