ANU Reporter takes five minutes with ANU College of Business and Economics senior lecturer DR STEPHEN DANN, GradCertHE '08.
If you had to sum up your role in 50 words, what would they be?
I teach Introduction to Marketing, and I'm a beta tester for teaching technology. I'll try anything twice and I do like to take calculated advantage of new technology. I'm also known for my distinct ability to break software in new, interesting and an entirely unexpected fashion simply by using it.
What is the weirdest/funniest classroom or teaching experience you have had?
I've had a track record of the classroom phones ringing. You'll be teaching away and a missed dialled internal call will go straight to the desk phone in the lecture theatre, and then you're either going to have to take the call with a straight face or ride out the fact your lecture theatre is ringing. To top that off, several of my theatres have started to dial out. You'll hear a dial tone, a ringing sound and it's clear that the theatre is phoning a friend. The thing was, nobody has ever picked up the call.
What makes a good teacher?
A good teacher is going to love the job and be driven by the pay-off of seeing the change in your students.
It's the beauty of teaching introductory coursework each season - you know that when the students arrive, they have no grounding in your discipline. Then you send them into an exam at the end, and they showcase just how far they've progressed in those 13 weeks.
A good teacher is also pretty robust. This is a physically challenging business, with 39 hours on stage per subject and a lot of emotional labour goes in to connect to your audience in the classroom.
Who inspires you?
Students who are operating in their second or third language. University is hard and I teach some particularly conceptually difficult marketing subjects. There are students who are not just doing the complexity of higher education, they're doing in second language. They're putting a difficultly multiplier on top of everything else. That's hardcore and that's inspirational.
What is the best excuse you've ever received?
I don't tend to hear a lot of excuses. I've acquired a bit of reputation that's preceded me - many years ago, a school admin officer overheard two students discussing my course about what I was like as a teacher. I believe the quote was; "He's tough. You're going to have to show your own death certificate to get an extension."
What is the best lesson you have learned from a student?
I'm fortunate to have had the opportunity to run subjects where I ask exam questions and set assignment topics where I don't have an answer in mind. I get the privilege of seeing dozen of different takes on my topics so I get to learn from the many and varied world views of my students.
What is the best lesson you have learned from a teacher?
Being able to say "I'm not sure, I'll get back to you on that" was such liberation from feeling that I always had to have an answer. Second, the gratitude principle, where I thank my students for coming with me on the journey, particularly for class discussions, or when I decide to try something new. I've found it to be a very potent way to reconnect with my students when I've just been pushing them to stretch their limits. But the most important lesson is that this is fun. We do a job we love and we get to make a difference. Few other performers get that luxury.
Stephen is a senior lecturer in marketing, business management and public policy. His research interests include social and political marketing and the analysis of Twitter.