Professor Rachel Spronken-Smith

Award for Sustained Excellence in Tertiary Teaching

Dean, Graduate Research School, University of Otago

“All my teaching is underpinned by passion, sound pedagogical principles, and a desire to promote innovative and engaging practice.”


Rachel’s love and passion for teaching has taken her on a journey across discipline areas, institutions and continents. During her Postgraduate Diploma in Teaching studies she decided to research teaching and support others to become better teachers. As a teacher, she facilitates student learning by setting clear expectations, creating a safe learning environment, using active learning strategies and modelling practice; firstly as a geographer and then as an educator.

At the Higher Educational Development Centre at the University of Otago Rachel has undertaken a range of research projects in curriculum development, inquiry-based learning and graduate outcomes. Her scholarship on teaching and learning is disseminated in a range of academic journals and practitioner workshops.  Rachel’s influence has been evidenced through consistently high satisfaction evaluations from students, teachers and the wider higher education sector. A recent workshop testimonial highlights Rachel’s impact on teaching practice, “Rachel gave all the support I needed to change my paper. The paper was a success and students’ evaluations were very positive. It changed the way I teach.”

Video Gallery

Professor Rachel Spronken Smith - Recipient of a 2015 Ako Aotearoa Tertiary Teaching Excellence Award