Good teaching cannot be reduced to technique: good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher
Since completing my PhD in 2007 I have been interested in how I can be the most effective teacher that I can possibly be. I realized early on in my career, even whilst still an undergraduate, that simply having mastery of the content does not make a lecturer a “great teacher”. The art of teaching is one that I have spent several years trying to master. I have attended numerous workshops and conferences, I have also presented a workshop on my own teaching initiatives, in an effort to continuously improve my teaching performance. In 2009 I began a Post-Graduate Certificate in Tertiary Teaching at the University of Waikato in an effort to ensure that my teaching is purposeful, informed by the research and is always improving.
I am a reflective teacher in the sense that I make a conscious effort to reflect on what I am teaching, how I am teaching and why I am doing what I do, every step of the way. I try to ensure that all teaching and assessment is aligned closely to the learning outcomes in the paper. I try to ensure that students know from the outset what my expectations are and I give students opportunities to experiment and develop their skills through trial and error. I believe in providing feedback and feed forward. I believe in making sure that I am assessing for learning by which I mean that I try to ensure that all assessment has a clear learning objective behind it.
I believe that the relationship between teacher and student is vitally important to all students’ success. Students need to feel supported. I believe that building a strong, effective relationship between teachers and learners is essential: if students feel that their lecturer cares about them, they will try harder, even if they may not like the subject being taught. I believe that lecturers should coach their students in the discipline and encourage the students to be co-inquirers with them, rather than viewing their students as the passive recipients of “knowledge”. I believe that lecturers have a duty to not only pass on knowledge to their students but to pass on skills as well as a desire to keep learning. Being a life-long learner is just as important to students, as it is to teachers.
I believe that technology has an important place in legal education. I try to keep up to date with developments in this area and to ensure that my teaching utilizes the best of technology without letting technology get in the way of genuine learning.
Finally, I believe that as a lecturer of law, I have a wonderful opportunity to infuse my students with a love of the law, with social responsibility and with a desire to make their world a better place. Law school is a memorable and life-changing experience for many if not all students and I always feel honoured to have played a part in a student’s future.