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Vice Chancellor’s Award-Winning JC Penet talks about good practice, employability and why he is happiest when teaching.
Jean-Christophe Penet, a teaching fellow in the School of Modern Languages has a number of strings to his bow.
An accomplished teacher, he’s seen his professional practice grow to become a huge influence on his life and on the institution.
Penet, who started life at the UWE before moving to Newcastle to take up a teaching fellowship in 2010, has won one of this year’s VC Awards, recognising his work in learning and teaching, in SML and across the Institution.
‘These awards represent a really important way of recognising learning and teaching and the crucial role they play in the University.
‘I like especially that these awards are not based simply on module evaluations or peer review but on a more holistic approach to teaching and learning, taking in lots of elements of professional practice.’
Some of Penet’s major contributions have been above and beyond the realm of classroom teaching or delivering information, focussing on a key student concern: employability.
He’s worked on two key projects in this area for SML, each begun as a response to student demand.
‘The first was in response to a focus group report which we received about concerns students had about employability.
‘We started by running a networking event in which alumni and the companies our students have gone to work for in the past, come in to meet the students of the present.
‘Often I think SML courses are seen as vocational, that you will certainly go into translation or teaching but we wanted to show that there was lots more you could do.
‘We started a blog, run by Joss Harrison in the School called Careers Translated which looks at all the options with a degree in Modern Languages.
‘We now also have an alumni evening where alumni come back and meet with students to discuss what the options are after finishing their degrees.
‘The evening raises money for the Modern Languages Society, so that they can pay for trips etc. throughout the year.
‘We also organised an afternoon event to help students to meet with potential employers and to showcase different careers for languages students.
‘All of these events have drawn really positive feedback from both students and the businesses involved.’
As well as this event, JC is involved in recruitment in the school, running events which bring together local sixthformers, UG and PG students such as ‘Meet the Translators/Interpreters’ to look at transition and progression between school, university and postgraduate study.
Alongside these achievements JC was recognised for his contribution to teaching and learning across the University and is a familiar face on committees and in cross-faculty groups.
He is a founding member of Newcastle Educators, a group started by teaching staff across the University to provide support, advice and a forum for discussion of all things teaching and learning.
He still views this as one of his proudest achievements: ‘It’s changed my professional life having that community to draw on. Having peers to offer advice on teaching but also books, applications and career options.’
Do you have a colleague who goes above and beyond in the name of learning and teaching? Or know someone who has a particularly innovative approach to their teaching?
Lecturers in the Law School are making use of industry professionals to teach students about ‘real-life’ as a legal professional.
The school makes use of professionals from local practices to assess first year’s interviewing techniques and invites Law Lords and senior judges to meet students in order to help them to establish contacts and feel comfortable in the formal and often cliquey legal world.
Jonathan Galloway, just one lecturer making use of professionals in both law and economics as part of his Competition Law module, thinks that regular contact with those working in the profession gives Newcastle students the edge.
‘Not only is it great to hear from someone who can tell you in a more anecdotal sense how the theory you learn about during your degree works in real world situations, it also builds students’ confidence.
‘For many of them, the world of court, particularly places like the supreme court or Parliament can seem completely out of reach. Meeting a senior judge or law lord can help them to feel more comfortable and confident in applying for jobs or placements at these types of places later.
‘For some Newcastle students, they may never have met a barrister or a judge before. Having people who work at some of the most prestigious firms or in the top jobs deliver elements of their courses helps them to see that these sorts of professions are within reach for them and hopefully encourages them to aim high after they graduate.’
For Jonathan, this works both ways: ‘It also works the same way for the firms themselves. Although many of the most prestigious firms in London, they come into regular contact with students from London-based Law Schools, many may not meet many students from Newcastle.
‘Inviting them to speak means that they already have a sense of what Newcastle students are about and how much they could offer their firm as a graduate.’
The Law School makes use of professionals to assess interviewing techniques in the early stages of the degree and to deliver some lectures on modules such as Competition law and Human Rights law.
Although much of this takes place later in the course and Jonathan is keen to stress that students always already have a theoretical grounding in the area which professionals come to discuss, he thinks it is inherently valuable for the students:
‘We’ve had some really excellent people, not just lawyers but economists too to help the students get a more rounded sense of how wide-ranging legal studies is and how many different sectors the law touches upon.’