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Teaching

special

 
 
 
         
       
           
 

• News

 

• Direct view

 

• In 60 secs

 
 

• Teaching prizes

Congratulations to this year's winners of LSE's major review, teaching excellence and departmental class teacher awards.

 

• Janet Hartley, outgoing pro-director of teaching and learning and chair of the Promotions Committee, explains why teaching quality is so important to LSE.

 

• Paul Kelly, incoming pro-director for teaching and learning, believes that anyone who is passionate about their subject can become a good teacher.

 
             
       
             
  6 June 2012  

• Major review prize winners

 
   
 
   

Kirsten Ainley

Coming to LSE in 2001 to do a master's degree, Kirsten Ainley intended to stay only one year. But the academic bug bit and, following her PhD here, she now teaches two International Relations MSc courses and co-supervises the International
Theory Workshop for research students.

Kirsten worked in marketing for the Hurst Corporation and Unilever before coming to LSE and believes her corporate experience is highly beneficial to her teaching, not only
for the practical aspects of time and task management but also because of the broad understanding she has of how and why theories are applied in the “real world”. Her students are
given opportunities to develop similar insights: every year she takes a group of MSc students to the International Criminal Court in The Hague to attend hearings and see the Court in action, and she regularly brings external speakers, such as the defence lawyer for ex-Liberian president Charles Taylor, into classes. Similarly, on the International Theory Workshop
course, students are exposed to collaborations with other institutions and organisations, and there is an annual colloquium organised with Aberystwyth University – an opportunity for the best research students from both institutions to present their work and build their professional networks.

The importance of teaching at LSE has definitely grown over the last decade, Kirsten believes. She considers herself fortunate to be part of a department whose staff have received several teaching prizes in recent years and which encourages excellence and innovation. It enables her to be the sort of teacher she wants to be. “I try and create an argumentative atmosphere in classes...but argumentative in a positive way,” she says. “The students are encouraged to contest ideas, not each other, and to speak and float ideas without fear.”
 


 
   

Erik Baurdoux

Erik Baurdoux joined LSE’s Department of Statistics as a lecturer in 2007, having gained his PhD in Mathematics from Utrecht University.

He is passionate about engaging students and building their confidence, saying; “I try to convince them that there is no such thing as a stupid question.” He finds it very rewarding when the “long view” he encourages of the mastery of the subject pays off: “Some students come back to me in their third year saying that, even though they found my [second year] course difficult at first, pieces started falling into place by the end and in their final year they are able to reap the benefits of it.” He has posted comments like this on Moodle, so that students know it is quite normal to feel lost at first.

Erik is delighted that teaching at LSE is taken so seriously. As the department’s GTA co-ordinator he has a special interest in their development: “It is great to see the training that is being offered to our teaching assistants as they play such an important role.” He is also an enthusiastic user
of new technology for teaching: already a big fan of Moodle’s Q&A forum and quiz tools, he is currently an active participant in the Moodle 2 pilot, and this summer term will be testing out a lecture capture system called Vivio which records anything written on a whiteboard so that students can watch it at their own pace on the Echo system.

When asked about what advice he would give to new teaching colleagues, Erik says “think about the time when you were a student and what it was that made certain lectures interesting and enjoyable. And never be afraid to experiment.”
 


 
   

Lucia Garcia-Lorenzo

Lucia Garcia-Lorenzo is a lecturer in the Institute of Social Psychology (ISP) and directs the MSc in Organisational and Social Psychology. Her PhD at LSE, on cultural change in organisations, followed postgraduate studies at the Universidad del Pais Vasco in Spain. It is perhaps not surprising, given Lucia’s interest in group dynamics and teams, that what she
finds most enjoyable about teaching is engaging with her students. “I learn with them and from them,” she says.

Lucia's aim in lectures is to generate a “blame-free space” where students feel able to ask questions, talk to each other and contest what they hear. The resulting conversations are often highly rewarding: students are typically drawn from many different countries and often have direct work experience, so they have plenty of interesting contributions to make and can also act as helpful sounding boards for Lucia’s own research – a useful way, she finds, of negotiating that often tricky dividing line between teaching and research.

