AAUT Teaching Excellence Awards Tip Sheet

Nominee's Tip Sheet for Written Statement

This sheet provides advice on preparing the written statement required for an Learning and Teaching Award for Teaching Excellence.

The Nomination Instructions state, “The core element of a nomination for a Teaching Award is a written statement in which nominees describe their teaching activities and achievements, and specifically address each of the five selection criteria. The written statement must be presented under the following headings, in order:

  • Synopsis (150–200 words, written in the third person)
  • Overview
  • Selection criteria:
    1. approaches to learning and teaching that influence, motivate and inspire students to learn
    2. development of curricula and resources that reflect a command of the field
    3. approaches to assessment and feedback that foster independent learning
    4. respect and support for the development of students as individuals
    5. scholarly activities that have influenced and enhanced learning and teaching.”

Evidence

Part 3 of the statement requires you to present evidence in support of all 5 criteria. The Nomination Instructions say that your program or service “must have demonstrated [its] effectiveness through rigorous evaluation”.

They also say, “The views of students, collaborators and/or colleagues, as appropriate, will be a key element in the assessment of nominations.” 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:

  • your teaching area or discipline
  • your teaching experience
  • the particular focus of your teaching
  • your teaching methods
  • your research/teaching interests.

If you’re successful, people will use this synopsis to announce your program or service’s success in various communications. It may be used in the ceremony program for the Australian Awards for University Teaching, be posted on the Office for Learning and Teaching’s website or be 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 Teaching Award category into which your program or service falls. There are 5 discipline categories, the Neville Boner Award for Indigenous Education, the Early Career Cateory and an annual Priority Area; these are listed and explained in section 5.2 of the Nomination Instructions.

Once you have indicated which applies, if necessary indicate how your teaching can be seen to fit within that category.

Address the 5 selection criteria

For each criterion, include a heading, e.g. Selection criteria a: Approaches to learning and teaching that influence, motivate and inspire students to learn. 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 5 criteria, which will be given equal consideration by the assessors. Keep in mind that your statement may not be longer than 8 pages in total.

Address 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 teaching fulfils it, but don’t repeat wording to a tedious extent.

Make sure each section really does address the criterion, and addresses it fully. Section 3.2 of the Nomination Instructions lays out possible ways in which you might address each criterion. Provide evidence of “the views of students, collaborators and/or colleagues, as appropriate” that your teaching 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 your teaching strategies, or long-winded testimonials.

Overall, you must provide evidence:

  1. of the outstanding excellence of your teaching, as reflected in formal and informal evaluation
  2. that your teaching is creative, imaginative and/ or innovative, irrespective of whether your approach involves traditional learning environments or technology-based developments.
  3. of your outstanding presentation skills
  4. of your broad and deep contribution to enhancing the quality of learning and teaching in higher education
  5. of the impact of your teaching on students, your peers or your institution.

Provide convincing and relevant evidence in relation to all 5 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 your teaching, 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 6 of your application)
  • evidence of your impact in encouraging students to, for example, continue studies in the field or requests for HDR supervision
  • brief testimonials from students
  • evidence observed only by you, verbal recognition delivered only to you, or self-reflections.

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.
  • Use active language to describe and explain your achievements. The passive voice, while it doesn’t misrepresent your achievement (e.g. "development of a revolutionary teaching method"), doesn’t connect you as closely with your achievements as do active verbs (e.g. "I 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).

Set out text 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.

Feedback

Did you find this tip sheet useful? Please send any comments to the Learning and Teaching Unit.