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National Teaching Award success for University of Hull biologist


A University of Hull lecturer has been awarded one of the most prestigious teaching awards in Higher Education.

Dr Katharine Hubbard, Lecturer in Biological Sciences, has been awarded a National Teaching Fellowship for 2019. She is the latest Hull academic whose exceptional teaching has been recognised in this way, a group that includes Professor Joy Porter, Professor Kevin Burden, Dr Sarah Jane Dickenson, Professor Peter Draper, Professor Stewart Martin, Professor Marina Mozzon-McPherson, Professor Graham Scott, and Dr David Sands. 

The National Teaching Fellowship (NTF) scheme celebrates and recognises individuals who have made an outstanding impact on student outcomes and the teaching profession in higher education. The awards are the highest honour the Higher Education Academy bestows to those working in Learning and Teaching in universities, recognising significant input at departmental, institutional and national level. Chosen from around 200 nominations across England and Northern Ireland, Dr Hubbard is one of just over 50 Fellows awarded recognition for their individual excellence and professional development.

Professor Susan Lea, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Hull, said: “This is a wonderful achievement for Dr Hubbard and rightful recognition of the passion, skill and expertise that she brings to the teaching of STEM subjects.

“I know that I speak for all of my colleagues when I say that we are very proud of Dr Hubbard’s work and delighted that she will be taking on a new role as a Senior Fellow in our Teaching Excellence Academy. This position will enable Dr Hubbard to engage more widely with academic colleagues, further enhancing her positive impact across the University and beyond. I would like to offer her my sincere congratulations on this award and new role at the University of Hull.”

Dr Katharine Hubbard said: "I'm so thrilled to have been awarded a National Teaching Fellowship – it's quite overwhelming! Teaching the next generation of biologists is incredibly rewarding, and I get to work with some fantastic students at Hull. Choosing to develop a teaching-focused academic career was the best decision I ever made, and I am delighted to have my work recognised through this award."

Dr Hubbard has been particularly recognised for her student-centred approach to teaching and the support she provides her students as they enter a laboratory for the first time. Before beginning laboratory-based teaching, Dr Hubbard developed their technical skills through classroom resources such as videos, images and quizzes. As a result, students entered the laboratory feeling reassured and approached their tasks calmly and with confidence.

As part of the application to the Higher Education Academy, Dr Hubbard collected acknowledgements from her students commenting on how her unique approach teaching affected their learning.

“Using the practical resources has saved me so many times when I need some hints for questions or a full run through, it definitely has helped my learning!” First-year biology student 

“Katharine ran some of the first lab sessions I took part in at university and she made the transition from school practicals to university practicals easy and stress free.” First-year biology student

Enquiry-based learning is another main passion for Dr Hubbard as students are encouraged to think like a scientist through investigative practical tasks. Students are then able to design their own experience rather than following a step-by-step guide which is seen as a more traditional approach to teaching. 

Further to this, Dr Hubbard has also revolutionised how her students read and digest scientific papers by teaching them how to unpick the technical language used throughout. This forward-thinking approach is another example of how Dr Hubbard is committed to ensuring her students smoothly progress into successful scientists and has been adopted by other universities including Sheffield Hallam and Liverpool. 

In her application to the Higher Education Academy, one of Dr Hubbard’s third-year biology students stated:

 “Katharine bridged what felt like a very large gap when it came to understanding academic literature. It was never ‘they just mean this’, but a helpful explanation of the language and conventions used."

Dr Hubbard has also made an impact across the world, with the creation of free-to-access teaching resources downloadable from the American Society of Plant Biology. These teaching tools are especially useful for educators in developing countries to download. In recognition of her commitment to science education, Dr Hubbard has also been awarded the Society of Experimental Biology Presidents Medal and in 2016, Dr Hubbard was awarded Higher Education Bioscience Teacher of the Year by the Royal Society of Biology; the only ever female winner.

Dr Hubbard is a bold advocate for academics who choose to focus their work on education and the student experience, in contrast to the more traditional research focus of many academics. Education focussed academics are in the minority nationally, meaning Dr Hubbard is a key role model and mentor for those who wish to embark on an academic teaching career.

Further information on Dr Hubbard’s National Teaching Fellowship.


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