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WATE 2017 winner: Elizabeth Jones (Economics)

Why did you start teaching? What (or who) inspired you?

I began teaching in 2007, as part of my PhD and was inspired by Professor Alison Wride, who taught me and became my mentor at Exeter University.

What pearls of wisdom have you been given over the years that have helped you with your teaching?

Don’t pretend that you know everything. Be honest with the students – if they ask you a question and you don’t know the answer to it, then don’t try to blag your way through it, as chances are, you’ll get caught out! Tell them that it’s a great question – ask if other students have any thoughts and say that you’ll go away and find the answer and that they might want to research it too!

Try to make your lectures as interactive as possible – it keeps everyone more interested. Ask questions and play games.

Is there anything you wish someone had told you when you started out?

Don’t be worried if some students offer harsh criticism. It’s impossible to deliver a lecture that everyone thinks is amazing – students are diverse and like different things. Don’t take things personally.

If you were mentoring a first-time teacher, what three bits of advice would you give?

  1. Know your material – don’t use a script, as your best lecture will be more spontaneous. Have slides or note for yourself that give you prompts – everything else will just flow.
  2. An interactive lecture is more enjoyable for everyone – ask questions; use Audience Response Systems; play games; use case studies etc.
  3. Use handouts that students can add to throughout the lecture. It will keep them focused during the lecture and will also help you in your teaching to ensure you include the important bits.

What advice/top tips would you give to more experienced teachers?

It can be very easy to fall into a pattern of lecturing where you just stand in front of the students and talk for 50 minutes. Try to make your lectures more interactive and innovative. Students like case studies and applications so they can see the relevance of what they are studying. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new methods of teaching and different types of delivery.

What new technologies are you currently using to enhance your teaching? What are your top tips for using them?

I use Audience Response systems quite a bit and interactive online questions. I use interactive discussion forums and online blogs, as well as electronic class experiments.

What new or future teaching innovations are you looking forward to?

I’m thinking about using technologies that enable students to text in with queries, but am wary of this because of the huge numbers in my lectures.

What does winning a WATE award mean to you?

I was really pleased to have been nominated for a teaching award and am delighted that I have been successful in winning one of the WATE prizes. Teaching is what I love to do and so it’s fantastic to have been recognised for my contribution and impact in this area, particularly given my nomination by a Professor in another Department.

These awards highlight the value that Warwick places on teaching and it’s so fantastic that so many people were nominated and recognised for their fantastic teaching and contribution. I feel very privileged that my teaching has been recognised in these ways, and I am eager to share my experiences with others.

What do you enjoy the most about teaching? What’s the best part of your job?

Teaching is the best part of my job. I love being in the classroom and interacting with students. Explaining concepts to students and seeing the reaction when they understand something is so rewarding.

What are the biggest challenges faced by teaching staff? How do you overcome these?

Sometimes I think it’s the lack of appreciation that great teachers get. So many staff are focused on research and teaching can sometimes take a back seat. But persevering with your teaching and getting the recognition really helps to change that, not just for you, but for other teachers.

What lessons have you learned from your students?

That not everyone is going to be happy with your lecture. Some comments from students can be really helpful, but don’t take things personally. If you give students your time, they will appreciate it. Be honest with your students and allow them to ask questions – they are generally good!

If you could write a recipe for the perfect inspiring teacher, what ingredients would you need?

  • Confidence
  • Enthusiasm – make it look like you want to be there!
  • Passion for teaching and the subject
  • Knowledge!
  • Understanding that students learn in different ways and at different speeds
  • Creativity
  • Dedication
  • Ability to listen and adapt
  • Engaging – smile!
  • Use of resources inside and outside of the classroom – students appreciate effort and that inspires them to put the effort in
  • Eye contact.

Enjoyed hearing from Elizabeth? See the full list of 2017 winners and read other interviews.