At the (new) Chancellor’s Dinner, July 2014
Lt-Rt: Dr Karen Cleaver (Head of Department), Dr Linda Burke, Pro Vice Chancellor, Dr David Evans, Professor Pam Maras
2014 National Teaching Fellows Award Ceremony
At the (new) Chancellor’s Dinner, July 2014
Lt-Rt: Dr Karen Cleaver (Head of Department), Dr Linda Burke, Pro Vice Chancellor, Dr David Evans, Professor Pam Maras
2014 National Teaching Fellows Award Ceremony
Learning for life, a double entendre in the subtitle of my doctoral thesis, underscores my belief that teaching enables “learning for life”, both as skills for life and over life’s course. Equally, Clement Stone’s aspirational quote: “Always aim for the Moon, even if you miss, you’ll land among the Stars”, epitomises my ‘performance’ of the art of teaching. This performance of learning culminates in my achievements, demonstrated through successes in students I am fortunate enough to share life’s learning with. Most of my own students, living in the UK and abroad, study entirely on-line. I also teach in classrooms of small groups to 200plus; on multi-professional undergraduate courses to doctoral programmes, and supervise post graduate researchers. Despite leaving school at 16 with 2 ‘O’ levels, my academic trajectory since has been upwardly mobile, especially with 34 of these past 39 years as a formal student myself. Experiencing the value of education makes me ‘hungry’ for learning and, so I am told, gives me the ability to tirelessly encourage and inspire learning in countless hundreds others since then, not least through the medium of appropriate humour. Katrina S, University of Greenwich [UG] 1st year student, 2013, said:
“Your lectures are interesting, engaging, fun and very humorous at times, without moving away from the seriousness of the subject at hand. I have been entertained, educated and inspired by you, to the point of considering specialising as a sexual health midwife once I am qualified.”
For me, teaching – especially sexual health and HIV studies – is not a job or a chore; it is a passion and a love-affair with learning. The ability to share this with others has lasted almost 24 years and shows no sign of abating. The learning I facilitate and teach is not just for any esoteric ‘love of wisdom’; my philosophy is to promote ‘com/passion’ in caring, and to bring a healing hand to the learner’s clients’ holistic sexual health needs.
“I do not know how David manages to provide this level of support to all those who wish to pursue academia but somehow he does! David provides support beyond what any student would expect from their tutor and is always available should help be needed. This in turn contributes to the care patients receive in sexual health settings, as well as the wider academic contributions. David is a role model for all those working in sexual health.”Vicky Dixon, one of my long-term students, MA sexual health graduand, 2013
A Practice Nurse nearing retirement introduced herself to me just as I was about to speak at a national conference. She had heard me speak to around 670 nurses a few years earlier, on the theme of one of my articles: “Clever Dicks Do It In a Condom!” Aiming to remember one key point from every speaker, from me it was “always mention safer sex in travel health consultations, no matter the patient’s age, abilities, orientations or relationship status”. The nurse carried this out, but said she regretted having gone for so many years previously missing out on what she called “the joys of dealing with a ‘Pandora’s Box’ of sexual health issues” that this one little permission-to-speak had achieved (Taylor and Davis 2006; Evans 2013). If the thousands of students I have taught over the years did just one thing like this, then there would be a definite revolution in sexual health care!
“At 31 yrs old, that was the best presented sex education I’ve come across. Wished I’d had that at 15 years old!!”
Maurice M, UG 1st year student,
The transformative effect my professional life has on leading learning with individual, local and national impact, emanates from three caring professions: nursing, the Catholic priesthood, and now sexual health education. Interchangeable skills from these professions, “synthesise layers of intensity and perspectives” (Burgess et al.2006) as they come together in the characteristic ways I share learning, whether on-line, in the classroom, or in personal one-to-one encounters. The Sexual Health Skills course (hereafter SHS) enabled me to manage the learning of over 2,500 people in the past 10 years, with commendation of the course in a Government Report (IAG-SH 2007). Sustained impact of SHS laid foundations for us at University of Greenwich to develop an acclaimed ‘top up’ BSc(Hons) and Masters degree (professional / advanced practice) in sexual health. SHS remains the compulsory core course of the bachelor degree. SHS widened my influence on learning on a national, and sometimes international, scale. This impact, promoting my subject-specialist domain of sexual health, is accompanied by over 50 conference presentations, a plethora of publications, and involvement at national level in the leadership and management of sexual health learning for practice, aimed at transforming lives.
