Education Focussed Communities of Practice & VicTeach: Event Reflection


Digital event in home office

By Sarah Spackman | Published 19 August 2022

In an inspiring celebration of teaching and learning, over 40 staff from across UNSW and Te Herenga Waka - Victoria University of Wellington, Aotearoa - New Zealand, came together on Monday 4 July for the inaugural EF CoPs & VicTeach event, Sharing what makes us most excited about teaching.

With a focus on co-hosting a fun, informal and inclusive event to build on the relationship between our institutions, the program featured six short and sharp presentations across two sessions, three each from both UNSW and Te Herenga Waka - Victoria University of Wellington. Attendees were invited to engage with the presenters and their ideas through a Q&A, in addition to opportunities for small group discussions. This allowed attendees to meet one another and to reflect on their teaching practice together, with the presentations providing a framework and catalyst for invigorating discussions.

The first session’s presentations centred around adaptations developed in response to online course delivery, with presenters finding meaningful ways to connect and create a sense of belonging - amongst students and staff - at the heart of all three presentations.

The second session saw the focus shift to alternative visions for inclusion and engagement in teaching, with presenters identifying and sharing exciting and novel ways in which they are enabling and supporting all students to achieve, inside and outside the classroom.

The whole event felt joyful! As a community of passionate educators, we were transported from our immediate institutional concerns of marking, administration, and such, to a place where we remembered why we really loved teaching and learning. These moments of connection have had an impact that is present with me beyond the hours that we spent together on Zoom. The feeling reminds me of a quote from author, Hannah Arendt - “the smallest act in the most limited circumstances bears the seed of boundlessness, because one deed, and sometimes one word, suffices to change every constellation.”

There were in fact many words shared on the day that reoriented my thinking, but there are two in particular that I will share a brief reflection on here: 

Belonging. We have established such a robust sense of belonging amongst our EF community, and this understanding is shared with our colleagues at VicTeach. I feel amongst old friends here.

Subversive. Without undermining the institution, we can creatively challenge the status quo simply by stepping outside the box - or the classroom - to make teaching more memorable and enjoyable for everyone.

My experience of the day is very much a reflection of the collaborative process that brought it to life. Huge thanks to my co-organisers, Collins Fleischner, and Hazel Godfrey and Anne Macaskill from VicTeach, and to the team behind us on the day, Ana, Karin, Tuhina and Gary. Of course, it would not have been an event without our wonderful presenters, Nirmani, Deb & Morne, Lynn & Janis, Delphine & Courtney, Harry, and Claire; and to everyone who came along to listen, share, and support, thank you - ngā mihi nui!

In te reo Māori the concept of ako means both to learn and to teach, together. It is an acknowledgment of a reciprocal exchange of knowledge that takes place in a learning interaction. To me, this sums up beautifully the relationship between our EF CoPs and VicTeach. I cannot wait to organise our next collaborative event together, but for now let me leave you with some thoughts from our wonderful EF and VicTeach colleagues who presented on the day:

"The inaugural EF CoPs & VicTeach event offers us an excellent opportunity to share good practice in teaching and learning. I have learned a lot from other educators, which allows me to create a better learning experience for my students to improve their learning achievement."

- Harry Han, Associate Lecturer, UNSW Business School (Member, EF CoPs)

"It was such a pleasure to participate. I left feeling really uplifted about teaching itself, as well as about being part of a community of people who care so deeply about teaching."

- Claire Timperley, Pūkenga o Matai Tōrangapū, Lecturer in Political Science (Member, VicTeach)

"I managed to make a few low key connections at the event so it was definitely worth it!"

- Nirmani Wijenayake, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Science (Academic co-Lead, Teamwork CoP)

"Coming together as a community to share what excites and inspires us in our teaching was an antidote to the mental load of mid-term course administration and marking. Like a tonic we inspired each other to act and attending gave time for reflection on practice too."

- Lynn Gribble, Senior Lecturer, UNSW Business School (Academic co-Lead, Online Learning & Innovation CoP)


This article was written by Sarah Spackman, Senior Project Officer, EF CoPs, Education Focussed Development, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Education & Student Experience Portfolio


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