Dr Mumtaz Hussain

Mathematician

Teaching Portfolio

I have experience teaching within Australia and abroad (England and Pakistan). I have experience observing teaching practices in America (Brandeis University) and Denmark (Aarhus University) and have been teaching since 2004. My teaching experiences have impacted my teaching philosophy and practices and will continue to shape me as an educator.

  1. Teaching Philosophy

During my academic tenure (post PhD) at several universities (2011-current) I have consistently demonstrated unwavering commitment to quality teaching and employed skills which resulted in positive outcomes for students. My teaching practices evolve to meet the needs of students and my engaging nature resonates with students, allowing me to take on a mentoring role in their educational journey. Key to my teaching is my personal teaching philosophy, summarised~below:

The pursuit of tertiary education and the bettering of oneself is a commendable endeavour and educators have the responsibility to support students, offer guidance and motivate. To enhance students’ acquisition of knowledge and inspire them to achieve their full potential one must understand the student cohort, their aspirations and background. It is through reflection and modification of teaching pedagogies and practices that a nurturing learning environment is created.

My teaching philosophy stems from the belief that everyone has the right to learn and have access to quality educational resources. Students entering higher education come from diverse backgrounds and their desire to learn should be nurtured and encouraged. Enabling people to engage in learning can profoundly impact their lives. Age, ethnicity, socio-economic background and/or disability do not determine whether a person will be successful in their pursuits and support, in an equitable environment, should be offered to everyone in order for them to achieve their goals.

As an educator it is my responsibility to understand students’ backgrounds and aspirations and modify teaching practices to best assist student’s needs. I endeavour to take on a mentoring role for my students, guiding, encouraging and supporting them through the educational journey. This requires that I am available to student consultation across a range of mediums to ensure that they receive prompt individualised support. I believe in learning by example and as such offer an interactive learning environment. My lecturing style involves iPad projected slides and `live-streaming’ my lectures, classroom engagement, “real-time” problem solving with commentary and explanation of processes. My workshops implement the “white-board style” learning practice which emphasise student interaction and engagement. Understanding of others teaching methods and modern innovative teaching practices ensures my practices do not become redundant nor stagnated.

In Mathematics students need to actively participate and “do” Mathematics, developing a more profound and deep understanding of the underlying principles which cannot be developed by reading and observation only. Often an emphasis is placed on the “correct” answer and Mathematics is often viewed with a tick/cross, right/wrong mentality. My goal is to break this stereotype and assist students in the understanding of fundamental concepts and ideas. This is achieved through discussion with others in the white-board style learning environment. It is imperative students learn how to effectively communicate their findings across a range of mediums.

Assessment task should be a measure of what students know and as educators we should focus on the construction of a convincing argument not just the final answer. With advancements in technology the “answer” is often readily available, but it is only through a solid foundation of understanding that students can use this answer and express their findings in a meaningful way. Students should be allowed to demonstrate their understanding in a variety of ways, such as by oral and written communication as well as practical demonstration. Students must be able to show their strengths and not be confined to the rigid nature often employed in exam style assessment. If such assessment is required questions must be adapted to encourage students to explore the problem. Techniques such as prompting learners within questions and guiding them through the working is used. Open ended problems allow students to demonstrate their knowledge without the confines of finding the final solution.

I have experience successfully teaching courses aimed at a variety of levels, from courses specifically designed for cohorts of students with very limited mathematics or statistics backgrounds such as service courses, to advanced courses aimed at mathematics or statistics degree students. I have coordinated and taught a number of mathematics courses;  for each course I prepared, enhanced or (if needed) redesigned course material to meet the needs of students. I aim to make all courses inclusive and cater to students from various backgrounds. One of the parameters to measure success in lecturing and coordination is  Student Feedback on Courses (SFC’s).  I have typically improved the SFC’s in courses I have taught. A list of SFC scores can be found below (section Student Evaluations).

2. Guiding Principles and Teaching Strategies

The main teaching strategies I adopt are guided by the following principles:

  1. Courses are well organised, structured and coherent. They meet the needs of the students whilst having the academic rigour comparable to any international institution.

