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2013 Teaching Awards

This year's awards were presented at the end of LSE's Teaching Symposium, a day of discussion and celebration of teaching practice at LSE.

 

Duncan McKenna, outgoing LSESU Education Officer, believes that great teachers captivate students so learning becomes a labour of love.

 

Professor Paul Kelly, Pro-Director for Teaching and Learning, congratulates the winners of this year's awards.

 
             
         
             
  1 July 2013  

Major Review Award winners

 
   
 
     

This year's prize winners gave interviews to the Teaching and Learning Centre from which extracts appear below. Full length versions of the interviews can be found here.
 

 
   

Shakuntala Banaji, Department of Media and Communications

"Teaching is probably the thing I enjoy most about my working life. I like preparing - the challenge of thinking about a new topic and putting it together in a coherent framework for students; I love writing and delivering lectures; I really enjoy seminar teaching; and I love interacting with students on a daily basis ...

"... The kind of classroom atmosphere I like to create is one where everyone feels unthreatened and unafraid - in other words comfortable emotionally, socially and culturally - and this is not always an easy thing to achieve in a place where there are people from very different educational, social and cultural backgrounds. But I also feel that a good classroom atmosphere is one where people feel uncomfortable intellectually, so that everyone, including students who've come from elite institutions, are challenged in some very deep intellectual way. Perhaps even challenged in terms of how they view themselves."
 

 
   

Jacco Bomhoff, Department of Law

"I like students to be clear about the fact that they're learning. Sometimes that means letting them know you're also a learner, so I aim for a self-deprecating, quite open approach when I'm teaching - one that shows I've thought about what I'm doing, but isn't inflexible ...

"... The best piece of advice I ever received about teaching, from a departmental colleague, was to make sure that the students who come in thinking they know very little should leave realising they knew more than they thought, and that those who come in thinking they know a lot should leave thinking that the world's a bit more complicated than they imagined."
 

 
   

Jo Braithwaite, Department of Law

"Two weeks after I started, Lehman Brothers collapsed, so there was a rather dramatic backdrop to my first year teaching financial law. The continuing fallout from the crisis has meant that students arrive here very well informed about the topics we cover on the courses and about the controversies in this area of the law, but it also means that we have to think carefully about how to design our teaching around such fast moving subject matter ...

"... I use Moodle in the usual ways - to post slides and e-packs - but I've also used it to create interactive reading lists that groups of students construct collaboratively. I also provide materials online to facilitate students' peer review of each other's essays and sharing of materials prepared for group presentations ... I am careful, though, not to overload students with too much, either in terms of technology or reading lists. I remember thinking how hard everyone in the cinema was concentrating when I went to watch the silent film The Artist, and I realised that leaving something out of your presentation can be really effective too (though I haven't tried a silent lecture yet). For example, when teaching securitisation, I don't usually provide a diagram, though it would be an obvious teaching aid in the case of those complicated transactions. Instead, we discuss the stages of the process together and students each create their own diagram, which we check and discuss together. I'm pretty sure that helps the students think about the process more effectively and take notes in a way that works for them individually."
 

 
    Greg Fischer, Department of Economics

"While I think there are a lot of really valuable new technologies in education, my classes are pretty low tech. One of the greatest opportunities students have at LSE is for direct intellectual engagement with faculty and their peers. I don’t want to get in the way of that. One low tech solution that I find very helpful is to end every class with a short 'quiz'. I ask students what, if anything, they found confusing? What, if anything, was particularly interesting? And how was the pace? I’ve tried doing this online, but find the immediacy and near 100% response rate that comes from doing this on scraps of paper at the end of class to be the best way to see how things are going ...

"... I hope that every year a few of my students learn something that changes the way they think about the world. Maybe this gives them the tools to make a difference in areas that matter to them. I never see the counterfactual, so I don’t know if this is actually happening. Some of my students seem to think that it is, and I find that very gratifying. As for what it takes to achieve this, I really don’t know, but some combination of hard work and empathy is probably a pretty good start."
 

 
     

Pablo Ibáñez Colomo, Department of Law

"I'm happy when I see students getting on top of the subjects and engaged with the topics. The LLB students I taught this year were fantastic - they were asking questions that even some judges fail to grasp fully ...

"... If I had a piece of advice to offer new teachers, especially in law, it would be to take up every opportunity to convey the logic of the whole course to students. That way they are reminded of the inter-connectedness of the various modules and they see the fundamentals threaded through the course."
 

 
   

Heather Jones, Department of International History

"One of the things I like most is when the students start a discussion themselves. As a teacher, your job is to step back from that moment and to allow them to become historians themselves, to ask questions of the material and to debate and discuss them in a peer learning context ...

