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University of Otago Teaching Excellence Awards Announced

Students walking through the Quadrangle 

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Uni teaching awards 2012University of Otago Teaching Excellence Awards winners Anthony Robins, Rhiannon Braund and Steve Dawson

Three Otago academics have been recognised for their outstanding ability to teach in this year's University Teaching Excellence Awards.

Dr Rhiannon Braund (School of Pharmacy), Associate Professor Steve Dawson (Department of Marine Science) and Associate Professor Anthony Robins (Department of Computer Science) received their awards at a University ceremony this afternoon.

Dr Braund says she is honoured and grateful to be one of the recipients of this award especially when there are many other exceptional teachers at Otago.

“As part of the pharmacy profession, I feel a personal obligation to ensure that our graduates are not only ‘safe to practice’ but that they also have the knowledge and skills to lead to profession, and play a vital role within the healthcare team,” she says.

“These students have to be autonomous health professionals; they can’t simply regurgitate facts and figures, but have to be able to make rational, safe and effective decisions that are specific for an individual patient.”

Dean of the School of Pharmacy Professor Stephen Duffull says the School of Pharmacy is proud of Dr Braund and her achievement for her excellence in teaching.

“This award affirms her innovative and caring approach to teaching,” he says. “I believe that receiving the Teaching Excellence award in the early stages of her career highlights that excellence in achievement can happen at all levels and this will provide a good signal for other early-career academics.”

Marine scientist Associate Professor Steve Dawson says the award is a wonderful honour and a demonstration that Otago University really cares about teaching quality.

“Research is tremendously important, but it is not everything. The best universities must strive for a balance. Otago does,” he says.

“For me, teaching is all about the students – making them, and their learning, the top priority. I try to take them on a journey on which they learn lots, develop key skills and enjoy themselves. The more I can capture their imagination, the more they will learn.”

Head of the Department of Marine Science Professor Gary Wilson says Associate Professor Dawson embodies the concept of research-led teaching.

“At all levels of his teaching he draws directly on his research experience and engages the students in the research aspects of the subject. What is impressive is that this is done in a very approachable way, so approachable that practical sessions, such as dolphin dissection, are often written up in the newspaper.”

Associate Professor Anthony Robins is both pleased and grateful to have received the award in recognition of his work in Computer Science and says he is especially happy to be part of a community which so obviously values teaching.

“I try to approach teaching from the students’ point of view. That means designing each course in the context of the intended learning outcomes,” he says.

“It means looking at a course as a whole, not just the lectures. Crucially, it means seeing a course not as a process of transmitting information, but as creating opportunities for learning.”

Head of Department Associate Professor Brendan McCane says Associate Professor Robins has consistently received very good student evaluations and is one of the leading researchers in the field of Computer Science Education (CSED), having published numerous papers.

“Anthony has been one of the most active members of the department in terms of outreach, especially to high school students. This has included several Hands-on-Science projects, and more recently the departmental co-ordinator of our Otago University Advance School Sciences Academy (OUASSA). He has also been very active in local robotics and programming clubs in local high schools.”

Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne warmly congratulated the trio.

“A pillar of strength at Otago is the outstanding teaching we offer our students, and it is excellent teachers, such as Rhiannon, Steve and Anthony, that make this possible. All three are exceptional teachers and they fully deserve to win,” says Professor Hayne.

A list of Otago experts available for media comment is available elsewhere on this website.

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