Teaching Excellence Awards

 Year Awarded: 2015

Faculty Award winner

Mathilda Van Niekerk

 College of Hospitality Management

 Tourism, Events & Attractions

My philosophy of teaching has developed over the course of many years of teaching and industry experience in South Africa and the USA.  Looking back on my career, I have found that my mission as a teacher has always been based on the following unchanging principles: I always want to ensure that my students understand, firstly, the theoretical concepts of the learning material and that they are then able to integrate it into their own lives and work milieus. I also believe in promoting an interactive classroom and online teaching and learning environments. Last but not least, I believe in the importance of honing strong critical thinking skills in students. I apply these principles by having and showing a sincere interest in students’ individual development; by aiming to understand their personal goals, and their unique situations and capabilities; and by maintaining high academic standards. I cultivate enthusiasm in students for the study of festival and events studies by sharing with them my own enthusiasm for this field, and of course for the theoretical course material.

From the onset of a semester I create a positive and interactive teaching and learning atmosphere by facilitating group interactions and by allowing everyone to share ideas. I accomplish this through my lively presentations, and by means of questions I use for classroom discussions; I also make use of scholarly article evaluations. I incorporate exciting, innovative and effective methods in my classroom and use various forms of technology. It can be very challenging to engage, communicate and create an interactive teaching and learning atmosphere in and online environment.  I tackle this challenge by stimulating learning through the use of multi-media tools.   I believe in fast and effective communication when I give personal feedback on students’ course progress.

I guide my students to develop strong critical thinking skills. I believe they must be able to make informed decisions about the merits of arguments that are presented to them, and that they need to be able to offer thoughtful critical feedback regarding the strengths and weaknesses of arguments as well as the theories, methods and evidence that are employed to support them. In this regard, I always find it helpful to critically discuss current developments in the events and festival industry. This approach has proved to be useful in stimulating critical thinking and the application of theoretical concepts in practice. I also use my industry experience and recent research publications to demonstrate the practical application of the more academic and theoretical concepts.