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WATE PGR 2020 Commendee: Riccardo Degasperi (Economics)

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

Teaching may not be a primary concern for an academic researcher, but the ability to communicate difficult concepts effectively is. There is no better way to improve yourself at that than teaching.

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

Less is more. Be concise and get to the point. Our attention span is very limited. Also, give your students time to ask questions.

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

If you cannot answer a question during class, nothing terrible happens. You can always write an email to your students later on.

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

Repeat often. We forget easily. Always summarise the concepts of the previous class, or the topics at hand. When you give an example, ask a student to repeat it afterwards.

Ask questions. This is the best way to keep attention up. Learn your students’ names and ask questions to all of them. If they cannot answer, guide them to the right answer.

Think as a student. Students often learn mechanically, especially if there are formulas involved. It is important for a teacher to stress why we do things rather than have students learning a cookbook by heart.

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

It’s easy to forget how difficult some concepts are once you mastered them. Be patient with your students and don’t rush it.

What does being recognised through WATE PGR mean to you?

It is a huge honour. I try my best with my students. Knowing that they appreciate this and that the University acknowledges it is extremely rewarding.

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

Whenever I can help my students make sense of a difficult concept, that’s a big success for me and students are usually very grateful.

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

Coordination among teachers on the same module is fundamental to offer the same quality of teaching to all students. Regular meetings with all the staff working on a module can help achieve that.

What lessons have you learned from your students?

There are way too few black people and too few women who enrol in economics courses.

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

An inspiring teacher not only helps you master a topic, but also lets you foresee what you could achieve with that knowledge.

Enjoyed hearing from Riccardo? See the full list of 2020 winners and commendees and read other interviews.