“David is an enthusiastic and engaging lecturer with an animated and passionate demeanour. He prepares and delivers compelling lectures which tactfully deliver, often sensitive, topics with a balance of perceptive consciousness and a thought provoking manner. David integrates his students and encourages discussion, his lessons acting as an excellent platform for both group and individual work. His expertise in the domain of sexual health is evident as is his passion and avid interest for the subject.”
Eleanor H. UG SHS student evaluation form, 2013
“David’s ability to support and nurture the novice learner is astounding: the individual is the focus of [his] attention. His skill in building a frightened “I can’t study at Master’s level” student into one who completed her programme with Distinction and has since published her work. David’s approach […] to the love of learning and exploring knowledge that he imparts to the student is I believe the key to his success. The MA student has now applied for a funded PhD to continue her study into sexual health and religion.”
Colin J Roberts, Advanced Nurse Practitioner, 2012
As e-learning was new to me in 2009, transforming the reputable paper-based Sexual Health Skills (SHS) ‘distance learning’ course into electronic format required me to understand and draw upon applicable methodologies (Allen 2007). I started by researching best practice exemplars, to:
My reputation for working towards these goals led to me being ‘head hunted’ to co-produce materials for the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE). I interpreted McVeigh’s (2009) challenge to adapt a familiar physical classroom presence into a virtual e-learning presence, making sure that non face-to-face contact with students did not lose or disengage them.
SHS Respondent #6 2010, on-line evaluation (anonymous)
“[…]support from my module leader was absolutely fantastic. I have done a lot of courses and it isn’t always easy to connect with people on-line but David was great.”
My reputation for dynamic teaching, using animated technology and humorous presentations, is well known. During a recent Peer Observation of Teaching by my SFHEA mentor Professor Liz Meerabeau (see Criterion 2), the class of 48 paramedic students gave me a round-of-applause from the opening slide. This first slide was a blood-red critical cardiac design in which I added an animated ambulance image complete with flashing lights. A subsequent slide had a moving ambulance with siren sound when I wanted to accentuate a point of emergency care for HIV+ (positive) clients. The hours of preparation I put into every individual session helps to captivate student interest, maximise interactive rapport and results in excellent feedback and evaluations. The significance of customising learning to specific needs and professional backgrounds of participants means that topics such as HIV transmission become personally and professionally meaningful, whether students are from childhood studies, nursing, midwifery, or critical care paramedics.
Enhancing and transforming student learning is coupled with my own professional and academic development. A long-term national colleague and I recently organised some innovative teaching between the Universities of Bedford and Greenwich, subsequently co-authoring an article (Hadley & Evans 2013). Afterwards she wrote of me:
“As head of the [former Government’s] Teenage Pregnancy Unit I have seen huge benefits to individual practitioners completing [SHS course]. They have all been hugely enthusiastic about your encouragement to fully explore the complex area of sexual health and your support in their learning.”
Alison Hadley, OBE
Further evidence of an enduring capacity to stimulate students’ curiosity and interest, in ways which inspire a commitment to learning, is exemplified by the following individuals:
After completing a DipHE in mental health (UG), Beatrice undertook SHS as a stand-alone course. With my encouragement, she continued studies, graduating with the BSc(Hons) and MA Professional Practice, both in sexual health. In evaluation, Beatrice says:
“David made this learning experience one I will always remember. […] I learned so much and felt confident to share the knowledge acquired with others.”
At the 2013 General Practice Awards, Beatrice was shortlisted ‘Finalist’ for the third consecutive year, in three categories. At the ceremony, she introduced me to her older sister, whom she has now inspired into nursing. Beatrice’s sister is a third year student at Greenwich.
