Applying for a teaching award next year? Start collecting your evidence this semester.

Apple in front of a 2013 calendar

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Posted by: Kym Fraser, L&T Group, Design and Social Context College, RMIT.

People apply for teaching awards for a range of reasons, including recognition for their teaching and academic promotions application evidence. Writing an application usually takes a bit of thought, time and effort. However, there are benefits to doing so. The process of writing an application provides an opportunity to reflect on your teaching and reassess what you are doing, the work that goes into your application also may be of use in a promotions application, and of course your teaching award application may be successful!

Successful applications for teaching awards usually tell a compelling story and are backed up with substantial and varied evidence. While you may be able to write an application in a weekend, the evidence is usually collected over several semesters or years. It’s useful to think in advance about the story that you are going to tell through your application so that you can make sure that you collect evidence that will support your story.

The story

Who you are and what you are trying to achieve with your students needs to come through in the first page of your application. You need to tell the reader a story that sets the context and scene. Keep in mind that the person assessing your application may not know anything about your discipline, your students or even your institution if the application is for a national award. You will need to provide a fair amount of contextual data within the first page (or less depending on the page limit for the application).

An individual’s story can be told in different ways. Often it is framed in terms of a problem. Below are two quite different examples from academics who have successfully applied for an ALTC (now OLT) Teaching Citation (names have been changed).

Violet teaches ‘voice’ to students at a small university. Her story was framed in terms of comparing her teaching with her peers who teach at major metropolitan universities in a conservatorium of music. Her peers teach up to six students in their classes and all of their students have completed voice exams up to level 6. Violet teaches up to 25 students in her classes, many of whom have never taken a voice class let alone completed an exam. Violet’s application shows how she chose a very different teaching approach from the one that she experienced as a student. The approach chosen was based upon the particular needs of her very different group of students.

Ben took over the teaching of a core economics subject for first-year business students. Most of his students would study economics for only the first year and then major in a different discipline (management, marketing etc). Ben found that his students didn’t attend classes and the failure rate for the subject was very high in the years leading up to when he took over the subject. Ben taught the subject as it had been taught and collected attendance and pass rate data. He then changed the curriculum, significantly improving both class attendance and the pass rate. Ben’s application tells the story of the transformation of the student experience through a complete update of the curriculum and assessment process.

You need to tell your own story and help the assessor to understand your particular context, students and what you are trying to achieve with them.

Evidence

It’s likely that you will have to include student evaluation data for which you won’t have a lot of space, so you may need to summarise it in a way that makes sense. For example, if you were making the case that you improved the curriculum incrementally over time, you could use a table showing improvement for specific questions on end of semester student evaluations (Table 1). Or if you were showing that the curriculum you developed fosters certain learning outcomes for students, you may use a table to show excellent student evaluations in the unit over time (Table 2). You may also use student comments judiciously throughout the application to good effect; but it is advisable not to use more than three or four.

Table 1. First year student evaluations in NUR107 over 3 years

Questions 2010 2011 2012
The lecturer encouraged students in this unit to reflect on their personal learning 3.27 4.39 4.7
My experience in this unit has encouraged me to accept greater responsibility for my own learning 3.54 4.24 4.6

Table 2. Third year student evaluations in ED322

Questions 2010 2011 2012
The content of this unit contributed constructively to my learning of the subject 4.89 4.78 4.92
My experience in this unit has increased my confidence in my ability to teach science 4.76 4.84 4.72

Data- necessary but not sufficient

Your student evaluation data will need to be supported by other evidence. The evidence that you collect and use in your application will depend upon your story and what achievements you are trying to show.  It is likely that you will also be asked to demonstrate peer recognition of your teaching. Your evidence might include things like:

  • student results from national competitions
  • learning and teaching grants and publications and citations of these publications
  • awards from your profession’s national or state body
  • testimonials from community groups/companies/schools/hospitals et cetera, at which your students have completed their practicum or volunteered
  • testimonials about the influence of your teaching from students who have gone on to be successful in their field
  • testimonials from colleagues from your discipline or university who have adopted some of your teaching ideas/approaches.

You might also include that you are:

  • your School’s representative on the Faculty/University teaching and learning committee
  • a teaching and learning award assessment panel member
  • a reviewer for an L&T journal
  • an editor for an L&T journal
  • a member of a state or national discipline committee.

You should also mention instances where you have:

  • reviewed another university’s program
  • run a workshop on an aspect of your teaching for your school/department/faculty/university
  • given a keynote address at a teaching and learning conference
  • examined honours/masters/Ph.D theses.

As you can see, applying for a teaching award requires you to thoughtfully collect relevant evidence over a period of time. Your teaching and learning deputy head of school or your academic development advisor will be able to help you as you begin to plan for your teaching application.

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