'If learning is not engaging it is not happening'

30 November 2015 | Curated Abigail Calata. Photo Supplied.
Distinguished Teacher Award winner Associate Professor Jacqui Kew.
Distinguished Teacher Award winner Associate Professor Jacqui Kew.

Associate Professor Jacqui Kew, a 2015 Distinguished Teacher awardee from the College of Accounting, engages her students by asking questions in the classroom. She believes that students are responsible for their own learning journeys and that a good teacher's job is to ensure these journeys are well sign-posted.

Q: What do you teach and how did you become a teacher?

A: I teach first year financial accounting as well as executive education courses at the Graduate School of Business – teaching finance to non-financial managers. I'm also involved with courses aimed at small business owners.

I matriculated during a turbulent time in South Africa's history; however, as I had been able to access a good education, I had the freedom to choose how and what I wanted to do with regards to my future livelihood. I was acutely aware that many people in South Africa had been denied access to a good education and therefore had more limited choices with respect to their future. I recognised the importance of education and felt drawn to it as a profession.

Q: What enthuses you about getting in front of a class or with a group or individual?

A: I love seeing students become passionate about the concept of financial literacy. Through a basic understanding of financial terminology, students are better equipped to take control of their financial future. A driving passion in my approach to education is the belief that financial literacy is as important a life skill as literacy and numeracy.

Q: How would you describe your style?

A: I have a fairly relaxed teaching style in that I enjoy having a conversation with my students. I find that the easiest way to recognise whether my students understand the work is to ask questions. I think most, if not all, of my first year students would understand what it meant if I mentioned in lectures that today was a red or a green day – in other words anyone dressed in the specified colour would know that they may be asked a question – which allows them to be prepared as well as lightens the mood in the lecture venue.

Q: What do you think makes a good teacher?

A: Good teachers care about the students, are passionate about their subject area and really want their students to access their subject. A good teacher also constantly asks the 'why' questions and allows students to find their way to the answers. Good teachers simplify complex concepts and do not make simple concepts seem complex. Good teaching recognises that while learning is not necessarily easy, if it is not engaging, it is unlikely to happen at all.

Q: How do you adapt to diverse classes in terms of language, culture, nationality, and so on?

A: By recognising that students have different starting points, for example, some may come from a family that has little or no financial expertise, whereas other students may have been brought up actively participating in a family business. To accommodate this, the first year accounting class is split into separate classes – students with prior accounting knowledge and students without prior knowledge. Recognising where students are starting from, makes it easier to determine the pace, language and initial level of engagement within the teaching context.

In teaching we must recognise the importance of language and how nuances in English could impact on students' ability to understand key concepts. This could result in students learning explanations rather than being able to fully engage with the material. Targeted teaching recognises this and provides sufficient support to enable all students to improve their academic English and simultaneously develop a deep understanding of the material.

Q: Does technology play a big role for you?

A: Technology is playing an increasingly important role in my ability to convey concepts and ideas to an increasingly larger audience. The web-based Learn Accounting project, which offers short concept videos in five languages, namely English, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Xitsonga and seSotho, has a greater reach and allows students to re-watch videos as often as needed. However, I still find I enjoy using pen and paper when I explain concepts and ideas to students. While technology is extremely useful, I enjoy the face-to-face contact with students.

Q: And how does your research shape your teaching?

A: It is possible to teach for 20 years or to teach one year 20 times. It is only through reflecting on teaching, experimentation and discussion; as well as reading widely in the area of educational practice that I can ensure that I will not be teaching the same year 20 times. My research interests have allowed me to experiment, make mistakes, learn from them and develop as an educationalist.

Q: What are your five top tips for teachers?

A:

  1. Show that you care.
  2. Don't take yourself or your subject area too seriously.
  3. Stop talking, often.
  4. Recognise that students are responsible for their own learning; you are responsible for ensuring that their journey is well signposted.
  5. Have fun, laugh often, if you don't enjoy what you are doing, neither will your students

 

Q: Any other comments or anecdotes you'd like to add?

A: I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to teach many future academics, successful business people, entrepreneurs, lawyers, doctors and engineers – to mention but a few. When I think of the myriad of fabulous futures my students will have, I am reminded that the primary difference between myself and my current students is time and experience. While I am able to share the knowledge and experience that time has granted me – it is important to recognise that in time, all my students will equal, if not exceed my knowledge and experience. As teachers we must continue to be learners.


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Distinguished Teacher Award

 

The Distinguished Teacher Award is the highest accolade awarded to teaching staff at all levels within the university. Through the award, the University of Cape Town acknowledges the primary place of teaching and learning in the university’s work.

Read more about the award.