Vicky Dixon (olim Papworth):
Vicky was a student nurse at another university when she undertook SHS. Vicky completed her sexual health MA at Greenwich in 2013. Her assignment for the M-level e-learning (core) course I developed and coordinate, Contemporary Issues in Sexual Health (CISH), was a conference poster on the silencing of male voices in abortion care.
The poster brought her recognition at the School’s Sexual Health Research and Practice Conference. Vicky published the written element of that assignment in Nursing Standard (2011), and was invited keynote presenter at the 2013 Association of PsychoSexual Nursing conference at which I also presented.
“David has given me confidence to push myself academically and without his belief I would not have had the confidence to submit papers for publication. Thanks to David’s encouragement and feedback, I have had the joy of seeing my work in print on two occasions and am currently in the process of submitting a third. […] I am most grateful for this encouragement and support.”
Aged 17, working in an LGBT charity, Michael’s manager, Vicky Dixon (above), suggested he contact me to talk about developing a career in sexual health. We communicated over a number of years, finally meeting in person at the UK Sexual Health Awards 2012, at which we were both finalists (different categories). After four very successful years studying nursing at Kings College London, Michael moved to University of Greenwich upon winning the Vice Chancellor’s PhD Scholarship.
“David has been one of the most influential people in my life for the last 6 years! He […] has been very encouraging throughout my education journey from post-16 through to PhD! David is now first supervisor for my PhD research project.”
Despite the potentially ‘delicate’ matters I teach and publish on, I routinely use judicious humour and personal openness as evidence-based techniques for enabling learner-centredness (Lawler 1991; Felman 2001). Reflecting on sound andragogical practice, I commence every face-to-face session by stating that I am open to being personally challenged or questioned at any point. I believe such ‘interruptions’ are a dynamic force in the learning encounter. I actively court challenges by way of discursive educational deliberation, and despite ‘pacing the stage’ as I present / teach (i.e. not standing still behind a podium), I sit and face individuals who are speaking, so as to be more equally positioned to them.
These andragogical, or adult learning theory, techniques demonstrate research-validated ways to display therapeutic rapport, role-modelling good practice in dealing with embarrassing topics (Joyceline Lawler 1991). Using humour and real-life anecdotes familiarises students with language and practices they may otherwise find difficult to discuss or work with. I joke how “I used to be a Catholic priest, now I get paid to talk sex all day!”
“I would like to thank you for your lectures, they really are amazing. I gain so much knowledge from your sessions and you make the learning environment very enjoyable. The comments you make, the funny stories you tell make it personal. Out of the years I have studied you are the only lecturer that gets applauded without fail and it was great having you today.”
NJB, UG Childhood studies student, 2013
Whilst some of my colleagues are not surprised at what I say in the classroom, and the humorous way I deal with sensitive and explicit materials, the standing ovation I had most recently was in NJB’s class, about 100 students. They were from very diverse ethnic, language, cultural, and, for many, religious backgrounds. The standing ovation was because I asked them to voluntarily (and with no pressure) take part in an explicit language exercise from the book by Feminist author Inga Muscio (1998). The laughter was heard well outside the lecture hall.
Over 23+ years of facilitating learning I hear “I am only a nurse”; “I am only a [whatever] professional”. Using andragogy, described in the classic text of Burge (1998: 5) as “the art and science of helping adults learn” I strive to enable learners to believe in themselves; to translate learning from life and caring into a celebration and facilitation of learning with, and for, others.
As an example, I mentored an NHS educationalist through PGCertHE. Helen says:
“From the first day we met, he has gone over and above the call of duty. David allowed me to put the theory of teaching and learning into practice. […] He has been consistently persistent in encouraging me to do something I actually never thought I could do which was to become a teacher in a University [and apply for PhD]. Nothing has been too much trouble and […] I have learnt from the way he relates to his students. He quickly made himself available to support me when I had to supervise students undertaking project work for the first time.”
