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Staff unite to promote and celebrate learning and teaching excellence

Posted 23 September 2015

Aspire Excellence Awards were presented at the conference

Ahead of the new academic year, one hundred staff at Harper Adams University united for a learning and teaching conference. 

Colleagues from across different academic departments took the opportunity to reflect on their teaching approaches and to learn about innovative approaches to assessment, feedback, and ways of using technology to support student learning. 

Dr Lydia Arnold, Educational Developer, explained: “The conference is an extension to the well-established Learning and Teaching Forum series which offers regular opportunities for staff to learn about innovations in teaching, and to share approaches to student support that are particularly effective. 

“The programme contained a varied line up of external presenters including Russell Stannard, John Lea and Rachel Forsyth, and gave an opportunity for lecturers and learner support staff at the university to share their own research relating to teaching and supporting learning. In their feedback on the day delegates described it as ‘a good space to share ideas’ and noted ‘a real buzz about teaching and learning’.”

There were also contributions from lecturers who had recently undertaken research as part of their Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching & Supporting Learning. Dr Arnold, Course Manager, explained: “Most new lecturers undertake a postgraduate qualification in teaching and supporting learning, and it is pleasing to see the work that colleagues have carried out for their course can be shared in this way.” 

Dr Hairong Mu, along with Dr Dimitrios Paparas, had focused on the use of clickers in education; Dr Claire Kershaw-Young shared her research on feedback using technology; while Graham Higginson shared what he had found out about making virtual learning spaces effective for students. 

Some of the PgC students and conference presenters had also recently shared their work externally: Hairong Mu presented her research in Athens to the 2nd Annual International Conference on Social Sciences, Dimitrios Paparas presented his work to the National Conference on Teaching and Research in Economic Education (CTREE) in Minneapolis, while Jane Headley showcased her research at the 5th International Assessment in Higher Education Conference, in Birmingham.   

The event was also an opportunity to recognise and celebrate excellence in teaching and learning. Andy Jones, Director of Teaching & Learning, presented eight Aspire Excellence Awards to colleagues who were nominated by staff and students for outstanding personal contributions.  More than one hundred nominations were received to the scheme, each recognising some instances of excellence. 

“These awards are a testimony to the diligence and creativity demonstrated by many of our staff in their approach to teaching and learning.  The large number of nominations received indicates how well-regarded our staff are and this augurs well for the future when excellence in teaching will become even more recognised in UK universities,” said Mr Jones. 

Awards were presented as follows (scroll down for slideshow):

Philip Robinson -  Excellent Practice Award

After only one year at Harper, Philip is already making an impact with lots of very positive feedback from students about his supportive approach, taking time to get to know students and engaging teaching style. The students said that Phil always motivates them, makes really valuable resources to support classes and gives really useful feedback.

Martin Wilkinson - Excellent Practice Award

Martin’s students nominated him for being engaging, always being happy to help them, and for motivating them. His student nominators noted how Marin really made the difference to their interest in the subjects as he can make even complex content light hearted. 

Heather Hogan - Wider Student Experience Award

Heather holds the record for the most nominations in a single year and even had her own hashtag of appreciation by the postgrads! Where do we start with Heather’s feedback! Some highlights from the student nominations include:

•Heather goes above and beyond to really help everyone that she can.

•Heather is constantly supportive to my personal problems and has been an absolute saviour with my assignment deadlines as well as helping me to feel so welcome at Harper.

Amanda Price - Wider Student Experience Award

Amanda received many nominations this year, and last year. They all refer to her bubbly personality making the difference to students and the personal touch that she has when dealing with students every day. They all comment how she gets to know them and provides support, and just makes a difference to their day. 

Claire Hutchinson - Wider Student Experience Award

Claire is nominated for the work she does with students, supporting their HRP’s and other project work, Clare is consistently available and willing to support these students. Claire has even been known to be here at 6am making early preparations to support students! She has made a particular impact in providing support for international students and her efforts are also appreciated by colleagues. 

Susan Ragbourne - Developing and Sharing Excellence

Susan managed to produce some very useful work with the mobile app Nearpod in the classroom (which is being showcased today) but also in creating relevant learning objects which were uploaded onto modules.  Susan is keen to experiment with new approaches to teaching and is not afraid of technology. She has also the determination to overcome any obstacles she may encounter.

Paul Lewis - Student Choice Award: Supportive Teaching

To quote straight from the nomination Paul has a “Very friendly and approachable manner, puts you at ease when consulting him and generally pleasant to talk to.  Open to being approached with queries and makes an effort to make himself available.  Always seems eager to help.  Goes out of his way to help others.  Open to student views and feedback, makes people feel they can be honest and their comments appreciated and taken seriously”.

Karen Rhodes  - Unsung Hero Award 

Karen is an extremely dedicated member of staff who undertakes her work both quietly and efficiently.  Although Karen has a relatively ‘back-of-house’ role, her contribution to the work of the University is highly significant and enables academic and support staff to effectively undertake key aspects of their roles.  Karen undertakes all tasks in a fuss-free, can-do manner, together with also supporting the educational development team (sometimes with very short notice requests for help).  

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