Distinguished Teacher Award recipient for 2021

07 November 2022

Dear colleagues and students

In recognising outstanding teaching at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and acknowledging contributions to the promotion of teaching and learning excellence at the institution, the Distinguished Teacher Award (DTA) is handed out annually to deserving recipients.

The DTA Committee selects awardees after a meticulous assessment of a large pool of portfolios submitted by eligible candidates. The committee engages each teaching portfolio, examining the evidence for excellence in teaching over several years, focusing on their:

  • teaching philosophy and pedagogical approach in the context of teaching and learning challenges in South African higher education
  • contribution to curriculum renewal and transformation in teaching and learning
  • innovation in teaching and learning
  • impact on their students, beyond formal teaching time
  • impact on the teaching and learning approaches of their colleagues
  • understanding and practice of inclusivity in their teaching
  • reflective teaching practices.

In addition, nominees may also provide evidence in relation to:

  • their scholarship of teaching and learning – including any relevant publications, conference attendance and research projects
  • how they design their learning materials to be accessible to differently abled students.

The DTA Committee has finalised its assessment of the portfolios submitted for 2021. I am pleased to announce that the Distinguished Teacher Award recipient for 2021 is Associate Professor Elena Moore.

Associate Professor Moore is the head of the Department of Sociology. The DTA Committee strongly noted that she successfully integrates the theory and practice of decoloniality, illustrated by the detailed description of the work she has done in the different domains of knowledge and her efforts to build a departmental perspective on this. She has also improved on research enrichment at undergraduate level and has used creative ways of structuring themes for decolonial approaches.

She describes her pedagogical approach as one that creates spaces to talk, gather, open up, ask questions and collaborate, and is acknowledging of the relational aspects of pedagogy. In doing so, she prioritises openness, reflection, intellectual pluralism, and the broader context in which teaching and learning relations are based.

Students state that it is her dedication to learning, thinking and teaching within a community of practice that supports decolonial praxis, and that has been most impactful in shaping their own scholarship and academic careers.

Associate Professor Moore expresses an engagement with students that has a continued sense of ‘deep connectedness’ that goes beyond her personal interventions in their crises. While she has taught at all levels of the undergraduate and postgraduate curriculum, it is in the department’s recent curriculum review that her pedagogical approach has been keenly operationalised.

Accompanying this work has been a remarkable shifting of structures of power, through the creation of more collaborative and equitable teaching and learning environments for students, teachers, academics, and administrators. She is described by a colleague as “providing leadership lifting the heavy load and doing the grinding quantitative and qualitative review of all courses, holding the space and contributing to crafting and operationalising our vision”.

Her ground-breaking contributions to this curriculum review process have set the foundations for the institutional imperative for curriculum change, and her achievements in this regard are described by the Dean of Humanities as “unique, and a major contribution to the very diverse fields of humanities, scholarship and humanising critical radical pedagogies”.

The committee commented that her self-reflexivity is evident throughout her teaching portfolio as she shifts through questioning herself, what she knows, what she does not know, and how she negotiates that space, welcoming peer feedback as her strategy for her own development.

Notwithstanding her transformative pedagogical practice and research, Associate Professor Moore is celebrated by her students and colleagues for a genuine curiosity, inclusivity, empathy, and support beyond the classroom, for her mentorship and for what one student describes as “her ability to make each student and colleague feel valued as an intellectual and social being”.

Please join me in congratulating Associate Professor Moore.


Professor Harsha Kathard
Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning

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