The Vice-Chancellor’s Learning and Teaching Awards and Citations acknowledge and celebrate the many ways that teaching and professional staff at UTS are creating the best possible learning experiences and outcomes for our students. We chatted with 2019 Individual Teaching Award winner Dr Mohsen Naderpour to learn about his approach to developing risk awareness in engineering students to promote sustainability.
Please tell us a little about what your Individual Teaching Award was given for
Let me give you a brief introduction. I am a Lecturer at the Faculty of Engineering and IT. Since March 2018, I have been the subject coordinator and instructor of 49006 Risk Management in Engineering. The subject serves a diverse range of students from different engineering disciplines in postgraduate courses. Undergraduate engineering students can also enrol once they have completed at least 120 credit points. The subject has grown in enrolments from 80 students in 2017 to 200 at present. My success story includes four main chapters:
- To drive home the message that engineering is all about managing risks, I based learning activities on real-life case studies. I also used a flipped classroom approach to maximise interactions and hands-on learning.
Outcome: students started regarding themselves as future risk engineers.
- To emphasise the critical importance of research skills to the engineering profession, I embedded the development of such skills into the curriculum. Further, to demonstrate that I ‘practise what I preach’, I used my own research publications and results for illustration.
Outcome: students gained a new appreciation of the teaching-research nexus and their harnessed and honed research talents resulted in high-quality publications.
- To make sure that students are treated as valued partners in the learning and teaching (L&T) process, I excelled at ‘responding to the student feedback’ and ‘closing the feedback loop’. I even secured the FEIT L&T grant to develop a software tool to assist in the feedback process.
Outcome: students felt valued and recognised that their feedback contributes to improvements in their learning and teaching.
- Last but not least, to make sure the learning objectives and content are relevant and up to date, I valued the partnership with industry. Engineers Australia has been on board and delivered guest lectures since I have been subject coordinator.
Outcome: Students started to promote their risk awareness in the Australian engineering context.
What’s something new you are hoping to try or explore in learning and teaching in 2020?
Online L&T is a must, considering the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus and the requirements of social distancing. Recording lectures and tutorials, having live consultation sessions with students and encouraging students to have online collaboration for the group assessment are in my plan for 2020.
What’s one trick or tip you wish you’d known when you first started out in university teaching?
The use of real case studies is the one that I could have tried sooner. Real-life case studies provide a context-rich opportunity for students to develop new knowledge and to think critically about potential solutions to the problems identified in such studies. They are very strong in engaging students with L&T materials, and in motivating them to come up with proper solutions. They provide students with the opportunities to link the theory with real applications. In my subject, case studies help students to see themselves as risk engineers in their future careers.
What’s your approach to keeping students active and engaged in a large group situation?
It is very difficult, I believe. It is very important to make sure the subject is interesting, which is not very easy to achieve. I try to incorporate fun into weekly classes. I ask students to watch short videos on the prerequisites and the case studies for each week. During classes, I use Kahoot quizzes to reengage students with materials. In addition, I encourage students to work collaboratively on the case studies. I also have another strategy in which I give students some hands-on activities to learn a specific software for risk modelling through Bayesian networks. In my experience, they love software-based learning which is mentioned a lot in the Student Feedback Survey (SFS) too.
What’s been your most memorable learning and teaching moment – as a teacher, or as a student?
I think in the last couple of years, my most memorable moments were when I received the subject SFS. Reading comments made my days as being a teacher. I have learned a lot from my students’ comments, and they helped me a lot in revising the subject. For example, in Spring 2018, students suggested that discussions on the assessments be included at the end of workshops. I first implemented this suggestion in Summer 2018 and have fine-tuned it since with receiving very positive feedback from students.
What’s the most challenging aspect of teaching in universities today?
Due to complexities of real world and coming new paradigms, I think being and keeping the teaching up-to-date is harder than ever before. Big data, artificial intelligence, blockchain, cloud commuting, quantum, etc are changing our world, it is very important to teach in a way that our students are prepared for lifelong learning.
Do you think teaching practices in your discipline area have changed a lot with the introduction of new technologies?
Yes, I do. I think new technologies have helped us a lot to move away from the traditional teaching approach towards flipped classrooms.
Watch the L&T Awards ceremony livestream
You can watch Mohsen receive his Individual Teaching Award at the 2019 Vice-Chancellor’s Learning and Teaching Awards in the video below.