We are pleased to announce that Dr Bret Stephenson, from LTLT, has been awarded the prestigious Office for Learning and Teaching (OLT) Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning this year. This award recognises his efforts towards improving student engagement in the first-year through the development, design and delivery of the highly innovative and effective First-Year Seminar. He said of the award:
'It has been very encouraging to receive recognition for many years of hard work both in and out of the classroom. Also, having attended the OLT awards ceremony, you are quickly reminded that our universities are full of deeply dedicated and skilled teachers. It is reassuring to see many of these people receive national recognition for their commitment to student learning.'
Bret also received a La Trobe University Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning in 2013 for leadership towards the development of a first-year seminar subject that contributes to student transition and retention.
Starting at La Trobe in 2010 as the First-Year Coordinator for the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Bret also became the Subject Coordinator for The First Year Seminar: The Art of Being Human (HUS1FAS) 2011-2013. In February of 2014, Bret took up the position of Curriculum Designer (Student Success) in La Trobe Learning and Teaching. In this role he runs the LTU Student Success Strategy, which focuses on improving student success, satisfaction and retention through subject-level curriculum design and learning support strategies.
Bret believes that 'it is essential to recognise that teaching staff, but particularly those teaching in large first-year subjects, are coping with tremendours pressures. It is critical that they are supported in their efforts to create an engaging and supportive learning environment for students.'
His recent research project focuses on the history of Australian higher education with a particular focus on student/staff interactions and changing approaches to, and understandings of, student success. A portion of this work was recently presented in the LTLT SoLT seminar titled: 'Getting short-changed: a brief history of student/staff interactions in Australian higher education'.
Bret hopes that 'anyone who reads this profile will take away a bit of hope!' He observed that 'when you are submerged in the thousands of mundane tasks that all add up to a great learning experience for students, it is easy to feel that your efforts will go forever unrecognised...So I hope that many more LTU academics will see their teaching efforts as worthy of institutional, and national recognition, and begin working towards an application.'