Teaching and Learning Gallery

Debbie Pinfold for the The German Department Teaching Team

Debbie shares more detail about their practice us and how they felt about being shortlisted for a Bristol Teaching Award.  

  1. Which Award were you shortlisted for? 

Team award for inspiring and innovative teaching

  1. How did you feel when you found out you had been shortlisted for an Award? 

The German department was particularly delighted to have been nominated for a team award this year. We are all individually committed to stimulating teaching and to supporting our students to achieve their full intellectual potential, and our students continue to recognise this through individual BTA nominations. On this occasion, though, it was lovely to hear that students appreciate our collective efforts to foster a lively intellectual and social community (in classes and beyond).

  1. Can you tell us a little bit about your practice and why you were nominated? 

We felt our nominator hit the nail on the head when they wrote that members of the department have very different personalities and teaching styles, but that we were united by a common passion for what we do and a willingness to go above and beyond for every student. We were commended particularly for the way we maintain a sense of community, including during the pandemic, when we made every effort to maintain regular contact with our students and continued to organise virtual events where we shared our research and teaching interests; these events also provided a further means for students to stay in touch with one another. The nominator mentioned especially our Tee mit Thema (Tea with a Topic) events; in ‘normal’ times these consist of a member of staff sharing something about their research or teaching interests in an informal, undergraduate-friendly way, accompanied by the eponymous tea and by cakes baked by the staff, often to German, Austrian or Swiss recipes. (Providing home-made cake proved a challenge too far in the virtual environment, but we all look forward to normal service being resumed in 2022/23!) The nominator described a warm, friendly and inclusive departmental community where everyone can feel at home and all students are challenged and supported to achieve their full potential.

  1. What inspires you to go the extra mile with your teaching? 

We are principally inspired by the love of our subject and by the enthusiasm and engagement of our students, whose questions and insights often inspire us to rethink the material we teach and how we teach it. The pandemic set us all on a steep learning curve as we adapted to the digital environment, but our willingness to explore new ways of working alongside our students paid dividends, and ultimately, we feel that exploring new things and new methods together is a large part of what being an intellectual community is all about. We were particularly grateful to our students for the way they continued to engage during these challenging circumstances – they made it possible for us all to continue what we all enjoy doing, and we are very proud of all they have achieved in this unprecedented period. But we are also inspired by one another and by our colleagues in the wider School of Modern Languages – we enjoy talking to one another about what we do, and we often pick up new ideas and ways of working through these collegial interactions, whether they be a seminar on language teaching, a research event, or a quick chat in the corridor.

  1. What would you like to share with others about your teaching practice? 

It’s difficult to talk about ‘our’ practice given that we teach in very different ways. But perhaps the key common features are that we are excited by our subject and we enjoy communicating that excitement and generating it in others. And we also genuinely enjoy getting to know our students, what they are interested in, and how they learn. We are willing to find ways of adapting what we do so that individual students can feel both challenged to take intellectual risks and supported in doing so: this hopefully means that every student we work with is able to achieve their full potential. Above all, we like to create a feeling of intellectual and social community where everyone feels included and can participate to the full.

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