Two senior lecturers from the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) have been recognised for their excellence in teaching and learning at Stellenbosch University's (SU) Teaching and Research Excellence Awards ceremony.
The ceremony took place at the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS) on 4 December 2018.
Dr Elize Archer, head of the Simulation and Clinical Skills Unit at the Centre for Health Professions Education (CHPE), and Dr Eric Decloedt, coordinator of clinical pharmacology teaching in the Division of Clinical Pharmacology, each received a teaching excellence award in the category “Developing Teacher", worth R25 000.
The awards were instituted in 2017 to acknowledge excellent teaching and learning in higher education and offer an opportunity to value reflective and contextually aware teaching. Lecturers are recognised in one of two categories: 1) The “Developing Teacher" award for staff with experience of three to ten years of teaching and learning, or 2) the “Distinguished Teacher" award for staff with experience of 10 or more years.
Applicants are required to submit a portfolio that demonstrates their reflection on and evidence of four main components: context, students, knowledge and professional growth. They are also required to share the lessons they learned on their journey to becoming excellent teachers.
Dr Elize Archer
“I am very grateful for the recognition, as there are many other good teachers at Stellenbosch University," Archer said in reaction to her award.
“Putting together my portfolio as part of my award application took a lot of effort. In order to show that you're a good teacher, you need to provide evidence – so, I am extra happy that the hard work paid off! Receiving such recognition really motivates one to do more and better. I hope it will encourage other lecturers to apply in the future."
Archer, who has a background in critical care nursing and training, joined SU in 2005 as head of the Simulation and Clinical Skills Unit at the CHPE, and was subsequently appointed as a senior lecturer in 2015.
"I wear two hats regarding my current teaching role: On the one hand, I teach patient-centred communication skills to undergraduate MB,ChB students, and I coordinate and teach our master's degree in the health professions education programme. On the other hand, I am involved in faculty development in the CHPE, where we aim to equip lecturers to become more effective facilitators of learning.
“What I really like about teaching is to see how students grow and develop during their study years. You really get to know the person behind the student."
In 2016, Archer obtained a PhD in health professions education that focused on teaching and learning of patient-centredness in undergraduate medical students. Subsequently, in 2017, she was awarded a three-year fellowship by the SU's Centre for Teaching and Learning, which allows her to spend some dedicated time on the development of a teaching intervention that is focused on empathic communication skills in undergraduate medical students.
“I am very fortunate to work for an institution that rewards and acknowledges good teaching," says Archer.
Dr Eric Decloedt
“It is a great honour to be recognised for my passion for teaching," Decloedt said in reaction to his award.
“This award acknowledges teaching as an important part of being an academic scholar and encourages teaching excellence. It also recognises the importance and value of clinical pharmacology in the MB,ChB curriculum."
It is not the first time that Decloedt has been recognised for his outstanding teaching skills. In 2016, he was named “Educator of the Year" by the South African Society for Basic and Clinical Pharmacology (SASBCP) in recognition of his contributions to excellence, expertise and demonstrable achievement in pharmacology education.
Decloedt, who has been teaching clinical pharmacology to undergraduates and registrars training in clinical pharmacology since 2012, says one of his biggest challenges was to make pharmacology (which was traditionally taught as a fact-heavy subject) clinically relevant to students working in the South African context, and to maintain engagement with students despite increasingly large classes.
“My primary teaching goal is to foster the essential skill among medical graduates to rationally prescribe medicine. I feel strongly that SU medical graduates should be equipped to work in any healthcare facility in South Africa."
Decloedt loves the interaction with students, including their sharp-witted responses in more light-hearted moments. “Students bring such a tapestry of experience and knowledge into the classroom, and I constantly learn from them."
He encourages other lecturers to make use of the excellent resources provided by SU's Centre for Teaching and Learning: “Many of my initiatives were inspired by learning from others. Be prepared to learn by trial and error based on the critique from students and peers. Students care about how much you care, not about how much you know. Don't forget, you once were an undergraduate student too – in fact, we all are students on our life journey."
Caption: Drs Elize Archer and Eric Decloedt with FMHS Vice Dean: Learning and Teaching, Prof Julia Blitz.