National Teaching Fellow 2009
Following a career in commercial investment and management in New York, Berry O’Donovan spent the last ten years at Oxford Brookes University. She is a Deputy Director of ASKe (Assessment Standards Knowledge exchange), Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, and Head of Learning and Teaching Development in the Business School.
Berry enthusiastically champions student learning in large first year business classes. Her talent lies in tirelessly working on all facets of the student experience: “It is simply not enough to do one thing well in large first year classes. Effectively engaging and orientating new students involves working with colleagues across the institution and using all the pedagogic tools available”.
Testimonials confirm that, despite large class sizes, O’Donovan remains accessible to and talented in building close relationships with her students. A recent graduate commented: “Berry, thanks. Without you, I was going to leave in my first year.”
Berry is nationally recognised for her ground-breaking work on the role of tacit knowledge in assessment practice and the function of community in sharing understandings of assessment standards. Based on a decade of collaborative research, Berry believes that assessment and feedback are central to student learning. This is an underpinning element of her teaching, demonstrated in workshops she runs where her students learn how to evaluate their own work prior to an assessed task. This approach empowers students, equipping them with a much deeper understanding of assessment requirements and criteria. One first-year student commented: “I really feel I now know what is expected, I feel a lot less worried about my assignments.”
Berry encourages students to actively participate in the academic community. She has been pivotal in introducing innovative initiatives to the Business School. For example the module assistant scheme employs students to help lecturers with the administration of their modules. Everyone benefits; students gain insight into academia from ‘the other side’ and valuable work experience, while staff learn to work in a productive partnership with their students. In the words of one module assistant, this process is: “a brilliant experience, which made me really see what university is all about”.
Head of Learning and Teaching Development & Deputy Director ASKe Centre for Excellence
Oxford Brookes University