Course material should be made available in advance, integrate learning across all teaching modalities and be presented in such a way as to convey clear concise information whilst exposing students to new terminology and processes. Assessments reflect ongoing learning with expectations explicitly stated at the commencement of a course.

2. Teaching approaches must evolve and align with each cohort of students. Teaching practices must acknowledge diversity and promote equity.

Teaching practices cannot remain stagnant; they must evolve to meet the needs of students. Mathematics is multidisciplinary and requires teaching techniques and practices to be aligned to the need of diverse learners. Practices must be innovative and engaging, offering students an opportunity to engage with the material. The needs of all students must be acknowledged and as such teaching practices must be equitable and promote inclusion.

3. Educators should be approachable, available for student consultation and respond to queries promptly. An emphasis needs to be on engagement and retention.

Learners often require a facilitator to aid in the understanding and exploration of new course material. Educators need to be available to assist students, offering opportunities to engage in discussion across a range of mediums. Responses to queries must be prompt and educators must offer a variety of support options, so all students can access assistance in a form and environment which suits their needs.

2.1 Innovation in Teaching Delivery

I currently employ the following teaching strategies:

  • Tablet-Assisted Teaching Technique

I use an iPad to project my lectures, annotating lecture slides in real time and live streaming them. This technique proves to be extremely useful as it provides  means to attend classes remotely, for example, for students requiring a modified learning environment. This modification promotes equity, diversity and student engagement.

  • Engagement Focused Learning (EFL)

I strive for students to do mathematics from the perspective of not focusing on the final answer only: navigating away from the right/wrong, tick/cross view of mathematics. I practice the philosophy of EFL designed to enhance the teaching and learning of first year tertiary level mathematics. This practice requires an educator to engage with students and show them not just how to do mathematics but why and where to use it. Under EFL the students are encouraged to demonstrate understanding of concepts and processes, and not focus on the final answer.

EFL incorporates different aspects of modern teaching methods and combines them with more traditional methods such as the whiteboard  style learning environment. I encourage collaboration between the lecturer and teaching staff working together as one unit. I engage in a high level of student support both online and in person. The integration of EFL in the classroom allows me to transform the educational experience into one of exploration and personal development, encouraging ingenuity and creativity.

Integrating EFL into first year multi-discipline multi-campus service courses can result in a modern and user-friendly educational experience for both staff and students. The impact of EFL in the classroom has been  reflected in student comments and improved course feedback. First year service courses and advance level courses for mathematics or engineering students require an educator to adapt to different learning styles, environments and locations. The teaching techniques must be flexible whilst maintaining the highest level of professionalism and academic rigour. My teaching in such courses resulted in high student feedback, an achievement given that in service courses students often enter with trepidation at the prospect of undertaking tertiary level mathematics.

Through my teaching, continuous student support, guidance and encouragement I am able to create a stimulating learning environment that fosters independent learning and confidence. I develop a natural rapport with my students and promote staff student engagement.

A few examples of my teaching practices and student feedback are given below. Note that the term `subject’ is used at La Trobe University whereas the term `course’  is used at The University of Newcastle (UoN).

3. Teaching Experience

My recent teaching experience includes teaching at La Trobe University (2017 — current) and  The University of Newcastle (2013 — 2016) as detailed below.

La Trobe University

    • MAT2VCA is a second-year subject, delivered at both Melbourne and Bendigo Campus, catering mainly for engineering, mathematics and education students.  I developed lecture (Beamer) slides with Tikz pictures for this subject, to promote clarity in the subject material. I was available for student consultation and guidance during and outside of working hours. Lecture attendance was exceptional across the semesters (2017 and 2019). I conducted all workshops myself with a view towards more engagement. Feedback included

“Lecturer provides a very good understanding of the subject and motivates us all with more than what we need. Which is good for our understanding.”

    • MAT1ICA was taught as a blended subject until 2018, from 2019 face to face lectures were instated. In 2017, I conducted tutorials for this subject helping students work through problems with an access to previously recorded lectures. The majority of the student cohort were training to be mathematics teachers (education students). Students learnt effective ways of presenting mathematical information relevant to their discipline. In 2019, I lectured and tutored this subject. Student Feedback included

“Mumtaz was very easy to contact and helped whenever you needed, and replied back for quickly, and was always happy…”.

