Inspirational Educator Andrew Todd

“Those who can do, teach it best,” is a more fitting phrase than the traditional one when speaking of Andrew Todd – lecturer in the Human Kinetics and Ergonomics [HKE] Department, who received a prestigious VC’s Distinguished Teaching Award earlier this year. The award is essentially a recognition of quality teaching, both theoretical and practical.

Todd is nothing but humble about his deserved praise – “I am honoured; I didn’t expect it at all. Being nominated is as important as the award, because you are nominated by your department.   It’s a great privilege to be recognised for something you do, by your students, your peers and colleagues, and also the university at large.” Todd commended the university on such an award and the encouragement and recognition it gives to staff as teachers.

The award involves quite a lengthy process – one must initially be nominated by your department, following which a teaching portfolio must be submitted and lectures attended, and finally an interview process at the end to round it all off.

His teaching philosophy however, “is simple,” says Todd. “You need to be passionate about teaching, and you need to be passionate about learning.”

He elaborates: “Firstly, I try to always find content that I am passionate about, I think that plays a fundamental role. But secondly, your students need to buy-in to what you’re doing – that’s very important. I want my students to leave class and want to go and tell their friends what they’ve just learnt – give them something cool to talk about.”

Todd feels one of his advantages and successes lies in being able to bring current affairs and news into the classroom. “I’m fortunate in my subject – HKE lends itself to bringing simple bio-mechanical aspects to life.” Proving his point, Todd quickly fires examples of how anything from the Soccer World Cup, to the Oscar Pistorius frenzy and the Malasian disappearing aeroplane can all be linked to studies of human kinetics and ergonomics. “I’m lucky; it’s an easy subject to bring to life.”

Todd does not negate that the onus, however, is on the student – if you are not eager to learn as the student, no teacher, no matter how good, will be able to create your own interest in the subject. “You need to have a desire to understand human performance,” he said. “That is the foundation of my teaching philosophy – get students there who actually want to be there, not just because they’re paying for it.”

Todd employs an interactive style of teaching. He likes to employ some form of application to the work covered, and he tries to steer away from electronic presentations and slides. “We’re trying to promote enquiring minds – it would be great to have a whole room just firing questions.”

Todd began his studies as a ‘Rhodent’ in 1996, and in the midst of a decade of lecturing for the university, he is currently working on his master’s degree – living proof of his teach to learn, and learn to teach philosophy to the profession.

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