Annual Learning & Teaching Awards 2013

The Economics Network's teaching awards were presented at the DEE Conference 2013 at the University of Exeter on the 5th September.

This year the Economics Network received an unprecedented number of nominations. Originally, the awards were in two categories:

  • Outstanding Teacher Award
  • Best New Lecturer Award

However, given the number and range of nominations we have an additional award this year in the category of ‘Outstanding Student Support’.

Outstanding Student Support

The Economics Network provides training to over 200 Graduate Teaching Assistants each year, who are part of the army of Graduate Teaching Assistants who take economics seminars across the UK, providing key support to our students’ learning. This award recognises the importance and significance of this role.

Fabian Winkler's colleague Judith Shapiro receives the award on his behalf from Charlie Bean of the Bank of England

Fabian Winkler, LSE

Fabian Winkler is Course manager for the LSE’s second year Macroeconomics course, managing 38 seminar classes and 17 Graduate Teaching Assistants and over 500 students.

Fabian is described as a ‘committed’, ‘tireless’ and  ‘inspirational’ by students and colleagues, and being particularly worthy of an award for outstanding student support for the following reasons:

  • His inspirational leadership and support as Course Manager of 17 Graduate Teaching Assistants;
  • The value he adds to the course lectures by helping students better understand lecture material and by fostering students’ interest, for example by posting relevant economic papers and articles to the students’ online environment;
  • His personal commitment to the students – for example during exam season, Fabian answers student questions day and night, and runs regular revision sessions, which are praised for his ‘crystal clear’ explanation of macro economic models
  • His humour and wit and encouragement when dealing with students - for example he never fails to add entertaining/encouraging comments to his emails to students ("If you loose focus, go and have a banana").

All of these qualities combine to make Fabian worthy of a special award, which will hopefully be encouraging and an inspiration to other Graduate Teaching Assistants and Teaching Fellows – ‘Outstanding Student Support’.

Best New Lecturer

The Economics Network has been recognising teacher excellence through its awards since 2001. This year, however, is the first year since the Economics Network has been financially supported by the Royal Economic Society, the Scottish Economic Society, the University of Exeter, the London School of Economics and many other departments of economics that the awards have been made. To tie in with the societies’ and the departments’ own aims, there is a new award to recognise excellence in New Lecturer teaching – ‘Best New Lecturer’.

Chris Colvin receives his award from Professor Eric Pentecost of the Conference of Heads of University Departments of Economics (CHUDE)

Chris Colvin, Queen’s University Belfast

Chris Colvin is a new lecturer who started at Queen's University Management School in the summer of 2012. This spring he has been the module coordinator and instructor of "Industrial Organisation", which he has taught in an applied and innovative way, for example:

  • Chris uses historical and contemporary applications of industrial organisation to illustrate models.
  • He uses short but relevant video clips to break up teaching and keep students’ interest.
  • He begins each lecture with an exam-style review of the previous week’s material.
  • In tutorial classes, students participate in group presentations of academic papers and moot court trials of antitrust cases where students themselves critically apply the theory to a particular paper or competition case.
  • He has developed a market study project where students carry out research into a market of their choice, using a similar process to the Office of Fair Trading’s preliminary investigations unit.

Professor Paul Latreille, external examiner, singled out Chris’s module commenting that “The module is, quite simply, exemplary. Its structure, delivery and assessment have been crafted, and Chris’ imaginative treatment of the material, integration of theory and practice, and innovative pedagogy such as the moot court, games and the Office of Fair Trading reports make for a superb learning experience. For a staff member in their first year, the module represents a genuinely outstanding achievement.”

Outstanding Teacher Award

As mentioned, this year there were an unprecedented number of nominations made by both economics students and teaching staff for the Economics Network teaching awards. So this year there are two winners in our Outstanding Teacher category.

Jeremy Smith, University of Warwick

Jeremy Smith (left) receives his award from Abhinay Muthoo, Head of Economics at Warwick

Jeremy is responsible for the delivery of the core statistics and econometrics teaching at undergraduate level at Warwick.

Jeremy is described as being ‘passionate about his subject’ and being ‘driven by a strong desire to ensure students learn and learn properly’.

Innovations in Jeremy’s teaching include: online discussion forums, online videos, quizzes, and livescribe postings which support student understanding with some of the more technical issues in statistics and econometrics. His use of online resources and forums also free up Jeremy’s lectures to respond intuitively to students’ learning needs.

