Professor Tansy Jessop, of Solent University, and Dr Eylem Atakav, from the University of East Anglia, were both awarded a National Teaching Fellowship in 2016, in recognition of their excellence in teaching in higher education.
When Eylem came to Solent to give a keynote at our popular learning and teaching conference in June 2017, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to get their ideas on what excellent teaching and learning looks like.
For Eylem, the key thing is to move from ideas to vision to action. Even if we don’t know how something might turn out, it’s always worth taking the risk and doing something new. If you set your mind to change the way you teach and the way your students learn from you, then the only thing to do is to do it!
Maybe it’s something you can do in collaboration with colleagues or even with your students. Maybe it involves your own research; as Professor of Research-Informed Teaching at Solent, Tansy is all in favour of breaking down the divide between teaching and learning, and letting the one inform the other.
For example, Eylem’s own research area is around women, Islam and the media. Over the years she’s built up networks of individuals, communities and policy makers, and along with the media coverage her module has generated, she has brought it all together for the benefit of her students, to make them active in and out of the classroom.
This culminated in the production of Eylem’s film Growing Up Married, an important documentary that explores the often-terrible experiences of Turkey’s child brides. An MA student wanted to help with editing, a PhD student also wanted to help. The process was organic and wholly voluntary, and immensely rewarding for everyone. All the students involved in the film contributed to a report for the House of Lords, and many used Eylem’s research as a springboard for their own.
The question for us, then, is what are we doing in our own practice? How can we turn it into a project that would benefit our students, and how can we bring them on board? For students to have the chance to form their own response to something real, even to something that might have an impact on someone else’s life, is an incredible thing. What is university for, if not that?