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WATE 2019 Commendee: Suhaib Fahmy (Engineering)

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

Teachers who were passionate about their subject, sometimes to the point of obsession, were the ones who left a mark throughout my school and university education. By inspiring me to search further and deeper outside of class, they helped nurture my inquisitiveness.

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

Nothing can replace the multiplicative power of motivation in enhancing students’ learning. Make sure that is a key part of your whole recipe.

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

You tend to teach a subject over a number of years, so don’t worry about not getting things perfect the first time; constant improvement is much more important.

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

  1. Students have diverse levels and sources of motivation. Try to move these to intrinsic motivations driven by passion for the subject and its connection with the real world.
  2. Try to reflect your learning journey in your teaching, remembering that you once didn’t know.
  3. Deeper and wider understanding than what you teach is key to confidence in the classroom.

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

In rapidly evolving subjects, it is easy to find your content growing stale and engagement waning. Use your research knowledge to freshen your content as often as possible, and find relevant examples of real-world applicability to maintain motivation and engagement.

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

In technology-related subjects, the use of industrially relevant and up to date practical tools and equipment ensure students have relevant experience to talk about at interviews and helps them build a portfolio.

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

Enhanced automated testing approaches for computer coding would allow more varied design assignments with less assessment overhead.

What does winning a WATE award mean to you?

I am delighted, as it is a validation of the effort I have put in over the past few years, and recognition of the wide-reaching impact this has on our students.

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

Seeing inspiration take root in class, leading to students engaging with the topic both in class and outside, landing prestigious related placements and internships, then them taking this into high quality careers is a real joy. Hearing from former students enjoying their careers is always rewarding.

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

For staff balancing research and teaching duties, time is a real constraint. Teaching well takes time and effort and this can impact research sometimes. Research-active staff must engage to deliver on our research-led teaching strategy, and we need to ensure that the incentives are aligned to support this.

What lessons have you learned from your students?

Open-ended design-based assessments really give students the chance to shine. Given the opportunity, they will put in significant effort and never cease to surprise me with what they can achieve.

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

Genuine passion for the subject, up to date refreshed knowledge, humility recognising one’s own learning journey, a willingness to keep relearning, the ability to think about concepts from different angles, an understanding of real-world context, empathy with students.

Enjoyed hearing from Suhaib? See the full list of 2019 winners and read other interviews.