Nick Ashill - Tertiary Teaching Excellence Teaching Profile
Teaching profile from Nick Ashill (Associate Professor, School of Marketing and International Business, Victoria University of Wellington) - a Sustained Excellence Award winner 2002
Associate Professor, School of Marketing and International Business, Victoria University of Wellington
Nick Ashill's teaching abilities have been previously recognised when in 1999 and 2001 he was a recipient of the Victoria University Award for Special Academic Achievement - Excellence in Teaching. He has successfully developed interactive teaching tools for strategic marketing planning and used web-based technologies to develop a decision-support tool for marketing decision-making. Nick embraces ‘teaching as an opportunity to inspire and empower'. His philosophy of ‘transformative learning' involves understanding the diversity of learning styles and student experiences key to student engagement and success.
A teacher must care for the students first and foremost for the subject and for the entire learning process. My approach to undergraduate and postgraduate teaching is highly infectious, structured, participative and technology driven. I embrace teaching as an opportunity to inspire and empower. As a teacher, it is my goal to enhance student learning as a transformative experience. Ideally, I want students to feel personally changed by their participation in a marketing course I am teaching. Transformative learning is most likely to occur when students become personally engaged with the material and perceive the subject matter to be directly relevant to their own lives. Understanding the diversity of learning styles and student experiences is the key to enhancing this engagement. I always seek to provide students with 'real world' messages in what they learn. I am always bringing in current marketing thought so that students can link marketing theory with the world around them.
Learning is a life-long endeavour. My goal is to prepare students for this by providing them with a base of information on which they can build and by encouraging in them attitudes and techniques for continued learning.
While my teaching objectives vary, depending upon the course level and content, my philosophy serves to inform my practice. In designing course format and evaluation requirements, I strive to optimise student engagement and success. At the undergraduate and postgraduate levels, class format is varied and generally includes PowerPoint presentations, class discussion, video material, class problem analysis, multi-media video clips, report-back sessions and guest speakers.
In any teaching context, I work to promote student responsibility for learning by asking each individual what they will contribute to the class and how each person can participate in creating a classroom environment that is stimulating and respectful of diverse views and experiences. In addition, I work to influence learning that occurs outside the classroom by supplementing class time with a diverse range of teaching/learning activities including discussion forums via the Internet, workshops and revision sessions.
Understanding the Subject
A teacher must have a great understanding of the subject matter being taught as well as of the underlying pedagogical theory. My responsibility is to stay current in a field, engage in research and participate in classes, conferences, workshops and/or mentoring that can improve subject matter knowledge. A teacher must be able to make good selections about what to teach and how to structure and organise the material. At the same time it is important to stay abreast of current theory and research in the field of teaching and pedagogy. A teacher must know what to teach as well as the best way to teach it. I regularly strive to improve my teaching by seeking student feedback, talking with peers, attending and leading Teaching Development Centre seminars, reading and experimenting with new delivery methods. In 2002 I published a Strategic Marketing Management Case Book (McGraw-Hill, 2002) to illustrate marketing management concepts using 11 exemplar New Zealand companies. This New Zealand material is proving invaluable in aiding student learning in 2002.
To be effective, teachers must know their students. Maintaining a regular presence in class tutorials allows me to build rapport with students quickly. I must always be aware of what students know when they come into the classroom as well as how to tap into that knowledge and build on it. In any course, a teacher should attempt to guide students through subject matter and facilitate new discoveries. Students should take away new insights, explanations and skills.
A teacher is also responsible for building a relationship with students. A teacher must respect students believing that all students are capable and have some thing to contribute. Students may bring new insights to a subject or raise questions about a subject that have not yet been considered. Classroom learning should be viewed as a reciprocal process. A teacher must be committed to student success and is responsible for making subject matter accessible to those who do not yet know it. To achieve this, I always strive to provide formative as well as summative feedback. In addition, I try to ensure wide participation. As a teacher, I am accessible to all students, making sure that I talk to individual students during class and that I am available to students after class during office hours. Moreover, one of the most rewarding aspects of teaching is the opportunity to learn from the students. I am continually learning from their questions, observations and challenges, just as they learn from me through my lectures and assignments.
