Today, Tuesday July 29th, one of our esteemed members of staff, Prof. Cormac McGuinness is a recipient of a Trinity Excellence in Teaching Awards for 2019/2020, presented by the Provost.

The citation from the review panel read in part: “Your dedication to teaching and the passion, commitment, and expertise you bring to it shone through in your application. Your students are lucky to have you and we are thrilled to be able to formally recognise your incredible contribution to your discipline and to the College as a whole.”

Prof. Cormac McGuinness has been the Physical Sciences Course Director since the inception of the course three years ago, as well as being the Physics Moderatorship Course Director, also since 2017-18. Among his many other roles in programme, curriculum development or in teaching he had been the first Course Director for the Nanoscience, Physics and Chemistry of Advanced Materials from 2011-2014; had introduced the online tutorial Mastering Physics system to the Physics degrees in 2005; has been involved in developing the Junior Sophister laboratories for several years; had analysed the performance of students in the Senior Sophister problem solving examinations introducing a data-driven overhaul of assessment structures and pedagogy based on educational literature. Notably from 2012-2020 he had been recording all his Senior Sophister lecture courses “live”, while lecturing to students, then making the screencast recordings of these lectures available to all students for later review/replay. He was the first to do so in the School of Physics, which was very well received by School of Physics alumni pre-pandemic, which played a large part in his receipt of this award.

Prof. McGuinness commented “I am extremely grateful to be nominated and selected as a recipient for this Trinity Excellence in Teaching award. The written nominations from current students, my fellow academic staff, as well as from several recent alumni have been very touching and affecting. I thank them for their time, thought and tributes in writing these nominations and would gladly thank them in person, if that were possible. Teaching is never easy, and I have always tried to combine passion, enthusiasm and attention to detail in my approach. I am sure I should also stick to staying within time! My biggest fault.”

Speaking about the response of the School of Physics to COVID19 and the difficulties experienced by students and by academic and technical staff in this year of changes, Prof. McGuinness commented: “It has not been easy on either side of the screen this year, or in attending or running laboratories, but where undergraduate students have seen my colleagues excel in their teaching, and to my mind they have all been excellent, then students should nominate them this November, or indeed the following November, or the November after that, for one of these awards.”

Prof. McGuinness has continued to innovate and with other staff in the School of Physics has used a “lightboard” this year. Using this he has delivered both live-online problem solving tutorials as well as augmented pre-recorded lectures and live tutorials with on-screen/on-camera hand-written equations in an effort to introduce something different. Why? It is because lightboard videos employ the principles of dynamic drawing and gaze guidance which can combine with generative tasks to greatly increase the effectiveness of video lectures. [Mayer et al., 2020] Watch this space!

The Head of School, Prof. Jonathan Coleman, had this to say: "I am absolutely delighted to hear that Prof McGuinness has received this prestigious award. He has worked tirelessly to enhance our delivery of teaching in the School of Physics and is one of our most passionate and committed lecturers. It is wonderful to see such hard work being recognised."