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WATE Faculty Awards Criteria

About the criteria

Teaching excellence is difficult to define – it looks different for different people at different times. Every attempt to define excellence in absolute terms will to some extent flatten it and we risk losing the important dimensions that give excellence meaning.

Setting teaching within its unique context, however, makes it possible to articulate excellence – it means we can be precise when we assess the effectiveness of teaching against its aims: what are the needs of these particular students, learning this thing, in this setting, for these reasons? In other words, acknowledging that all teaching is contextual – and understanding that context - is essential when recognising and rewarding teaching excellence. It helps to make our awards fair, and for the judges to come to decisions that we can trust.

Excellent teaching creates the conditions within which all students are supported and empowered to succeed and thrive. It cultivates inclusive learning environments within which students can experience and benefit from diversity. Embracing diversity expands transforms how students learn, what they learn, and who they learn with.

Criterion 1: excellence in impact on student learning specific to context.

Teaching is wholly adapted to its context. This might include:

  • the nature of the students and their needs as learners;
  • specific disciplinary/interdisciplinary/professional/industrial/international contexts;
  • learning contexts (online, on campus, blended, lab-based, work-based etc);
  • context of learning activities i.e alignment of aims, activities and assessment;

To achieve teaching excellence against this criterion we might expect to see evidence of:

  • the wider context - prepares graduates to meet 21st century challenges.
  • students being centred in teaching, learning and assessment;
  • clear communication: students understand what they need to do and why they are doing it;
  • ongoing dialogue and evaluation: student feedback is sought, listened to, and acted upon;
  • content is relevant and up-to-date. In some disciplines this might relate to material with real-world application, the development of practical skills, and/or collaboration on actual research projects. In other disciplines the focus may be place upon critical thinking, problem-solving, and/or ethical awareness.

Criterion 2: excellence in supporting the academic, social, cultural, emotional, and ethical aspects of learning.

Excellent teaching creates a holistic learning experience, which supports the social, cultural, emotional, and ethical aspects of learning as well as students' academic needs. This might include:

  • a commitment to student wellbeing;
  • creating a learning environment within which all students can succeed and thrive;
  • developing disciplinary identity and creating a sense of disciplinary, professional or institutional belonging in ways which are inclusive;
  • creating active and inclusive, social and collaborative learning opportunities;
  • making connections between students' lives, experiences, and their academic studies;
  • influencing and supporting colleagues to work towards these goals.

To achieve teaching excellence against this criterion we might expect to see evidence of:

  • diversity represented within the curriculum (reading lists, guest speakers, global perspectives and examples);
  • critical engagement with how knowledge is created and what counts as knowledge within the academy;
  • opportunities for intercultural learning;
  • engagement with specific or minoritised student groups;
  • outreach and widening participation activities.

Criterion 3: excellence in engaging students as partners in teaching, learning and assessment.

Excellent teaching gives students agency and creates a sense of ownership. Students are valued as active members of a learning community and as contributors to disciplinary, departmental and university culture. This might include:

  • opportunities for students to create knowledge and undertake research;
  • active student learning through enquiry (e.g. problem-based learning, case-based learning);
  • co-creation of the curriculum;
  • partnership in assessment, i.e. assessment is something that students do and not something that is done to them;
  • formative assessment and feedback are used to enhance learning and performance.

To achieve teaching excellence against this criterion we might expect to see evidence of:

  • opportunities for students to share their experiences of the module/programme;
  • students as partners or co-creators in curriculum design;
  • moving beyond 'you said, we did' responses to student feedback and evaluation;
  • undergraduate student research;
  • authentic and meaningful assessment which supports students to do their best work.