Author: Sugra Bibi

Talking Teaching: Demystifying Abstract Concepts

It was really encouraging seeing a group of some sixty-five Professors, Teaching Fellows, Lecturers and staff attend the Teaching Talking lecture yesterday afternoon. This was the first of a series of events designed to showcase best practice in teaching and support to students and student life. Professor Simone Buitendijk Vice Provost (Education) inaugurated the series and welcomed the attendees. She spoke briefly about the goals and ambitions of the College’s new Learning and Teaching Strategy, and her hopes that this forum would be a way of developing a community of professionals to support excellent student outcomes and the Strategy’s success. Next, Professor Alan Spivey, Assistant Provost (Learning and Teaching) shared with the group how the College had been directing its efforts to support curriculum review and strategy implementation. Following this, Professor Martyn Kingsbury (Director of the Educational Development Unit) focused on what the review process would mean for student outcomes, and the key issues and topics that departments will need to work through while reviewing curriculums. He also promoted the new resources that are now available, and those that will be launched in the New Year.

The highlight of the event was Dr. Caroline Clewley’s presentation. She spoke passionately about her work in the Physics department overseeing a new visualisation project which helps to support teaching in the classroom. The genesis of the project was in part a response to student feedback about the difficulties they experienced in understanding and visualizing complex and abstract concepts within Physics and other STEM subjects. Some of these concepts form part of the core content of Maths, Physics and Chemistry courses, and include vector algebra, calculus and differential equations. This teaching tool offers a way to understand theoretical concepts and reinforce some basic educational principles. During the talk she demonstrated how a diatomic molecule behaves when you change its vibrational and rotational kinetic energy. This would be a novel and practical tool for students to test new concepts, to really understand these, and have fun while studying! The recording and slides from the talk are here

After Caroline’s presentation, there were some thoughtful questions from the audience about its content. Dr. Andreas Kogelbauer from the Department of Chemical Engineering commented that “Caroline’s talk was really great. Sometimes communications around strategic initiatives can be patchy across the College. This session was the best way to facilitate communication and demonstrate the innovative work departments are doing around pedagogy and new teaching technologies. The Jupyter Notebook software is something that our department is also very interested in. I think there could be some scope to collaborate with several departments around this.”