Dr Halden and Dr Gutierrez-Santos win BETA awards 2017

The Birkbeck Excellence in Teaching Awards aim not only to reflect the highest pedagogical standards in teaching, but also to encourage staff to experiment and explore new ways of engaging with students and enhancing their learning.

Dr Grace Halden and Dr Sergio Gutierrez-Santos have been recognised for their outstanding and innovative approaches to teaching in higher education in Birkbeck’s annual teaching award scheme.

The awards aim not only to reflect the highest pedagogical standards in teaching but also to encourage staff to experiment and explore new ways of engaging with students and enhancing their learning.

Dr Halden has taken strides to embed technology and creativity at the heart of learning within the MA Contemporary Literature and Culture programme; her innovation includes exploring and showcasing learning beyond summative assessments such as the creation of an unweighted task in which students produce short films inspired by critical theory.

In 2016 and 2017, she organised The Contemporary: An Exhibition, a pop-up museum designed to further enable students to display their extra-curricular creative responses to contemporary literature, culture and theory using film, performance, photography, virtual reality, and writing; some of the student videos created for the MA were displayed ensuring the students’ work had longevity and opened up new forms of engagement.

In accepting his award, Dr Gutierrez-Santos said: "My students do not spend much time in the class listening to me talking, they do that at home. When they come to the class, they come to work like software engineers do; and I am there to support them as they evolve from complete novices that solve trivial tasks to competent programmers that can attack problems taken directly from the real world."

Commenting on 2017’s winners, Birkbeck’s Deputy Pro-Vice Master for Learning and Teaching Tim Markham added: “Competition for the BETAs was particularly fierce this year. It’s always hard as a panel to decide between entries that come in from across the range of subjects we teach, especially as their innovations often spring from the challenges of teaching particular disciplines.

“But our approach is always to reward ideas that have legs, the kind of approaches that lecturers in different departments can learn from and potentially incorporate into their own teaching.”

Dr Halden and Dr Gutierrez-Santos will receive their £1,500 prizes, and be presented at Birkbeck’s graduation ceremony next session. Before then, as is customary for all BETA recipients, they will give a seminar based on their work, which will be open to all staff, in the autumn term. Details of the seminar will be published in due course on the Centre for Transformative Practice in Learning and Teaching webpage.

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