Lucia has noticed a growing emphasis at LSE on the importance of good teaching to support the learning experience, and an increasing awareness that a student’s time at LSE is just one part of a life-long learning journey. It is partly in response to this that her department has established an ISP Alumni and Students network, which seeks to create mentoring-style relationships and make the most of the important links between study and vocational application. Asked what advice she would give to new teaching colleagues, and remembering her first few anxiety-inducing lectures, Lucia says, “Relax... it’s fun. Students are very generous. And they don’t bite!”
 

 
   

Carsten Gerner-Beuerle

Carsten Gerner-Beuerle joined LSE’s Department of Law in 2009, having come to the UK initially under the German Academic Exchange Service Lectureship Programme to teach at Kings College London after his studies in Berlin.

Carsten enjoys the way his teaching develops across any one year, thanks to the diverse student body at LSE: “You always
encounter something new. The lectures can be the same, but the reactions are never the same because the students’ perspectives are so different. I always learn something from them.”

He is fortunate, too, in working in a department whose senior staff place considerable emphasis on good teaching. Feedback is something that has been under discussion in recent years, with teachers encouraged to think through the right balance between detailed written responses to students’ work and verbal interaction during office hours and other meetings, and dissertation support for MSc students has also received considerable attention. For Carsten, whose aim is to be an approachable teacher and one who generates an informal, unthreatening atmosphere in classes, this is a supportive and encouraging culture in which to work.

His own research – much of it into comparative law – is something he can integrate quite easily into his teaching, especially to postgraduate students: “They have a variety of legal backgrounds themselves, which makes it an ideal
environment for learning from each other and strengthening my research.” Above all, he recommends treating students with respect. Asked for one piece of advice he would give to new teaching colleagues, he says, “take the students seriously. They appreciate it.”
 


 
   

Elliott Green

Elliott Green came to LSE from Princeton in 1999 to do postgraduate study in the European Institute. He has been teaching here since 2005 and is the convenor of the Department of International Development’s MSc Poverty course.

A trained musician and performer, Elliott is fortunate in never having suffered from teaching nerves! He prepares for lectures in the same way he would for performances, considering the pace and flow of content, making sure his audience is engaged and creating space for responses. But he likes to think of his lectures as “interactive performances”: questions to students are built in half-way through and at the end, and a variety of stimuli are used to illustrate ideas – a clip from The Life of Brian to make a point about colonialism, or photographs of people queuing up to vote in Afghanistan, Egypt and Kenya to discuss the relationship between poverty and democracy. In addition, he actively introduces his course readings during
lectures in such a way that students are helped to understand how they should read and what they should be striving to get out of their readings.

Elliott is optimistic about the teaching culture at LSE. “I think people really do care,” he says. “And interestingly, the ones who care most about their research are often the best teachers.” His own research – currently on the political consequences of urbanisation in Africa – is something he enjoys teaching about simply because it’s the material he
knows best. If the students respond enthusiastically he reviews course topics and considers making changes to reflect new areas of interest.

Positive feedback from students is the thing that gives Elliott most pride in his teaching: “When you hear your course described as ‘the best I’ve ever taken’, that really makes all the work worthwhile.”
 


 
   

Kate Meagher

Kate Meagher’s arrival at the Department of International Development in 2008 followed studies at Toronto, Sussex and
Oxford, and teaching experience in Botswana, Toronto, Nigeria and Oxford, at secondary school, university and adult ESL levels. Her approach to teaching is essentially one of encouraging critical skills: “I try to generate an atmosphere of inquiry... to get the students to challenge not just the materials they’re encountering but also their own beliefs
and assumptions.”

To achieve this, Kate gives careful consideration to the way
she herself communicates, constantly trying out new, interesting and vibrant ways of engaging her students. On a departmental “methods” course, for instance, students working in small groups were asked to take photographs in response to a research question and to explain their photographic answer;
they were then asked to discuss the outcome and select only two photographs as their group submission. Each group’s work was subsequently uploaded to Moodle and formed part of a “Photovoice” lecture that Kate delivered.

“LSE is good at prodding people to be innovative about their teaching,” Kate says, though she has also encountered some mixed messages about the importance of teaching and is concerned that the coming REF exercise may frustrate the development of “good teaching” even further. “Universities thrive when they let all flowers bloom,” she believes. Certainly as far as her own research is concerned, she is always looking for ways in which it can benefit her teaching and vice versa: “The wide-angle teaching required on my courses at LSE compared with the fine grain of my research sometimes makes it difficult to combine the two, but I’m finding more and more ways of connecting them as times goes on.”
 


