One of our 2016 WATE winners, Lorenzo values the impact of his interaction with students on his research, and praises the team work in the School of Life Sciences.
Why did you start teaching? What (or who) inspired you?
I always liked teaching and did so during my PhD (as demonstrator). I had a couple of amazing lecturers at university and I have been trying to emulate their clarity and enthusiasm ever since.
What pearls of wisdom have you been given over the years that have helped you with your teaching?
No direct advice, rather I have watched good practitioners closely and tried to steal from them.
Is there anything you wish someone had told you when you started out?
There is admin attached to teaching...
If you were mentoring a first-time teacher, what three bits of advice would you give?
- Be prepared but don’t expect to have a whole lecture’s content under control – leave room for improvisation/spontaneity.
- Keep PowerPoint slide text to a minimum.
- Don’t try and be someone you are not. But do try and give the impression that you know what you are doing (even if you are dying inside and think you are a total fake).
What advice/top tips would you give to more experienced teachers?
If you can do your teaching on autopilot, it’s time to update it...
What new technologies are you currently using to enhance your teaching? What are your top tips for using them?
Apps such as NearPod for small group teaching. My tip is, embrace new technology only if there is a clear student learning advantage attached to it. And it’s always worth it to pilot new technology on a small sample of students and to take their feedback seriously.
What new or future teaching innovations are you looking forward to?
We are currently experimenting with Responseware and are planning to make it available to everyone. The aim is to increase the amount of blended learning we foster throughout our courses.
What does winning a WATE award mean to you?
I feel like a complete cheat. Teaching success in the School of Life Sciences has been the result of a tremendous amount of team work and - as proud as I am to serve as Director of Undergraduate Studies - only a tiny percentage of this success is down to me personally. I guess the best outcome is that my WATE helps put the School of Life Sciences on the map for good teaching practice.
What do you enjoy the most about teaching? What’s the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is doing experimental science! Teaching comes a very close second. I like the fact that it forces me to keep up to date, and I get a lot from interacting with students. I would be a much poorer researcher if I didn’t teach.
What are the biggest challenges faced by teaching staff? How do you overcome these?
Workload. Students demand more and more individual contact time and feedback. One way to alleviate the problem is to make sure that teaching staff have as little administrative roles as possible.
What lessons have you learned from your students?
Students don’t care, and won’t remember, who you are. All you can do is the best possible job and hope they remember what they have been taught, rather than who taught them.
If you could write a recipe for the perfect inspiring teacher, what ingredients would you need?
- Enthusiasm – 80 parts
- Some degree of knowledge – 10 parts
- Lack of self-consciousness – 5 parts
- Being down-to-earth- 5 parts
Know someone like Lorenzo? Nominate them for a WATE award!