Pioneering lecturer wins top management award

13 Feb 2012
April Wright

A UQ Business School senior lecturer has won the country’s top award for management education in recognition of her pioneering teaching methods.

Dr April Wright has been named as the Australian and New Zealand Academy of Management (ANZAM) Management Educator of the Year for 2011. The award, which recognises April’s work at the forefront of management education, comes with a cash prize of A$3,000 and the opportunity to run a master class on her teaching methods for other management educators at this year’s ANZAM conference.

April is responsible for the first-year undergraduate course, Introduction to Management, which is in the core of the management and commerce bachelor degrees and has enrolments in excess of one thousand students. She believes the most important factor in facilitating learning in courses like this is integrating learning activities, assessment and feedback to actively engage students.

“Because first-years typically enter the course with an understanding of management as something that is common sense, they may get ‘stuck’ moving to an understanding of management as theory,” April explains.

“This problem is exacerbated by first-year students’ sense of isolation when transitioning into an unfamiliar university setting. To facilitate learning, I adopt an integrated approach to learning and teaching, combining a variety of assessment and feedback strategies and learning support across lectures, tutorials, and a written assignment.”

April uses interactive activities such as role play and demonstrations to engage students in lectures. Learning of lecture content is deepened in the tutorial program, which April has designed using a team-based learning approach.

Each week students are required to read a case study, analyse a set of statements and choose the most appropriate, discuss them with others in their tutorial to reach a team consensus, then defend their team’s opinions against other teams. Students are assessed on pre-class preparation and in-class discussion. Student focus groups have found that this tutorial approach motivates students to prepare and contribute.

April adds: “Positive group interactions and assessment feedback loops create progressive and deep learning of the links between management theory and practice over the semester by consolidating lecture content and integrating course topics.”

April also believes in hands-on experience. To explore management issues related to the Queensland floods, students were given the option of volunteering with community organisations as a part of the course assessment. She herself, along with other tutors, led a group of 153 students on field trips to assist with flood recovery efforts in Grantham and Banyo. April won a UQ Business School Teaching Excellence Award in 2008 and a University Citation for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning in 2011.

Iain Watson, Executive Dean – Faculty of Business, Economics and Law said: “Dr Wright’s commitment to an inclusive lecturing style, her close involvement in tutorial design and delivery and her innovative approach to assessment makes her an ideal candidate for this award. She has transformed one of our key first year subjects in an exemplary manner, deserving of recognition from the wider university community.”