5 Questions with Christine Giles

by | 25 Oct, 2018 | 0 comments

A quick chat with the Program Head of the Graduate Diploma in Migration Law and Practice.

Christine Giles

How has learning and teaching changed since my student days?

I went to uni during the Whitlam era. No fees! Unlike the Graduate Diploma in Migration Law and Practice, where slightly more than 50% of our students are women, I was one of only a handful of women in the Law Faculty at the University of Melbourne. An unexpected challenge came in dressing well enough to attend classes – suits for the gentlemen, and skirts and blouses for the ladies. It may seem quaint now but those who couldn’t afford to dress well were stigmatised. It was definitely a far cry from undertaking online learning at home in your pyjamas. When jeans became popular, we called them the ‘Great Equalizer’, because suddenly everyone was dressing the same.

The trickiest thing about teaching in my discipline area is…

How complicated migration law is in comparison with how complicated people think it is. In particular, our students discover that the issues they’ve heard about in the media are far more nuanced than they’ve been led to believe. Our pre-census attrition rate is quite high, and I attribute that mostly to students facing the realisation that the subject matter in our program is complex and difficult. This comes, in part, from the fact that migration legislation changes frequently, sometimes as often as every couple of weeks. Practitioners need to be up-to-date not only with the changes that have been made, but with the changes that are going to be made in the near future, and for a lot of people that can quickly become overwhelming.

Something new I tried out in teaching in the last year was…

Something called the Feedback Forecast. We asked students to reflect on the quality of the work that they had submitted during the session, and to predict the feedback they thought they would receive. Not only was it rewarding to be able to let many students know that they had exceeded their own expectations, but it allowed us to focus on areas where some students needed more feedback in order to understand why they received the grade they did. It reduced the number of queries about marks by a significant margin, but more importantly allowed students to take their education into their own hands by asking them to be honest about their learning, and to assess how far they’d come in such a short time.

My friends and family think my job entails…

Being available to students 24/7! It’s true that teaching online provides many perks (especially when it means I can travel to Canada to spend time with my granddaughter) but it also means that confining myself to set hours each week tends to fall by the wayside. I’m happy though for the students to benefit from the time I would otherwise have spent commuting to work. Luckily most of my family understands that when I say I’m working, it means I am not available, even if it looks like I’m “just” on the computer. My husband, and occasionally guests, have been asked to vacate the lounge room while I’m pre-recording or delivering a lecture, which fortunately they do with a very good grace.

The best advice for teaching I’ve ever received is…

Not to let one negative feedback comment outweigh all the positive comments when reading the SFS results.

Feature image by Giammarco Boscaro.


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