Ethan shares more detail about their practice us and how they felt about being shortlisted for a Bristol Teaching Award.
- Which Award were you shortlisted for?
Inspiring and Innovative Teaching Award – PGRs Who Teach
- How did you feel when you found out you had been shortlisted for an Award?
Quite surprised to be honest, it was very nice to know I’d helped enough to be shortlisted, good to have a good impact!
- Can you tell us a little bit about your practice and why you were nominated?
I primarily provide teaching support for labs & student questions on the first-year programming units for Computer Science. Most of the time I’m working to demystify various programming concepts. Whilst I could just give a textbook answer to most questions, or simply show a student how to do something, I instead try to break their problem down into more digestible chunks which they can answer for themselves, keeping the process engaging. I also try to encourage students to try and figure out the next steps themselves once I point them in the right direction, and will regularly come back during a lab to check out how they’re doing. I’ll also try to take advantage of visually explaining things – jotting down a diagram or illustrating a tangential concept to give a student comprehensive help. For students asking more extended questions, I try to keep on top of the more advanced parts of the course (and any peripheral knowledge) so I can continue to provide helpful pointers, tips, and advice. Presumably, due to this approach, I’ve been able to help ease students into (usually) learning programming for the first time, whilst also keeping it interesting, leading to my nomination.
- What inspires you to go the extra mile with your teaching?
I’m constantly reminded of my own first-year experience where I sometimes had difficulty grasping the proper nature of things. It was always possible to get a head start with learning by example, but in some cases this knowledge can be shallow. As I was quite nervous, I didn’t really ask for support from teaching assistants. Due to this I try to know answers to the questions I would’ve wanted to ask, and to be welcoming and approachable for students. In addition to all of that – there’s a real satisfaction to managing to properly communicate an idea to someone else, and their perspectives help me strengthen my own understanding.
- What would you like to share with others about your teaching practice?
It’s very fulfilling to help out and feed your knowledge back into new first years who are occupying your old shoes, so if you like communicating ideas and helping your peers with computer science, why not work on it and join the invaluable team of teaching assistants in the computer science courses?