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National teaching award for Victoria lecturer

National teaching award for Victoria Pacific Studies lecturer

Pacific Studies senior lecturer Dr Teresia Teaiwa from Victoria University of Wellington has been recognised for her inspirational teaching approach.

Dr Teaiwa received a 2014 Ako Aotearoa Tertiary Teaching Excellence award, worth $20,000, for sustained excellence at a ceremony at Parliament last night.

Dr Teaiwa was appointed as the first Pacific Studies lecturer at Victoria in 2000. At the awards ceremony she was praised for her teaching approach which “challenges not only a European philosophy around learning and teaching, but also Pasifika peoples’ confidence in their ways of knowing and achieving.”

Over the last 14 years, the Pacific Studies programme, which is mostly made up of Pasifika students, has focused on finding teaching practices and assessments that enhance Pasifika students’ learning.

Two unique approaches instigated by Dr Teaiwa are ‘Akamai’ for 100-level students, in which students have the option of presenting a creative interpretation of what they have been reading, and an initiative to make reading an assessable activity for all the programme’s undergraduates.

“We have observed that Pasifika students are not as comfortable with reading as other students and, indeed, University research has shown that they struggle with academic texts,” says Dr Teaiwa. “By assessing their reading, students have begun to engage more—and what was like mass dentistry in tutorials to extract responses from students about what they’ve read has led to more interactive classes.

“It’s been encouraging to see how the culture of classrooms has changed. Students don’t have to fail—how we design courses and what we assess will enhance learning.”

Professor Deborah Willis, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Victoria, says Dr Teaiwa’s award is well deserved. “Teresia is not only a top scholar, but an inspirational teacher,” she says. “Many of her students have gone on to work in higher education themselves, ensuring that a new generation of Pasifika thinking is represented.”

Dr Teaiwa was presented with her award by the Minister of Tertiary Education, the Hon Steven Joyce.


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