Winning teaching awards (why I think I do)
Had an interesting conversation on Twitter yesterday about student nominated teaching awards that was prompted by this tweet.
— Apurba (@DrApurbaKundu) March 5, 2016
One of the problems with teaching awards is that people don’t generally talk about why they think they won them and the article mentioned in the tweet said that winning is a source of embarrassment for some and others think that it’s down to being ‘cool with the kidz’ or funny – both of these are likely true. There is an argument that white straight men are more likely to win by default because of privilege and that’s unconditionally a factor so I’m not even going to get into it or dispute that is an influence. I freely admit (and other white straight dudes hate I do this) that I’ve benefited from privilege, even if you know about it and acknowledge it, it’s really hard not to – it’s built into every level of the academy.
Since I joined Edge Hill in 2012, I’ve been nominated for student led teaching awards every year and won in 2013 and 2015 (#humblebrag). So even with the caveats mentioned above, I think it’s useful for people who win teaching awards to discuss *why* they think they won them because even if we factor in popularity and privilege, there might be some useful themes that occur from such discussions about what we do as academics. I run a debrief every year with my students, look at my feedback and ask students who’ve nominated me if they are happy to talk to me about why they do so.
I’d love to say that the feedback from students was that is because I am inspiring figure but the most consistent comments are structural and about process not content (although some do common on content – my assignments are largely open ended with a high degree of student choice). As far as I can determine a lot of students vote for me because my modules are well structured and it is clear from week one where we are going and why and I don’t blow deadlines.
This is (based on what the students have said to me) what they like:
- All of my module handbooks outline the module assignment and dates before the course starts – students hate with a passion assignment deadlines given late or assignments that are poorly communicated. My module handbooks are really short, I don’t have a detailed syllabus, just themes in maybe two paragraphs, no student has any complained or commented upon this.
- All of my module content follows a consistent structure from naming conventions to style – a seminar handout has a style that is consistent from week to week, presentations styles don’t randomly change from week to week.
- Ever assignment is handed out for consultancy to check that it is free from error or there are no confusing elements before official release
- Every assignment has clear assignment criteria that is given in advice to the students and clearly outlines boundaries all the way to hundreds (I’ve seen assignments that uses boundaries that are 70-100% – just no).
- My blackboard site follows a clearly logical structure – things aren’t hidden in a mishmash of folders
- Lecture slides are provided in advance in a PDF note form – students really like this because generally it helps structure their own notes and how their organise their folders.
- Students really like that my office hours are bookable online so they aren’t wasting their time emailing me
- I don’t blow deadlines – if say X will happen on this date, X happens on this date.
Fundamentally students seem to like if you run a module as if you aren’t making it up as you go along.