Otago trio receive teaching awards

University of Otago academics (from left) Associate Prof Anthony Robins, Dr Rhiannon Braund and...
University of Otago academics (from left) Associate Prof Anthony Robins, Dr Rhiannon Braund and Associate Prof Steve Dawson reflect on their university awards. Photo by Linda Robertson.
Three University of Otago academics with a passion for teaching, Dr Rhiannon Braund, Associate Prof Steve Dawson and Associate Prof Anthony Robins, have gained the university's latest annual teaching excellence awards.

Dr Braund, of the university School of Pharmacy, Prof Dawson, of marine science, and Prof Anthony Robins, of computer science, received their awards, recognising their "outstanding ability to teach", at a university ceremony yesterday.

The winners, who have also been willing to experiment in their approaches to teaching, each received $7500, to support student learning and teaching.

They have also been selected as University of Otago nominees for national tertiary teaching excellence awards, which will be announced later this year.

Vice-chancellor Prof Harlene Hayne said the "outstanding teaching we offer our students" was a "pillar of strength" at the University of Otago and it was excellent teachers, such as the three award recipients, who made this possible.

Dr Braund was yesterday still "overwhelmed" by the unexpected award, and grateful to be one of the recipients, given there were 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 said.

Students had to be "autonomous health professionals", and able to "make rational, safe and effective decisions that are specific for an individual patient".

The award also reflected the efforts of her colleagues in the School of Pharmacy, she said.

Prof Dawson said the award was 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 said.

"For me, teaching is all about the students - making them, and their learning, the top priority.

"The more I can capture their imagination, the more they will learn."

Prof Robins was grateful to have received the award and happy to be part of a community which so obviously valued teaching.

He was "only the tip of the iceberg", given the excellence of other Otago teaching colleagues.

"I try to approach teaching from the students' point of view."

Developments were taking place so quickly in the computer science field that "I'm forced to innovate whether I like it or not", he said.

Computer science head Associate Prof Brendan McCane said Prof Robins was a leading researcher in the field of computer science education, and was one of the department's most active members in terms of outreach, particularly to high school pupils.

- john.gibb@odt.co.nz


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