 
   

Svetozar Rajak

Having completed his first degree in Belgrade, Svetozar Rajak had to wait over a decade to fulfil his plan of coming to
LSE to pursue postgraduate studies, saying “the collapse of Yugoslavia and the ensuing wars forced me to put the well-being of my family first. I was the only one who, in the difficult
circumstances, could provide for them.” And so it was that 2004 became the year that Svetozar acquired his PhD in the Department of International History and 2007 the year that he became a lecturer in the same department.

Sometimes people talk of a “tension” between teaching and research, but for Svetozar this is a positive thing. “Very often, it is thanks to the students that I am able to discard irrelevant offshoots in my research and add clarity to my interpretations and arguments” he says. He manages this by promoting a research-based approach to learning among the students themselves, and by creating a challenging and inspirational atmosphere in classes, both of which in turn give the students the confidence to express opinions and challenge ideas. He is delighted when ex-students tell him that some of his classes have changed them and made them more eager to learn.

LSE has done much in recent years to return teaching to its rightful place, Svetozar believes – a place that no top intellectual institution can afford to miss: “We have to continue promoting research, but without good teaching we will lose our competitiveness and global appeal.” It’s not necessarily an easy thing to achieve but one that reaps benefits for everyone: “Teaching is and should be demanding. It requires the best in each of us.”
 


 
   

Grégoire Webber

When asked what he finds most enjoyable about teaching, Grégoire Webber answers “The challenge of getting the students to understand why questions are posed and why they’re often still not answered.”

A lecturer in the Department of Law since 2009, Grégoire came to LSE via McGill and Oxford universities and a stint in the Privy Council Office of the Canadian Civil Service. He teaches on what he describes as “Where’s the law?” courses – a first year course in public law and a third year one in jurisprudence – that students tend to find hard initially but often end up enjoying.

“The jurisprudence course especially gives the students an insight into why the field of study is ‘set up’ as it is, which engages them with the discipline in a meaningful way.” Grégoire’s approach to teaching is based on several key ideas: an understanding that there is no one right way of teaching all the time (he learned this during his first year here, when he attended every jurisprudence lecture taught by colleagues), an appreciation of traditional methods such as encouraging close readings of texts (he is affectionately described by a professorial colleague as “the youngest old fogey I know”) and what might be called “quiet innovation”, such as getting his jurisprudence students in their first class to write on a record
card their answer to the question “What is law?” and then revisiting those answers a term later and sharing what they have learned.

Grégoire believes that students at LSE expect and need to be
challenged. “If you set the bar high enough, most students
will strive to reach it... they’re not here just to go through the
motions. A law degree from LSE means something.”

 
 
     

• Direct view

 
   
 
   

Professor Janet Hartley, pro-director for teaching and learning

It was a great pleasure and an honour to have awarded LSE's teaching prizes at this year's LSE Teaching Day. The prizes demonstrate the commitment made by teachers at all levels to making sure our students have a first-rate intellectual experience during their time at the School.

Prize winners include graduate teaching assistants and young lecturers who have passed their major review this year, to established and senior staff. Some have been nominated by their own students, others have been awarded prizes on the basis of their teaching scores and departmental support. The teaching covers a range of subject areas taught in the School, and a range of courses from first year undergraduate courses to specialised masters' courses.

This is the fifth (and final) year in which I have chaired the group which looks at nominations for prizes at major review. I can say frankly that we have always been impressed with the quality of submissions, but this year was particularly strong and demonstrated a real commitment to innovation and simply to delivering first-rate teaching across a whole range of courses and levels. I am acutely aware that there are many other pressures on young lecturers at this point in their career, so this commitment is particularly commendable. The quality of teaching by some of our graduate teaching assistants is also outstanding - and we have to remember that most of the GTAs are also working hard to complete their PhDs. We also have some excellent teachers, of all ages, among more senior staff!

The prize winners featured here use very different methods in their teaching, but what they share is that they are all outstanding teachers and we are rightly proud of them and congratulate them. In this newsletter some of these teachers share their ideas and sources of inspiration for their teaching - we hope that they will inspire others.

 
 
     

• Teaching excellence awards

 
   
 
   

Every year the LSE Students' Union invites students to nominate the teachers who have inspired them. The quality and breadth of this year's applications - over 60 teachers were nominated by their students - means that the five winners are to be especially commended.

