Head of French Awarded National Teaching Fellowship

A National Teaching Fellowship has been awarded to Dr Robert Blackwood, Head of French in the School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies. He received the award at a celebratory dinner in London on the 5th October 2011. The award was made for his innovative work on the teaching of linguistics, for using web-based social networking to support students in their year abroad, and for his contributions to the national discussion on personal development planning with the British Council.

This prestigious award comes from the Higher Education Academy, as part of its programme of work to raise the status of learning and teaching and to celebrate individuals who make a significant impact in higher education. Teaching Fellowship award winners were chosen from around 200 nominations submitted by higher education institutions across England and Northern Ireland. Dr Blackwood receives £10,000 to support further professional development in higher education.

In introducing sociolinguistics to the curriculum, Dr Blackwood has taught students about the diverse ways in which the French language is used by its speakers, especially in terms of their gender, ethnicity, geographic origins, and age. He encourages undergraduates to draw on their own experiences of language use during their Year Abroad in order to place students at the centre of their own learning experience. He oversaw the development of an on-line private social network which provides the ideal space for year-abroad supervision in the form of both academic and pastoral support, working closely with colleagues from the eLearning Unit in the Centre for Lifelong Learning.

Dr Blackwood has been a key participant in the nationwide discussion, led by the British Council to encourage learning by reflection and personal development portfolios (PDPs) amongst students on their Year Abroad. As a National Teaching Fellow, he looks forward to working further to extend engagement with online Year-Abroad PDPs beyond Liverpool. Dr Blackwood is keen to emphasise that his receipt of the award depended also on the support of colleagues, external stakeholders and students:

“I am very fortunate to have had a wide variety of opportunities to contribute to the student experience in French and, more widely, in modern languages, both during the Year Abroad and on campus. It has been both highly enjoyable and a great privilege to work with bright students, with hard-working colleagues across the University, and passionate external partners, such as at the British Council in London”.

The award demonstrates the strength of the University’s commitment to supporting the study of modern foreign languages. Whilst think tanks, politicians, and other experts have been wringing their hands about the future of modern languages in academe, the University of Liverpool, through Dr Blackwood and his colleagues, is dedicated to enhancing the student experience for students of French.

The University has had successful applications for National Teaching Fellowships in each of the last three years. Support was provided for Dr Blackwood’s application from Educational Development Division, CLL. If you are interested in applying for a National Teaching Fellowship during the 2012, please contact Dr Peter Kahn (kahn@liv.ac.uk).