Karen Smith is a Professor of Tourism Management Group in the School of Management
Karen teaches in the School of Management in courses related to tourism. She teaches across a range of levels, from first year courses with up to 140 students, to postgraduate level with smaller groups of students. Karen describes teaching in a team situation with colleagues who are also interested in innovative approaches and trying new things. This mirrors her own interest in, and commitment to, making her teaching engaging and relevant in order to connect knowledge with application. There is a strong theme of future-focus in Karen’s teaching choices, in particular the future employability of students through their ability to apply key content and skills to real life contexts. Authenticity is a related feature that influences Karen’s pedagogical decision making.
To achieve her goals of relevance, authenticity, and student engagement, Karen employs a range of strategies. One key innovative approach in course design is incorporating assessments and content that reflect ‘real world’ or authentic contexts. Case studies and examples are used to connect new knowledge to practice, while collaborative assessment tasks mimic real world activities (e.g. event management plan for an event such as Rhythm and Vines). Choice is a further element in terms of topic, context and presentation. Work-integrated learning and internships provide opportunities for authentic application of knowledge and skills.
At the teaching-learning interface, Karen incorporates strategies to engage students more interactively in lectures. She uses clickers, GoSoapBox, and Kahoot (an online quiz tool), as well as encouraging students to use their mobile devices for specific tasks within class time; for example, finding accommodation in a particular location for a particular kind of person. Designing creative activity ideas, such as getting students to create postcards and posters about course concepts and goals, are a key part of Karen’s practice. She acknowledges that the kind of innovation that is possible depends on variables such as class size and the physical teaching space.
Student feedback is a key indicator of the impact of teaching innovations. This can take the form of end of course feedback, but of greater importance is ongoing evaluation of student engagement. Karen elicits formative feedback during a course, and also evaluates learning and engagement throughout classes so as to be responsive to students. Student responses to the changes to assessments have been positive, although some have struggled with the level of choice and openness around topics and presentation. An increase in the quality of student work and meeting course outcomes is further evidence that pedagogical innovations are effective.
Karen’s teaching practices are underpinned by a desire to bridge the knowledge-practice divide and ensure that learning is relevant and applicable. The use of strategies such as group collaboration, choice, and authentic assessments suggests a social constructivist orientation. She also uses principles of constructive alignment in the way that learning outcomes, course content, and assessments are designed to work together to develop future-focused skills and understandings.
Karen’s approach to teaching is characterised by an ongoing search for different ways to ensure that learning is relevant, authentic and engaging. She actively seeks new ideas from colleagues across the university, but also believes that pedagogical strategies have to be the right fit for individual lecturers. Trial and error is part of the process, and by taking risks in her own teaching, Karen creates an expectation that students will also take some risks in their learning.
This case study was written as part of the Innovative Pedagogies research project.