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Kingston University nursing lecturer Judith Francois receives Most Innovative Teacher of the Year accolade at Times Higher Education awards

Posted Friday 27 November 2020

Kingston University nursing lecturer Judith Francois receives Most Innovative Teacher of the Year accolade at Times Higher Education awards

A Kingston University nursing expert who established a pioneering programme to help Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic mental health nurses progress into senior roles has been named Most Innovative Teacher of the Year in the Times Higher Education awards.

Senior lecturer in clinical leadership and management in the University's School of Nursing Judith Francois received the prestigious accolade during a virtual ceremony which recognised institutions and staff from across the UK for exceptional teaching, research, student support, entrepreneurship, collaborations and outreach.

The Times Higher award panel cited Ms Francois' innovative approach to using pictorial resources created by artists and storytelling mechanisms to explore cultural understanding and wellbeing with both undergraduate and postgraduate students.

Alongside her teaching, the panel also praised her work as academic lead for the Harnessing BAME Mental Health Nurses' Talent programme, part-funded by the Burdett Trust for Nursing. The scheme offers mental health nurses from BAME backgrounds an opportunity to build leadership skills and confidence to move into management positions. The inclusivity champion's work in this area led to her being awarded a National Teaching Fellowship earlier this year, as well as being shortlisted for a Royal College of Nursing Institute award in 2019.

Being recognised for her efforts to create a more inclusive curriculum through innovative teaching practice was a real honour, Ms Francois said. "It's a surreal feeling but I'm so proud of the journey we have gone on. I always want to contextualise teaching around students' own experiences and make it meaningful for the individual through the strategies we put in place.

"Innovation for me is about making what is being taught real and enabling students to express themselves. As a student or in practice, it's about enabling discussions and finding out more about how each individual will respond to ensure we can effectively support that learning - removing barriers to success and providing the tools and confidence to progress."

In making the award, judges said they were highly impressed by Ms Francois' efforts to build resilience and self-efficacy for her students.  "Her undergraduate and postgraduate work transcends cultural differences, creating an inclusive environment in which students can flourish," the judges said. "Her reach and her creativity demonstrably extend beyond higher education with her reflection toolkit to support BAME leadership development, which has been taken up for use in the NHS."

In other highlights from this year's awards, Kingston University's progressive approach towards supporting the military community saw it shortlisted in the Widening Participation or Outreach Initiative of the Year category. This recognised two initiatives, including Reading Force, which encourages Forces families to connect through shared reading, and a programme that educates trainee teachers about the particular challenges experienced by many armed forces children whose education is often disrupted by regular moves when their parents take up new posts.

A further project shortlisted in the International Collaboration of the Year category involved former Kingston midwifery expert, Dr Lesley Kay, who was invited to be midwifery educator as part of a life-saving twinning project between the Royal College of Midwives and the Bangladesh Midwifery Society.

Highlighting the vital contribution institutions across the United Kingdom make to society, Times Higher Education editor John Gill said: "The brilliance on display in every category, from institutions the length and breadth of the country, is a reminder of the role that universities must, and will, play in guiding the way through the coronavirus crisis".

  • Find out more about studying mental health nursing at Kingston University and St George's, University of London.

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