Professor Paul White reflects on his Senate Award for Teaching Excellence

Professor Paul White, Deputy Vice-Chancellor has recently been awarded a University Senate Award for Sustained Excellence in Teaching. The award is given to academics who have demonstrated continued excellence and inspiration in teaching and or learner support.

‘I was absolutely delighted when I found that I had been entered by departmental colleagues for a Senate Award for Teaching Excellence, and that the University panel, chaired by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Learning and Teaching, had selected me to win such an accolade.  I am conscious of the fact that over the last few years, culminating in my present role as Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I have done a reduced teaching load in the Department.

But over the years I have taught at all levels, from 1st year to PhD training programmes, and I am proud of my record of teaching a final year option class in every session since I arrived in Sheffield in the mid 1970s, and of leading 28 overseas field classes – 3 in Normandy in France, 12 in Paris and 13 in Berlin.

A few academics go on to change the world through their research and their discoveries.  But for most, and I am no exception, the papers and books we published decades ago become shelf ware, past their consultation date.  In contrast, if we stimulate students into thinking more deeply about their disciplines, or open their minds to new ways of thinking, we have an effect that can last their lifetime.

In my teaching I have always been keen to keep my material as up to date as possible, which is easy since I am introducing students to contemporary issues across Europe.   But I am also keen that they should explore different ways of learning and of presenting material – through role plays, wikis, policy papers and other means.  The payback for me comes when I see the incredible development that individual students can go through in the few short weeks of a semester – creating new knowledge for themselves as well as developing new skills in doing so and in showing what they have learned.

And what better department to be doing these things in than Geography, where we are dealing with contemporary global issues, where we use a wide variety of teaching methods, and where we approach education with a truly collaborative and collegial approach’.



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