National Teaching Fellow 2008
Avril Bellinger's innovation in teaching is exemplified by the Students and Refugees Together (START) project which she initiated in 2001. This major teaching resource has provided inter-professional learning opportunities to over 100 students from more than 10 different disciplines and 4 countries whilst generating contemporary case material to inform classroom teaching. Its unique organisational structure, combining service delivery with education, has won international recognition and a NHS Health and Social Care Award 2005.
‘The project epitomises all that is essential to a stretching learning environment that enables students to link their theoretical learning into their practice; integrate their values and stay abreast of national and international current affairs. It is unique in the extent to which students have autonomy and the opportunity to work creatively in a safe and carefully monitored framework.’ (Practice Teacher, 2003)
Avril’s passion for learning and teaching about social justice stems from a 15-year career in practice, latterly as a team manager. Since 1986 she has also been a social work lecturer and practice learning co-ordinator at the University of Plymouth. She is committed to practices that make a difference, and aims to inspire and challenge her students to look beyond conventional approaches.
‘I enjoy the radical elements of your teaching and how it, in turn motivates my thinking to be ‘outside the box’.
(2nd year student)
Student-centred learning continues to be a priority for Avril when nationally many students are being left to ‘fend for themselves’ in practice. Placement experiences are monitored and adapted according to student individuality. Student practice is consistently and rigorously assessed enabling academic credit to be assigned to practice portfolios.
Avril’s leadership of the Social Work Centre for Practice Learning together with her Fellowship of the Centre for Sustainable Futures at Plymouth ensure that students have a progressive education through international collaborations with both European and African countries which connect social work, environmental challenges and social justice.
Avril was also instrumental in developing a HEFCE CETL bid for £4.5 million to create a Centre for Excellence in Professional Placement Learning (CEPPL) and continues to play a key role in this initiative.
Senior Lecturer, Social Work Practice Learning Co-ordinator