National Teaching Fellow 2014
Dr Ruth Whittle's approach to learning and teaching is largely shaped by her international experience as a student of English and American language and literature, French language and literature and pedagogy at the University of Bonn, Germany. At a time where it was rare to study abroad, she managed to spend not one but three years away, first at Stanford University, where she held a scholarship and also worked as a teaching assistant in German. Then a teaching assistantship in Geneva allowed her to counterbalance the American influence. Finally, as a German Lektorin at the University of Oxford, she felt fully at home conversing with her colleagues in English, French and German on a daily basis.
These three periods of teaching German as a foreign language became the defining factor in Ruth's career. Following her permanent move to the UK in 1988, she worked initially as a freelance teacher, translator and editor with varied, interesting clients, for example in the Diplomatic Service, as well as with publishers including Berlitz and Oxford University Press (OUP). She has been a lecturer in German at the University of Birmingham since 1992.
Ruth’s intensive experience of arriving in a country and having to make one's way shaped her interest in the support of learning and teaching. She has held key roles in student welfare and internationalisation as well as developing a range of innovative courses in the German section, e.g. in Business German. In her latest research project she is looking into how to achieve transformational changes with language students as reflective learners and how this could impact positively on the relationship between staff and students as a community of learners and teachers.
Lecturer in German Studies
University of Birmingham