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Chemistry teacher receives National Tertiary Teaching Excellence Award

Wednesday 9 October 2019 11:36am

Dave McMorran Image
Dr Dave McMorran

The exemplary teaching skills of Dr David McMorran have been recognised with a National Tertiary Teaching Excellence Award by Ako Aotearoa.

The Senior Teaching Fellow in the Chemistry Department is one of ten recipients from throughout the country who are the 2019 recipients of this prestigious annual award.

One of these ten will receive the Prime Minister’s Supreme Award, which will be announced on 30 October at Parliament Buildings in Wellington.

Dr McMorran says he is astonished and humbled to receive the national award, which is in addition to the Otago University Teaching Excellence Award he received earlier this year.

“Receiving the Otago Teaching Excellence Award was an affirmation that the things I am trying to do to make chemistry interesting and relevant are succeeding with the students and valued by the university, so receiving this national award is even more encouraging,” Dr McMorran says.

“I think teaching is important because I think learning is important and knowledge is important, and I hope this award will enable me to find new ways to do more of this valuable work.”

Vice-Chancellor Harlene Hayne says this award is a fantastic accolade for Dr McMorran’s teaching accomplishments.

“We are so proud of David for this award. He is an extremely popular and effective teacher and he has provided outstanding support for curriculum development. This award is a well-deserved recognition of his gifts as a teacher,” Professor Hayne says.

An enthusiasm for the subject and drive to see chemistry students succeed underpin Dr McMorran’s approach to teaching.

“Experience has confirmed to me that showing enthusiasm and passion for your subject rubs off on the students – if you want to be there then maybe they will want to be there too,” says Dr McMorran, who has 21 years of teaching experience at Otago.

For the past 16 years, Dr McMorran has taught and coordinated the highly competitive chemistry paper taken by more than 2000 Health Sciences First Year students.

He also runs two courses which help students prepare for 100-level chemistry courses, and university study in general, as well as teaching in second and fourth year courses.

“Chemistry goes on around us all the time,” he says. “The trick is to try to find ways to connect students’ experiences of these everyday things to the underlying science being taught.”

“Even if they don’t continue in chemistry, my aim is for them to leave my course understanding why I think the subject is so amazing, and why I value learning so highly, and so inspire them to continue learning themselves.”

In 2016 Dr McMorran was named the Division of Sciences Senior Teacher of the Year, and his teaching has also being recognised with two OUSA teaching awards.

Dr McMorran says over the years the importance of teaching chemistry in a clear and innovative way, using technologies such as animation and video, has become crucial due to the difficulties many students have understanding chemistry.

One response to this has been his driving the introduction of iPad-based teaching across the 100-level chemistry courses.

“I also try hard to present chemistry as a human endeavour, carried out by people in a societal context,” he says.

Dr McMorran is also attentive to extend his practices outside the classroom, including organising a Chemistry Quiz evening for high school students for the past 17 years.

He has also produced more than 180 shows for Otago Access Radio ‘Science Notes’ programme, providing the opportunity for students to talk about their work and themselves.

Head of Department of Chemistry Professor Keith Gordon says Dr McMorran is the lynch pin of the first year operation in chemistry.

“David’s huge enthusiasm brings a positive feel to the teaching, and his dedication to helping students is an inspiration to both the postgrads and academic staff,” Professor Gordon says.

Dr McMorran says he is immensely grateful to the fantastic teaching staff in the Chemistry Department.

“My colleagues have supported me as I try to make our teaching better and the students of all levels, from pre-schoolers right through to postgraduate, have all helped make my teaching so enjoyable and rewarding.”

For further information, contact:

Dr David McMorran
Senior Teaching Fellow
Department of Chemistry
Tel +64 3 479 7931
Email davidm@chemistry.otago.ac.nz