Bristol Teaching Awards

Becky Selwyn

Senior Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Department of Mechanical Engineering

“Despite the difficulties of online learning it is clear that she really cares about her students and wants the best for us.”

“She’s keen to listen to feedback and adapt the lectures to the needs of each cohort specifically.”

“From theory, to worked examples, to interactive polls, students are engaged and active within both the recorded and live sessions.”

“She’s great at including the students in her live sessions and asks for feedback which she then acts on to improve her lectures even more.”

 What is your background and experience? I came to Bristol as an undergrad and never left. I started teaching 10 years ago when I was doing my PhD in heat-driven refrigeration and my first role was teaching thermodynamics labs. I’ve been teaching thermodynamics and heat transfer to undergrads ever since, as well as staying involved with labs – I used my first experiences delivering labs to revolutionise our lab programme initially just for Mech Eng students, then as part of the CAME School Common First Year.

What is your style of working and ethos? My teaching style goes back to my roots working with small groups in labs. I believe that students learn best when they are getting involved and working out how to do something, so I have never spent very much time stood at the front of a lecture theatre talking (even pre-pandemic). I use lots of problems and examples to get students talking to each other and working together as much as possible to find their way to a solution, and I spend most of my time wandering around encouraging them to keep trying. The pandemic made it harder for me to wander around, but we still managed to have lots of examples and time for students to work on problems. Some students even got together with their bubbles so they could work on problems together during the synchronous sessions! Some of the topics I teach are really tricky and use lots of maths, so I also spend a lot of time reassuring students that when they get stuck it’s not something about them, it’s just a really hard problem and everyone is getting stuck. I think this helps build community and confidence, which are both really important tools for success (or just survival in a pandemic year!).

What do you enjoy about the role? I absolutely love my role because I get to talk to so many students and everyone has a unique viewpoint and way of understanding what we are trying to learn. Students inspire me to communicate things in different ways, and challenge me to improve the way I’m teaching. I also really enjoy the scholarship side of my role – finding out about different pedagogical approaches, figuring out which ones to try, and working out where they might improve student learning in my units.

How you feel about being shortlisted for the award? Reading the student nominations was really emotional – they have said some really kind things, and I’m so appreciative of them taking a few minutes out of their lives to complete the forms. This year has been incredibly difficult for everyone for so many reasons, and the students have been fantastic and joined in enthusiastically with my journey into online learning, for which I will be forever grateful to them.

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