Vice-chancellor Steve Maharey (left), Dr Alison Sewell, Dr Trisian Farrelly, Associate Professor Ian Fuller and Assistant Vice-Chancellor Research, Academic and Enterprise Professor Brigid Heywood.

Excellence awards bring out teaching’s best

An education specialist, a sociocultural anthropologist and an Associate Professor of physical geography are the winners of this year’s Vice-Chancellor’s Teaching Excellence Awards. The awards celebrate commitment to excellence and innovation in research-based teaching, with up to four awarded each year.

Dr Alison Sewell from the Institute of Education, specialises in social studies education and primary teacher education – an area she is particularly familiar with, having been a primary school teacher before joining Massey University.

As well as teaching, she has supervised eight masters and one PhD student. Topics ranged from investigating teaching and learning in everyday contexts to how New Zealand sheep farmers learn.

She says the key to an effective learning environment is building a learning community where theory is linked with practice and research. She prides herself on being authentic and available, caring for and believing in her students, and sharing her passion with others.

“Connecting with people, challenging their thinking and supporting them as learners is a must. I teach my students about the ‘people’ focus of social studies, but also share the idea that it is relationships with people that lie at the heart of teaching.”

Dr Trisia Farrelly from the School of People, Environment and Planning lectures in sociocultural anthropology as well as being chair of the school's Teaching and Learning Committee.

Her interests are in community-based development and conservation, particularly in the Pacific. This year she will be recruiting three PhD and five master's students for a Transfrontier Peace Parks Project in Namibia and Botswana alongside Associate Professors Bob Stewart and John Holland.

Her teaching philosophy is to encourage students to open their minds to the possibility of "alternative ways of knowing and develop a deep curiosity for these alternatives."

She says she always knew she wanted to be a teacher. “As a child, I would sit my older brother and our cousins down and, having endowed myself with the role of teacher, I would ensure they successfully completed short spelling and writing tasks, rewarding them with ‘free play’ on completion.

Associate Professor Ian Fuller, from the Institute of Agriculture and Environment, lectures in physical geography – with a career focussed on understanding the geomorphology of river systems.

He teaches seven undergraduate papers and three postgraduate papers all centred around river dynamics or alpine geography, as well as supervising two PhD students. Five previous doctoral students are now pursuing careers in research.

He says the essence of his teaching is engagement and that his students learn best by doing. “I want to inspire students and teach them about Physical Geography by immersing them in the real world of New Zealand’s landscapes and especially our rivers.”

Dr Fuller will go forward to attend the national Tertiary Teaching Excellence Awards.

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