Rhodes lecturers honoured for receiving Vice-Chancellor’s Distinguished and Senior Distinguished Teaching Awards

Prof Catherine Foxcroft and Dr Jennifer Williams
Prof Catherine Foxcroft and Dr Jennifer Williams

The Rhodes University community along with various guests gathered recently at the Blue Lecture Theatre in Eden Grove to celebrate Prof Catherine Foxcroft and Dr Jennifer Williams for having received the Vice Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award for 2015.

The Vice Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Awards aim to stimulate scholarly teaching and teaching-related activities and to recognise a relatively new lecturer who is an exceptional teacher in his/her discipline.

At a public lecture, Williams, a Physics and Electronics lecturer shared with the audience some of her teaching methods and the reasons why she has chosen them.

“Lecturing is not only about me or how well I teach but it is also intertwined with my students - how and what they are learning. I find that first-year students are taught in high school how to be answer makers and through my teaching methods,  I try to help them become sense makers rather than answer makers,” said Williams.

Describing herself as “as a lighthouse who guides the way through a struggle,”  Williams give the audience insight into her lecturing methods by setting up two tracks - one straight and the other one dipped. She showed the audience two toy cars and asked them which car would get to the end of the track faster. This got members of the audience involved in the problem-solving process and served to put her point across about engaging her students to create a better understanding of the concepts she teaches.

Prof Foxcroft, a lecturer in the Department of Music and Musicology presented her lecture on two main aspects of her teaching: piano performance and music, health and the brain.

“My teaching approach to piano performance is structured around the development of an independent musical identity, which begins with the student becoming ‘curious’ about his/her own musical journey. Without this curiosity of purpose, the student will remain totally dependent on me (a 3 to 4 year guest in their lives), and the learning experience does not evolve beyond a superficial understanding of performance,” said Foxcroft.

An apt demonstration of the rapport that she has established with her students through her teaching methods, was when Prof Foxcroft constantly engaged with students who were in the audience during the lecture.

The VC’s Distinguished and Senior Distinguished Teaching award is open to staff with more than ten years’ experience of teaching in higher education through a nomination process. Nominees need to have been in full-time employment at Rhodes University for three years prior to nomination.  Nominations for the 2018 awards will be announced in due course.