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Framing Student Behaviour with Piazza Tricks 

Professor Gareth Denyer, University of Sydney

Professor Denyer has been teaching Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Nutrition at the University of Sydney since 1990. Over the years, he has pioneered the introduction of several eLearning innovations and, recently, these have strongly embraced the principles of crowd-leverage and student-teacher partnerships in the learning process. Particularly valued are sustainable initiatives that not only foster student communication and engagement, but which capture that activity as a lasting legacy so that value can be added to subsequent iterations of a course.

Gareth started using Piazza in 2014, primarily as a way of achieving efficiency in course coordination by reducing the need to respond to repetitive administrative and content-based requests.  However, it soon became clear that the daily flow of queries built to an invaluable resource regarding student issues and how his teaching was resonating with those on the receiving end.  This crowd-sourcing of intelligence allowed Gareth to not only respond ‘just in time’ to the student voice, it allowed him to informed by it.  This, in turn, has allowed development of teaching and assessment resources directly inspired by genuine student misconceptions and authentically aligned to their foundational capabilities and beliefs.

When used effectively, Piazza provides the central focus for communication between an instructor and their student.  Accordingly, Gareth has developed several strategies for maintaining the enjoyment, health, momentum and usefulness of this dynamic and collaborative space.   Since engagement with online collaborative tools are well-established barometers for student success, Gareth and colleagues regularly inspect the in-built Piazza metrics so that they can encourage students at all levels to contribute to and derive value from, both posting and answering questions in this safe environment.   Gareth is also passionate about systems which allow recognition of the hard work and input of dedicated instructors, something that Piazza accomplishes with great objectivity.   


In this Lecture, Professor Denyer will share some of the many tips and tricks that he uses within Piazza to stimulate student participation, build community and, ultimately, leverage the crowd to add intel-based enhancements to course delivery and assessment.  

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