The five winners are:
 

 

 
 

Helen Addison, Government

Helen is a popular and passionate teacher. Students love spending time in her classes, feel that the learning process is shared and say that her preparation for each class has served to inspire their interests beyond the course content.

Students said: "Her ability to include everyone in a class makes you feel like you are being taught in a one-on-one environment, which is a real breath of fresh air."

"The way she highlights the limitations and strengths of what we do goes beyond what professors teach us in the lectures."

"She displayed a genuine sincerity to want to help her students and to enrich their learning process."
 


 
   

Savita Bailur, Information Systems

Savita uses new media and real life examples to illustrate technology's influence on society. She actively seeks out student feedback and changes course content and design throughout the year to make it suit the learning needs of the students she teachers.

Students said: "She is friendly and relaxed with students, so people do not hesitate asking for help when needed. We feel respect for her because that is how she always treats us."

"She knows how to involve everyone in the class - she actively makes sure that everyone gets an opportunity to speak, and no-one is left behind."
 

 

 
 

Stefano Cascino, Accounting  

From his very first lecture of the year, Stefano aimed to instil in his students a belief that his passion was to see them gain an understanding of the topics that could be connected to what is happening in society.

Students said: "Dr Cascino has an exceptional ability to engage with the class and pose questions that test and strengthen our understanding."

"Dr Cascino engages with the class and continually questions students like an interviewer. And all this happens in a single one hour class. It's incredibly exciting!"
 

 

 
 

Marco Pinfari, Government and International Relations

With a glowing nomination, Marco's time and energy for teaching go beyond the seminar - offering extensive feedback on submitted work and actively prompting students to read additional materials relevant to their learning style and interests.

Students said: "Marco has been the best seminar teacher I have ever had."

"Teachers like him are exactly the ones we were looking for when choosing to study at LSE."

"He has the skill to really engage us in the seminar's topic - prompting us to think about how the issues are relevant within wider society."
 

 

 
 

Alex Voorhoeve, Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method

Alex is an outstanding teacher who inspires and excites students, who feel challenged, stretched and truly engaged when he teaches.

Students said: "Alex's teaching forced me to challenge views that I have taken for granted thus pushing me to think critically, and to get out of my comfort zone."

"Alex's moral philosophy classes taught us to think from the heart: decisions are important to make, but more important than that is to place people, who are supposed to be the beneficiaries of public policies, at the centre of such policymaking processes."

"No exaggeration when I say that Alex is a great teacher!"

 
 
     

• Departmental class teacher awards

 
   
 
     

These awards recognise the special contribution made by graduate teaching assistants, teaching fellows and guest teachers to LSE's academic departments. The winners were nominated by the departments themselves as a result of exceptional feedback from students, lecturers and other department members. The 2012 winners, from the departments which have nominated so far, are:

  • Ali Dezyanian, Accounting

  • Silvia Jordan, Accounting

  • Insa Koch, Anthropology

  • Nicolas Martin, Anthropology

  • Andrew Sanchez, Anthropology

  • Peter Sims, Economic History

  • Magda Zurkowska, Economics

  • Jonathan de Quidt, Economics

  • Abhimanyu Gupta, Economics

  • Tim Oliver, Finance

  • Cristina Scherrer, Finance

  • Hatty Oliver, Gender Institute

  • Maria Carvalho, Geography and Environment

  • Feyzi Akkoyunlu, Government

  • Kate Alexander, Government

  • Mogens Hobolth, Government

  • Tim Vlandas, Government

  • Young Cho, International Development

  • Bryan Gibson, International History (Martin Abel Gonzalez Prize: 1st place)

  • Daniel Falkiner, International Relations

  • Roberto Orsi, International Relations

  • Luca Tardelli, International Relations

  • Rafael Peñas Cruz, Language Centre

  • Panos Kapotas, Law

  • Sanjivi Krishnan, Law

  • Desmond Fitzgerald, LSE100

  • Henry Radice, LSE100

  • Jessica Templeton, LSE100

  • Kyle Ingram, Management (EROB)

  • Savita Bailur, Management (ISIG)

  • Dimitrios Karamanis, Management (MSG)

  • Ahmad Abu-Khazneh, Mathematics

  • Ioannis Kouletsis, Mathematics

  • Georgios Zouros, Mathematics

  • Sarah Broughton-Micova, Media and Communications

  • Monica Gerber, Methodology Institute

  • Christopher Blunt, Philosophy

  • Christopher Tennant, Social Psychology

  • Jesse Potter, Sociology

  • Mai Hafez, Statistics

 

 
   

And the runners up are...

