Posted Thursday 31 August 2017
Two award-winning Kingston University academics have seen their commitment to driving forward innovations in critical thinking and inclusivity recognised with National Teaching Fellowships from the Higher Education Academy.
The prestigious accolades – for associate professor Dr Annie Hughes, head of the University's Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) centre, and marketing and communications lecturer Hilary Wason, from Kingston Business School – celebrate individuals who have demonstrated the very best in teaching excellence. A total of 55 new National Teaching Fellows have been announced by the HEA nationally.
Dr Hughes has played a leading role in improving the student experience and championing equality in teaching and research across the institution since joining the University in 1995.
During a decade as course director of geography programmes in the Faculty of Science, Engineering and Computing, she implemented a student-centred approach, leading geography to achieve a 100 per cent overall satisfaction score in the National Student Survey in 2015.
"Fostering a trusting and approachable relationship between students and the course team was a key focus for me as course director," Dr Hughes said. "Explaining to students why we did things a certain way and, most importantly, listening to them and recognising when we needed to make changes, really allowed us to make big steps forward when it came to improving their experience while studying here."
Moving in to a role as Director for Learning and Teaching in the School of Natural and Built Environments in 2015, Dr Hughes' ongoing commitment to delivering an inclusive approach to higher education led to her playing a key part in the development of an inclusive curriculum framework last year.
teaching excellence accolade at the 2017 Guardian University Awards. In her new EDI role within the Directorate for Student Achievement she will be further developing this work and sharing with colleagues across the University.The initiative – developed with Director of Student Achievement Nona McDuff and the EDI team to ensure the content and delivery of courses was relevant and meaningful to students from all backgrounds – was heralded when Kingston University won the
"During my 22 years at the University I have learnt so much from students from many different backgrounds, which has challenged me to think differently and see alternative perspectives," she said. "It's really fostered in me a passion around sharing and promoting inclusive learning and teaching, championing the cause of equality throughout all my work.
"I want to ensure we continue to be a university that provides innovative, accessible, relevant and meaningful learning for all our students," she added.
Hilary Wason took up a part-time teaching role at the University in 2004 following a 15 year career in marketing and communications. As a marketing lecturer, she has involved industry contacts in the design and delivery of her teaching, allowing students to benefit from real-world connections.
Her innovative approach to teaching led her to develop a critical thinking skills toolkit, working with academics, librarians and support staff to design tools tailored to students' needs, learning outcomes and assessment tasks.
The toolkit has now been adopted by several universities across the United Kingdom and the United States, and her work was shortlisted for an innovation teaching excellence award at the European Conference on Research Methodology for Business and Management Studies (ECRM).
"I teach students across a wide range of modules and levels and always encourage them to be independent, curious and take ownership of their learning," she said. "I found that one area that needed addressing was around how to apply critical thinking to assessments, which led to me developing the toolkit.
"My branding and advertising background really underpins how it all comes together – developing a common language, looking at what assignments students had and then linking that through to how to use critical thinking to achieve academic success and make it relevant to their future careers."
Ms Wason has now received funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) to further develop the toolkit with colleagues across Kingston Business School and the University's Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education, with a specific focus on embedding requirements from employers.
"What we've found is that this is exactly the kind of skillset employers need graduates to have – an ability to find information and quickly establish what is relevant, built on a strong evidence base," she explained.
"My approach to teaching has always been centred around encouraging students to be independent and to seek out support when they need it, rather than relying on other people. It is particularly rewarding when students tell you they feel more confident as a result of working through a problem for themselves rather than being told the answer."
Pro Vice-Chancellor for Learning and Teaching Dr Clarissa Wilks said the fellowship awards recognised the leading roles both academics have played in ensuring Kingston University students were provided with the best possible teaching experience.
"While the excellence of their work is in different areas, the common thread that runs through both Annie and Hilary's approach is the way they put students' learning and support needs at the very heart of how they plan and deliver their programmes," she said.
"They both display a genuine love of and dedication to teaching and take real pride in sharing their expertise and innovations with colleagues at the University and with other institutions around the world."
Alongside the National Teaching Fellowship awards, Kingston University has also been named as a finalist in the Higher Education Academy's Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence (CATE). These awards recognise outstanding contributions to teaching by teams at higher education providers and six winning institutions from a shortlist of 15 will be awarded grants of £15,000 to share their learning.