Lecturer honoured for commitment to diversity

Excellence in Education Awards: Excellent Educator Award

  • Date

    Tue 1 Feb 22

Veronica Lamarche

Dr Veronica Lamarche is dedicated to encouraging diversity, inclusion and modernising our curriculums here at the University of Essex.

She has received an Excellence in Education Award for her tireless work to ‘decolonise’ study material and welcome students from across the globe.

Dr Lamarche, from the Department of Psychology, incredibly developed inclusive modules whilst she was still on probation.

The now senior lecturer created content that resonated and engaged students from diverse backgrounds and promoted inclusion through representation and co-led the Diversity and Inclusion Working Group in 2020.

The group held training events, organised focus groups, and produced resources to encourage better teaching practices.

Now students from a variety of backgrounds stand a fairer chance of succeeding at Essex.

She said: “My teaching philosophy is centred on creating a learning environment that reflects student experiences and is relevant to their own lives.

“I am therefore dedicated to fostering inclusivity in my classroom and have been actively working to decolonise my teaching practice for several years.

“Students learn best when they see themselves in module content. However, teaching materials in psychology traditionally focus on research from white samples in western, industrialised, democratic countries.

“With a student body as diverse as Essex’s, this means that the majority of our students are not seeing themselves represented in their degree content.

“To address this issue, I designed my lecture materials, learning objectives and assessment strategies with the aim of boosting representation and dismantling exclusively western and anglocentric perspectives in the classroom.

”As part of the commitment to modernise Dr Lamarche dedicated entire lecturers to discuss research relating to different lifestyles."

She also now provides a photograph of reading list authors –accompanied by institutional nationality –to highlight global perspectives.

Visual-aids showing diverse examples are also used rather than stock images of white, able-bodied, heterosexual couples.

She said: “Students have communicated to me that my module was the first time they saw themselves represented visually in lecture slides in the three years they’ve been in the department.

“Testimonials and teaching evaluations from my students suggest that my efforts to improve engagement through representation have been a success and some of my strategies have been adopted by my colleagues.

”The work has been praised by students who say the moves boosted their grades.

One said: “In my four years at Essex she has been the only lecturer to include not only an array of ethnically diverse literature, but in her lecture PowerPoints for her Relationships module she made sure that any images she used reflected the real world in terms of ethnicities, body types, disabilities, and sexual orientations.

“The lecture content was made more interesting as a result of this.

“Funnily enough in modules where diversity is actually acknowledged I have done my best in terms of grades.”