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Maharey Speech: Recognising & inspiring excellence

Steve Maharey Speech: Recognising and inspiring excellence

Comments at the 2003 Tertiary Teaching Excellence Awards ceremony. Grand Hall, Parliament Buildings.


Welcome to the ceremony to announce the recipients of the second Tertiary Teaching Excellence Awards.

Tonight we gather for the second year to recognise excellence in those who are at a crucial interface of New Zealand’s development as a knowledge society.

The Tertiary Teaching Excellence Awards are an important element of the government’s tertiary education agenda to provide clear strategic direction and constantly to enhance the quality of tertiary education.

With these awards the government is leading by example – putting our money where our strategy is. These awards recognise those who are excellent already, and inspire others to meet those national goals.

In turn I encourage institutions to play their part in fostering the ongoing development of outstanding teachers and to share their insights and methods with others in the sector – above all invest in and reward quality performance.

An important element of promoting quality is collaboration and transparency. That is why we have ensured that a feature of the Awards scheme is a publication documenting some of the approaches, experiences and methodologies uncovered in selecting tonight's recipients. This publication will be available within a couple of months. Last year's publication proved to be valuable, practical and inspirational. It described, promoted and shared excellent teaching practice in the tertiary sector.

The 2002 awards

Before we move on to this year’s awards, let’s look again at the range of disciplines and approaches documented in the 2002 Tertiary Teaching Excellence Awards publication.

We were able to read about: web-based technologies for decision-making in marketing; experiential and accelerated learning in teaching food handling and food safety; interactive experiences for medical students learning about care of the elderly; teaching computer science “without the distraction of technology”; an integrative case study approach to strategic management; a focus on self-evaluation in teaching art teachers; flexible online chemistry teaching; mixed media approaches for second chance primary teaching students; a cultural diversity focus for students heading for police training; and from the winner of the Prime Minister’s Supreme Awards, a mix of co-operative planning and reflection in teaching design.

What I find exciting about last year’s award-winning teachers – and I know this year’s submissions will demonstrate this too – is that there was a mix of genuine innovation and the tradition of fine teaching. A mix of contemporary technology and a rethink of the essential human quality of being a teacher.

I thought this would be a good opportunity to give you some idea of how the award money from last year has been spent. Awardees received $210,000 in prize money last year. The same amount will be awarded this evening. There is a formal reporting process for awardees to go through once they have spent the money. However, as most of the awardees are actively involved as tertiary teachers some of them have yet to use their award money. But I can tell you that last year’s supreme award winner, Welby Ings, principal lecturer in the school of art and design at AUT plans to put his award money towards his Phd research, some new electronic equipment for use in his classes and to help him attend two international design educators conferences next year.

Dr Tim Bell, senior lecturer and head of University of Canterbury’s computer science department has spent about one third of his award money on equipment to help him with multimedia presentations. This equipment will help with the “unplugged” programme Tim runs.

Dr Delwyn Clark, associate professor, Department of Strategic Management and Leadership at the University of Waikato has used some of her award to extend a study trip to the USA where she has been visiting key people to discuss web-format cases. She is also publishing a paper on web-format developments that will be published early next year. She will also use the money to help her attend and contribute to a special forum on innovative case teaching at the International Strategic Management society conference in Balitmore next year.

We look forward to hearing more about how the Tertiary Teaching Excellence Awards are helping teachers lift their abilities to even greater heights.

The New Zealand Register of Quality Assured Qualifications

Next month, we will be launching a very important new website – the New Zealand Register of Quality Assured Qualifications. This website will assist tertiary students to understand and compare the qualifications they can choose between. The Register is a tool for making tertiary education more transparent and accessible. We want learners to make informed decisions rather than acting on gut feeling, anecdote or rumour.

I see the tertiary teaching awards as part of the same drive – one of the measures we are taking to demand and acknowledge quality education. Like the Register, these Awards encourage openness and transparency – our tertiary students are, quite rightly, becoming more demanding and knowledgeable about all aspects of the system.

I would like to point out that in awarding these prizes the Tertiary Teaching Awards Committee base their decisions not only on portfolios sent in by nominees but also on the testimonials and recommendations of their learners – who are the ones in the best position to judge the quality of the education they are receiving.

Excellent teachers have commitment to their subject, knowledge, enthusiasm and the ability to stimulate thinking, interest and innovation. They are committed to the achievements of their learners – advancing understanding of the subjects they teach and contributing to each learner’s development in the wider context of the thinking world. There is an inextricable link between quality teaching and the quality of learning outcomes for learners.

Finally, there is a challenge for all of us as we consider this year’s award winners. By their very nature, awards can do no more than acknowledge the excellence that exists. They do not identify gaps and omissions.

We need to ask ourselves which disciplines and what approaches to teaching are not apparent among tonight’s winners. In striving for a vigorous modern tertiary education system, we need breadth, not just a pinnacle here and there.

Thank you to the Awards Committee

I would like to thank the committee who had the difficult task of choosing winners from the many outstanding entries received: Professor Graeme Fraser, Deborah Willis, Christine Teariki, Paul McElroy, Fleur Fitzsimons, Rongomaiwahine Vercoe, Anna Marsich, Sandra McKersey and Hone Hurihanganui.

I has been a demanding task – in terms of the time and commitment required and also as it required these people to make judgements on the work of their peers. I thank you very sincerely for that.

We don’t intend this to be an evening of tension, nailbiting envelope opening and victory speeches. But we are going to keep you waiting a little longer. We thought you’d like to eat first. After that we will open the envelopes and meet and applaud this year’s award winners.

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