Similarly, Tina L, a Departmental colleague asked me to mentor her for SFHEA:
“Your approach is transformational and emancipatory. You demonstrate the exemplary behaviours of leadership (Kouzes and Posner 2010), acting as a positive role model who inspires me with your achievements and professional approach to work.”
Upon completing the EdD, I was asked to be second doctoral supervisor to a Departmental colleague, studying spirituality in mental health. I have since become first supervisor to three others, two that I personally recruited. The three sexual health masters students I supervised each gained MA “with distinction”. Kay Elmy won Sexual Health Professional of the Year at the UK Sexual Health Awards 2012 on the project I supervised for her Master’s degree.
On-going collaboration with my departmental teaching colleagues demonstrates how I influence wider support for student learning, contributing to us achieving an unusually high number of commendations at the October 2013 BSc(Hons) quinquennial review.
BSc(Hons) Sexual Health quinquennial review: Commendations
I sent news of this achievement to students and stake-holders. Current student Roberto exclaimed: “Brilliant! Brilliant! Brilliant! Well done to all of you! I’m really proud to be a Greenwich University student ;)”. Baroness Gould commented “That is great news” and Deputy Chief Nurse for England, Professor David Foster (@DavidFosterDH), tweeted: “Wow! Congratulations to all involved, that’s a great achievement.” This is not an exercise in ‘name dropping’, but maintaining good working relationships with significant players in (sexual) health, a strategy which proves to have direct benefits for ‘opening doors’ to our students. Numbers of sexual health students will never be large across the UK, but the University maintains a gradual year-on-year increase of graduates, as shown in this figure from the Quinquennial review:
Underpinning the commendations and demonstrating my wider academic citizenship I regularly engage with national nursing, medical, governmental and voluntary organisations. In 2013, for example: I introduced the British Association for Sexual Health & HIV to our School as the first medical organisation having courses credit rated with us. Dr Penny Goold, Consultant GU Medicine and Chair of Education at BASHH said:
“It is very clear that you are passionate about academic education in sexual health and are prepared to go the extra mile to ensure that is accessible to as many people as possible.”
Promoting life-long learning, I encourage many (former) students to publish assignments. Sometimes this is simply advice; other times I co-author. Stephanie Enson started her journey with me on SHS; I encouraged her to complete our BSc(Hons). She published 4 of her assignments in the British Journal of School Nursing and is now studying with me on Contemporary Issues in Sexual Health, at the beginning of post graduate studies. The following 2 statistical charts show the success rates of students completing assignments for the e-courses I coordinate. Course feedback affirms that the results reflect support I am able to give, especially to those new to e-learning, with limited IT skills, with dyslexia or inexperienced with higher education academic requirements.
Sexual Health Skills (level 6) results 2009-2012
Contemporary Issues in Sexual Health (level 7) results 2009-2012
Examples of my endeavours to diversify learning include: co-organising two successful Sexual Health Research and Practice conferences, with our research and teaching teams (2010, 2012). I am currently developing a business proposal for a third, in 2015.
Along with Prof Kathryn Abel (Psychiatrist, University of Manchester) and Dr Roxane Agnew-Davies (Director, Domestic Violence training Ltd), we achieved ‘Finalist’ status in the 2012 UK Sexual Health Awards for the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) e-learning course, on Sexual and Reproductive Health for Mental Health professionals, we co-authored. This Department of Health funded initiative was commended to NHS England, Chief Nursing Officer’s Bulletin, January 2012.
Again in 2012, I organised, administered and ‘stage-managed’ inauguration events for Professor Anthony Pryce, visiting professor for sexual health. Part of this organisation included delicate negotiations to use an innovative and award-winning Women & Theatre drama group, performing sexually explicit research on “Talking Balls and Cervical Monologues”.
Professor Pryce says:
“David [is] an extremely talented teacher who aims to inspire students with his passion for his subject areas. David demonstrates innovation in the variety of his approaches to teaching / learning, and is a formidable force in the project of bringing scholarly values and knowledge to inform practice.”
In 2013, I received a number of unsolicited requests for authorship. When I submitted a commissioned CPD article for review the editor asked me to write another 3 in 2014. I requested co-authoring with students new to publishing; a request agreed without reservation.
