Winner of a Distinguished Teacher Award, Dr Joanne Hardman of the School of Education, gives us a peek into her classroom and talks about her teaching style, what makes a good teacher and her five top tips for teachers.
Q: What do you teach and how did you become a teacher?
A: I teach developmental psychology to pre-service and in-service teachers. I also teach learning theories to master's students and a group of PGDip students who are studying towards an MEd ICTs degree.
When I was a master's student at the University of Natal, Durban, I was chosen by my supervisor to head up the group of tutors who taught first-year psychology. There were over 1000 students in that class. I was given a group of students who were having a particularly hard time passing, because my supervisor reckoned I was a good teacher. This was something of a joke to me and my friends who, as psychology master's students, were not trained teachers at all.
I had a wonderful time teaching these students and found that, well, I wasn't that bad at it. All throughout my studies I had held small tutorial groups for people in my class who were struggling with the work, so this was really just an extension of that.
Q: What enthuses you about being in front of a class or group, or helping an individual?
A: I love the dialogue that opens up. I love to learn from my students. In my PGDip ICTs class I have lecturers from all over Africa and from many different disciplines. I learn so much from them. I also love to see the look on a student's face in individual supervision when they finally "see" what it is they have been struggling with.
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: I believe very much in structured guidance, or what Vygotsky calls 'mediation'. I feel strongly that there is no student who cannot achieve well in the academy, given the right tools. Too often we academics forget that we have a lot of tacit knowledge about, say, writing essays, that we don't externalise.
I like to be very explicit with my students and I like to guide them towards their full potential. I rely heavily on student feedback and change my lectures according to the levels of engagement I experience. I don't use the terms teacher and learner centred because I think they are rhetorically hollow; but I would describe my style as engaging students and teaching to their needs.
Q: What do you think makes a good teacher?
A: Someone who teaches to learn? A good teacher is knowledgeable in his or her subject; listens to students' input and provides detailed feedback to students. Yes, someone who teaches to learn is a good teacher.
Q: How do you adapt to diverse classes in terms of language, culture, nationality, and so on?
A: Most of my classes are multicultural and I have a lot of experience teaching refugees operating in their fourth or even fifth language. I try to ensure that my content is relevant to students' actual lived experience by drawing on real examples from my research, which is cross cultural. I make time for students who are struggling in terms of language. We meet twice a week to discuss the work done in lectures. I also hold writing tutorials once every two weeks for students who are struggling to access academic text and to produce academic texts.
Q: Does technology play a big role for you?
A: I used to be a bit of a technophobe, which my students find quite funny as I am very keen on technology now. This is especially true in my masters and PGDip courses where I encourage students to interact online during presentations. So we have real-time input and questions that can be addressed. I find this is very useful, especially for students who might not be willing to actually talk in the class. They seem to have little problem finding their voice in a chat room. Of course for me technology is merely a tool; using technology effectively requires good pedagogic practices.
Q: And how does your research shape your teaching?
A: I lecture learning theories and child development and all my research is located in these fields, so I would have to say that my teaching is directly shaped by my research. There wouldn't be one without the other.
Q: Who was your best teacher, whether at school, university or elsewhere, and what made you remember them?
A: I have two candidates here: The first is Prof Jill Bradbury (Wits) who was my master's supervisor in psychology. In my honours year I held down two jobs and couldn't afford to enroll for my master's. Jill used her NRF funding to pay my fees. She is also one of the most dedicated teachers I have ever met. I doubt very much that I would be in academia had she not been my teacher.
The second teacher I learnt a lot from is Professor Paula Ensor, my doctoral advisor. She challenged me cognitively on every level! Without her input I would not be the supervisor I am today. I would go so far as to say that I learnt how to supervise from being supervised by her.
Q: What are your five top tips for teachers?
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