AN academic from the North-East has won the National Award for Excellence in Teaching Sociology for her innovative approach.

Dr Carol Stephenson, programme director and principal lecturer in sociology at Northumbria University, was presented with the award by the British Sociological Association (BSA) and the Higher Education Academy (HEA) at the annual BSA Conference in Leeds.

The award aims to recognise individual staff or teams of staff, share best practice and raise the profile of learning and teaching activity in Sociology within higher education. Dr Stephenson’s award is in recognition of her innovative teaching approach and the introduction of a new Sociology module entitled Life Stories.

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Life Stories encourages students to take a sociological approach to biography, to see that people’s lives are about more than choices and personal decisions, but also about social inequalities, divisions and ideologies.

Through this module teaching staff share their own biographies, the choices they have made and how they were influenced by their wider social context of, for example, class, gender, ethnicity, geography and sexuality.

Dr Stephenson explains: “This approach allows students to ‘do’ sociology – even in their first year of study, through biographical and autobiographical research. They reflect on research methods, theory and ethics and develop transferable skills of presentation and critical self-reflection.”

Helen Jones, Discipline Lead for Sociology at the Higher Education Authority, said: “We need more cases of excellent teaching and my hope is that more teachers will feel similarly inspired to apply next year.”