Impact and engagement beyond my immediate role can be seen in various extra-curricular initiatives, advancing sexual health learning and learners.
Firstly, I successfully nominated Baroness Gould of Potternewton for a Doctorate honoris causa (HonDUniv) for her championing role in sexual health practice and education (University of Greenwich, 2011) (YouTube Eulogy & Acceptance Speech) . Similarly, I nominated Colin Roberts for a Fellowship of the Royal College of Nursing (FRCN) for his leadership in sexual health nursing, education and inter-professional advancement. Both of these advocates of sexual health routinely support our efforts at the University, for which we reap great rewards ranging from increased student numbers to career opportunities.
One further example of a transformative impact and leadership beyond the academy is some out-of-work-time encouragement I have given to a person on Twitter. Alice Hoyle (@SexEdUKation) has now formally acknowledged me in her Masters dissertation and given me feedback on my unofficial educational support.
“You have been an invaluable support to me. […] You have encouraged me when I have really been demoralised and struggling, and given me renewed confidence in my abilities as a fledgling academic (one who is a practitioner at heart and finds academia very inaccessible a lot of the time!)”
“Reflection on teaching is a key tool, a reflexive habit, a self-conscious awareness of the self in practice” (Peelo 2011: 8). This reflexive habit, supported with counselling qualifications and experience, has been fundamental to me in nursing, (priesthood) and teaching. By centring critical reflection, personal and professional development becomes inextricably bound to advancement of learners and learning. For example, when I undertook a PGCE, we used an 8-step model for Critical Incident Reflection. I regularly use this model and have adapted it for one of the Sexual Health Skills (SHS) course assignments. To ‘practice what I preach’, I underscore teaching with the Extended PLISSIT (Ex-PLISSIT) model by Taylor and Davis (2006). This involves Permission [giving]; Limited Information; Specific Suggestions and Intensive Therapy. Crucially, for me as practitioner, this is extended to Self-Awareness; Reflection; Review (of practice); Knowledge (development), and Challenging Assumptions (self and others). My latest publication was promoting this model.
Critical reflexivity – before, during and after teaching – means ‘in practice and on practice’. This is crucial for using humour in ‘sensitive’ teaching. The humour I employ must be ‘judicious’, i.e. humour that breaks down barriers; enabling people to deal with the embarrassing or abject in life; facilitating therapeutic rapport. Gratuitous humour would cause offence and be counter-intuitive for education. In clinical and educational sexual health, people may laugh out of sheer embarrassment or fear at being laughed at. It is laughing with someone not at them that enables, a fact recently brought home to me in an anonymous article I reviewed for Journal of Advanced Nursing: ‘“You need a good sense of humour, don’t you?” Masculinities, humour and care for penile cancer’.
Significant professional and academic developments are shown throughout my CV. Recent ‘in-house’ developments have included constructive annual appraisals and study opportunities on Information Technology and e-learning: WebCT; BannerWeb; Moodle design and enhancement; Adobe Connect and Prezi. I have also presented 3 research seminars on aspects of my doctoral studies and using Queer Theory as an epistemology in healthcare; embarked on the GOLD Scheme (Greenwich Opportunities for Learning Development) for Senior Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy and undertaken a 3-day course for new doctoral supervisors. The latter has been supported by a wealth of associated self-directed study to be the best supervisor I can be. I plan to undertake formal Systematic Reviews training soon, especially to help clarify apparent contradictory evidence on masturbation in relation to prostate cancer.
At a Peer Observation of Teaching (PoT), Professor Liz Meerabeau wrote:
The topic of HIV and AIDS has crucial additional aspects. It requires a knowledge of recent social history, and the ability to address sensitive and potentially embarrassing issues concerning sexual behaviour, on which some students, and members of the general public, may have pronounced views. David’s forte is his ability to address these issues in a way which is witty, but always kind and inclusive, exemplifying the UKPSF professional values.”
