One of our 2015 winners, Rachel’s work has included building a series of strong partnerships with schools, regional and national theatre organisations to ensure students have multiple opportunities to connect with communities beyond the University campus.
Why did you start teaching? What (or who) inspired you?
My experience is as a drama practitioner working with young people and community groups. Therefore, in the setting of a university, I see myself more as a facilitator than as a teacher. I love learning alongside my students and finding ways to make potentially abstract, complex knowledge more accessible by using a range of differing approaches.
My teaching and research interests overlap – I specialise in Drama and Theatre Education in the Centre for Education Studies. I try to use performance-based techniques to inspire students and enhance their learning.
What pearls of wisdom have you been given over the years that have helped you with your teaching?
Professor Joe Winston and Professor Jonothan Neelands have inspired me greatly. Their pedagogic principles are focussed on creating a welcoming environment for students to learn. This involves establishing a playful space where students feel that their ideas are valued and where collaborative thinking and action are considered to be significant.
Is there anything you wish someone had told you when you started out?
Have a detailed plan but be prepared to be flexible with this plan! And be careful about taking on too much – it’s very tempting to say yes to every exciting project that comes your way but it’s always better to do fewer things to a higher standard.
If you were mentoring a first-time teacher, what three bits of advice would you give?
- Their planning should also work on their experience of learning not just the outcome. So, I’d ask them to think about how they want their students to feel at the end of this session or module and plan activities based on this.
- I’d tell them to take time to plan but to not over-plan!
- I’d tell them to think about variation – how can they vary their sessions so that students feel engaged throughout?
What advice/top tips would you give to more experienced teachers?
Challenge yourself to move out of your comfort zone and try new pedagogies!
Look for unusual artefacts in charity shops, book stores etc that may provide you with a great stimulus for a particular topic.
What new technologies are you currently using to enhance your teaching? What are your top tips for using them?
I’ve used iPods to record a whole group poem and played it back to the students in the session. I think technologies have to be appropriate for the particular subject you’re tackling. There’s a fine balance between technology that is genuinely going to enhance your session and technology that is simply used in a gimmicky way! I want to explore this more in the future!
What new or future teaching innovations are you looking forward to?
I want to enhance my partnerships with local schools and theatre companies and embed these into the module I teach.
What does winning a WATE award mean to you?
It is such an honour to be recognised for the hard work put in over the years. The fact that staff and students have been given space to provide testimonies means such a lot to me. In a research-driven institution such as Warwick, it is very important to have teaching and learning valued in such a significant way. I’m utterly delighted.
What do you enjoy the most about teaching? What’s the best part of your job?
I love being able to support students throughout their studies. I think Higher Education present students with such a shift in learning compared to school that they need support in making that transition. I really enjoy working with students to ensure they feel cared for and listened to throughout the year.
I also love teaching a topic in an unexpected way – I try to use a lot of artistry in my teaching to ensure they feel inspired to learn.
What are the biggest challenges faced by teaching staff? How do you overcome these?
I have always felt valued by my department but I know other teaching colleagues from across the university have said they feel under-valued. I think giving opportunities such as the WATE process is very important to changing this culture.
What lessons have you learned from your students?
Where do I begin?
I teach mainly on a postgraduate programme and I have seen time and time again that students are choosing to return to further study because they want to be inspired and they want to gain unique opportunities. I consider it to be imperative that Warwick provides students with an unforgettable experience.
If you could write a recipe for the perfect inspiring teacher, what ingredients would you need?
An inspiring teacher should be:
- Flexible and adaptable
- Diligent and committed
Know someone like Rachel? Nominate them now for a WATE award!