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WATE 2016 winner: Kate Mawson (Centre for Professional Education)

Kate MawsonOne of our 2016 WATE winners, Kate suggests the ingredients you need to make an inspiring teacher.

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

I started teaching after spending some time working out in the field within in my specialist discipline. The desire to have a positive impact on the opportunities for young, especially those of young women, was a strong driving force in my decision. I wanted to engage young women in the study of STEM subjects, to see their potential and to want more from the world. Being in a position to help young people become the best they can be is something that motivated me then and still does today. My inspiration was my biology teacher, she noticed me and encouraged me. I believe that everyone should experience the dedication and passion of a committed teacher, it is life changing.

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

I’ve been privileged to work with numerous outstanding practitioners and they have imparted many pearls to me over the years. "Everyone has potential" is a firm favourite, but also the idea that if students don’t get it, you need to start doing something differently because everyone can learn but not everyone can teach - so teach well.

"Don’t be afraid to experiment"; "Understand where they are, and what they already know" and "Share the learning journey with them, where do they need to get to, and make sure you plan opportunities for them to reflect on their learning".

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

Sometimes good enough is good enough - this isn’t meant to sound negative, but sometimes in your strive to do better you rework things that are effective and make them less so. Identify why it's going well rather than why it's going wrong and use that.

If you are working hard you're doing too much. Learning should be challenging for them, not you. You put your hard work and effort into the planning and resourcing, the actual learning period should be easy.

If you were mentoring a first-time teacher, what three bits of advice would you give?
  • Plan well, and share this with the students as they need to know how to become successful
  • Teach to the top level and scaffold all other students up to that level
  • Relationships are key, learn all you can about them and what they know already.
What advice/top tips would you give to more experienced teachers?
  • Experiment often
  • Formulate assessment criteria that align with course aims and plan assessment opportunities that link well to those criteria
  • Make the learning active at every possible opportunity
What new technologies are you currently using to enhance your teaching? What are your top tips for using them?

I'm investigating online badges, Just-in-time Teaching via online content provision and the use of reflective journals as assessment tools.

I'm also looking at engaging industry into an employability project. Going to the employers to identify what they need and a way to do this might require some video clips and filming of skype conversations with industry leaders.

What does winning a WATE award mean to you?

A huge amount, the recognition given to teaching via the WATE process is extremely valuable. WATE demonstrates the university’s commitment to rewarding excellent teaching and by shining a light on all areas of the University that engage in teaching excellence, it raises the profile of teaching internally and externally. I am just one in a field of many outstanding practitioners at Warwick and I encourage everyone to nominate an outstanding teacher in the next academic year, excellent teaching ensures an excellent future.

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

Ensuring progress, seeing everyone make progress towards their goal.

I love all of my job, the interaction with people who are learning is engaging and refreshing. The learners make the course what it is and it’s the variety and diversity in that group that makes coming to work each week a pleasure.

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

Time – effective planning takes time, as does effective assessment. Sometimes the pressure to have a very successful cohort, immediately, means that taking risks sometimes becomes less attractive. You do need to take risks though and I think the best way to overcome this is to engage the students in their learning. They need to know why they are doing it not just what grade they get at the end.

What lessons have you learned from your students?


If anybody points to anything in my teaching practice that is good it is undoubtedly there because I’ve responded to student feedback and harnessed that feedback to improve and develop. Always listen.

If you could write a recipe for the perfect inspiring teacher, what ingredients would you need?
  • Passion
  • Knowledge
  • Communicating skills but mostly, listening skills
  • Commitment to the progression of all
  • Sense of humour
  • Fairness
  • Rigour
  • Imagination, creativity and a fearless approach to learning and teaching

I really could go on and on...

Know someone like Kate? Nominate them for a WATE award!