"... In terms of technologies, it can be quite difficult to get the balance right. I try to use a blend of the internet and other modern technologies - uploading materials from the Carnegie Investigation to Moodle, for instance, when I'm teaching the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913 - with older traditional skills that are also very important but are starting to be lost. For instance, I really want students to learn how to take notes properly, and they need to know how to listen and hear what's being said. That's the basis of being able to analyse and respond critically."
 

 
   

Paul Keenan, Department of International History

"I'm very fortunate in the way my teaching and research intersect, because one of the second year courses I teach - HY221 on 18th century Russia, which provides an overview of the important transition period between early modern and modern Russia - is directly related to my research topic. As a result of my research, I've gradually modified the course to incorporate more cultural and social elements because, while many of the students will have done Russia at A level, they won't know a lot about Russia as a society or a culture. Learning about these aspects is important if they go on to study the Soviet Union in their third year, as they'll then have a background in what Orthodoxy is, what the condition of the average Russian peasant is, what Russian-ness is, as opposed to a European identity ...

"... If I had to give one piece of advice for new teachers it would be to take teaching seriously. All too often in our careers there will be a lot of emphasis placed on research excellence, the amount that we publish and the number of conference papers that we give. While undoubtedly all of that counts for a great deal, I think it's increasingly the case that teaching is a very important reflection on us as scholars and as a member of a department and an institution."
 

 
    Sumi Madhok, Gender Institute

"What I most enjoy about my time in the classroom is when students begin to weave various ideas, concepts and texts that they are studying into interesting patterns; interpreting these in ways that enable them not only to make sense of the way we are in the world but also to engage these in an intellectually alive, committed and politically engaged manner. I can't help but marvel every time this intellectual connection happens ...

"... I have to admit that I'm not particularly persuaded (yet!) of the wonders of online or social media based learning or activity. Having said that, however, for my 'Gender, Development, Postcolonialism' course I set up a community journal to which students posted interesting material and articles that related to the discussions we'd been having in class, and that was envisaged very much as a space for us to engage in collective thinking and to foster the idea that thinking happens not just in the classroom."
 

 
    Kai Moller, Department of Law

"One of the great things about teaching at LSE is that all my courses here are related to and directly or indirectly relevant for my research. This is fantastic for me because the students often come up with important ideas, including brutal criticism! I am convinced it's also good for the students because they really enjoy being taught topics that the teacher cares about ...

"... Following on from that, my advice to a new teacher would be that, if you have a choice between teaching a topic that is conventionally expected to be a part of the course and a topic that you are already thinking and writing about, choose the latter, even if it does not seem to fit as well - the students will sense your enthusiasm and will enjoy the class even more."
 

 
    Sadie Wearing, Gender Institute

"Teaching is why I wanted to be an academic. Enabling students to think critically and differently about the world is a privilege and uniquely satisfying. Specifically, I enjoy working with a seminar group of students over time and seeing them progress through material they initially find really challenging to a point where they have some confidence that they are asking the right questions and that they can take what they've learned and run with it in their own research ...

"... Ideally there is a symbiotic relationship between teaching and research. I've been working on cultural representations of ageing and it's been really interesting to try to incorporate some of the research into teaching. I've been surprised at some of the responses, and they have fed into my analysis and thinking through of the material. Teaching also forces you to confront the wider questions and context of that detailed problem that you've been pulling your hair out over your computer for weeks - if you're giving a lecture you're forced to have to explain why it matters to ask that question in the first place. It's a bit of a nonsense to separate teaching and research in my view, since we all have to continually perform 'research' in order to teach well and research interests inform the design and delivery of specialist courses."
 

 
    Lea Ypi, Department of Government

"One thing I learned early on - as a result of a mid-term evaluation I always do - is that students like to know what's expected of them in classes. So as well as sending outlines of topics on Moodle a couple of days before the class, I tell them the kinds of things we're going to be talking about and highlight the important points in the readings. That creates a good atmosphere, as they all know what to expect. I have classes at nine in the morning, so a good atmosphere is important! I've also shown films in evening seminars - most recently Rosa Luxemburg, for the Marx and Marxism course, which really helped them tackle what are quite difficult subjects ..."

"... My one piece of advice to a new teacher? I would say enjoy teaching. When you enjoy teaching, when you enjoy class atmosphere, getting to know the students, everything becomes easier ... I find that teaching is where our research actually has the most impact, in the sense that, if you think about research and publications, you're often lucky if 20 or 30 people read an article you've written, but every year we have the chance to speak to 30 young people who will become successful and who will take something from what you're teaching them. I think if you approach it in the right spirit it can be a really great experience."
 