    •  MAT1DIS and MAT1MIT are service subjects catering mainly for the IT degree at the Bendigo campus. I was the subject coordinator and the lecturer for both subjects. I used the Tablet-Assisted Teaching Technique for my lectures and practice classes.  During my lectures I walked around the class talking to students, allowing students to contribute to the lecture material.  Teaching was very well received by students as evidenced by the SFS and SFT detailed in the Student Evaluation section  (below).

“I love the interaction that the lecturer provides. The exceptional use of technology shows that he has a good grasp of student wants. The use of recording technology allows us students to watch the lecture from wherever we are, handy if you miss the bus, sleep in can’t attend for whatever reason”.

 

Student Evaluations (La Trobe University)

The formal online SFS surveys were conducted for subjects I lectured or coordinated. I requested student feedback on teaching which gives additional feedback on my teaching style and practices. My quantitative scores are listed below.

3.2 The University of Newcastle

    • I demonstrated effectiveness in teaching for a number of courses that I lectured or coordinated by redeveloping and redesigning them to suit the needs of diverse range of students. In 2014, I lectured MATH1001: Preparatory Studies in Mathematics. This course is the first tertiary level mathematics course for the majority of the students requiring a mathematical component to their undergraduate degree such as students entering the sciences (or commerce or environmental degrees). Students entering this course come from diverse backgrounds and require this course to help consolidate their core mathematical knowledge in preparation for other courses in their degree. Many students enter this course with a perceived “hatred” of mathematics but this is usually due to a fear of being wrong. With encouragement and understanding many students overcome this fear and in turn learn that they are capable of doing mathematics. By believing in themselves and drawing knowledge gained in other aspects of life, as well as lectures, they can succeed. For an educator, watching a student overcome this hurdle and embrace new challenges is one of the greatest rewards of the profession. In 2015 and 2016, I  coordinated and lectured MATH1001. An extensive overview of the course was undertaken in order to restructure the material to aid in the learning process.

The cohort of students constantly changes and as such courses must evolve to accommodate the needs of the students. This is a necessary process, I believe,   to ensure that not only relevant material is delivered but to ensure that students can see the relevance of this knowledge in the short and long term.

    • In 2014 and 2015,  I coordinated and lectured the 2nd year MATH2420: Engineering Mathematics course, which regularly has more than 50 students enrolled. I also coordinated MATH2420 course  for the PSB Singapore campus. For the first six weeks the course is shared with the 3rd year course \emph{MATH3242: Complex Analysis} (nearly 30 students).  For the next six weeks this course undertakes a statistics component.    In SFC’s, the courses received quite high marks. The mean score of 4.41 (3.87 in 2014) out of 5 in student satisfaction in MATH2420 was a huge improvement on the four previous offerings of the course, which reached a four-year descending low of 2.24 in Semester 2 of 2012. In most of the categories, the scores were above University or School mean scores.

 

3.2.1 Student Evaluations (The University of Newcastle)

The formal online SFS surveys were conducted for courses I lectured or coordinated. My quantitative scores were above the university (and school) averages and higher than previous offerings.

4. Teaching Awards and Research Projects

Teaching Awards

In recognition of my contributions to students learning I was awarded the 2016 UoN Faculty of Science Teaching Award (Individual) and received a high commendation for Team Teaching.

Teacher of the Year 2016 The University of Newcastle

Teacher of the Year 2016 The University of Newcastle

4.1 Research Projects (Teaching)

I have been involved in teaching related research projects funded by The Centre for Equity and Equality in Higher Education (CEEHE) at UoN.

    • The project “Enabling pedagogies and transitions: a community of practice across pre-undergraduate and undergraduate mathematics at The University of Newcastle” aimed to better understand and build relationships between mathematical educators. This project investigated links between mathematical educators across a variety of disciplines ($9217).
    • The project “Is a BMath/STEM degree for a privileged few”. It was aimed at supporting diverse students  to better understand aspirations/concerns of student undertaking mathematical study ($15000).

These projects were commissioned to support diversity by building a stronger community between mathematical educators from multiple disciplines, allowing for a dialogue to commence which reflects on others success in teaching.