Tag Archives: quality

279 – Comparing ‘Home’ and International Students’ perceptions of Inspirational Teaching – Anna Bunyan, Manuel Madriaga

Strand: Supporting Students

Anticipated outcomes: to inform both the institution and the sector, and will be used to enhance to quality of teaching for the benefit of students.

Session outline (or abstract):

This presentation will share evidence from an analysis of student comments derived from the student-nominated Inspirational Teaching Awards scheme at Sheffield Hallam University; now in its third year. It is based on student nominations and student comments taken from the Student Barometer Survey. The student comments inform the selection of award winners. The ethos behind the introduction of the student-nominated inspirational teaching awards was to celebrate and recognise contribution by staff which may otherwise go unrecognised. This study builds upon research done last year by the QESS on evaluating student perceptions of what makes inspirational and transformative teachers. While there is some literature available on what makes an exceptional teacher in higher education (Carnell 2007, Skelton 2009, Devlin and Samarawickrema 2010) and on rewarding teaching excellence (Elton 1998, Carusetta 2001, Palmer and Collins 2006, Gibbs 2007, Chalmers 2011), this work is exceptional in that the student voice is required in nominating inspirational teachers. The findings agree largely with a similar study in another UK university, where being approachable, passionate and knowledgeable are traits which are valued by students (Su and Wood 2012)

In the Student Barometer Survey students responded to a question (200 words max.) on how their experience has been transformed by inspirational teaching and by exemplary learning support. 2690 comments were analysed, of which 2272 were Home students and 418 were international. All student comments were anonymised, collated and analysed with NVivo to identify common themes. The comments were coded at 18 different themes as follows: 1 Approachable; 2 Beyond the Classroom; 3 Challenges students to succeed; 4 Encouraging; 5 Entertaining; 6 Enthusiastic; 7 Friendly; 8 Good teaching style; 9 Influence on practice; 10 Knowledgable; 11 Motivational; 12 Organised; 13 Passion for subject area; 14 Professional; 15 Reliable; 16 Respect for students; 17 Supportive; 18 Up-to-date in research.

The evidence shows that this work is beneficial for all students, regardless of whether they are ‘international’ or ‘home’ students. The research is being carried out by a student researcher in collaboration with experienced research staff.  It is hoped these finding will inform both the institution and the sector and will be used to enhance the quality of teaching for the benefit of students.


Carnell, E. (20070. Conceptions of effective teaching in higher education: extending the boundaries. Teaching in Higher Education, 12 (1), 25-40.

Carusetta, E. (2001). Evaluating Teaching Through Teaching Awards. New Directions for Learning and Teaching, 88, 31-40.

Chalmers, D. (2011). Progress and challenges to the recognition and reward of the scholarship of teaching in higher education. Higher Education Research & Development, 30 (1), 25-38.

Devlin, M. and Samarawickrema, G. (2010). The criteria of effective teaching in a changing higher education context. Higher Education Research and Development, 29 (2), 111-124.

Elton, L. (1998). Dimensions of excellence in university teaching. International Journal for Academic Development, 3 (1), 3-11.

Gibbs, G. (2007). Have we lost the plot with teaching awards? Academy Exchange, 7, 40-2.

Palmer, A. and Collins, R.  (2006). Perceptions of rewarding excellence in teaching: motivation and the scholarship of teaching. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 30 (2), 193-205.

Skelton, A. M. (2009). A ‘teaching excellence’ for the times we live in? Teaching in Higher Education, 14(1), 107-112.

Su, F., and Wood, M. (2012). What makes a good university lecturer? Students’ perceptions of teaching excellence. Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education, 4(2), 144-155.


2012 Pro-Vice Chancellor’s welcome address at SHU Learning and Teaching Conference

Professor Philip Martin, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Student Experience, Learning and Teaching), Sheffield Hallam University Learning and Teaching Conference, 11th July 2012

First a note of welcome and thanks.  So welcome to all colleagues, and welcome to our external speakers, Usman Ali and Annette Cashmore; to our colleagues from Chesterfield College, and to our employer representatives who have given of their time to come here today.  We’re grateful to all of you.  And thank you to Andrew Middleton and all his colleagues in QESS and in the Faculties who have pulled this conference together through a real team effort. 

And I hope – above all – that it will be an enjoyable and stimulating day for all of you.