In my teaching, I embrace the diverse backgrounds and experiences students bring to the classroom and view this kind of knowledge as fundamental to learning. I thoroughly enjoy facilitating discussion and critical thinking exchanges about marketing management practice between New Zealand students and international students.
Developing Effective Teaching Skills
Effective teaching skills can be developed. Teacher training and instructional development, therefore, must be viewed as primary responsibilities. A teacher must know what skills make for effective teaching. These skills must be crafted, honed and personalised. Being an effective teacher is a difficult task, but a teacher who accepts teaching as a challenge and as a responsibility will also find that it can provide rewards that are well worth the effort.
All too often, students regard teachers and the material they present as the final authority on any and all lecture material and information. Students should be encouraged to question course material, to turn it over in their minds and to question its validity. Marketing Management is all about questioning. I do not simply lecture at students, but encourage them to ask questions and answer mine. In fact, if I ask a question, I will not go on until someone attempts to answer it. If no one does, I rephrase it until they do. While this can appear ‘scary' at first, they soon realise that I do not mean to intimidate students and that I work hard to help them get the right answer. A wrong answer is not the end of the world and carries no stigma. All too often, students come into a classroom and simply respond by memory to what the instructor is teaching. The best classrooms are those where both the teacher and the students learn from each other.
'Opening Hearts and Minds'
Teaching is a privileged position that demands humility as much as respect. It is crucial that a teacher recognises the power inherent in their role and is self-reflective about their actions. Transformative learning is about ‘opening hearts and minds...' and changing lives for all those involved in the process. I know I am successful in my teaching when students tell me that they have learned ‘to see the social world through a new lens' and ‘to think more strategically'. This is extremely gratifying.
A teacher is someone who is passionate about a subject or topic and equally passionate about communicating this subject or topic to others. If I cannot keep an audience of students interested in the subject that is my personal passion, then I am not doing my job. It is a characteristic of young people today to explore their world. They have high levels of energy and are naturally inquisitive. When I think about what students want, I know that classes that deliver the same old message ‘sit down, shut up, and listen so that you can memorise facts to dump on to an examination answer sheet' are probably not going to motivate them. Students are not necessarily unmotivated or unwilling learners, they are simply uninvolved in a depersonalised traditional classroom. They are willing to learn; they simply may not be able to endure the way they are taught. If I really want to see motivation in my students, I have to be motivated to rethink what it is I am doing with them. Learning should be fun. This does not necessarily mean frivolous, but fun. If a teacher can ascribe a sense of fun in the classroom, I believe the benefits are great.
Effective teaching not only involves being passionate about a subject, but being able to convey it to students in such a way that they will understand and think critically about it. I try to maintain a very lively and interactive classroom. Teaching is not about lecturing to students, it is about presenting theories, concepts and empirical material to students in a way that they can integrate this information into their own life experience. I try to accomplish this not only in my presentations and lectures, but also in the questions that structure classroom discussion and writing assignments. In each of my classes, I emphasise critical thinking and real-world applications of the marketing management concepts we study.
Teachers should recognise individuality in their students. Every student has a life, a story, thoughts and feelings that they bring to the classroom and the learning process. Being fair as a teacher means being able to understand what students are going through as individuals and as students. It means treating students with an impartial attitude, not an uncaring attitude. Students want a teacher who is a ‘real person', who recognises them as human beings, someone who cares about them, not just their test performance. They want to be challenged, not cut down. They want a caretaker who checks on them regularly, who supports their individual learning, who informs them individually of their progress and who assigns a variety of tasks that give them the opportunity to learn in modes that fit their individual styles and that are designed to meet their levels of learning. They also want clear, complete explanations and concrete examples, thorough but brief explanations of difficult concepts, and opportunities to have their questions answered. This is my challenge as a university teacher and I remain passionate about ensuring that I set the highest standards in achieving them.