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The winning team.

10 March 2023

Meet the 2022 AAUT winning team developing innovative learning experiences and assessment in mathematics

Dr Kerri Morgan, Laura Tubino, Associate Professor Julien Ugon, Dr Simon James, and Associate Professor Andrew Cain received a 2022 Australian Awards for University Teaching Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning for their development of innovative learning experiences and assessment in mathematics.

We spoke to Associate Professor Ugon about the citation, the AAUT application process and the importance of being excited by your teaching practice.

Tell us about your Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning?

We developed a holistic approach to teaching mathematics to first year students, that takes into account their diverse backgrounds and apprehensions of mathematics. Students come to mathematics with various degrees of self-confidence, background and many different emotions (positive and negative) towards mathematics.

The challenge is to develop an environment that is welcoming to the more anxious students, giving them an opportunity to experience a facet of maths they may enjoy more so they build their confidence, while also supporting the keener students as they develop a lifelong taste for mathematics. We did this by changing the way we ‘teach’ maths, giving students more agency and control over their progress than the traditional approaches often give.

We were very grateful that our management, particularly Professor John Yearwood, our head of school, was very supportive of our efforts. We’re also grateful for the financial support that we received from Deakin to implement some of the more time-consuming tasks.

Can you tell us about the team?

Kerri, Simon and Julien have been teaching first year mathematics at Deakin for a few years, and we have long shared the observation that the great diversity of maths and non-maths profiles among our students deserved to be treated seriously. Kerri has since moved to RMIT, where she continues this work and her collaboration with us. Andrew and Laura both have experience working on student-centred approaches to assessments, and naturally we joined forces to develop a model that gave students an opportunity to experience maths positively.

How does it feel to have your work recognised by the AAUT?

It’s nice to receive recognition from our peers. Of course, nothing beats the look of pride in a student’s eyes who overcame their fear of maths.

What was the AAUT application process like?

Our main challenge was to make sure our application was focused and that what we were applying for was easy to identify. We have brought so many innovations into our teaching practice in the past few years that we had to narrow our narrative down to a specific part of it. We received a lot of support and feedback from Associate Professor Barbie Panther and the Teaching Capability team in Deakin Learning Futures, for which we are very appreciative.

Beyond the recognition of receiving an award, writing an application like that is a nice opportunity to step back and reflect on the overall philosophy behind our innovations. It’s important to be able to explain and justify to outsiders the interventions one implements in one’s teaching practice, because ultimately the goal is not to innovate for innovation’s sake, but to always focus on facilitating our students’ learning.

What advice do you have for staff thinking of applying for an AAUT or another award?

First, do something cool. It’s easier to convince a committee that your work is exciting if you’re excited about it yourself. Don’t hesitate to try new things, even if it doesn’t quite work at first, think of it as a first step to developing new practice. At the same time always keep in mind that the ultimate result should be the effect that these innovations have on your students. Modern education is a lot more about how the students are learning and growing, than it is about what the teachers we are doing – as it should be. One should always judge by the outcomes. So we advise to make your application about your students, and the effect your innovations had on them, and not so much about yourself.

You can find a full list of 2022 AAUT winners through the AAUT website.


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