Assoc Prof McComas Taylor & Dr Ashvin Parameswaran

Australian Award for University Teaching - Citation for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning
School of Culture, History and Language
ANU College of Asia and the Pacific

South Asia is a vast region, with a population exceeding 1.5 billion, and a gross domestic product exceeding 1.5 trillion dollars. India alone is projected to be the world's most populous nation by 2030 and the third largest economy (behind China and the United States) by 2050. Australia's international reputation as a leading centre for South Asian Studies in the 1960s and 1970s has been eroded by funding cuts, program closures, and the failure to replace retiring academics.

Our courses - Religion and Politics in South Asia, Indian Epics, and Sanskrit - foster engagement with the textual, social, political, and linguistic traditions of the region from the ancient era to the present day. At one level, they draw together a core group of staff and students who are committed to restoring a balanced focus on South Asia vis-à-vis East Asia and Southeast Asia in the Asian Studies curriculum at the ANU. At another level, our courses position the ANU as a national hub facilitating the resurgence of South Asian Studies curricula and pedagogy across Australia.

It is a privilege to shape the trajectories of learners. With this privilege comes the responsibility to design teaching and learning activities and assessment tasks that shift the focus from what teachers teach to what students learn. Our courses have been designed in such a way that students create their own meaning as a result of their creative engagement with learning and assessment processes. Within our aligned course designs, every task is formative (resulting in feedback to help students reflect on their learning) and summative (resulting in credit for the student). All tasks with the exception of some weekly workshops are also flexibly delivered. Flexible delivery, unusual at the ANU, allows us to cater for students with significant work commitments and for those who live outside Canberra.

A hallmark of our approach is team teaching. Joint design and delivery allows us to leverage on our complementary strengths. McComas has a background in South Asian languages and literatures. Ashvin has a background in anthropology and economics, and a PhD focusing on South Asian Studies pedagogy. We both share interests in politics and religion. Our collaboration consistently results in a whole that is far greater than the sum of its parts, and promotes teaching practice that moves beyond the dominant model of courses taught by a single lecturer prevalent in existing Asian Studies curricula.

Students love our courses because they are original, accessible, and meaningful. Recognition for the quality of our courses has come in the form of multiple teaching award nominations in every year we have taught, winning the ANU Students' Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2008, winning the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific Citation for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning in 2008, and winning the corresponding ANU Vice-Chancellor's Citation in 2009. In 2010 we received the Australian Award for University Teaching - Citation for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning.