Teaching Excellence in the History Department at the University of Reading 2023

We are very privileged to have so many of our teaching staff recognised by students through Reading University Students’ Union’s Excellence Awards. This year, six of our staff (including two PhD students) have been nominated! Here is what they say about their teaching styles and their experiences of teaching this year…

Graham Moore

For me, the most important thing is to equip our students with analytical and critical thinking skills they can use, not only for historical inquiry but in all aspects of their life. A successful seminar is one that encourages everyone in the room – myself included! – to see things from a new angle. 

The modules I’ve taught on over the past two years [JH2, RSO, Pirates of the Caribbean] have given me the flexibility to bring in materials and techniques from my own research (including pirate trial records and network modelling activities). This keeps things fresh and exciting for the students, allowing the class to make collaborative discoveries using the skills we equip them with.

I’ve been lucky to teach in such a welcoming department here at Reading, and to work with a cohort of intelligent, enthusiastic, and curious students. 

Abbie Tibbott

I’d say my teaching style is based around the fact that all students come to university with different backgrounds and personal circumstances, and I do my best to recognise that within my teaching and celebrate that students all come to university with different reasons for being there. I wouldn’t be at university without widening participation schemes, so my teaching treats students as individuals with valuable contributions to add to our community! My favourite teaching experience this year has been seeing my part 1 students become more confident and design some really fascinating independent research projects. 

Prof Patrick Major

It could just be that I know a lot about Cold War Berlin, or that I encouraged first-years to get visual with Doomsday Dystopias and positively ordered the gameboys to binge-play Fallout 4.0. Who knows?

Dr Jacqui Turner

I feel very privileged that my teaching and research has an impact on my students. I hope that the determination and perseverance of the women who we encounter during my teaching inspire women today to pursue their dreams – to have it all if that is what they choose to do because to have your voice heard, to have opportunity and choice is everything in life.

Dr Liz Barnes

The main thing that I’m aware of when I’m teaching is that we have to cater to such a wide range of student expectations, interests, and ways of learning. I know that, particularly for first year students, seminars can be a daunting space to enter, so I’ve been working on maintaining elements of routine – a strategy informed by discussions with school teachers (who we don’t collaborate with as much as we should!). I like students to know what they’re getting when they come to my sessions – I generally set out what we’re going to cover, what I’ll be doing vs. what they’ll be doing, and how their prep work will come into play. There are definitely stock phrases I find myself employing, and I always start discussions of readings with the same question (I’m sure all my students are sick of me asking if they liked the set texts…). That leaves space to mix things up with activities to keep sessions engaging without each week feeling like a new mountain to climb. It’s basic stuff, but the basics are what we can easily let slide. I’m looking forward to trying out more new things next year – and hopefully with a new group of students who are as tolerant of my experiments!

Dr Amie Bolissian

I am absolutely thrilled to be nominated for a teaching award, and definitely share this with my amazing students who dived into our wildly varied activities this year: be it dueling with swords and ladles, or writing with quill and ink. I love using historical objects in my lessons alongside written sources: they can truly broaden our understandings of why, where, and how sources were produced, as well as who made them. They can provoke curious questions – like how did early modern people write in such tiny script with feather quills? And what made an object magical or medical? My favourite thing about teaching is hearing questions from students – questions are encouraged at all times in my classes. Also, making and doing in the learning environment can bring us closer to the sources. Examining handwritten medicinal recipes from the seventeenth century is one thing, attempting to write our own with a feather quill and home-made oak gall ink demonstrates the labour involved in creating these sources, and perhaps partly explains why these collections were so valued and passed down through generations. We also wrote our own early modern ‘health’ book titles pages (using as many clauses as possible) and prescribed internal and topical remedies for actual medical cases from doctors’ casebooks

My two modules were: Melancholy Medicine: Healing the Body and Mind in Early Modern England, 1570-1730 and ‘Broken-Hearted’: Medicine, Emotion, and the Body in Early Modern England, 1570-1730.

We are very excited to see the results of the nominations – watch this space!

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