 
    Winners of LSE's teaching prizes in conversation

Shakuntala Banaji, Heather Jones, Paul Keenan and Lea Ypi are featured in a new film, Winners of LSE's teaching prizes in conversation, which was produced by the Teaching and Learning Centre and the Centre for Learning Technology and which can be viewed online here.

 
 
     

Direct view

 
   
 
   

Professor Paul Kelly, Pro-Director for Teaching and Learning

Every year, LSE rewards and recognises teaching through three awards: Major Review Awards, given to faculty who have made significant contributions to teaching at the School; LSESU Teaching Awards, led by students, who nominate the teachers they have found particularly inspiring; and Class Teacher Awards, given to graduate teaching assistants, teaching fellows and guest teachers in recognition of their particular contribution to teaching at LSE.

It was a great pleasure to have been able to congratulate personally the winners of these awards at a celebration held at the end of LSE's Teaching Symposium last month. The prizes went to a very broad range of teaching staff from all departments and at all levels. While their teaching styles and techniques may differ, what they share is a commitment to the very best learning experiences possible for our students and the very best teaching experiences for themselves.

As the School’s Strategic Review gathers pace and Teaching Task Force Two is developed to respond to it, it is reassuring to know that we have such a strong foundation from which to build continued excellence in our teaching and learning. Congratulations to all of this year’s winners.

 
 
     

LSESU Teaching Award winners

 
   
 
     

Every year the LSE Students' Union invites students to nominate the teachers who have most inspired them. The quality and breadth of this year's applications was extremely high. Below are some comments received from students about each of the five winners.
 

 
   

Christopher Blunt, Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method

"Chris is so genuinely excited by the subject, which inspires us to learn as much as possible. He also creates opportunities for us to attend additional relevant lectures and provides readings and videos that are interesting and a pleasure to watch. His knowledge of the subject is incredible - he is a kind of genius."

"Chris's teaching style is very open and approachable. It is easy, as a first year, to be put off attending office hours when the topics are difficult and the teacher is intimidating, but Chris made sure we were all comfortable and encouraged to attend office hours and ask questions."
 

 
   

Ernestina Coast, Department of Social Policy

"In short, Ernestina is amazing. I can honestly say that she has been one of the most influential persons in my life. She is a prime example that it is a myth that you can only be either an excellent researcher or a great teacher. She is both."

"My PhD experience would have been a shadow of what it has been had it not been for Ernestina. She has always provided a supportive yet critical stance on my work, for which I am so grateful. Her input is genuinely one of the best parts about being a student at LSE."
 

 
   

Kostas Kardaras, Department of Statistics

"In the classroom, his passion for teaching is almost palpable. Kostas exemplifies the LSE motto: if you truly want to 'know the causes of things', you can't limit yourself to the classroom, especially for a course like Stochastic Processes, in which the slightest connection you can make to the non-mathematical world can go a long way to improve your understanding."

"In addition to delivering excellent lectures, he provided us with weekly exercises to solve in order to see how the material we had learnt was applied. On his Moodle page where he set out the weekly exercises, he always provided a link of a classical song whose title rhymed with the particular exercise set. For example, one particular song I really enjoyed was with the exercise set five, to which he provided a link to the song 'Mambo Number Five'. The purpose for this was to help us relax while solving the exercises and this actually helped."
 

 
   

 

  Robin Mills, Department of International History

"Robin provides very detailed feedback on every piece of work submitted to him and is happy to mark anything his students do. A feedback session with Robin usually lasts longer than half an hour, something I have not had with any other LSE teacher as I approach the end of my final year. He has also offered advice on subjects not related to the course he teaches. He was more than happy to provide me with tips on how to write a good dissertation even though I am based in a different department to him."

"Robin has organised trips for us this term. For example, he arranged for a tour of the National Gallery to help us with our understanding of enlightenment art. He also took it upon himself to give us an introduction to Art History, a subject not required for the course but something we all find interesting."
 

 
    Lijing Shi, Language Centre

"The curriculum couldn't have got more global, as we were every day engaging with, and trying to understand, a culture so different to the one we were brought up in. Many of the topics were about 'cultural differences', and Lijing made use of the fact that all of us in the class were from different countries, so we each gave our own unique perspective on a certain issue. This is a time in which I really feel I have benefited from the cosmopolitan nature of LSE. Under a different, less bubbly teacher, I doubt that these cultural exchanges would have been felt with quite the same force."

"This is the essence of Lijing's skill at teaching - the ability to drive hard for good results while also treating us like equals, and showing genuine interest in our lives, and an obvious desire for us to succeed."

 
 
     

Class Teacher Awards

 
   
 
     

These awards recognise the special contribution made by graduate teaching assistants, teaching fellows and guest teachers to LSE's academic departments.  

