Michael Martin is Professor of Statistics in the School of Finance, Actuarial Studies and Statistics at the Australian National University. He holds a Bachelor of Science (Hons) degree from the University of Queensland (1986) and a PhD in Statistics from the ANU (1989). He was Assistant Professor in Statistics at Stanford University, USA, from 1989 to 1994 and Annenberg Distinguished Assistant Professor in Statistics at Stanford from 1992 to 1994. In 1994, he returned to ANU, where he has been a Professor since 2007. He is an elected member of the International Statistical Institute (ISI) and has been honoured as a Fellow of the American Statistical Association for his services to research and teaching in statistics.
He is a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (UK) and Co-Chair of the ANU Educational Fellowship Scheme (EFS) since its inception in 2013.
His teaching career includes as highlights the Dean's Award for Distinguished Teaching, School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford University in 1992-3, the Faculty of Economics and Commerce Award for Excellence in Teaching at the ANU in 1998, the ANU Vice-Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2000, being named a finalist in the Australian Awards for University Teaching in 2000, a Carrick Citation for Contributions to Teaching and Learning in 2007, and a Carrick Award for Teaching Excellence, also in 2007.
In his current role as Team Lead of the Promoting Excellence team at ANU, he is responsible for supervising the office that manages the University's applications for education excellence awards and grants. He is also the Chair of the ANU Human Research Ethics Committee.
Q: What does it mean to you to be an ANU Distinguished Educator?
The ANU Distinguished Educator initiative is a concrete demonstration of the importance the University places on teaching, and it represents both a great honour and an extraordinary opportunity for me to lead and innovate in teaching and learning at ANU. We are at the precipice of great change in higher education (when has that not been true?) and being a key part of how we as teachers embrace and manage that change is exciting!
Q: What motivates and inspires you in your teaching?
Statistics is humankind's reaction to randomness, and so sharing with my students the secrets to understanding their uncertain and data-filled world remains a thrill, some 25 years after I first started to teach. Bringing students along on the journey from regarding "random" as meaning "unknowable" to being able to detect structure in data within a sea of noise motivates me to find new ways to explain ideas that seem initially inexplicable.
Q: What are you committed to?
I love finding different ways to explain things, so I am always seeking fresh ways to look at (statistical) concepts and make them real for students. I'm not sure if it is a "commitment" but it has certainly become a long-held habit! More recently, I have become committed to helping people be recognised for their teaching, whether it be in seeking their next promotion, or going for a teaching award. When I see colleagues with so much passion and commitment for what they do, it inspires me.
Q: How do you plan to use your appointment as a Distinguished Educator?
For the last few years, one of my main roles here has been to try to embed the Educational Fellowship Scheme at ANU as a way to create a potent voice for teaching at the university. I see my appointment as a Distinguished Educator in a similar light - to be a voice for teaching at the university, to promote teaching as an activity in which we can truly be the "national university", the first place a student would want to study.
Q: Tell us about an approach you have taken in the classroom of which you've been proud.
I've found that using analogies is a rich and effective way to teach statistics, and over time I have developed a lot of analogies that I use to explain concepts to students that might otherwise be quite slippery for them. Bringing ideas from a familiar domain to a new one through an analogy can allow people to see things they might otherwise not, and seeing the "lights come on" for a student after telling them a story is the ultimate reward.
Q: If the VC asked you how you would change teaching and learning at ANU, what would you say?
We are about to enter a world in which ANU has the best, most modern facilities - new buildings, new teaching spaces, and new opportunities to innovate and engage. But our people will always be our most important asset. Building value in our people and working on our next generation of teachers and on the myriad ways in which learning and teaching will happen in the future are all critical to us succeeding. We can build value in so many ways. Recognition and reward is one - recognising effective practice and promoting people for the value they bring to our students through their teaching are so important. So, investing in our people to develop as effective teachers is what I would identify as our highest priority.