Dr. Shakuntala Banaji, lecturer and programme director of the Master's in Media, Communication and Development in the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), has been selected as recipient of the fourth annual European Award for Excellence in Teaching in the Social Sciences and Humanities. The award, initiated by CEU Provost and Pro-Rector Liviu Matei and overseen by the University's Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) aims to promote excellence in teaching across the European Higher Education Area (EHEA). Banaji will be given the award and its accompanying €5,000 Diener Prize at CEU's Opening Ceremony for academic year 2015-2016 in September.
Banaji, who earned her PhD in Media and Communications from the Institute of Education, University of London, has also received two teaching excellence awards at LSE, in 2011 and 2015 and a Major Review Teaching Prize in 2013. Her teaching and research interests include issues of children, young people and active citizenship, international media and the global south, and media and sociopolitical change.
Committed to meaningful use of technology in support of student learning, Banaji often incorporates media in her teaching – from radio programs and blogs to films and documentaries. Students in her graduate seminars also work with simulation activities that she designs to have experience how theory can inform their everyday experiences and working lives. Central to her teaching philosophy is a belief that "teaching is about drawing out the ways in which [students] have been taught to live, to think and to learn; getting them to recognize the flaws or benefits in their ways of thinking about and looking at the world; and then presenting them with situations and circumstances as well as concepts that they can use to encounter and interpret the social world differently."
Banaji is currently the project director for the UK team for a cross-national EC Horizon 2020 project "CATCHEYoU – Young People's Active Citizenship" starting in 2015. One aspect of this research, that mirrors the themes in much of her teaching, focuses on inequality in access to rights, media and technology among young people, the agency and efficacy which enables young people to campaign for social change, and a critique of research that focuses exclusively on middle and upper class children and young people. "There's this drive to say that everybody is connected. But everybody is not connected, and if all you're doing is speaking to those who are connected, you're leaving out two thirds of the world," Banaji wrote in a letter submitted with her application.
A related part of Banaji's teaching philosophy is inclusion. She not only wants to teach her students about the world outside of the university walls, she wants those who might not be traditional students to receive a quality education, and for herself and her other students to learn from each other.
"In my teaching, I am constantly straining to bring in, to offer opportunities to include those who may have missed out on other programs or institutions – for want of brand-name education, or perfect scores – but also to support and scaffold those with scars of all kinds: from personal and social trauma, socioeconomic deprivation, to lack of confidence or depression. Getting all students onto and through degrees with further confidence and motivation is what I try to do now and wish to do more effectively in years to come."
The Diener Prize is made possible by a generous gift from Steven and Linda Diener in memory of Ilona Diener. In addition to this external award, CEU recently instituted a CEU Distinguished Teaching Award as well as a program of Teaching Development Grants to support individual CEU faculty members in the development of teaching projects. For further information on the award, including past winners, eligibility criteria and application process for the next round, visit: http://ctl.ceu.edu/teaching-award.
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