Group efforts in learning's delivery room

Aid 'labouring students' to bring knowledge to life, urges Leeds Met pro v-c. Rebecca Attwood reports

June 26, 2008

When the Higher Education Academy's national teaching fellowships were announced this week, one household found itself in the proud position of boasting two fellows.

Sally Brown, pro vice-chancellor for assessment, learning and teaching at Leeds Metropolitan University, is one of 50 academics and learning support staff to receive a national teaching fellowship this year in recognition of excellence in teaching and learning.

Her husband, Phil Race, who is a visiting professor at Leeds Metropolitan, was awarded a national teaching fellowship last summer. Moreover, Professor Brown and her husband are both among the HEA's 20 senior fellows.

Professor Brown has spent 35 years working in education, during which time she has taught in schools, colleges, universities and prisons, and has developed a fascination with "what goes wrong when people don't learn well and how we can help people learn better".

She sees assessment as key to the learning process. "I've been very lucky - I have talked about assessment and related issues in between six and ten countries, every year, for ten years.

"Wherever it is in the world, a lot of the issues are very much the same: we need to find ways to help students learn through assessment rather than having it as a stuck-on, end-of-process thing.

"Students don't all learn in the same way and have different strengths in different areas, and if you keep on assessing students in the same old way time and time again - for example, using unseen, time-constrained exams - then you are disadvantaging the same students every time. If you want students to, as we say in Leeds Met, use all their talents to the full, then what you've got to do is use a range of assessment methods that are diverse and allow different students to do their best."

Over the next 20 years, she thinks universities will become more focused on accrediting student achievement and helping students engage with learning.

"Universities such as The Open University and MIT are now beginning to put free content online - they recognise that the content is not what students come to university for. Curriculum delivery is not like being a postman. It is more like delivering a baby: people around the outside can help and support, advise when things go wrong, intervene when there are big problems, but in the end it is only the labouring student who can bring forth learning."

She claims her current role is the best in the university because "it is just about the biggest teaching-led university in the country and I have the brief for strategic leadership on assessment, learning and teaching."

Professor Brown takes great pride in Leeds Met's network of more than 50 internal teacher fellows who are promoted on the grounds of their outstanding teaching. They become the university's best advocates of innovative assessment and teaching approaches and, she said, "make real changes at a local level".

Among this year's other HEA fellows are Sir David Watson, historian and director of the MBA in higher education management at the Institute of Education, who is currently chairing an inquiry into lifelong learning; Stephen Bostock, head of the Learning Development Unit at Keele University; Tony Croft, director of the Mathematics Education Centre at Loughborough University; Annette Cashmore, director of the Centre of Excellence in Teaching and Learning in genetics at the University of Leicester; Angela Goddard, professor of English language at York St John University; and Kristine Mason O'Connor, dean of teaching and learning development at the University of Gloucestershire.

Each fellow receives £10,000, which can be used for his or her personal and professional development in teaching and learning. This year the Institute of Education, the University of London and the University of Leeds have three award winners each.

Higher Education Academy Teaching Fellowships – 2008 appointments

Barbara Allan, director of learning and teaching, University of Hull

Dr Trevor Barker, principal lecturer, University of Hertfordshire

Lynne Barnes, divisional coordinator, deaf studies, University of Central Lancashire

Femi Bola, associate director of student services, University of East London

Dr Stephen Bostock, head of learning development unit, Keele University

Professor Sally Brown, pro vice-chancellor assessment, learning and teaching, Leeds Metropolitan University

Dr Penny Jane Burke, senior lecturer, Institute of Education

Avril Butler, senior lecturer in social work/practice learning coordinator, University of Plymouth

Professor Annette Cashmore, director of GENIE Centre of Excellence in Teaching and Learning in Genetics, University of Leicester

Professor Tony Croft, director, Mathematics Education Centre, Loughborough University

Dr Jos Darling, senior lecturer, University of Bath

Dr Joanna Drugan, programme director, MA in applied translation studies, University of Leeds

Dr Kate Exley, senior staff development officer and higher education consultant, University of Leeds

Dr John David Fieldhouse, reader in automotive engineering, University of Huddersfield

Dr Derek France, senior university teaching fellow, University of Chester

Rayya Ghul, senior lecturer, Canterbury Christ Church University

Professor Angela Goddard, professor of English language, York St. John University

Lyn Greaves, teaching fellow, Thames Valley University

Dr Mark Greenwood, consultant/senior lecturer in oral and maxillofacial surgery, Newcastle University

Dr Jane Henry, head, Centre for Human Resources and Change Management, The Open University

Professor Paula Hixenbaugh, professor of learning and teaching, University of Westminster

Professor Alastair Hudson, professor of equity and law, Queen Mary, University of London

Dr Peter G Knight, senior lecturer in geography, Keele University

Dr Michael Kölling, senior lecturer, University of Kent

Dr L. Lominé, senior lecturer in arts management, University of Winchester

Sue McKnight, director, libraries and knowledge resources, Nottingham Trent University

Professor Peter McOwan, director of teaching, Queen Mary, University of London

Tony Mann, head of mathematics, University of Greenwich

Professor Kristine Mason O’Connor, dean of teaching and learning development, University of Gloucestershire

Dr Deborah Mawer, senior lecturer in music, Lancaster University

Dr Aru Narayanasamy, associate professor, University of Nottingham

Dr Briony J Oates, reader, University of Teesside

Robert O’Toole, arts faculty e-learning advisor, University of Warwick

Dr Julian Park, senior lecturer in agri-environmental systems, University of Reading

Dr Derek M Peters, principal lecturer, University of Worcester

Dr Duncan Reavey, principal lecturer (learning and teaching), University of Chichester

Dr Chris Rickets, director of assessment, Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Plymouth

Dr Anne Ridley, programme director, psychology undergraduate courses, London South Bank University

Sue Robson, subject leader early childhood studies, Roehampton University

Dr Michael Russ, associate dean of music, humanities and media, University of Huddersfield

Sue Thompson, director teaching and learning development, Liverpool John Moores University

Professor Paul van Schaik, professor of psychology, University of Teesside

Dr Catherine Walter, lecturer and equal opportunities coordinator, Institute of Education

Sir David Watson, professor of higher education management, Institute of Education

Professor Val Wass, professor of community based medical education, University of Manchester

Professor Brian Whalley, Queen’s University Belfast

Dr Carrie Winstanley, principal lecturer, Roehampton University

Nigel Wynne, senior academic, learning and teaching, Birmingham City University

Professor John Yates, University of Sheffield

Professor Miriam Zukas, director, Lifelong Learning Institute, University of Leeds

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