Teaching in a year like no other

By Seth Robinson

Each year, the Williams Centre for Learning Advancement (WCLA) acknowledges the achievements of teachers at the Faculty of Business and Economics.

2020 has been a year unlike any other, in which students and teachers alike have had to change the way they think about learning. As the world pivoted to an online environment, academics and teachers adapted the way they work, transforming courses so they could be delivered to students throughout the year. This year, the awards acknowledged those teachers who went above and beyond to overcome these challenges and deliver an enriching student experience. We spoke with WCLA Director, Professor Angela Paladino to find out more.

‘This year has been one of immense turmoil and change. The examples of teaching innovation shown across the faculty and the immediate pivot to online have illustrated the extraordinary agility and resilience of our academics and professional staff. Professional development and upskilling have become increasingly important, and this has been exemplified no more aptly than this year. The award winners have demonstrated what can be possible by proactively upskilling and embracing the challenges of change. They have exemplified a commitment to continual improvement in teaching, self-reflection, excellent student engagement and overarching excellence in teaching.’

Award winners group photo
A group shot of the award winners at the virtual ceremony.

For Professor Anne Lillis, winner of the Ross Williams Award for Career Contribution for Learning Advancement, it was a time to reflect on the year as a whole.

‘I think everyone who taught in 2020 deserves an award! What a year! I was in the thick of it in first semester, co-ordinating and teaching a large capstone, case-based subject, absolutely designed for face-to-face teaching. So, we went from face-to-face, to both on-line and face-to-face, and then fully online in the blink of an eye.  I admire the way my colleagues embraced the challenge, and the way we all supported each other. Information sharing through a “community of practice” in Accounting, developed by Albie Brooks, as well as the support of the Williams Centre, were instrumental in getting us through that time. However, my take-away for the year is that I am inherently a face-to-face teacher, I missed that face-to-face interaction badly, and I truly hope that both the University and the students commit to a “new normal” embracing significant, widespread face-to-face elements.’

For Wayne Coetzee, recipient of the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching (Level A/B Category), it gave the perfect opportunity to think about the technology and adaptability required in such a change.

‘I’ve taught into the accounting discipline with a specific focus on Auditing and Assurance services since July, 2019.  This year my focus has been on developing an authentic learning and teaching experience by incorporating Industry Cloud based Audit Software, partnering with a Melbourne based Not for Profit entity, which provides real financial and non-financial data, and engaging with one of the biggest accounting and auditing firms in Australia. At the same time, I think it’s important to focus on students’ personal growth and prepare them for working in the industry. I think this holistic approach and way of thinking has been particularly important in light of the COVID-19 crisis and the shift to online learning for 2020.  A key takeaway I’ve had from 2020 is that students are incredibly adaptable to change, they far exceeded my expectations, and did incredibly well with adapting to the online environment.’

Associate Professor Mei Dong, winner of the Carol Johnston Teaching Excellence Award, saw it as an opportunity to embrace the positives of change.

'I am very honoured to receive this year’s Carol Johnston Teaching Award. Teaching has been a rewarding journey. It is great to see many students enjoy taking my subjects and more importantly, find macroeconomics fun and useful. I also feel grateful that we can make positive impacts on the future of our students through teaching. This year is very special because the pandemic changed everyone’s life. It also brought big changes to the teaching landscape as we had to move to online teaching.  My subject had a smooth transition to online teaching owing to a mix of abundant learning resources and regular live online interactions. Another key element to successful online teaching is to be responsive to students’ feedback so that students can feel connected and engaged. Getting the award is truly a special gift in a special year. I take it as a motivation for me to embrace new changes and keep making improvements.'

Congratulations to all the Award Winners:

Ross Williams Award for Career Contribution to Learning Advancement
Professor Anne Lillis (Accounting)

Carol Johnston Teaching Excellence Award
A/Professor Mei Dong (Economics)

Dean's Award for Excellence in Teaching (Level A/B Category)
Mr Wayne Coetzee (Accounting)

Dean's Award for Excellence in Tutoring
Mr Paul Nguyen (Economics)

Dean's Award for Excellence in Teaching (Team Category)
Mr Tom Frick, Mr James Kavourakis & Professor Matt Pinnuck

Special Commendations were also recognised for the following academics:

Dean’s Award for Excellence in Tutoring Commendation: 

Ms Bec Rees

Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching Commendation: (Team Category):

Professor Peter Bossaert, Dr Felix Fattinger, Professor Carsten Murawski and Dr Nitin Yadav

The Carol Johnston Teaching Excellence Award Commendation:

Ms Sarah Spencer