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Teachers Talk

Mia Raynard

In der ersten englischsprachigen Ausgabe des Teachers Talk, berichtet uns Mia Raynard, Assistenzprofessorin am Management Department der WU, von ihren Erfahrungen in der Lehre.

Mia Raynard obtained a PhD degree from the University of Alberta (Canada) and spent several years working and conducting research in Southeast Asia. In this article, she talks about her experiences with virtual group work and online sessions and tells us what constitutes good teaching for her.

What constitutes good teaching for you?

For me, teaching is not a one-sided relationship – with an instructor or professor imparting knowledge and information to students. I believe that teaching involves mutual learning and engagement. When I think back to when I was a student, the courses that I remember most fondly and that had the greatest impact on me, were those that sparked my curiosity. The ones where I left the classroom with more questions than when I entered, or that challenged me and led me to reflect upon my previous assumptions.

This rarely happens without interactions, discussions, and engagement in class. So, for me, “good teaching” involves exploring and debating different perspectives on an issue, being open-minded and willing to learn from a wide array of sources, and feeding curiosity. When students finish my course, I do not want them to just leave being able to define core concepts and ‘regurgitate’ theories and best practices. Although it is obviously important that they know these, this is just a starting point. I want them to be able to connect these concepts and theories to real life situations and their personal experiences – to really be able to apply and adapt what they learn in the course to their everyday lives. If I can get students to think about and use what they have learned in the course outside the classroom, then I will feel like I have accomplished, at least in part, what I set out to do.

What is particularly important when implementing virtual group work?

Working in virtual groups can be very challenging, especially if students have never met their group members before. Some important challenges include a difficulty in fostering a ‘team’ mentality and building trust – both of which are important for motivating collaboration and just ‘getting the work done’. There are often tools in virtual platforms like MS Teams that can make coordination easier – for example, shared files folders, notebooks, and calendars. Such tools help make the platform the ‘go-to’ source for the group and helps to get everyone on the same page. I usually recommend that groups use the notebook or chat function to keep track of what was discussed in their meetings and to make note of delegated work assignments (i.e., who is supposed to do what – by when). This provides a way to keep track of and organize things, which is rather important when you cannot meet group members on a more regular basis. As a final point, I generally encourage students to meet their groups on these platforms, so that they can ‘see’ each other – as opposed to just using WhatsApp or text messaging. I find that this helps create a little bit more of a ‘connection’ and a more team-like atmosphere.

Which strategies helps you to involve students in online sessions?

To involve students in online sessions, I include a lot of simple questions like “who would like to work in XYZ-type of settings” or “what type of companies would this apply to?”. Students then respond using the Chat function - which I can use to talk through the slides and reflect upon their answers (e.g. “it seems that most students would not like to work in XYZ settings” or “there is some agreement that this applies to manufacturing firms”). I find this creates a more interactive setting – where students feel involved, and that their input counts and is being heard. In the virtual context, there is this inherent ‘distance’ – and this kind of simple interaction can go a long way in narrowing that distance.