Bhavani Kannan

Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs

ANU College of Asia and the Pacific


Since embarking on my journey as a tutor in 2017, I have tutored four separate courses as a casual sessional academic (CSA). However, I often help out behind the scenes, especially when Wattle deadlines start to loom at the beginning of each semester, and give the occasional guest lecture. This semester, I am working on developing a series of applied workshops for students, as well as a tutor training program for my department. When not being a CSA, I continue to plod along with my PhD research; I am definitely channelling the tortoise in that particular race. As they say, it’s about the journey, not the destination.

One of the highlights of my teaching career has been helping to develop and shape a brand-new course on leadership within the field of diplomacy. Next semester will be my third time with that same course. As a casual, I definitely consider myself lucky to be able to stick with the same course for an extended period of time. Such an opportunity enables me to (re)evaluate my teaching pedagogies to better suit students’ learning needs. That students continue to stay in touch long after the semester ends suggests I must be doing something right! I particularly enjoy learning about cognate disciplines when former students drop by to seek advice on their work for other courses. Seeing their development across the semesters and years, and knowing the role you played along the way, is a wonderful reward.

My approaches to teaching and learning were reflected in being nominated for the CAP Teaching Award for Excellence in Tutoring for the second year in a row. That recognition, and being sought out as a mentor, are among the highest praise one can receive from students. I continue to be genuinely humbled by our students’ willingness to not only get on board with left-of-centre learning pedagogies and methods, but to embrace and internalise them as much as they do.

2019 has also seen some slightly less cheesy achievements. In a year of firsts, I had my first publication accepted, and got accepted into my first international conference. These may be tacit norms for established academics, but, as an ECA, they help alleviate the constant dread of “imposter syndrome”. While teaching and learning are my first love, and the reason I am drawn to academia, it often feels as if the teaching side is taken for granted, especially as a casual. Baby steps, but they are slowly propelling me down the pathway to becoming a full-fledged academic.


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