University of Exeter Students’ Guild Teaching Awards 2015

Photo: Exeter Student’s Guild 

This year I was shortlisted for ‘Best Postgraduate Teacher’ at the University of Exeter Student’s Guild Teaching Awards. These Awards were the first of this kind to be established in the UK (2009) and remains the largest in the country. Over 1 million words in praise of teaching at the University of Exeter have been collected to date! The Guild says the awards: 

“are designed to reward and recognise the hard work of our staff to improve the student experience at the University of Exeter.”

It was a shock but an obvious delight to be shortlisted for an award and I was even more pleased when on the night I found out I ranked second overall and as top in the College of Humanities.

Monica and I celebrating. Photo: Exeter Student’s Guild

 The winner of the Best Postgraduate Teacher, Monica Ronchi was from the Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies and from meeting her on the night it is clear she is a passionate and enthusiastic educator (as well as a fun colleague and decent human being!). It is likely that we would not have met should the event have not brought us as PGR teachers into the same venue and given us a  few glasses of wine. 

Wine is important, but getting academics together to celebrate is equally vital. Too often gatherings are based around thematic intellectual ideas, funding allocations, interviews, departmental meetings and not around personal achievements and passion. These Teaching Awards brought together a group of people who share an interest outside of books, in the world, with real people and their lives. It was great! 

However nice the accolade of being shortlisted is, it was the ethos behind this event that made me feel proud of the teaching that I have undertaken this term. It is perhaps the only event I have encountered in five years at Exeter involving academic staff at the university that looks at teaching as its focus, not an add-on, a must-do, a grin-at-bear-it task in academia. It got me thinking about my own research around ‘value’, as it was an event driven by the optional and qualitative impressions of the students themselves. There was no clear criteria or targets to hit, many of the people nominated expressed their surprise at being there at all. 

GTAs or Postgraduate Teachers can sometimes get a bad rap, but as a result of the awards this year academic within the College sent round emails thanking each and every PhD student who contributes to the teaching within the college. This is a step in the right direction. The more positivity around teaching the better. Teaching in Higher Education shouldn’t be seen as a chore, but an opportunity. The Teaching Awards offers the chance of valuation on a different scale, and one which I am happy to subscribe fully to. Impact can be measured in lots of ways, but the impact of teaching practises on people in the classroom is certainly one which deserves recognition and further thought.

Check out the full list of Winners and Runners Up here

Students and colleague Chloe Preedy (Penryn Campus) alongside myself and Richard representing the English Department across two campuses at the awards. Photo: Exeter Student’s Guild
Photo: Exeter Student’s Guild

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