UQ’s Fine Fellows

The Higher Education Academy (HEA) Fellowship scheme is a professional recognition scheme for university educators. It provides an international benchmark for teaching quality.

Following a successful pilot in 2016 and further development across the last year by The Institute for Teaching and Learning Innovation (ITaLI) alongside school and faculty partners, the UQ HEA Fellowship scheme is now institutionally accredited by Advance HE (UK).

This enables ITaLI to manage and administer internal HEA Fellowship applications for the benefit of all staff (both academic and professional) working in Teaching and Learning at UQ.

At UQ, the HEA scheme is one way the university is building and acknowledging a community of great teachers creating change. Read about one of our newest HEA Fellows below.

Associate Professor Pierre Benckendorff (SFHEA) from the School of Business was born in South Africa but migrated to Queensland's Sunshine Coast over 30 years ago. He inherited his love for education from a long line of teachers and academics on his mother's side of the family. His passion for travel and tourism has taken him and his family to some of the world’s leading theme parks and airports, the major cities of Europe and North America, the African Savannah and the bustling streets of Asia. He has also travelled extensively throughout Australia and New Zealand. Pierre is also a keen gardener and grower of organic food.

Teaching journey

I did not initially set out to be an educator, but in hindsight I have always had a keen interest in teaching and learning. In the second year of my undergraduate degree at James Cook University I was nominated as a student representative - a role I took so seriously that I tried to completely redesign the content and structure of the degree. In my honours year I had an opportunity to tutor a few classes and immediately found I had a knack for teaching. At this early stage of my career, I really understood very little about pedagogy and teaching and my approach was guided largely by intuition and empathy – delivering the content in a way I would have liked if I were in my students’ shoes.

These formative experiences piqued my interest and were the beginning of a journey in academia that has provided an opportunity to design learning activities and programs. In 2005, I was approached to be the Director of Teaching and Learning for my school. This was not only a great responsibility, it allowed me to have an impact on pedagogy and curriculum design beyond the units I was teaching. I was suddenly able to encourage and influence other educators to try new teaching approaches and techniques.

In 2007, I was awarded a national Carrick (later ALTC/OLT) citation for my contributions to student learning. I moved to The University of Queensland (UQ) in 2010 to become the Chair of Teaching and Learning for the former School of Tourism. I initiated an evidence-based approach to teaching and learning by gathering data about the student experience to inform school-wide change. Since 2010, I have been involved in a number of national teaching and learning projects totalling close to AUD 1 million in grant funding. These opportunities provided me with a platform to attend Higher Education conferences and to engage in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL).

HEA experience

Having previously applied for teaching and learning awards and grants, I found the HEA application process reasonably easy. I set reflective writing tasks for my students, so I had a good understanding of the style and language that was required. Despite this, I actually found the whole process quite cathartic, because it allowed me to look back over a 20 year career and forced me to revisit and reflect on the various activities I have been involved in.

The reflective style is quite different to other styles of academic and technical writing, and I found the freedom of expression quite liberating. The process of looking backwards also got me thinking about the future and what I would like to achieve over the next 20 years. I am really proud to be a member of the growing community of HEA fellows at UQ. For me, the most important benefit is that I now have an opportunity to share my expertise and to learn from other passionate educators outside my field. I also hope that this growing community of HEA fellows will create some momentum around innovative teaching and learning at UQ.

Memorable teaching moment

The thing I love most about teaching is seeing moments of inspiration in my students. It is very satisfying when my students get excited about the ideas we share in the classroom and through their assessment tasks. I use an online simulation in one of my courses and students become so engaged in the activities that I cannot get them to leave the classroom at the end of the session!

Teaching philosophy

I became an educator because I want to change the world. I believe in the ‘power of many’ and through my teaching I aim to transform and inspire bright, enthusiastic learners to create change. My teaching methods are underpinned by a continuous reflective cycle that involves experimenting with new learning activities and assessment tasks to gauge how students respond, and refining these activities based on student feedback and observation.

My instructional design is heavily informed by the design principles for authentic learning environments and tasks. My teaching invariably involves a blended approach consisting of physical and virtual platforms to create authentic learning contexts and tasks.

Career goal

I am at a stage of my career where I have achieved many of the goals I have set for myself as an individual. My focus is increasingly on helping other people to achieve their goals.