This is a prime opportunity for me to reflect and critically consider alternative approaches to my presentation of learning. For example, when a class member mentions the stigmatising aspects of HIV infection or AIDS, I can give them a 30 year potted history lesson on the impact of stigmas related to HIV in healthcare provision. However, in a time-limited session, the ‘luxury’ of exploring the wider domains of HIV client care, such as this, may take us too far away from the stated learning objectives of the individual course. I must balance intended learning outcomes with individual learners’ enquiries.
Another example relates to a presentation I gave on Feminism. I am thankful for previously having gained insights from studies at the LSE Gender Institute. I used an animated image to demonstrate a particular point. After the session, a student came up to me and said that she found the image potentially demeaning of women. I listened to her, agreed with her comments and invited her to consider some additional ways of thinking on this. Reflecting on my response both at that time and afterwards, i.e. in practice and on practice, was in line with the ExPLISSIT model I have mentioned above. We both explored our meanings, understandings and alternatives together. I thanked her for having the courage to raise this topic and asked for her permission to outline our discussion in feedback to her class (anonymously). She agreed. I therefore outlined our discussion in the PowerPoint presentation uploaded to the course Moodle. I was acutely aware of potential power dynamics between teacher / student; older / younger; male / female. Similarly, before, during and after session reflection was critical with the explicit language exercise I referred to in Criterion 2, from Inga Muscio. I had to think long and hard about risks of doing that exercise with a completely diverse group (ages, sexualities, genders, and most particularly, people from orthodox and traditional cultures and religions). The fact that, as a relative stranger to a class of around 100, I had a standing ovation provides evidence that the risk paid off (on that occasion) and the educational initiative was evaluated a success.
With my three professional backgrounds coupled with the teaching and research experiences I bring to my post, I have wonderful opportunities for celebrating diversity and challenging gender and sexuality prejudices. Frequently I tactfully and respectfully counter religious homo- and erotophobia in the classroom – not a problem, given years of Biblical and Theological studies – but my underlying principle is always that “honey goes down easier than vinegar”.
The final ways I demonstrate contributions that significantly improve student learning experiences at the wider (strategic) level, include: regularly raising the voice of nursing education at the All Party Parliamentary Group for Sexual and Reproductive Health. I previously contributed to the nursing and education groups of the Department of Health’s National Strategy for Sexual Health and HIV. I also provided evidence on sexual health / teenage pregnancy education for nurses to the London Assembly, and was seconded to present 2 workshops at the International Council of Nurses Congress in Taiwan. After developing the Sexual Health Skills course, I participated in ‘road shows’ across England, with the Department of Health, as evidence of ‘Achieving Excellence in Sexual Health Training’. I also presented the SHS course to the Matrons-in-Chief Conference (2005) for Her Majesty’s Armed Forces, leading to University of Greenwich being the provider of sexual health degrees to the Army. Importantly, I try my best to relate strategic level initiatives for the benefit of individual learners.
“David. To one of earth’s few remaining angels. Thank you for your kindness, continued support and inspiration. Words alone cannot express my appreciation for your time and effort. From a very grateful student xxx”An NCO, QARANS, 1st class honours sexual health graduate
My colleague, Helen says:
“David is highly thought of within [our] department and I have heard staff commenting on his inspiring methods of teaching and his ability to engage with his students.”
Whether in one-to-one encounters or working strategically, nationally, I aim to be wholly transformative in the learning and education I promote. In 2001, when I authored the education section of the RCN Sexual Health Strategy I suggested how the career trajectory for nurses in sexual health would / should be mapped across to Graduate, Maters and, increasingly, Doctoral level studies. My more recent work with NHS London Sexual Health Programme saw this ‘dream’ get a step closer.
My concluding evidence comes from the SFHEA reference for me, by Colin Roberts, FRCN:
“David is well recognised as one of the leading authorities on sexual health theory in the United Kingdom. […] He is one of the most humble but knowledgeable educators in sexual health. His ability to connect with all learners, embrace difference in culture, religion and understanding has enabled many many students and members of the agencies he has worked for to be able to broaden their own outlook on the issues that surround sexual good health.”
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