Teaching and Learning at Sheffield Hallam

The future of this university depends, above all else, on the quality of its teaching.  This is no exaggeration.  If we had to concentrate on one thing, and one thing only, to assure our future – then it is this.  And the teaching in the university – in the final analysis – cannot be greatly influenced by me, or by other leaders and managers and support departments: we can only put broad frameworks in place to encourage good teaching, to allow it to flourish and to stress its importance.  No, the quality of teaching depends on the thriving development of ‘teaching cultures’ – not one, but several: teaching cultures led by groups and individuals who practice teaching in the many different subject areas and disciplines of this large and diverse university.  And more, those groups and individuals need to be broadly representative, not a special group of zealots, not a cult, not a group of technical specialists.  Good teaching needs to be in the life-blood of the university: it needs to be lived and breathed, and part of everyone’s aspiration.  Further still, we need to learn to optimise the different teaching strengths we have in the university, to make room for and acknowledge the different attributes that people bring with them into the classroom: from mavericks and charismatics on the one hand, to those with excellent organisation, subtlety of approach, pedogogic sophistication and expertise, sensitivity to their students, intuitive understanding of their needs and high levels of scholarly understanding in the subject.  There is no single good teaching model; no teaching clone; no machine to do it for you; no dominating dogma; no mechanical adoption of a teaching rule.  Which means, above all, that we must learn to teach well in teams, to accommodate different approaches, and above all to evaluate and learn from each other.  That is how you build teaching strengths.  And you will see that the university draft definition of good teaching – around which we will have a university debate and discussion – is a definition with this kind of latitude.

So the future of the university depends -well, depends on you – you people here today.

And you will immediately have noticed that I have started my brief introduction with a politically incorrect emphasis.  For it is the convention to talk of learning and teaching (not teaching and learning) in order to give precedence to learning.  Now there is a basic logic in this of course, in that you can teach all you like but if your students are not learning –  if the classroom is (figuratively speaking) empty – then nothing will happen.  But it seems to me that this precedence given to learning above teaching is sometimes patronising and problematic.  Of course the point of teaching is so that students can learn: we don’t need the syntax to be continually adjusted to remind us of this – we don’t need that kind of propaganda, and we are not idiots.  But more significantly, the subtle devaluation of teaching in this syntax is also de-professionalising: teaching is a great and wonderful profession, and it requires dedication, skill, great and profound understanding, unfathomable patience and massive vocational energy and drive, and if we forget all these things by giving undue deference to the culture of learning then we simply fail to understand the symbiosis, and we detract credit from ourselves as professionals.  And we might forget, and sometimes we do forget, that although we want students to become ‘autonomous learners’ as the hideous jargon has it, that doesn’t mean that we want them to stop talking to us, that doesn’t mean that the dialogue stops, or reduces.  I’ve never really understood that mechanical calculation that assumes you measure your success in teaching undergraduates by reducing their final year contact hours.  I’d have thought that the more they know, the more sophisticated their approach to knowledge, the more potential there is for dialogue, the more there is to discuss……

Why does the future of the university depend upon teaching?

Our institutional mission is strongly underpinned by access and widening participation.  This does not, necessarily, define our student market, but we understand our regional and national role in these terms.  Most importantly, our track-record (retention, progression and achievement) is very good in terms of the value added in the student awards to their qualifications on admission, even while those grades continue to improve year on year.  So it is important for us to be able to demonstrate clearly what value we are providing for our students – what inputs we provide to their experience that enable their academic success.  Now we know that we are very successful in many areas of our support, and in areas of learning opportunity (library, e-learning, support for students and building confidence) – in fact, we owe our colleagues in these areas a lot for this provision – they are buoying us up tremendously in the national indicators – but we also need to be able to say that our teaching is excellent, that our teaching is a vital part of creating student success.  And at the moment, we cannot point to metrics that permit us to say that for the university as a whole.  We can say it on behalf of some of our areas, but not of others.  So being able to demonstrate that we have great teachers and great teaching across the university is vital for our future, given our mission, and given how much we are charging our students.

That’s my piece of polemic for today.  I hope everyone enjoys the day, and that it is fulfilling, rewarding and hopefully, fun.  Thank you all for coming, and for your valued contributions to the discussions and debates through which our teaching at the university will thrive.