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Celebrating teaching excellence with a CATE, NTF and new Principal Fellowship at the University of Sheffield

06 Aug 2021 | The University of Sheffield Dr Louise Robson is awarded the National Teaching Fellowship, the Multidisciplinary Engineering Education team wins a CATE, and one of its CATE team leads becomes a Principal Fellow.

Dr Louise Robson, from the Department of Biomedical Science, has been awarded a National Teaching Fellowship 2021 for introducing outstanding and innovative teaching practices and championing digital technologies.

The Multidisciplinary Engineering Education (MEE) team, led by Dr Andrew Garrard and Dr Adam Funnell, have won the Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence (CATE), recognising the team’s commitment to delivering sector leading practical education that transforms students into capable engineers.

Andrew has also successfully applied for Principal Fellowship which recognises his devotion to leading an award-winning massively open online course that makes engineering easily accessible, creating policies based on sound teaching principles, implementing widespread use of blended learning and ensuring that students were being provided with top quality practical experience amid Covid-19.

Louise, Andrew and the MEE team join a growing network of inspirational teachers at the University with national recognition for the outstanding impact of their practice.

Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence

Multidisciplinary Engineering Education (MEE)_University of Sheffield

Since being created five years ago, the Multidisciplinary Engineering Education team now comprises 46 educators who deliver practical teaching to 6,700 undergraduates and postgraduates in the Faculty of Engineering. Its framework crosses the conventional boundaries by bringing together teaching technicians and academics, who are supported by colleagues in professional services.

While engineering departments are typically formed around defined disciplines, such as mechanical, electrical or chemical engineering, MEE was formed around a teaching methodology, with the aim of producing well-rounded graduates, who could successfully step into fast-paced industries beyond graduation.

It runs on a globally unique model of entrusting practical education to a dedicated team of multidisciplinary specialists while still tightly integrating laboratory work. Thanks to being based in The Diamond with its state-of-the-art equipment, the team is able to break down the barriers between the various disciplines to deliver large-scale teaching.

In there, academics are responsible for teaching, design and delivery of practical activities, as well as integrating practical work into programmes. Technicians take care of the facilities, equipment and safety standards, and like academics, they also deliver teaching sessions. Finally, the professional service colleagues who coordinate student and staff activities.

As all role segments remain innovative and student-facing, it allows the entire team to provide an outstanding student experience.

It has always been part of our department’s culture to recognise the talents of all the members of our team and to trust that, with the right support, they will be able to do amazing things.

“We have always been so proud of what they have achieved and this has had a noticeable impact on the faculty of engineering and beyond. The CATE award is a chance to really celebrate that success.

Professor Stephen Beck, Head of MEE

As a student, it is inspiring to see every member of The Diamond pushing the boundaries of engineering education.

“During Covid-19, the department has been seen to be national leaders in preserving the student experience during lockdowns and socially distanced teaching.

“This is evidenced by the fact that almost every planned activity was delivered either face to face or online. They carried out remote labs, which were recorded or came with a kit that we could take home, and sometimes allowed students into the labs as safe practicals.”

Aiden Findlay, fourth year Aerospace Engineering student

Principal Fellowship

As both the Director of Academic Operations and Deputy Head of the Department of MEE, Dr Andrew Garrard’s portfolio oversees all the educational aspects of everything that the department does.

Image of Dr Andrew Garrard

Being an engineer at his core, Andrew instinctively tries to optimise processes to make things more efficient. Thanks to his dedication to creating a blended learning environment that allowed to easily scale the subject to thousands of students, the department had a head start in finding ways to mitigate the Covid-19 impact.

This has led to a great deal of attention, when his team has been invited to various conferences to discuss their work and deliver workshops to help other institutions find the right approach to teaching their labs.

After completing his application paperwork for the senior fellowship, Andrew didn’t anticipate how pressured an interview would feel when the stakes are so high.

Waiting for the result was a tense time. I was at work during the morning, so I could easily find some of the fun engineering toys we have in the Diamond to distract myself. But I'd booked the afternoon off work and found myself pottering around, frequently checking my phone to see if the outcome had arrived.

“I’m honoured to receive this recognition and be a member of what is quite a small group, in the company of some very accomplished educators at the University for whom I’ve got a great deal of respect.

“I'm exceptionally proud to work alongside my talented colleagues in the department who, regardless of their role as academics, technicians or administrators, always go above and beyond to ensure the students get a great experience.”

Dr Andrew Garrard

Now, building upon his work in MEE and the renewed lab teaching, he is also leading a small team to put on the inaugural conference for Practical Engineering Education in September 2021.

“We have been delighted in the level of engagement with the idea and have curated a comprehensive programme of presentations from a wide range of high profile engineering universities.

“We are really excited about welcoming a group of educators to share their experience and expertise of the teaching of labs in engineering programmes.”

National Teaching Fellowship

With 30 years of experience in learning and teaching, Louise has been recognised as a specialist in using digital technologies to support student learning within the department, institution, nationally and internationally.

Image of Dr Louise Robson

Since joining the University of Sheffield in 1996, Louise has taught Physiology to undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD students, covering all academic levels.

She puts support for her students at the very heart of her learning and teaching philosophy. While challenging her students to do their very best, she also ensures she provides comprehensive support. In her role as Departmental Director for Learning and Teaching, she was able to dive forward innovation and change in the Biomedical Science degree programmes.

Louise is well known for promoting the use of lecture capture and interactive in-session online polling activities to support student learning. Thanks to her innovative approach, she was appointed as the institutional lead for lecture capture implementation at the University of Sheffield.

Her work as part of collaborative teams also led to the production of two important papers on top tips for lecture captures and online teaching during the pandemic. Aspects from these papers, and an associated student guide are used by institutions across the world to plan their online and blended teaching in support for staff and students.

Her outstanding teaching has attracted a number of other prestigious awards, including the Senate Award for Sustained Excellence in Learning and Teaching (2009) and the Otto Hutter Physiology Teaching Prize (2017).

Louise’s expertise with digital technologies was never more important than during the Covid-19 pandemic, when she not only expertly delivered her own teaching, but also led her department to transition teaching online with three days’ notice.

I am absolutely thrilled and honoured to have been awarded a National Teaching Fellowship.

“One of the best things about my job is seeing how my students grow in confidence throughout their degree programme, developing key skills and knowledge, and being able to apply these to solve real world problems.”

Dr Louise Robson

Nominations for CATE and NTFS 2022 open on Monday 4 October 2021. Find out more about the 2021 winners of the National Teaching Fellowship Scheme and Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence.

Principal Fellowship is awarded to professionals who demonstrate they meet the criteria of Descriptor 4 of the UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF) for teaching and supporting learning in higher education. Find out more

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