National teaching recognition for UTS accounting educator
Accounting is a subject all business students take, and some approach it as a number crunching grind they have to endure rather than enjoy, but UTS accounting lecturer James Wakefield is changing minds and perceptions, and even inspiring love for this misrepresented subject.
Dr Wakefield, whose office features thankyou cards from admiring students, was recently awarded a citation for his outstanding contributions to student learning at the Universities Australia 2018 Australian Awards for University Teaching ceremony held in Sydney.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President (Education and Students) Professor Shirley Alexander, who leads the drive for innovation and excellence in teaching and learning at UTS, congratulated Dr Wakefield on this national recognition.
Dr Wakefield received his citation for “a sustained, research informed set of approaches to influence, motivate and inspire students to engage and achieve higher performance in introductory accounting and beyond.”
He has been teaching Introductory Accounting since 2008, and says his philosophy is to engage in “a consistent process of teaching development and renewal, to ensure sustained and effective teaching and learning outcomes for students.”
Over this time he has taught more than 16,000 students using a wide range of innovative technologies, from tablet annotation and sharing technology, to peer review forums and large class synchronised interactions, providing plenty of opportunity to refine his teaching methods.
“My students typically have a mix of motivations and interests. We get some who are really interested in accounting and want to go on and major in it, and then we get those who don’t want to do it, and couldn’t think of anything worse,” Dr Wakefield says.
“So it is important to tailor the learning experience to their different motivations and learning styles. What we’ve done is introduce a range of learning resources and innovations to the subject to help students achieve their learning outcomes and make sure they are all engaging,” he says.
One of the innovations Dr Wakefield uses is ‘Zeetings’ – an active learning platform that gets students involved in a lecture and provides data-driven insights to understand the challenges and knowledge level of a class.
“With Zeetings, educators and students contribute to each other’s experience before, during and after the class by sharing materials, participating in live polls, sharing questions and ideas,” he says.
Another innovation is the use of screencast assessments, where students explain an accounting concept using video capture of the computer monitor with audio. Students also upload their screencast to a peer forum for feedback before submitting their assignment.
“It’s an extra credit assignment but it also helps to demonstrate to students that there is more to accounting than the numbers side, it’s also about communication,” he says.
Dr Wakefield’s citation focused on not only his innovations, but also how he tested them to analyse whether they work well or not, with his research published in top journals.
For example, with the peer review forum for the screencast assessment Dr Wakefield originally introduced it on a voluntary basis, and in the following session made it compulsory, so he was able to compare which approach was more effective.
“What we found in terms of marks and quality of assignments was that the optional one was more effective. The reason appeared to be that in the optional forum only motivated students uploaded their work so the benchmark appeared higher, inspiring all students,” he says.
“As educators we have a lot of opportunity to apply different teaching technologies, and different teaching methods. The challenge is applying new teaching technologies in a way that is research informed so students achieve the very best learning outcomes.”
Read more about Dr Wakefield’s teaching and research.