  • John Barrdear, Economics

  • Thomas Carr, Economics

  • Igor Cesarec,Economics

  • Katarzyna Grabowska, Economics

  • Fadi Hassan, Economics

  • Felix Koenig, Economics

  • Alexander Lembcke, Economics

  • Luis Martinez, Economics

  • Revi Panidha, Economics

  • Mazhar Waseem, Economics

  • Daniel Kilburn, Geography and Environment

  • Thomas Smith, Geography and Environment

  • Christopher Brennan (Martin Abel Gonzalez Prize: joint 2nd place), International History

  • Daniel Strieff (Martin Abel Gonzalez Prize: joint 2nd place), International History

  • Vlad Glăveanu, LSE100

  • Victoria Redclift, LSE100

  • Daiana Beitler, Sociology

  • Kristina Fuentes, Sociology

  • Peter Manning, Sociology

 
 
     

• 60 second interview

 
   
     
   

 

 

• with...Professor Paul Kelly

I am professor of political theory, head of the Department of Government and, in August, I will take over from Janet Hartley as pro-director for teaching and learning. I studied Philosophy at the University of York and did my PhD at LSE and UCL in the mid 1980s. I have been a visiting research fellow at the University of Chicago and taught at the University of Wales, Swansea, before returning to LSE in 1995. I have taught at all levels at LSE, including supervising 13 PhDs to completion as well as lecturing to one of the large introductory first year courses in the Government Department and teaching on the International Programme and the LSE Summer School.

What advice would you give to a new academic?

Take teaching seriously. Our best students are amongst the very best anywhere and engagement with them can be one of the most rewarding experiences of an academic career. Prepare well before a class or lecture. If you are lecturing always bring water and a cough sweet, and make sure you understand the AV system!

What do you think makes for a good teacher?

You need to be passionate about your subject and want to communicate it to others. Anyone who is passionate about their research and subject area should be able to learn to be a competent teacher, but more importantly they should want to be an academic teacher. If you are not passionate about your subject and communicating it to bright young people then there are probably easier ways of making a living. The best teachers I ever had were often not particularly showy or dynamic but they conveyed a seriousness about what went on in the classroom that was palpable and memorable – one even chain smoked throughout one particular seminar, but that would not be allowed anymore.

What was the best kind of feedback you ever had as a student?

Positive. I also benefited from being taught in very small classes (two to five) in which feedback and teaching were integrated. Written comments were in long hand and not always easy to read, but oral and thoughtful feedback was given in class as one went along.

What's the best place to study at LSE?

I find silence distracting so quite like the library as I find the background noise aids concentration, but I appreciate that not everyone feels that way. I cannot understand how students can study in the cafeteria around the School or in Starbucks but that might be an ‘age-thing’.

Where do you do your best thinking?

In or just after a successful MSc class. When teaching goes well on a topic on which I am writing then the experience is often far more valuable than presenting at an academic conference. That said, I have never tried thinking whilst living in a villa over-looking the Aegean, but then I have never tried thinking on the top of a mountain or in the heart of a jungle. I will stick with MSc seminar for my proper answer.

 
 
     

- LSE Teaching Day

 
  ...  
 
 

Many of the winners of the teaching prizes received their awards at a special celebration after Teaching Day on 22 May

    
 
     

• Notices

 
   
 
   

• Events for new academics and GTAs

LSE's Teaching and Learning Centre will be running its New Academic Induction Programme and Being a GTA at LSE from the start of the 2012-13 academic year.

All academics new to teaching and/or LSE and all prospective GTAs are encouraged to attend. More information can be found via the links or call 020 7955 6624.

 
   

• Publications for teachers and students

Download notes of guidance on various aspects of feedback, access online handbooks for departmental tutors, academic advisers and GTAs, and see our publications for students ... all at LSE Teaching and Learning Centre Publications

 
 
   
     

 

For more on teaching and learning at LSE...

...contact the Teaching and Learning Centre on 020 7955 6624, email tls@lse.ac.uk or visit the website at lse.ac.uk/tlc