Dr Dacia Leslie, research fellow at the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES) at the University of the West Indies Mona campus, has copped one of the most coveted awards among academics – The UWI/Guardian Life Premium Teaching Award for Excellence in University Teaching.
This prestigious award recognises and celebrates excellence in university academic practice.
The UWI/Guardian Life Premium Teaching Award Ceremony is scheduled to be held on Thursday, (November 24) at 5:00 pm in the exhibition room, Faculty of Medical Sciences’ Research and Teaching Complex.
Coordinated by the Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL), this year Dr Leslie and two runners – up, Dr Leighton Ellis, Senior Lecturer and Deputy Dean in the Faculty of Engineer and Dr Therese Ferguson-Murray, Senior Lecturer and Deputy Dean in the Faculty of Humanities and Education, will be awarded for their commitment to excellence in educational practice.
University teaching awards are done to recognize the significant contributions made by faculty to enhance the academic lives of students and colleagues through education.
Speaking to the hosting of this year’s event, Dr Mervin Chisholm, manager and coordinator for the CETL as well as chairman of the award ceremony committee said, the Centre aims to showcase the university as a centre for excellence in university teaching and learning and in this institution.
“We also want to position the UWI as an institution that rewards excellence in teaching in higher education,” he said.
The UWI/Guardian Life Limited Premium Teaching Excellence Lecture and Award was established in 2004 following the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Guardian Life Limited (GLL) and The UWI Mona Campus to be the co-sponsor of a lecture series on excellence in university teaching and an award for teaching excellence.
Chisholm pointed out that the decision to work towards establishing an award specifically for teaching at The UWI arose from the concern of the coordinators of the then Instructional Development Unit (IDU), now Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning) on all three landed campuses (at the time) that the teaching function was not given the attention and value it deserves in the institution.
He said that the coordinators saw the need to increase the awareness of the UWI faculty, staff, students, and the public that there are measures of good teaching and more specifically, that the UWI attaches great importance to good teaching.
“The prevailing view was that it was difficult, if not impossible to judge good teaching. However, there was recognition that the use of a teaching portfolio or folder was gaining prominence on university campuses across the world and was becoming the preferred approach taken by many universities to judge teaching and teaching excellence for awards.
“It was decided to use this approach in the UWI/Guardian Life Premium Teaching Award,” he stated.
Initially, he continued, Guardian Life agreed to assist with faculty development workshops for the training of faculty in developing appropriate teaching portfolios; it was also agreed that the panel of judges for the Award should be external to the UWI.
History – The UWI/Guardian Life Premium Teaching Award for Excellence
Speaking to the historical groundwork of the award, Chisholm shared that, in 1998, Betty Rohlehr, the then coordinator of the IDU at the St Augustine Campus, was successful in getting Guardian Life to sponsor a Premium Teaching Award for that campus.
This was initially extended by Guardian Life to the other two landed campuses. Unfortunately, the Award in Barbados was short-lived, but it persisted in Trinidad and Jamaica.
“From those early days, it was decided that a Teaching Excellence Award could be offered every other year beginning in 2000 and a prominent and outstanding guest lecturer focusing on aspects of teaching in the intervening year.”
Following the successful implementation of the award in St Augustine and the indication that Guardian Life would be interested in funding a similar programme at Mona, the CETL in February 2002 submitted a proposal to Maria McMillan, then manager, corporate communications, of Guardian Life Trinidad.
In August 2002, the university received confirmation of sponsorship, and a memorandum of agreement was signed in January 2003.
The first award was held in 2004 with the sole recipient of the Premium Teaching Award being Dr Willard Pinnock, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Chemistry.
“This was followed by a Premium Teaching Lecture in 2005 and we have alternated between Premium Teaching Excellence Award and Premium Teaching Lecture until 2015 when Guardian Life ceased sponsoring the lecture. Since 2016 we have only had two Premium Teaching Excellence Awards in 2016 and 2018.”
Unfortunately, no award was held in 2020 due to the pandemic.