Imperial's teaching community continues to expand, as eleven staff members take up more senior positions within their departments.
Three of these colleagues sat down with Murray MacKay to talk about their varied careers and their hopes for the future of teaching within their departments.
Dr Magda Charalambous, newly appointed as Principal Teaching Fellow in the Department of Life Sciences.
Magda teaches evolutionary biology, behavioural ecology, and population genetics to undergraduates and postgraduates. She is course leader on the Year 1 Ecology & Evolution, Year 2 Genetics with Statistics and Behavioural Ecology modules. She previously convened the African Biology Field Course module and ran 10-week Research Projects, many in association with ZSL London Zoo.
"There were very few Teaching Fellows when I came to Imperial in 2002 as a part-time teaching-focussed lecturer on a series of short-term contracts. Actually, I don’t even know if the term Teaching Fellow was in use then as a title! Since I arrived the numbers have been growing and Anita Hall did a fantastic job in instigating the Teaching Fellow Network across College to increase our profile and to form a community of practice. The Learning & Teaching Strategy has brought the role of the Teaching Fellows in the university to the forefront."
"It was probably my experience being a student again that has most influenced my practice, especially with regards to the transition to university and the support structure students need." Dr Magda Charalambous
"I went through the usual route of BSc, PhD and postdoctoral research fellowships. After taking a short ‘career-break’, I was employed on a series of short-term teaching contracts for 10 years. I was appointed to a permanent position of Senior Teaching Fellow in 2012. I then embarked on a part-time MEd, finally finishing in 2018. The reason for this was to continue my development as an educator and to ensure I was using up to date evidence-based practice. Actually, it was probably my experience being a student again that has most influenced my practice, especially with regards to the transition to university and the support structure students need."
Dr Henock Taddese, newly appointed Senior Teaching Fellow in the School of Public Health.
Henock organises the Master of Public Health (MPH) course. He has studied public heath in Ethiopia, the UK and Denmark. His PhD explored Global Health goals, through an in-depth analysis of the work of the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria.
Henock supervises dissertations, and is interested in health service/policy evaluations and utilising both secondary and primary data. He is interested in developing interactive teaching methods that bring the complexities of the real-world to the classroom setting.
"I believe that the commitment in the Learning and Teaching Strategy to emphasise innovative and effective teaching approaches, and recognise the huge amount of effort that goes into these processes would really excite and energise all academic staff with significant teaching involvement. It also affords great latitude for teaching staff to innovate and experiment with new and improved methods, ultimately enhancing the experience of students. In this regard, the teaching career pathway that has been laid out by the College goes a long way in motivating both early career and senior teaching staff. It really feels like we are rightly placing our teaching work front and centre of our mission, alongside our longstanding focus on research and innovation."
"Prior to completing my PhD at the University of Sheffield, I had spent some years designing, coordinating and managing health programmes in my native country, Ethiopia, and Uganda. I feel like these practical experiences have informed not just my approaches to my work, but my outlooks related to the impact of what I do and how I do it. In every teaching session, I try to relate my learning outcomes to real world scenarios that students are likely to face after completion of their studies. Further, I have studied Public Health in Ethiopia, Denmark and here in the UK. This has in turn given me insights into cultures and approaches to learning, and ways of enhancing the experience for everyone involved – I consider myself a student of the art teaching and an advocate for breaking down barriers in these crucial processes."
Dr Vijay Tymms, newly appointed Principal Teaching Fellow in the Department of Physics.
Vijay grew up in Durham City and left to read physics at Bristol University, graduating with an MSci in 1998. In 2002 he moved to the University of Liverpool where he stayed for seven years, completing a PhD in geophysics then researching and teaching for a further three years. He joined Imperial in September 2009 and currently teaches undergraduate students in Thermodynamics and Structure of Matter.
"Everyone needs to be able to work in an environment where they are not afraid to make mistakes and try new things." Dr Vijay Tymms
"It's important to allow people to learn without fear. I see some learners' development hampered by a pressure to do well all the time. Everyone needs to be able to work in an environment where they are not afraid to make mistakes and try new things. We seem to be in a position now where there is an ingrained culture that needs changing. But positive steps are being taken. One example in my department is that we are reforming the way we assess in undergraduate laboratories so students can work freely and actually experiment without concerns about getting a poor mark or their work being perceived in a negative way. Hopefully we can see this translated to other aspects of the course as well."
"You can see that we’re working really hard to make the university a more inclusive environment. There are inclusivity issues regarding social background, gender, ethnicity, sexuality and disability across the UK higher education sector. Things are improving but there is a long way to go. It may not be immediately obvious as to how these issues may affect the teaching of Physics but getting it 'right' from the very first day will make all of our university environments feel more inclusive. Among other things we have a four year project designed to strengthen the learning communities we have in the department and beyond."
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