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Victoria takes honours in teaching awards

Victoria takes honours in teaching awards

Victoria University of Wellington’s teachers have again been honoured as some of the best in New Zealand, picking up two awards in the Tertiary Teaching Excellence Awards announced at Parliament tonight (26 July).

Daniel Brown, Reader in Design in the School of Design, received a Sustained Excellence Award, while Andrew Charleson, Senior Lecturer in the School of Architecture, received an Excellence in Innovation Award. Both are members of the University’s Faculty of Architecture & Design.

This is the fourth year in a row that the University has featured in the awards, following wins by Dr Nick Ashill from the School of Marketing & International Business in 2002, Dr Sydney Shep from the School of Information Management in 2003, and Professor John Davidson, from the School of Art History, Classics & Religious Studies, and Associate Professor Judy Brown, from the School of Accounting & Commercial Law, in 2004.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Pat Walsh praised both academics for their success in the awards.

“That Daniel and Andrew have won these awards is not surprising given the consistently high praise they’ve received from students in their teaching evaluations. They’ve also won Victoria awards for their work and are also highly regarded researchers and practitioners in their respective disciplines and professions.

“Victoria prides itself on being a University where both undergraduate and postgraduate students learn directly from our leading researchers, allowing all students to benefit from their experience, knowledge and world-class research and Daniel and Andrew’s success is another example of this in practice.

“While the Performance-Based Research Fund, which ranked Victoria as one of New Zealand’s top three research-led universities, highlighted the importance of research, we also realise that it is neither our sole focus nor an end in itself. Research-led learning and teaching is equally vital because it is how new knowledge is imparted to our students. It is these students who, in future years, will be New Zealand’s next generation of researchers.”

Mr Brown said the award was a gift of recognition not only from those he had taught, but more importantly from students and fellow teachers who had taught him so much in return.

“The motivation for my teaching has always been to foster confident, competent learners through encouragement and deep-seeded mutual respect. I have witnessed the levels of effort, enthusiasm, initiative and passion from my students become visibly elevated exponentially when they feel both supported and respected.

“I also believe that joy and passion are critical – for both learners and their teachers – to the achievement of learning. But most importantly, I believe it is essential to respect the innocence of these young men and women, even while opening their eyes to greater levels of awareness and maturity. I tell my students we must never base ideas on presumption. Rather we must challenge ourselves to always uncover an essential ‘rationale’ while encouraging our ‘imagination’ to translate that rationale in extraordinary and unexpected ways.

“As a teacher, I can only accomplish this challenge by embracing rather than erasing the innocence of my students. Their innocence is their greatest gift, for it provides them with the essential ability to dream. And it reminds me utterly that as I teach my students, so too I learn from them in return. And I am reminded by them, always, how important the dream can be.”

Mr Brown is the Director of the Interior Architecture Programme and Deputy Head of the School of Design. He holds a Bachelor of Arts with Honours from Williams College, a Certificate in Architectural Design from Harvard University and a Master of Architecture from Yale University. He has worked in leading architectural firms in New York, Sydney and Rome and has received 10 Victoria teaching awards in the seven years since he joined the University.

Mr Charleson has had the unenviable task of taking a compulsory set of papers on structures that architecture students had disliked, and teaching them in such a way that students are now highly interested.

He has also created the RESIST computer programme to teach students about structural loads and how size, weight and earthquakes might affect buildings. The programme is being adapted for use in India.

“One of my life goals is to make a positive contribution wherever I find myself and teaching is a significant part of that contribution. Through my courses, the knowledge and understanding gained by my students leads to safer, and more economical and aesthetically pleasing architectural structures.

“For me, teaching is an exciting challenge. It requires and stretches all my personal skills and attributes, as well as my professional knowledge and experience. It exposes the duality within me - a quiet understated approach laced with self-deprecating humour and the contrasting requirement of performing in front of large classes.

“It is this awareness of challenge that motivates me to innovate. I seek to break away from tried and tired approaches to continually improve my teaching. Of course, there is always room for improvement – perhaps to offer a clearer explanation, or use a more apt anecdote. Innovative teaching has enabled me to change student perceptions of my subject area and then to maintain those positive attitudes.”

Mr Charleson has a Bachelor of Engineering with Honours in Civil Engineering and Master of Engineering from Canterbury University and is a member of the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand. He joined the School of Architecture in 1987 after extensive structural engineering experience in New Zealand and overseas.

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