Professor Eric Pawson has had his 33-year teaching career recognised with a national teaching award. Professor Eric Pawson has had his 33-year teaching career recognised with a national teaching award. CREDIT: University of Canterbury

Award puts UC geography professor among NZ's best tertiary teachers

Friday 14 August 2009, 4:32PM
By University of Canterbury


Canterbury University geography professor Eric Pawson has been recognised as one of New Zealand’s top tertiary teachers.

Professor Pawson (Geography) was one of 10 teachers awarded a national Tertiary Teaching Excellence Award during a ceremony held at Parliament last week.

The awards, administered by New Zealand's National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence Ako Aotearoa, recognise and encourage excellence in tertiary teaching. The award includes $20,000 in prize money to be used for career development and promote best practice.

Professor Pawson, who last year received a University Teaching Award, has taught geography at the University of Canterbury since 1976. He teaches courses at all levels and has supervised more than 50 masters and doctoral students.

Professor Pawson said he was thrilled to have his 33-year teaching career recognised with a national teaching award.

“I regard teaching as a co-learning adventure and I have been fortunate to have been joined in that adventure by generations of students and some remarkably resilient colleagues.”

Professor Pawson said his experiences as a student at Oxford University between 1969 and 1975 shaped his teaching and research career.

“At Oxford it is entirely student-centred, based on weekly one-on-one tutorials. I was heard, treated as a young adult, my ideas taken seriously; indeed this was my space in which I was required to have ideas.

“My preoccupation in teaching is not with what people learn, or how much information they retain, it is with how they learn, how they think, how our encounter might help them to make more sense of their own world.

“Everyone should have the opportunity to be listened to, to be encouraged, supported and stretched. If students are prepared to accept such challenges and take responsibility for their own learning, then they’ll show me and themselves that they have different ideas, sharper questions or new perspectives. This is why teaching is also always learning.”

Professor Pawson said his teaching had very often been done as part of a team, enabling him to learn from and contribute to the practice of others.

“As a human geographer, I love teaching with climatologist Professor Andy Sturman, in GEOG 106. And I have learned a great deal from observing Dr Simon Kingham with whom I co-lead GEOG 309 and 402.”

Professor Pawson expressed his thanks to Dr Alison Holmes and Dr Billy O’Steen from the University Centre for Teaching and Learning (UCTL) for their help in putting together the portfolio required as part of the award process.

“The job UCTL does in teaching development is brilliant. We are getting so much more support, encouragement and ideas for our teaching than ever before.”

Vice-Chancellor Dr Rod Carr said he was delighted for Professor Pawson.

“Since joining the University in 1976, Professor Pawson has made a significant contribution to higher education in geography that goes well beyond New Zealand.”

Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Dr Jan Cameron said the award put Professor Pawson in “a very select group of outstanding teachers from all parts of the tertiary sector”.

"Eric is a most worthy member. He has for many years been a leader in teaching developments, in pedagogy and curriculum, both across the board at Canterbury and in his discipline nationally and internationally. His Tertiary Teaching Award is recognition of his personal teaching quality and his sustained contribution to university teaching."