Celebrating Inspiring Teaching: Dr Daniel Mansfield

" "Dr Daniel Mansfield from the School of Mathematics with his first year undergraduate students. Photo: Zac Rushton

With the voting period for the 2018 KPMG Inspiring Teacher Award in a First Year Undergraduate Program almost upon us, I met with last year's recipient, Dr Daniel Mansfield from the School of Mathematics and some of his first year students to find out what makes Daniel an Inspiring teacher and what winning the award meant to him.

It was clear, watching Daniel deliver a lecture to his class of first year students, that his sense of humour and high energy are staples to his teaching method. After the lecture I caught up with some of his students to find out what it is that makes Daniel such an inspiring teacher.

“Daniel makes lectures fun. His lessons are balanced with lots of different content and we can see that he’s really engaged in what he teaches.”

“He has a fun and creative way of breaking up difficult topics. For example, while teaching us about ‘Linear Transformations’ he used an analogy to show the similarities in the process of proving or disproving a hypothesis to cross examining a witness in a courtroom, which helped our understanding of the topic.”

“He’s passionate which makes dry topics interesting.”

“He’s studied art and history as well as maths and he’s able to reference that in his lessons. We also love his artistic drawings!”

When asked what his students like about his classes a clear theme emerged around the importance of a balanced lesson plan:

“Two hours is a long time to spend focussing on maths. Daniel breaks it up for us with an unrelated story or anecdote which is great and helps us stay focussed throughout the second half of the lesson.”

His reassurance along the way has also made an impact on his students.

“He’s encouraging. To me it was very daunting to study maths at a university level but from the start Daniel told us ‘anyone can do maths’ which was really reassuring.”

 

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Dr Daniel Mansfield. Photo Supplied by UNSW Media

Daniel kindly gave his time to talk about what The KPMG Inspired Teaching Award in a First Year Undergraduate Program meant to him and why the award is so important for the University.

What was your reaction to finding out that you’d won the award and what did it mean to you?

To be honest, I didn’t even know that the award existed. I only found out when they told me I’d won it.

To me it meant that the students really appreciate what I do, which is what matters. I teach algebra which is a potentially boring topic. Knowing that students voted for me was a shock and surprise.

The UNSW School of Mathematics is known for having great teachers. I’m always looking to my colleagues for examples of great teaching. I think any one of them could have won this award and I’m humbled to be mentioned along-side them.

Has winning the award affected your career?

It’s a nice thing to add to a CV or LinkedIn profile.

It’s good recognition because it’s always hard to say to someone that you’re good at what you do, but if you can say ‘I won an Inspiring Teaching Award’ then they instantly understand.

What is it that makes you a great teacher?

We do great research at the School of Mathematics. The challenge for me is making a 1,000-year-old topic fresh and exciting. When students know they are learning at a place at the forefront of modern breakthroughs in the field it really does help make it exciting.

What advice do you have to other teaching staff across the University?

Teaching is constantly very rewarding as opposed to research which has its ups and downs.

Be yourself and work hard. We all wish we could be excellent teachers just like Professor Chris Tisdell, but it’s not about replicating what someone else does, it’s about being genuine to who you are and effectively communicating what you know.

Is there anything that you’d like to say to the students who voted for you last year?

Thank you.

2017 was a very special year for me. Winning the award was a big surprise and very special so thank you to everyone who voted last year.

Why should students vote for their most inspiring teacher in this year's KPMG inspiring teacher award?

It’s hard for a University of this size to know and identify who the great teachers are and what it is that students like. This award gives students a voice and helps draw the attention of the university to teachers who are really connecting with their students.

Article: Zac Rushton

Voting will open for the 2018 KPMG Inspired Teaching Award in a First Year Undergraduate Program on 3 September 2018. For more information click here.

Daniel will be a keynote speaker at the Learning and Teaching Forum on 26 October 2018. For more information click here.