AAUT Program Awards Tip Sheet

Nominee's Tip Sheet for Written Statement

This sheet provides advice on preparing the written statement required for an Australian Award for University Teaching for a Program that Enhances Learning.

The nomination instructions state that the core objective for a program award is: “To recognise learning and teaching support programs and services that make an innovative and outstanding contribution to student learning outcomes and the student experience of higher education.'

The written statement must be presented, in order, under the following headings:

  1. Synopsis (150–200 words, written in the third person) which includes a description of the program and its contribution to student learning.
  2. Selection criteria:
  1. Distinctiveness, coherence and clarity of purpose
  2. Influence on student learning and the student experience
  3. Breadth of impact
  4. Addressing equity and diversity.”

Evidence

The Nomination Instructions say that programs 'must have demonstrated their effectiveness through rigorous evaluation and set benchmarks for similar activities in other institutions.

If you are uncertain how to go about gathering this evidence, visit the Evaluating Teaching page of the Teaching Gateway for links to a very useful set of pages about obtaining feedback on your teaching.

Content

Synopsis (strictly 150–200 words, written in the third person)

Include a heading, Synopsis.

Make sure the synopsis describes:

  • the program and its teaching areas
  • the program’s contribution to student learning engagement
  • the program’s impact on students.

If you’re successful, people will use this synopsis to announce your program or service’s success in various communications. It may be read aloud at the awards ceremony program, posted on the Office for Learning and Teaching’s website or stored in archival information.

Check that the synopsis is grammatically correct, for a good first impression. Read through it several times, and particularly after making any changes to it, to ensure that it makes sense and doesn’t contain, for example, text you intended to delete.

Check that the synopsis clearly and adequately describes the distinctive features and effects of the program, using active verbs to summarise how staff implemented the program and the benefits the program realised for the students.

Address the category

Include a heading, Category.

Indicate the Program Award category into which your program or service falls. There are 6 categories listed in the Nomination Instructions. Once you have indicated which applies, briefly indicate how your program can be seen to fit within that category.

Address the selection criteria

For each criterion, include a heading, e.g. Selection criteria a: Distinctiveness, coherence and clarity of purpose. This makes it easier for the assessor to check whether the statement does indeed address the criterion, and to compare the different sections of several nomination statements —and it can also help you keep your thoughts focused as you write each section.

You will be assessed on the evidence you provide in relation to all 4 criteria, which will be given equal consideration by the assessors. Keep in mind that your statement may not be longer than 10 pages in total.

Address each criterion (and each relevant part within each criterion) in turn, and in the order in which it is given in the Instructions. Echo the wording of the criterion to indicate how closely your program or service fulfils it, but don’t repeat wording to a tedious extent.

Make sure each section really does address the criterion. Provide evidence of “the views of students, collaborators and/or colleagues, as appropriate” that your program or service meets the criterion.

Provide a sensible amount of detail. Don’t get too theoretical, but don’t get caught up in describing the minutiae of the systems your team implemented, or long-winded testimonials.

Overall, you must provide evidence of:

  1. the outstanding effectiveness of the program or service as reflected in rigorous formal and informal evaluation (this is particularly important in criteria b, c and d)
  2. the program’s creativity, imagination or innovation (particularly important in the first part of criterion a)
  3. the sustained effectiveness of the program for no less than 3 years (it might be worth adding an extra heading, e.g. Sustained effectiveness of the program, and dealing with this separately from the criteria, so that the assessors can see clearly that the period meets the requirements).

Provide convincing and relevant evidence in relation to all 4 criteria.

Present the evidence from a variety of perspectives, and in order of most to least formal, for example:

  • relevant statistical evidence (e.g. statistical summary of CATEI scores)
  • formal recognition of the program, such as related staff or community awards
  • brief testimonials from superiors, colleagues, employers or community members (preferably different from the referees you will use in section 5 of your application)
  • brief testimonials from students
  • evidence observed only by you, verbal recognition delivered only to you, or self-reflections.

For criterion a, Distinctiveness, coherence and clarity of purpose, you must provide evidence of the program’s uniqueness. What does it offer that is quite new, or quite different from other programs in its category, and why is this desirable at this time and in this context?

You must also provide evidence that the program has:

  • clear objectives
  • systematic approaches to coordination,
  • systematic approaches to implementation and
  • systematic approaches to evaluation.

For criterion b, Influence on student learning and student engagement, you must provide evidence that the program:

  • targets identified student needs and
  • directly or indirectly enhances student learning,
  • directly or indirectly enhances student engagement and/or
  • directly or indirectly enhances the overall student experience of higher education.

The views of students, obtained through formal or informal evaluation, will be particularly valuable here.

For criterion c, Breadth of impact, you must provide evidence that the program has led to widespread benefits for:

  • students
  • staff
  • the institution and/or
  • other institutions,

consistent with the purpose of the program or service.

For criterion d, Addressing equity and diversity, you must provide evidence that the program promotes and supports equity and inclusiveness by improving, for diverse student groups:

  • access
  • participation and
  • outcomes.

List all groups catered to and the ways in which your program or service has improved these factors for them.

General points

  • Clearly differentiate the 5 components (synopsis and 4 criteria). This makes comparison easier for the assessors.
  • Ensure that the text is appropriately balanced among the different components. Check the first draft for underwritten sections that could be made more substantial, and be prepared to cut away less relevant or overly detailed material.
  • Aim for clarity throughout the application; there should be nothing puzzling, vague or misleading. Don’t make the assessors reread sentences to establish their meaning.
  • Avoid passive constructions. The passive voice, while it doesn’t misrepresent your university’s, faculty’s, school’s or team’s achievement (e.g. "development of a revolutionary teaching method"), doesn’t connect the people involved as closely with their achievements as do active verbs (e.g. "we developed a revolutionary teaching method").
  • Avoid jargon and program- or course-specific buzzwords. You can’t assume that the assessors will have detailed knowledge of your discipline. Use as plain a form of English as is possible while getting your point across.
  • Try to strike a balance in the tone of your writing between conversational and formal speech. Avoid extremes, either of slangy over-familiarity or of cool detachment.

Presentation

Use only 11 pt Arial or Calibri (no narrow fonts), for ease of reading by the assessor.

Space the text well on the page, to make it easy for the assessor to read.

  • Leave 2cm wide margins on all sides.
  • Clearly define paragraphs (either indent their first lines or insert a little white space between them).

Text should be in a single column.

Check grammar, spelling and punctuation. Put your final draft through a spelling checker and closely read it to check for errors that a spelling checker will not detect. If you are unsure of grammar or punctuation, have your application read by a more confident wordsmith, and correct it as they suggest.

To aid clarity and ease of reading :

  • Present all quotations in the same format (italicise them if you wish, but don’t italicise some and not others).
  • Use quotation marks consistently—single or double is fine, but using both looks indecisive.
  • Keep capitalisation of headings consistent.
  • Use only one space after a full stop. Search and replace double spaces with single ones on the final draft.
  • Use hyphens, en- and em-dashes and ellipses correctly and consistently.
  • Present numbers consistently.
  • Attribute testimonials consistently.