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WATE PGR 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.

Context includes the nature of each teachers role and responsibilities within higher education. Postgraduates who teach make an enormous contribution to student learning which is hugely valued by students and by colleagues. The qualities of teaching excellence are equally identifiable in their work as they are within the work of more experienced peers. For this reason the criteria remain the same as for the Faculty Awards. However, as early career colleagues may not have the same autonomy or sphere of impact in design and delivery, we have refocused the ways in which these criteria may be evidenced.

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);
  • facilitation and choice of activities and approaches to support learning.

To achieve teaching excellence against this criterion evidence could include:

  • 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 with students that is 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.
  • use of own, current research and student experience to enhance students' understanding in their discipline.

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 by drawing upon their own academic experiences and being an advocate for the discipline in ways which are inclusive;
  • creating active and inclusive, social and collaborative learning opportunities;
  • making connections between students' lives, experiences, and their academic studies.

To achieve teaching excellence against this criterion evidence could include:

  • diversity being recognised and valued in teaching, learning and assessment (in teaching content and in teaching interactions);
  • critical engagement with how knowledge is created and what counts as knowledge within the academy;
  • taking opportunities to promote intercultural learning;
  • engagement with specific or minoritised student groups;
  • engagement in outreach and widening participation activities.
  • actively supporting student wellbeing in their own teaching and/or within the department.

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 in learning contexts;
  • active student learning through enquiry (e.g. problem-based learning, case-based learning);
  • co-creation of the curriculum with students, or a commitment to being co-creators themselves within the curricula in which they teach;
  • helping students to understand assessment tasks to promote assessment as an activity that students do and not something that is done to them;
  • ongoing formative assessment and feedback are used to enhance and progress student learning and performance.

To achieve teaching excellence against this criterion evidence could include:

  • opportunities for students to share their experiences of the module/programme;
  • working with students as partners or co-creators in the curriculum;
  • acting on student feedback and/or advocating for students by sharing their feedback with peers and/or more senior colleagues with a view to improve the student experience.