Archive | September 2013

Developing an understanding of different personalities: A crucial management skill

 One thing you learn when you recruit a LOT is how to quickly assess some different personality characteristics. As a natural extrovert, I’ve always been intimidated by those you don’t “wear their heart on their sleeve”, even though I have recruited some wonderful introverted leaders. It was one of my biggest hesitations when I changed recruiting to group based – that I would unfairly eliminate introverted leaders.

The thing is: introverted leaders don’t want the attention on them. That makes them ideal for being a leader. They’re all about encouraging the students to be the centre of the learning.

One of the things I often say to leaders is how tempting, how exhilarating, how it feels SO GOOD to be up on the board showing people how to do stuff. It makes you feel so awesome! But it’s not what we want. One of the leaders summarised it well in his session report helping students with logarithmic issues in chemistry kinetics:

A: I got some solid practise in sitting tight when people were really struggling to make progress and prompting/reassuring them without just instructing them in what to do, which is probably useful although extraordinarily difficult.

 

 

Leaders make great recruiters

I’m going on leave after today for a week, but when I get back, it’s fully into “recruitment” mode. I need approximately 45 new leaders to join the team in 2014.

One of the things I’ve realised over the years is that, similar to this article, my team knows how to smell a rat.  That’s why the Senior Leaders help me with the recruitment. They help because it’s better to have them as well as me. No matter how good I am at recruiting, no matter how many times I do it, it’s better to do with someone else. Even for a low risk position like a casual student leader.

And those Graduate Attributes! My senior leaders can say that they’ve already helped recruit to their future employers!

UTS Graduate Attributes:

  • Critical and independent thinking? TICK
  • Spoken and written communication? TICK
  • Working with others? TICK
  • Cross cultural understanding? TICK
  • Ethical understanding? TICK

Totally winning.

Helping a leader to turn around their session

Today I am pleased to report about one of my leaders. He was struggling to get the students participating, and the session was quite, what I’d call, “leader centric”.  (PS I don’t apologise for the Miranda reference at all!).

Ideally we’re trying to help the leaders get away from being the centre of the discussion so that the students become more engaged and independent of the need for the leader.

This is what he wrote in his session report:

Q: Extra/Other

A: I tried your suggestion of creating a centre table with all the students around it, bouncing ideas off each other. It was great!! Thank you Georgina!

Q: What went well in your sessions this fortnight and why?

A: Your lesson method! It was great to hear some of the students who usually make minimal contributions!

 Q: Is there something you would do differently or improve on next fortnight?

A: Yes

 Q: If yes, please describe:

A: I’ll start changing all of my problem questions to be more centred on this new approach (so two sides can be equally right)

 Q: Students lead in U:PASS for a wide variety of reasons – to mentor, to gain leadership skills, to improve communication skills, to get educational experience, to see what it’s like working for UTS.  What’s something you feel you have gained in one (or more) of these areas over the last fortnight? Why? (You may also choose another area if you wish!) 🙂

A: Facilitation skills! I got blindsided into being comfortable with the way I was running the session so I didn’t consider alternatives to the method I was using. The students seem to enjoy the new collaborative approach quite a bit!

 

#totally #winning

 

Why don’t all new academics get this support?

At the moment, I’m asking leaders who wants to come back in 2014, so that I can then go and recruit the students before they disappear for the summer.

One of the things we ask is about the Senior Leader process and how the new leaders found it. This was one answer (from a nursing student who had an arts student as a mentor):

Q: New leaders only: This semester we trained senior leaders to support you through your first semester. How have you found this process? What has been helpful? Unhelpful? etc.

A: It was a BRILLIANT process! Having a senior leader who I knew I could contact when I needed assistance/debrief/general advice regarding how to run a class more effectively was a great resource to have. I believe it is essential for new leaders. It is a daunting and scary process running your first few classes. The 2 assessments during the semester was a little daunting but I understood that the only way to improve was to have someone I trust observe me and give me constructive feedback which [name removed] did so well and I am so appreciative of her time and input into developing me as a leader. It would be great to have the opportunity to be in her shoes and help in the process of developing and supporting new leaders.

 

So my question is: Why don’t we offer this to new academics?

A life-changing experience

From a graduating leader:

Q: What has been the best part of being a U:PASS leader?

A: The students understanding what they are learning, and why it is important. That never gets old 🙂

It’s been fantastic. I’ll never forget these times. I can only hope that I’ll get to teach again some day.

 Thanks for everything, Georgina. This has been a life-changing experience for me 🙂

My future career path

One of my leaders has been working for me for 3 years. She is a local student but has ESL.  She is about to finish her Honours this semester. Her comments today in her fortnightly session report deserve to be shared with the world:

Q: What went well in your sessions this fortnight and why?

A: Last fortnight was amazing. Students have got to know each other more so they simply sat in groups without being asked to. In the sessions, students worked together in groups and it was so wonderful since I only needed to give out some hints and say whether the answers they wrote on the board were correct or not – they just facilitated the discussion among themselves!

The use of puzzles really added fun into the sessions, and it got everyone talking even the shy students.

Q: Is there something you would do differently or improve on next fortnight?

A: Yes  Q: If yes, please describe:

A: There has been a great mix of knowledgeable and struggling students in my sessions. Some people just wanted to do the harder questions but others struggled with the basic idea. I would go through some examples from the lecture notes at the beginning of class rather than at the end so that the students can create links between the formulae and questions.

 

Q: Students lead in U:PASS for a wide variety of reasons – to mentor, to gain leadership skills, to improve communication skills, to get educational experience, to see what it’s like working for UTS.  What’s something you feel you have gained in one (or more) of these areas over the last fortnight? Why? (You may also choose another area if you wish!) 🙂

A: I am enjoying every moment of this experience! It is so hard to believe that this might be my last semester leading in U:PASS. After 3 years, I still find new and interesting things in each and every session. The feeling of being able to help other students and the thought of knowing that I can contribute to students’ success is truly rewarding. Seeing the students working together and asking each other contact for study groups or going to the tutorial together reminded me of what it was like in my first year at uni where I got to know many friends from U:PASS. I definitely believed that this experience has allowed me to realise my future career path.

 

 

There might be a few tears on my part when she leaves.

Self-awareness as a facilitator – from the peer facilitator’s mouth

One of my new leaders in the postgraduate subject wrote these reflections this week in his session report:

 

Is there something you’d do differently or improve on next fortnight?

I think I made a lot of use of the whiteboard and I would like to reduce the frequency of doing that. I am going to make use of butcher’s paper for class discussions and presentations.

Students lead in U:PASS for a wide variety of reasons … what’s something you feel you’ve gained in one (or more) of these areas over the last fortnight? Why?

In the last fortnight, I find myself increasingly becoming increasingly self-aware of the way I run the class and the kind of feedback I am getting. It naturally helps me to improve on the session. For instance, if I find that I am talking a lot I will tend to direct questions and get people to explain. It is like I am my own critic which is great for a productive learning environment. Being self-aware has allowed me to become more of a facilitator.