Posts Tagged: teaching

Site visit to the Auckland Airport

On 2016-07-19, my Global Operations Management class was bundled onto a bus and transported down to the Auckland Airport. When we arrived, we split into two groups for two separate sessions.

First – my group was given an overview presentation, focusing on the long-term growth and capacity management challenges facing the airport. This included an overview of the airport strategy for growth and an overview of expected increases in visitor numbers. The increase in tourism and the number of airlines flying into the airport was impressive, highlighting the role of the airport as a ‘gateway’ four many tourists as they visit the country. Some of the challenges of the growth were presented, including an overview of the different types of capacity and how some elements of the airport can have capacity added incrementally while others require more substantial capital expenditure and a significant increase in capacity all in one go.

Second – we received a short tour around the airport precinct. In this situation, we looked at the airport real estate holdings and developments, focusing on supporting a burgeoning commercial hub and the growth of companies. A range of different warehousing spaces were available, allowing firms to ‘grow’ and expand as they become more successful. We were also fortunate enough to have an overview of the operations centre, where they monitor the day-to-day operations within the terminals. Here, a range of cameras and dashboards are constantly monitored, allowing managers to re-allocate staff accordingly to bust queues and smooth the journey of passengers through the terminals as much as possible. Metrics and KPIs are displayed and used to improve the allocation of resources over the day.

A great big thanks to all the folk at the airport! The class and I really enjoyed the time we spent there.

The nexus between research and teaching

We hear plenty about research-informed teaching from Deans and accreditation bodies. To some faculty it all seems meaningless, hot-air-fuelled nonsense. Is it?

In their publication “Faculty Research Productivity and Standardized Student Learning Outcomes in a University Teaching Environment”, Galbraith and Merrill note that “…it was found that faculty research activity is positively and significantly related to teaching effectiveness …”

While many research studies focus on the evaluation of student evaluations as a measure of teaching effectiveness, Galbraith and Merrill took care to measure learning outcomes using standardised student learning outcome measure in a more robust and defensible way.

If you look around, while there are strong drivers to promote faculty to be more research active, in Australasia many faculty still don’t get fully engaged in research. Those that are tend to be extremely self-motivated folk. The same self-motivation may also manifest itself as a keen and careful teacher, generating the improved learning outcomes in the study.

Regardless, an interesting finding that does validate the belief that those engaged in research have a lot of interesting things to say about their subject and possess plenty of passion to inspire their students…

How do I write …. [my essay, assignment, report for my boss … you name it!]

A blanket and really rather broad question – just what we are used to dealing with at university! Usually, I am asked in about weeks 2-5 as students struggle and grapple with their assignment topics. For some, this is the first semester at university after working for many years; the shock of being in the classroom alone may be overwhelming, let alone the additional skills they now need to master!

Sure, most students have a reasonable grasp of creating an outline. How many create an outline? Far too few, I’d wager. Some have the impression we can simply create an outline, fill it in, and this first draft is ‘done’. Huh. I try to dispel this myth by showing several manuscripts I’m currently working on, explaining how I’ve re-organised some of the work, often reversing the introduction of a series of concepts, then re-writing material that ‘links’ these ideas together so that it reads effectively.

Revelation: A first draft is woefully inadequate for most of us.

Revelation: Yes – even WE academics re-write the heck out of most of our work. If we do it to get a good result, don’t you think that as a student you’d also be doing a little bit of re-work?

Right, they say, then HOW do we do the specific re-writing? This question stumps me a little bit each time it’s asked. There are a range of approaches you can use to manage a paragraph (SEX: statement/sentence, explanation, example), yet no-one seems to ever ‘teach’ how to do this effectively.

Naturally, I’m interested in productivity in general and personal productivity in particular, leading me to digest a range of books. In one of these I found some useful advice, replete with examples, on how to mechanically tackle the content of paragraphs. Throw in a mix of references and ideas and then re-work these into something quite readable, informative, and concise. Give this book a try: From Research to Manuscript: A Guide to Scientific Writing (Michael J. Katz).

Do I use this exact approach consistently? No. Like much of what I learn, this is a tool in my writing-tool-belt, whipped out and used judiciously when required. But it can give readers insight into the difficulties of writing as well as an approach to making a ‘jumble’ of ideas actually work as an integrated and readable whole.