Their passion for student-centred education and innovation has earned Prof Stephen Coetzee and Ms Astrid Schmulian a 2016 National Teaching Excellence Award from the Council on Higher Education (CHE) and the Higher Education Learning and Teaching Association of Southern Africa (HELTASA).
The two lecturers from UP's Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences were awarded this prestigious prize at a gala dinner held on 24 November 2016, during the annual HELTASA conference in Cape Town. The conference, which was held in conjunction with the International Conference on Education Development this year, aims to highlight the importance of teaching excellence in universities.
The award celebrates the work of Prof Coetzee and Ms Schmulian over a number of years, as they strive to make the second-year Financial Accounting module they lecture more engaging for the students. 'Winning the award gives us the reassurance that we are on the right track,' says Prof Coetzee.
Some of the exciting innovations they have introduced include team-teaching, where they use their combined strengths to cater for the different learning styles of students, as well as the flipped classroom model. This model encourages students to access lecture content in the form of videos beforehand in order to free up class time for practical exercises, role plays and in-depth discussions.
They have also embraced the opportunities presented by technology, offering their students support through webinars, which have aided the continuation of studies in the current conditions faced by the higher education sector across the country. The dynamic pair states that, through attendance of conferences and workshops, they have developed a wide global network of academics with which they can exchange ideas.
'Our teaching methods and innovations are informed by research,' says Ms Schmulian, who reveals that they already have new concepts which they plan to introduce in the coming year. Their research in the field of accounting education has made them the first South African-based authors to publish in Issues in Accounting Education, an A-rated journal in terms of the ABDC ranking list. They also serve on the American Accounting Association's research and teaching committees, and are jointly ranked eighth on the Brigham Young Individual accounting education ranking.