Posted by: jleventon | September 21, 2013

My Favourite Teaching Day

This week the students return to the University of Leeds.  To fuel my anticipation for the coming semester, I thought I’d blog about my favourite teaching experience from last year.

I manage a first year undergrad course called ‘Environmental Science for Environmental Management’.  The students attend lectures in blocks relating to an area of environmental science (hydrosphere and water, atmosphere, etc.).  They then come to workshops where they work in groups to answer research briefs.  I write these briefs so that they tie the science they study into the management of topical environmental problems.  The students are assessed through presentations and posters that answer their research briefs.

Last year, I was given a bit of money through the School of Earth and Environment’s Teaching Enhancement Fund (thank you!) to turn the final workshop into a conference.  The students had been studying soils and the biosphere, and the topic of the conference was Payment for Ecosystem Services.  We had guest presenters from within the school and from external organisations, we printed the posters properly, we had coffee and cake and conference programmes, and a range of staff from the school came along.

The day went well.  There are things I will change for next time; such as adjusting the research briefs to reduce overlap, and perhaps giving my colleagues more notice to increase the chances that they can come.  However, I really enjoyed watching our guest presenters, all of whom gave a real-life relevance to the topics we were studying; I hope they inspired the students as much as they inspired me!

But the reason it is my favourite teaching experience is because the students really impressed me.

All of them had noticeably upped their game for this final workshop.  They all dressed smartly, had rehearsed their presentations, had clear slides and spoke well.  The posters looked as I would expect a strong conference poster to look.  Overall, the academic content and the examples they used were great and showed some real critical thought. Obviously there was variation between the groups, but I think everyone achieved their highest workshop mark that day.

I’m looking forward to teaching those same students this year as they progress and develop further in their second year.  And I’m looking forward to seeing how this year’s intake tackle the research briefs I give them.  I’ll meet them all for the first time this week for the Fresher’s Fieldtrip, and I’m quite excited!

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