Taking care of business – Ara celebrates teaching excellence

News News & events

14 Sep 2017

Ara tutors are trialling new methods of integrating technology and actively seeking feedback to improve the efficacy of their teaching.

Five tutors at Ara were awarded teaching excellence awards by the new Chief Executive Tony Gray last week.

“These awards recognise a group of teachers who have demonstrated excellence in teaching and learning within their specific disciplines. They create learning environments that ensure student engagement and success, and use technologies to augment the learning process,” Director Education and Applied Research Judith Brown said.   

“As Ara strives towards providing student centred, personalised and flexible learning experiences for all learners, we are also focusing on enhancing the capability of all teachers, and recognising and promoting best practice.”

Business tutor Mary Dimond, who has been teaching Accounting at Ara in the Department of Business for seven years, was awarded the Excellence in Teaching: increasing successful learner outcomes award for her innovative work supporting students to be active learners in Business Finance.

Her unique approach led to her students’ pass rate jumping from 75% in 2015 to 84% in 2016.

Mary created and implemented an approach to group work that focused on all of the group understanding the result - and not just the correct answer. At the same time her students are learning to work in highly effective, inclusive teams, adding to their skill set for future employment.

All of the award winners demonstrated a student-centered approach, actively sought feedback to improve their practice and integrated technology into their teaching.

Mary has introduced preparing 15 minute video summaries for each lesson, which demonstrate concepts and worked-through problems. This technology has particularly helped students with English as a second language to proceed at their own pace.

Lee-Anne Cummings from the Department of Business and the Department of Computing’s Josh Hough were also awarded Excellence in Teaching: increasing successful learner outcomes awards.

Lee-Anne teaches Level 2 retail, and works primarily with Canterbury Tertiary College and Youth Guarantee learners. Lee-Anne has worked hard to keep learning relevant while looking after a varied range of ages, ethnicities, learning challenges and levels of confidence. Her approach empowers students to embrace education in a positive way, which for many in this group is their first experience of achieving educational success.

Her students have had an average of 80-90% success in Level 2 retail, and pathway into further learning and or employment. Work placement employers have commented on how well prepared these students are.

Josh led the development and delivery of a new Year 12 Youth Transitions Digital Technologies programme in collaboration with Christchurch Boys’ High School (CBHS), developing accessible, industry relevant teaching materials that are relevant to Year 12 learners.

Josh motivates his students to achieve higher goals through a mix of individualised support, with strategies such as weekly monitoring and reporting on student’s class performance which is visible to staff, students, and parents. Students work hard to earn a good score and positive comments.

With most students achieving Merit or Excellence grades, the re-enrolments speak for themselves - 38 out of the 43 students are continuing on to the Level 3 Digital Technologies Computing course next year. “It is amazing to walk past a group of Josh’s learners: quiet, confident, focused, concentrating, determined, curious, and loving learning. Only the school uniforms remind you that they are 16 years old,” Josh’s manager Mehdi Asgarkhani said.

Over in Engineering, Hossein Askarinejad received the Excellence in Teaching & Learning: increased delivery of technology enhanced learning and teaching award for his exemplary use of BYOD and other technology embedded in group learning.

In a range of teaching roles since 2005, Hossein has taught Civil Engineering at Ara for more than two years.

Hossein’s BYOD policy shifted teaching towards more in-depth, problem-based learning, using real life examples which that generate group discussion to help students understand and contextualise what they are learning. He bases this in Moodle where feedback is visible to all, so students can learn from others’ work and feedback too.

The Excellence in Teaching: New to Teaching award went to Angela Ritchiefrom theDepartment of Hospitality and Service Industries, who brings years of industry experience in hairdressing to her transition to teaching.

Angela learnt quickly that providing students with some freedom of choice over their learning supports, Tino Rangatiratanga (ownership), and implementing strategies to support this, enables students to be more engaged and confident.

She introduced OneNote for students to build portfolios of written and visual evidence of learning, and combines this with Google docs to provide real-time online feedback and Kahoots quizzes as one mode of assessment.