 

2018


‘Teaching swept me off my feet’ Despite the challenges, Anneliese Schauerte – a recipient of UCT’s Distinguished Teacher Award for 2018 – says she’s right where she’s meant to be. 19 Jun 2019
‘No stupid questions’ in Distinguished Teacher’s classes Curiosity, responding to change, technology and empathy are what 2018 Distinguished Teacher Award recipient Jeff Murugan says make an excellent teacher. 19 Jun 2019
 

2017


Discovering purpose and potential Trauma surgeon Professor Pradeep Navsaria, one of four 2017 Distinguished Teacher awardees, describes himself as ʻan accidental or incidental teacherʼ. 08 Jun 2018
Top teaching honour for celebrated surgeon Lead from the front, support from behind, says acclaimed teacher and spinal surgeon Professor Robert Dunn, who was recently honoured with a Distinguished Teacher Award. 08 Jun 2018
Distinguished physics teacher leaves his mark Relaxed, irreverent, interactive, engaging. That’s how physics lecturer Gregor Leigh describes his teaching style. Leigh is one of four new Distinguished Teacher awardees. 05 Jun 2018
Voting creativity and engagement into law Distinguished Teacher awardee Associate Professor Jacqueline Yeats didn’t plan to become a teacher, but almost 13 years later she wouldn’t have it any other way. 04 Jun 2018
 

2016


Put students at the heart of pedagogy Distinguished Teacher Awardee Dr Janice McMillan's work is not discipline-specific; rather it's about transformative teaching and how we engage the wider world beyond the university. This community-based learning encourages students to think about themselves simultaneously as students, emerging professionals and active citizens. 30 Mar 2017
Number's up for scary statistics Senior lecturer Dr Miguel Lacerda teaches statistics with an artful combination of precision and creativity. 27 Mar 2017
Tax time made easier Associate Professor Ryan Kruger has taught on every finance course offered at an undergraduate level, which he says has allowed him an understanding of the development that students undergo over the course of their academic careers. 24 Mar 2017
Winfield teaches ethical accounting Associate Professor Jimmy Winfield, an accounting scholar at UCT, runs a course called Business Ethics which aims to open his students’ minds a little 24 Mar 2017
The formula to make maths fun Dr David Erwin’s philosophy of creating a comfortable classroom, keeping students focused, and developing the structures they need to succeed is visible in his teaching. 22 Mar 2017
Taking the shock out of teaching maths Dr Jonathan Shock, who convenes a dreaded first-year mathematics course, was one of six DTA awardees for 2016. 15 Mar 2017
   

2015


'A good teacher? Someone who teaches to learn' 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 30 Nov 2015
'If learning is not engaging it is not happening' Associate Professor Jacqui Kew from the College of Accounting engages her students by asking questions in the classroom. 30 Nov 2015
Find the 'amazing' in all you study and teach Dr Azila (Tzili) Reisenberger, Head of Hebrew in the School of Languages and Literature, says that her classes are like communities and she's always on the lookout for that amazing bit of information to impart when she's teaching. 30 Nov 2015
Knowledge is not fixed in textbooks Dr Adam West of the Department of Biological Sciences says that a teacher’s job is to help students realise that the creation of scientific knowledge is on-going and dynamic, and that they have a role to play in that. 30 Nov 2015
 

2014


Dr Spencer Wheaton – Senior Lecturer, Department of Physics Dr Spencer Wheaton creates multi-dimensional, active experiences for students by making connections with the real world and linking physics to their major subjects. 01 Dec 2014
Assoc Prof James Gain – Deputy Head of the Department of Computer Science Assoc Prof James Gain believes that it is important to create the type of environment where students are not afraid to ask questions. 01 Dec 2014
Prof Delawir Kahn – Head of the Department of Surgery For Prof Delawir Kahn, being a surgeon and being a teacher are intricately intertwined. 01 Dec 2014
Dr Linda Ronnie – Senior Lecturer, Graduate School of Business Dr Linda Ronnie believes that an eagerness to learn is vital to being a great teacher. 01 Dec 2014
 

2013


Dr Helen Macdonald – Anthropology Dr Helen Macdonald's teaching portfolio and her students' and colleagues' comments all indicate clearly that she is as passionate about her teaching as she is about her discipline, anthropology. 09 Dec 2013
Dr Hedley Twidle – English language & literature Dr Hedley Twidle believes that teaching literature in English should be a fluid and evolving thing. 09 Dec 2013
Dr Ian-Malcolm Rijsdijk – Film and Media Studies Dr Ian-Malcolm Rijsdijk is described as an inspirational teacher of film studies, film production and screen-writing whose energy, enthusiasm, deep generosity and passion for cinema have captivated a generation of students. 09 Dec 2013
Paul Maughan – Accounting Paul Maughan’s teaching philosophy is underpinned by a fundamental insight: Ken Bain’s view that effective teaching results in deep learning that is best achieved through the disruption of existing mental models. 09 Dec 2013
 

2012


Professor John Higgins – English Literature Professor John Higgins believes that what counts is the question of identity, in a view of teaching as process and not transmission. 12 Dec 2012
Dr Jeremy Wanderer – Department of Philosophy Dr Jeremy Wanderer believes that it is possible for academic life to be set up in a way that does not lead academics to experience a tension between teaching and research. 12 Dec 2012
Dr Zenda Woodman – Department of Molecular and Cell Biology Students working under the tutelage of Dr Zenda Woodman have remarked on her use of humour to create a safe environment for learning. 12 Dec 2012
 

2011


Quartet of outstanding teachers féted On the 30th anniversary of UCT’s Distinguished Teacher Award (DTA), four recipients joined the ranks. 12 Dec 2011
 

2010


Medical teachers grab 2010 awards Professor Roland Eastman and Professor Zephne van der Spuy, both of the Faculty of Health Sciences, have been named the recipients of UCT’s 2010 Distinguished Teacher Awards. 15 Dec 2010
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