Why did you start teaching? What (or who) inspired you?
I would have liked to say that teaching is what I always wanted to do, and that the first time I stood before students a childhood dream came true. When I was starting out in academia, I had a great deal of interest in research but little appetite for teaching. Like many of my colleagues, I wrongly saw teaching as one of the most intimidating and thankless parts of my research-focused job. But, over the years, lecture by lecture, teaching turned from frightening to bearable, to interesting, to exciting and eventually, to what I now see as one of the best parts of my job.
What pearls of wisdom have you been given over the years that have helped you with your teaching?
Make sessions interactive. Fortunately, long gone are the days when a typical lecture was an hour long, uninterrupted monologue. To teach is to engage and interact.
Is there anything you wish someone had told you when you started out?
For years, I was terrified by the prospect of being asked questions that I would not be able to answer. When I did get such questions, I felt like a failed academic and an imposter. I eventually came to realise that educators are not supposed to have all the answers, and that most students recognise this. I just wish someone had told me this earlier...
If you were mentoring a first-time teacher, what advice would you give?
In no particular order:
- Observe and learn from others, but develop your own style.
- As much as possible, get out of your comfort zone.
- Take every possible opportunity to receive constructive feedback.
What advice/top tips would you give to more experienced teachers?
Make sure your teaching is evolving. The way people learn, and our understanding of it, has changed over the years, so sticking to what was the norm 20 or 30 years ago is unlikely to work nowadays.
What new technologies are you currently using to enhance your teaching? What are your top tips for using them?
I use Tabula, Moodle, TurnItin, and TalisAspire religiously and I keep an eye out for new software and applications. Last year, I used Prezi for most of my sessions and students, especially undergraduates, liked it a lot. I plan to use Prezi more in the future. Of course, one should be putting substance and content over style, and remember that software should facilitate, rather than dominate, a teaching session.
What does winning a WATE award mean to you?
A great deal. I am primarily a researcher but I feel that teaching is an important part of my academic identity. I know for a fact that there are many people like me at Warwick. To my mind, recognition through WATE sends a clear message that, at our University, being a researcher and a committed educator is not only compatible, but it is actually encouraged and celebrated.
What do you enjoy the most about teaching? What’s the best part of your job?
Without a doubt, the fact that I get to teach students from a range of disciplinary backgrounds. The subject I teach, health economics, is just about as multidisciplinary as it gets and, nowadays, I get to teach health sciences students in Warwick Medical School and economics students in the Department of Economics, sometimes on the same day! The fact that some students come to class resolute that ‘health’ and ‘economics’ are terms that should not be even used in the same sentence is an additional challenge that I’m always happy to accept...
What lessons have you learned from your students?
To think about, and question, everything I teach. If theories or concepts—even well-established ones—do not make much sense to students, it is usually worth casting a critical eye over them.
If you could write a recipe for the perfect inspiring teacher, what ingredients would you need?
Enthusiasm, motivation, commitment, patience, openness, willingness to experiment and respect for all learners, all in equal measure.
Enjoyed hearing from Lazaros? See the full list of 2020 winners and commendees and read other interviews.