Nominators’ descriptions of Jeremy and his teaching include:

  • As a younger colleague, he is a real inspiration to take teaching seriously despite all the pressure being on research.
  • His passion for teaching shows… - his newest system of presenting worked answers to past papers (some kind of electronic paper) is absolutely brilliant.
  • He is very clear and logical but most importantly he makes the subject very interesting. He stimulates your thinking through direct participation and this is not an easy task when you teach to a class of hundreds of undergraduate students and the subject is econometrics! At the end of the term, you feel like you want to learn more!
  • Jeremy is the most committed academic I know who goes well beyond the expectation of a traditional lecturing post, in that he is willing to give up much of his free time to provide a comprehensive set of notes, revision sheets, video solutions as well as making himself available at (almost) any time.
Paul Middleditch (right) receives his award from John Kay

Paul Middleditch, University of Manchester

Since arriving in Manchester in 2009, Paul is described by his Head of Department as ‘constantly striving to find ways to improve on existing teaching delivery and introduce technology to enhance the student experience’.

For example, three innovations that Paul uses in the teaching are:

  • His use of audience response systems or ‘clickers’ in large classes to allow students to interact within lectures.
  • Master classes alongside his standard office hours, where Paul takes student-led ‘master classes’ to allow students the opportunity to catch up with some of the more technical material delivered in his lectures.
  • Incentives to use Graduate Teaching Assistant office hours - students are rewarded for attending tutor-led ‘feedback sessions’ (previously their office hours) with solutions to the tutorials and home works. In 2011/12 this increased the feedback scores for questions ‘Did you receive detailed comments on your work?’ and ‘The feedback I received was useful’ on the evaluation questionnaires.

Commendations

There are many more deserving nominations across the teaching award categories. Four more teachers have been singled out to receive commendations.

Paul Ormerod (left) presents Ralf Becker with his award

Ralf Becker, University of Manchester

Outstanding Teacher - Commendation  Ralf is an enthusiastic, talented and dedicated teacher of economics. Notably his redesign of a second/third year econometrics module has decreased a failure rate from over 25% to around 10%. Innovations include: online multiple choice tests through Blackboard; a Peer Assisted Study Scheme where third year students who have taken the module in the previous academic year are recruited to act as learning mentors for the current year students; inverting the classroom whereby students arrive at class already having been exposed to online instruction on the topic of the day. He uses YouTube videos to achieve this. Student feedback confirms the popularity and effectiveness of his work on this module.

Paul Ormerod presents Peter Dawson with his award

Peter Dawson, University of East Anglia

Outstanding Teacher - Commendation  A former Teaching Director at the University of Bath, specialising in the Economics of Sport and Econometrics, one of Peter’s main contributions to the School of Economics at UEA include: the redesign of curricula; the incorporation of innovative assessment structures; and the provision of extensive on-line customised manuals and study guides. As an example, he is currently developing ‘research project’ methods to further enhance econometrics provision at UEA.

Student feedback gathered from the on-line student evaluations is evidence of his dedication to, and patience with, students. Typical feedback on his teaching includes “The quality of the teaching from Peter Dawson was absolutely fantastic” and “Perfect. Explained everything slowly and methodically so everyone could understand. My best lecturer by far.”

Christian Spielmann receives his award from Paul Ormerod

Christian Spielmann and Parama Chaudhury, University College London

Best New Lecturer - Commendation Christian and Parama have collaborated over the last two years to develop a toolbox of new interactive teaching techniques at UCL including:

  • wikis and blogs to encourage research, writing and collaboration among students.
  • the use of videos to increase the effective number of contact hours.
  • web-based audience response systems (or ‘clickers’) in order to increase interaction between the lecturer and the students.

All these innovations have received consistently strong student feedback, and Parama and Christian have also started a series of informal seminars, where they (and others) discuss and share their experiences with various teaching techniques.

Laura Delaney, City University

Best New Lecturer - Commendation       Dr Laura Delaney arrived in the Department of Economics at City in September 2011 and after nearly two years her teaching evaluations are amongst the best in the Department. The modules she teaches, and has helped to design, are particularly difficult to teach as they are highly quantitative – for example she teaches Advanced Quantitative Economics at third year, which is a mixture of Microeconomic Theory and Econometrics. She has achieved near perfect 5 out of 5s from students for this module, and her ability to teach relatively difficult subject material in an interesting and relevant way is praised by both students and colleagues.

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