  • Department of Accounting: Jonathan Ashong-Lamptey and Imran Malik

  • Department of Anthropology: Aude Michelet and Matt Wilde

  • Department of Economic History: Michael Aldous and Steven Ivings

  • Department of Economics: Alex Clymo, Malvina Marchese and Munir Squires

  • European Institute: Abel Bojar

  • Gender Institute: Alessandro Castellini

  • Department of Geography and Environment: Daniel Kilburn, Zahrah Nesbitt-Ahmed and Antoine Paccoud

  • Department of Government: Simone Datzberger,
    Michael Farquhar, Eva Heims and Laura Robbins-Wright

  • Department of International Development: Sarah-Jane Cooper-Knock and Hazel Gray

  • Department of International History (Martin Abel Gonzalez Prize): Robin Mills

  • Department of International Relations: Filippo Dionigi, Maria Fotou and Frederick Laker

  • Language Centre: Martine Drozdz

  • Department of Law: Zelia Gallo, James Irving and Federico Picinali

  • LSE100: Aurelie Basha-i-Novosejt, Alice Evans and Eric Golson

  • Department of Management: Rashpal Dhensa-Kahlon, Meena Kotecha and Maha Shaikh

  • Department of Mathematics: Sally Barton, Thomas Lidbetter and Tony Whelan

  • Department of Media and Communications: Keren Darmon

  • Department of Methodology: Brenda Van Coppenolle and Ben Wilson

  • Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method: Susanne Burri and Fernando Morett

  • Department of Social Policy: Jack Cunliffe

  • Institute of Social Psychology: Rochelle Burgess, Viviane Schwager and Ceren Yalcin

  • Department of Sociology: Amanda Conroy and Isla Masson

  • Department of Statistics: Ed Wheatcroft

 
   

And the runners up are...

  • Department of Economics: Peter Alessandra, Thomas Carr, Mustafa Can Celiktemur, Bansri Dhokia, Katarzyna Krajniewska Grabowska, Abhimanyu Gupta, Reka Juhasz, Andrea Lanteri, Luis Martinez, and Jingyuan Wei

  • Department of International History (Martin Abel Gonzalez Prize, joint second places): Sajjansinh Gohel and Andrea Mason

  • LSE100: Kathryn Fisher and Juljan Krause

  • Department of Sociology: Roxana Bratu, Kristina Fuentes and Richard Seymour

 
 
     

60 second interview

 
   
     
   

 

 

with ... Duncan McKenna, outgoing LSESU Education Officer and convenor of this year's LSESU Teaching Awards

What do you think makes for a good teacher?

Great teaching is a combination of inspiration, intellectual guidance and the ability to instil in students a greater confidence in themselves. I think a good teacher is someone who is passionate about what they are teaching, engages with their students both personally and educationally, and teaches you without you even realising that it's happening. Ultimately, it's about captivating students so that they want to learn - then learning becomes a labour of love, rather than feeling like work.

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

I mainly took essay subjects and there were some brilliant feedback practices in the Philosophy department; it was particularly useful when teachers used 'track changes' to add comments to my essays, highlighting areas which were worth attention (for better or for worse!) and then summarised what was good, bad and what needed improvement in bullet points at the bottom of the essay. One teacher even gave one-on-one Skype feedback sessions - that was incredible!

What's the best place to study at LSE?

I found the group study rooms to be really useful (particularly those in the NAB). If you have a few people in there who are all revising the same field, you can work as quietly as you want, but if something warrants discussion then you've got the freedom to debate it without imposing on others. I always find discussion the best way to develop an idea, and it makes revision a more participatory, intellectual activity, rather than a fact-learning grind, as it sometimes can be.

Where do you do your best thinking?

Almost exclusively when lying in bed, trying and failing to sleep. Or in hammocks - for some reason they're a brilliant place to think.

What advice would you give to the incoming LSESU Education Officer?

Be realistic with your goals. Focusing on a narrow group of goals means you're more likely to achieve them. It's easy to get over enthusiastic and try to do too much because the role offers such amazing scope for discussions and opportunities, but the end game is to change the educational experience at LSE for the better and that's more effectively achieved with focus and determination. And have fun! It's a terrific job.

 
 
     

LSE Teaching Symposium

 
   
 
 

Many thanks to all those who attended and participated in this year's Teaching Symposium. For those who couldn't make it, Professor Craig Calhoun's speech, photographs and other materials from the event are available at LSE Teaching Symposium 2013.

    
 
     

LSE teaching blog

 
   
 
   

Those interested in finding out more about teaching and learning at LSE and beyond can subscribe to the LSE teaching blog.

The blog, launched in October, features weekly articles and resources on teaching practice as well as news about funding opportunities and academic development events.

 
 
   
       

For more about teaching and learning at LSE ...

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