Recognising and celebrating our award-winning teachers – and the methods and approaches behind their award-winning practice.

Maggie Lee teaches in the Department of Actuarial Studies & Business Analytics at Macquarie Business School.

To make her teaching more relevant to emerging industry needs – and therefore, to her students’ future careers – Maggie designed a new curriculum that extends beyond traditional financial services contexts to modern technology contexts, including the creation of Macquarie University’s first Actuarial Data Analytics unit.

Through step-by-step guidance, combined with a belief that co-design with students and industry partners is the way forward for transformative learning, Maggie has sought to establish mutual professional learning communities for current and future actuaries.

In 2022, Maggie won the Vice Chancellor’s Learning and Teaching Early Career Award.

The course content that Maggie put together is a unique blend of practical data analytics skills applied through case studies and is brought to life using relevant industry examples explained by Maggie through the lectures and supplemented by the industry guest speakers.

Macquarie student

Maggie’s initiative in using industry practitioners to be markers has been very useful. Via their feedback, students have been able to understand the standard of industry knowledge, and apply the feedback / knowledge once they graduate.

Industry-based marker

I truly appreciate the space that Maggie has provided for students to provide their thoughts and insights in the discussions, where no student is deemed either right or wrong as the questions are often open‐ended.

Macquarie student

According to the award assessment panel, Maggie evidenced an ability to unite a strong technical skill set, with a talent for making learning interactive, relevant, and thought-provoking, creating an engaging, encouraging, and transformative learning environment in her class. Here, she explains her thinking behind preparing students for future employment within their industry.

Your application addressed your purposeful creation of a strong learning communities, not only for your students, but also for industry, through extending your curricula to include current actuarial professionals as teachers and as markers. What would be your advice (or ‘top tips’)  for other educators seeking to do the same in their unit? 

Here are some of the top things I strive to do in my classrooms to achieve strong learning communities that encourages life-long learning and real-world practical skills:

  1. Set the right tone in the first class – The units that I teach require students to develop their professional judgement which is something initially daunting to them.  In the first class, students are encouraged to voice any ideas so that rapport and freedom of communication is established.
  2. Design effective discussions in the classroom – I divide my students into small groups to discuss real-world case-studies.  The students are provided the opportunity to problem solve and to evaluate their own and others’ positions which in turn motivates further learning.
  3. Introduce alternative perspectives to the students from industry professionals – I invite industry professionals who have different expertise to mine as guest lecturers to provide additional insights and perspectives.  I also involve industry professionals in assessments (from question design to feedback on student submissions).  Students have valued the emerging industry problems and insights; and the practical feedback they receive. 
  4. Ask and learn from the feedback from students and industry on the learning experience – Throughout the semester, I seek feedback from students (through reflection tasks) and industry on the unit.  This has allowed me to improve the teaching throughout the semester and maintain discussions with industry on their needs.  Often this has also led to my industry contacts providing job opportunities to my students as well as becoming sponsors of student scholarships at Macquarie University.

You’ve worked to extend actuarial education beyond ‘traditional’ industry contexts, and according to both students and industry partners, you have been very successful. Can you tell us a bit more about how and why you did this work? 

In the past, actuaries have tended to use traditional statistical methods to quantify risk and uncertainty. However, in recent years, there has been a growing need for actuaries in industry to understand and add modern data analytic techniques to their toolkit.  While we have recently been adding some components of modern data analytic topics to our university-level units, I recognised the need for senior actuaries in industry to also upskill in this area.  By having a deep understanding of the needs of our senior actuaries, I was able to lead and win a competitive bid against other universities to develop the first ever actuarial data analytics micro-credential unit for senior qualified actuaries in Australia, in partnership with our professional body, the Actuaries Institute.  This course included case studies that provided a wide spectrum of use-cases of modern data analytic techniques for actuaries beyond traditional financial services contexts.  Participants appreciated the practical elements of the course:

The content was well designed and specific consideration were provided to ensure the material would be helpful in the day-to-day work.

I found the course to be a very good introduction to R and practical application of machine learning techniques. Maggie’s teaching was excellent.

My experience from offering this micro-credential unit was also very helpful in the design of our first ever modern actuarial data analytics unit for final-year undergraduate and postgraduate students at Macquarie University.  This ultimately led to the successful transformation of our actuarial curriculum to meet the emerging needs of actuaries across all ages on modern data analytics. 

I have been very satisfied with my learning. The goal of this subject is to extend our knowledge of modern analytical tools and techniques and to train us to apply this knowledge in realistic business settings. It truly delivers.

Macquarie student

My teaching philosophy stems from my belief that individual student experiences bring unique insights to solving problems, allowing students to learn from one another. It has been incredibly rewarding to see students start to confidently and persistently express their own ideas to an everchanging business context and in turn, mature in their professional reasoning.

Interested in applying for a Vice-Chancellor’s Learning and Teaching Award in 2023?

Visit the Awards in Teaching webpage for application dates and details.

Acknowledgements: Banner image by Shutterstock. Photo courtesy of Maggie Lee.

Posted by Teche Editor

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