In this episode, Filip Taneski, a PhD student within the School of Engineering, and Brittany Blankinship, a PhD student in the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, share good practice by discussing their nominations for the 2022 Student Tutor of the Year. This is the second episode of our Teaching Awards series, which features reflective conversations between nominees.
In this episode, Filip and Brittany reflect on their roles as student tutors, particularly considering how they’ve adapted their practices over the turbulent past few years. They begin by comparing how teaching this year has been different from previous academic years. Filip introduces how it was difficult to facilitate engagement in the online setting and how small ‘icebreaker’ activities played a crucial role.
I think cultivating engagement is tricky when you’re not seeing people. Over time, I learned to start off with a little ice breaker at the start of each section. Not even an icebreaker that’s like, ‘What’s your favorite ice cream?’ Just something where students don’t have to give any opinion. It’s just: what’s your name and what discipline of engineering are you hoping to go into? So that way it’s a really simple, easy question where each student can enable their audio and say something, breaking that ice so they can then feel a bit more willing to share and discuss. And especially in the classes we were doing for that course, it was all about engagement and working through things together.
The two then discuss more about their practices as tutors, before covering some of the techniques they’ve picked up over the course of their PhDs. They also touch on how they balance their research and teaching, along with the ways they view teaching altogether. Brittany brilliantly discusses how she views the role of an educator.
I don’t view teaching, and I feel you might agree, given what you’ve shared as a monologue, but a dialogue. And I always go into a teaching situation and hope I can learn something, learn a new way of explaining something that helps a student or a new perspective that a student might be bringing that I hadn’t considered and how I might be able to adapt what I’m trying to explain conceptually to them to their point of view. And I think that makes impactful teaching.
Brittany and Filip round out their conversation by discussing positive feedback they’ve received during their roles as tutors, along with their responses to their nominations.
Brittany Blankinship is a final year PhD student in the School of Philosophy, Psychology, and Language Sciences at the University of Edinburgh. Her PhD is entitled, “Multilingualism in Later Life: Natural History and Effects of Language Learning”. Her work is interdisciplinary, combining neuroscience with linguistics and quantitative with qualitative methods. Brittany has been a tutor for three years across a wide variety of courses and levels both within and outwith the Psychology department. She is passionate about tackling the stigma around learning/teaching statistics and coding (it can be fun!) as well as student representation and well-being.
Filip Taneski is a PhD student at the School of Engineering. His research focuses on developing lidar for self-driving vehicles. After completing his undergraduate degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Filip spent significant time in industry designing circuits for microchips featured on many of the phones and devices we use today. He returned to the University of Edinburgh in 2020 to pursue a PhD with the aim of broadening his experience, both as an engineer and an educator.
Series produced and edited by:
Eric is a Mathematics and Statistics student at The University of Edinburgh, and a podcasting intern for Teaching Matters. Eric is passionate about university student mental health, interviewing researchers for the Student Mental Health Research Network at King’s College London, leading the University of Edinburgh’s WellComm Kings Peer Support Scheme, and conducting research on stigma for People With Mental Illnesses (PWMI). In his free time, he enjoys watching and playing sports, over-analysing hip-hop songs, podcasts, and any sort of wholesome shenanigans.