Teaching award for the School of Environment

16 May 2016
Senior Tutor Joe Fagan
Senior Tutor Joe Fagan, "students know why they are undertaking each activity."

Senior Tutor Joe Fagan has been awarded a Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching 2015. Professor Paul Kench, Head of the School of Environment, says that “while Joe’s excellent teaching contributions are not news to the School, it is very pleasing that his dedication and thoughtful approach to teaching has been recognised formally at the broader faculty level.”

Joe, who has been at the University of Auckland for eleven years, counts his teaching award success to “sharing the teaching experience” with his students.

“I always try to be inclusive - I don’t see the lecture as a vehicle to deliver content,” says Joe. “Instead I want to create a space where students can question the material, re-think assumptions, consider other perspectives, express their own viewpoints and construct new knowledge.”

Joe is committed to maintaining a “deliberate reason for each component” in his classes, and makes sure that “students know why they are undertaking each activity.” This method of inclusivity extends to how the classes are structured, with Joe’s enthusiasm toward participatory, or co-learning environments.

Group activities, such as spontaneous collaboration, informal or formal learning groups and collective learning are effective, says Joe “when there is a specific purpose and fit with the course or topic - by going beyond just asking students to get into groups to discuss a particular topic, students take responsibility for their own learning and a sense of shared purpose increases motivation.”  

The teaching principles applied to his classes are: Groups must be properly formed and managed, students must be accountable to their group (anonymous peer review system), activities must promote both learning and team development and students should receive timely feedback.

By working together this way Joe is very aware his students are then mimicking real life, therefore giving them experience of what their working lives will be, because “(in) geography related jobs people are required to work together on projects.”

Joe is very happy to have received recognition for his teaching, citing that a number of colleagues in the School of Environment have recently received teaching awards meaning that his award “provides further recognition of the School’s continued commitment to teaching practise beyond the classroom.” He says,

“Teaching is not a solo endeavour and many wonderful people (both staff and students) have contributed to my own teaching journey. I hope in some small way I have also contributed to theirs.”