Science leads the way in inaugural ‘Teaching Hero’ awards

Winners for third-level were teachers who had ‘a key transformative impact’

Former president Mary McAleese ia patron of the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning. Photograph: Frank Miller / The Irish Times

Former president Mary McAleese ia patron of the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning. Photograph: Frank Miller / The Irish Times

 

Joe Humphreys

Science teachers have come out top of the class in a new awards scheme aimed at recognising excellence in teaching at third-level.

Some 53 teachers from 27 higher education institutions received Teaching Hero Awards this evening at a ceremony in Dublin Castle.

Almost a third (17) were from science or computing. Business accounted for the second largest haul with 11 awards, and then Humanities with eight.

The awards were established by the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education in partnership with the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) with the aim of identifying inspirational lecturers who might not have previously received public recognition.

Prof Sarah Moore, chairwoman of the forum, said “the focus was on teachers with a key transformative impact at a key transitional phase in education” such as moving from secondary to third-level, or from degree to postgraduate level.

She stressed that excellence is teaching was not necessarily measured by the number of academic papers published, and part of the exercise was “to get people into thinking how to define brilliant teaching practice”.

“We want to take this to input into professional development. What students define as good teaching remains very unexplored.”

Students, ranging from campuses at Cork IT to Dublin Business School, were asked to select up to two award winners from each institution according to agreed guidelines that focused on merit and learning impact.

The winners from the seven universities were: from TCD Nicola Marples (Zoology) and Stephen Connon (Chemistry); from UCC Eileen O’Leary (Chemistry) and Kieran Keohane (Sociology); from UCD Sinead Sheerin (Veterinary Medicine) and Kevin Costello (Law); from UL Joseph Lynch (Maths) and John Heneghan (Accounting); from DCU Stella Vlachou (Nursing and Human Sciences) and Brian Leavy (Business); from NUI Galway Deirdre Curran (Business) and Mark Lang (Physics); and from Maynooth University Frank Mulligan (Physics) and Kevin Kavanagh (Biology).

The national forum’s patron is Prof Mary McAleese, who chaired an EU high-level group on modernising higher education which last year recommended initiatives such as this in member states to acknowledge teaching excellence. Speaking of the this evening’s winners, she said: “Excellence in teaching is about much more than simply getting students through their exams. It is about inspiration, passion, generosity of spirit, and a genuine desire to make a positive difference to students’ lives.”

A full list can be found at teachingandlearning.ie