Posted Thursday 12 June 2014
A Kingston Business School academic's industry-based teaching approach has led to her being awarded a prestigious National Teaching Fellowship from the Higher Education Academy.
Nominees for what has become one of the most coveted awards in higher education underwent a rigorous application process to demonstrate their ongoing commitment to teaching excellence. Dr Deborah Anderson, an associate professor in strategy, marketing and innovation at Kingston, impressed the judges with her teaching initiative, 'Employer Insights', which brings students into the heart of industry to compile research by interviewing leading figures in the world of marketing.
"I think the judges liked the fact that, as part of the scheme, my students are put in front of some of the most important players in marketing before they even graduate and are able to glean valuable tips and knowledge from them," Dr Anderson said. "As part of the programme students go out into industry to get a first-hand understanding of how top marketeers operate and what their professional priorities are."
The initiative, which has been disseminated both at Kingston and at other academic institutions, has earned Dr Anderson £10,000 towards professional training and development, along with the right to use the National Teaching Fellowship letters after her name. More than 180 Fellowship nominations were made from institutions across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, with just 55 being chosen to become Fellows. "The academic world regularly rewards outstanding research, but there are few equivalent acknowledgements for teaching excellence which makes this honour all the more special," she said.
Dr Anderson spent 12 years working in the marketing industry before joining Kingston University in 1996, initially as a guest lecturer. She believes that having a foot firmly in both camps may have helped her stand out from the competition. "What I tried to get across in my written submission was how I hoped my students benefited from my experience as a practitioner as well as an academic," she said. "Marketing is such a fast-paced and quick-changing discipline that we really can't rely on textbooks any more - if we want our teaching to be as fresh and relevant as possible, we need the voice of the industry."
During her 18-year association with Kingston University, Dr Anderson has been on an educational journey herself, first completing an MA and then a PhD. She said watching students undergo a similar process of change was the most rewarding aspect of her work. "What I love is making a difference to students," she said. "Being able to see them transform from sometimes quiet, not particularly involved individuals to confident, enthusiastic graduates ready to grasp the opportunities of the world of work, is such a privilege."
Those qualities of motivation, resilience and energy were essential for anyone hoping to pursue a career in marketing, Dr Anderson said. "Although it may be a cliché, the most important thing you need is a can-do attitude - you've got to be happy to take the initiative and not be scared to make mistakes," she added.
Apart from the personal acknowledgement, Dr Anderson believes the National Teaching Fellowship award also provides important recognition for Kingston Business School. "From part-timers through to the heads of department, everyone here truly respects the value of teaching and research," she said.
Head of the Kingston Business School Dr Stuart Archbold said Dr Anderson's award was thoroughly deserved. "Debbie is held in extremely high regard by her colleagues and, perhaps more importantly, by her students," he added. "Debbie has made, and continues to make, a real difference to the students she teaches. She never rests on her laurels and is always looking for ways to enhance the learning experience and, critically, to make it fun."
Dr Anderson's passion for teaching and research had been further demonstrated by her plans for using her prize money not just for personal development, but to benefit Kingston University as a whole, Dr Archbold said. "What I'd like is to give people a chance to sit down and think about how they teach," Dr Anderson said. "Teaching, like any other discipline, should be treated as a scholarly activity with people reflecting on what methods have been successful and then disseminating this information so that others can learn from their experiences. Supporting this activity will mean the award isn't just about me but instead will help to continually develop the teaching and reputation of the whole University."