Sheffield academics secure prestigious awards for teaching excellence
Multidisciplinary Engineering Education, Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence
Since being created five years ago, the Multidisciplinary Engineering Education team now comprises 46 educators who deliver practical teaching to 6,700 undergraduates and postgraduates in the Faculty of Engineering.
Its framework crosses the conventional boundaries by bringing together teaching technicians and academics, who are supported by colleagues in professional services.
While engineering departments are typically formed around defined disciplines, such as mechanical, electrical or chemical engineering, MEE was formed around a teaching methodology.
Its aim is to produce well-rounded graduates, who can successfully step into fast-paced industries beyond graduation.
It runs on a globally unique model of entrusting practical education to a dedicated team of multidisciplinary specialists while still tightly integrating laboratory work.
Thanks to being based in The Diamond with its state-of-the-art equipment, the team is able to break down the barriers between the various disciplines to deliver large-scale teaching.
Academics are responsible for teaching, design and delivery of practical activities, as well as integrating practical work into programmes.
Technicians take care of the facilities, equipment and safety standards, and like academics, they also deliver teaching sessions. Finally, the professional service colleagues who coordinate student and staff activities.
As all role segments remain innovative and student-facing, it allows the entire team to provide an outstanding student experience.
This impactful collaboration across the sector impressed the panel from AdvanceHE, who have awarded them this prestigious award.
Professor Stephen Beck, Head of MEE, said: “It has always been part of our department’s culture to recognise the talents of all the members of our team and to trust that, with the right support, they will be able to do amazing things.
“We have always been so proud of what they have achieved and this has had a noticeable impact on the faculty of engineering and beyond. The CATE award is a chance to really celebrate that success.”
Aiden Findlay, fourth year Aerospace Engineering student, added: “As a student, it is inspiring to see every member of The Diamond pushing the boundaries of engineering education.
“During Covid-19, the department has been seen to be national leaders in preserving the student experience during lockdowns and socially distanced teaching.
“This is evidenced by the fact that almost every planned activity was delivered either face to face or online.
"They carried out remote labs, which were recorded or came with a kit that we could take home, and sometimes allowed students into the labs as safe practicals.”
Dr Andrew Garrard, Principal Fellowship
As both the Director of Academic Operations and Deputy Head of the Department of MEE, Andrew’s portfolio oversees all the educational aspects of everything that the department does.
Being an engineer at his core, Andrew instinctively tries to optimise processes to make things more efficient.
Thanks to his dedication to creating a blended learning environment, he has been able to scale the subject to thousands of students, giving the department a head start in mitigating the Covid-19 impact.
This has led to a great deal of attention when his team has been invited to various conferences to discuss their work and deliver workshops to help other institutions find the right approach to teaching their labs.
After completing his application paperwork for the senior fellowship, Andrew didn’t anticipate how pressured an interview would feel when the stakes are so high.
Andrew said: “Waiting for the result was a tense time. I was at work during the morning, so I could easily find some of the fun engineering toys we have in the Diamond to distract myself.
“But I'd booked the afternoon off work and found myself pottering around, frequently checking my phone to see if the outcome had arrived.
“I'm exceptionally proud to work alongside my talented colleagues in the department who, regardless of their role as academics, technicians or administrators, always go above and beyond to ensure the students get a great experience.
"I’m honoured to receive this recognition and be a member of what is quite a small group, in the company of some very accomplished educators at the University for whom I’ve got a great deal of respect."
Now, building upon his work in MEE and the renewed lab teaching, he is also leading a small team to put on the inaugural conference for Practical Engineering Education in September 2021.
Andrew said: “We have been delighted in the level of engagement with the idea and have curated a comprehensive programme of presentations from a wide range of high profile engineering universities.
“We are really excited about welcoming a group of educators to share their experience and expertise of the teaching of labs in engineering programmes.”