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Division of Sciences congratulates two Otago Teaching Excellence Award recipients

Thursday 2 May 2019 3:24pm

Dr Anne-Marie Jackson and Dr David McMorran
Dr Anne-Marie Jackson (left) and Dr David McMorran (right) are this year’s recipients of Otago’s Excellence in Teaching Awards.

The Division of Sciences congratulates Dr Anne-Marie Jackson and Dr David McMorran as this year’s recipients of Otago’s Excellence in Teaching Awards.

Dr Jackson and Dr McMorran received their awards on Tuesday, together with Associate Professor Ben Schonthal (Religion) and Nicola Beatson (Accountancy and Finance).

Good teaching is about “awakening joy in knowledge and creative expression,” says Vice-Chancellor Professor Vernon Squire when he presented the awards just 45 minutes before he retired after 32 years at the University.

Everyone who submits an application is “first rate” and judges were looking for something that separates the “virtuoso from the expert, as all applicants easily surpass the University’s strategic imperative of excellent teaching”.

Dr David McMorran (Department of Chemistry)

An enthusiasm for the subject and drive to see chemistry students succeed, underpin the teaching approach of Dr David McMorran.

“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 the Senior Teaching Fellow, who has 21 years of teaching experience at Otago.

For the past 10 years, Dr McMorran has coordinated the highly competitive chemistry paper taken by more than 2,000 Health Sciences First Year students.

“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.”

Dr McMorran believes effective teaching is the outcome of enthusiasm for, and a deep understanding of the subject to be able to connect the scientific information to students’ lives and interests.

“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 previously recognised with two OUSA teaching awards.

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, he says.

“I also try hard to present chemistry as a human endeavour, carried out by people in a societal context,” says Dr McMorran, whose award also recognises his extensive involvement in community engagement activities.

Since 2010, he has produced more than 170 shows for Otago Access Radio ‘Science Notes’ programme, which gives graduate students a chance 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 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 very grateful for the teaching award.

“I suppose it’s an affirmation that the things that I am trying to do to make chemistry interesting and relevant are succeeding with the students and are valued by the University.”

Dr Anne-Marie Jackson (School of Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Sciences)

A tireless dedication to providing alternative ways to engage with Māori communities has helped Dr Anne-Marie Jackson secure her Teaching Excellence Award.

Dr Jackson, a Senior Lecturer within the School of Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Sciences, was honoured with the Kaupapa Māori Teaching Award for her dedication in raising the profile of matauranga Māori in the Division of Sciences.

Dr Jackson, of Ngāti Whātua, Ngāti Kahu o Whangaroa and Ngāpuhi descent, co-created the award-winning research theme Te Koronga for Māori postgraduate research excellence and indigenous science.

The award is part of the University’s Teaching Excellence Awards, and Dr Jackson recognises it’s significant.

“What the award does is it raises the status of kaupapa Māori in sciences, and that is a much bigger kaupapa than me as an individual winning an award,” she says.

The kaupapa Māori concept is especially important for Te Koronga. Three per cent of staff in Sciences are Māori, and the amount of kaupapa Māori taught in the curriculum comes from one staff member.

Dr Jackson says the importance of this award extends beyond the University walls.

“For us, the driver of the curriculum is how do we support our community aspirations so they do not have to change how they function when it comes to working with an institution.

“The award will be good in showcasing there is a different way to be within the hallowed institutions of the academy, and especially within sciences. There are very few alternative ways of going about doing things.”


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