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WATE 2017 commendee: Pietro Micheli (WBS)

Why did you start teaching? What (or who) inspired you?

I formally started teaching in 2004 while doing my PhD. At first I thought teaching was just something I was required to do as an academic, then I realised that teaching can be our most rewarding (and impactful) activity.

What pearls of wisdom have you been given over the years that have helped you with your teaching?

Many… let’s go for three:

  1. Teaching does not mean standing in front an endless set of slides!
  2. Teaching is about the students/participants, not about you (the lecturer)
  3. Think about what and how they learn and adapt (also on the spot, if necessary).

Is there anything you wish someone had told you when you started out?

Make the most of it, you’ll enjoy it!

If you were mentoring a first-time teacher, what three bits of advice would you give?

As mentioned above, you need to know your subject, but then the focus should be on the students/participants: it’s about what they hear/understand, not about what you say; put yourself in their shoes, talk to them during breaks, understand how what you’re covering relates to their lives/careers, etc.

What advice/top tips would you give to more experienced teachers?

Experiment, try new things and change: your subject needs to be kept alive (and fun).

What new technologies are you currently using to enhance your teaching? What are your top tips for using them?

Nothing too fancy: video interviews (that I carried out), Skype to connect with external speakers, Youtube videos, etc. as well as more traditional flipcharts, group exercises, etc. About digital technology: focus on what that allows you to do extra (vs. the technology itself) and always have a back up plan in case something goes wrong.

What new or future teaching innovations are you looking forward to?

Main one: I’m planning to exploit Warwick’s strength in distance courses to create more flexible / digitally based executive courses.

What does being highly commended in the WATE awards mean to you?

It’s great to get recognition for all the work I’ve done as a teacher, although working with students is already rewarding.

What do you enjoy the most about teaching? What’s the best part of your job?

Interaction with people, and the hope that what we cover will make a difference to their personal and professional lives.

What do you feel are the biggest challenges faced by teaching staff? How do you overcome these?

Teaching is insufficiently valued in academia – you are promoted / recruited on the basis of your research output, not because you are a good/excellent teacher (at least for research-active individuals, like me).

What lessons have you learned from your students?

Many… in terms of content, lots, especially from MBA students / Executive education participants.

In terms of teaching, it’s a constant fine tuning on the basis of their reactions and ways of engaging.

If you could write a recipe for the perfect inspiring teacher, what ingredients would you need?

A few attributes: Interested and competent in the subject, willing to engage with people and make a difference, open to criticism and to changing practices/material, capable of keeping it fun!

Enjoyed hearing from Pietro? See the full list of 2017 winners and read other interviews.