#CelebratingTogether: Professor Richard Sparks

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Edinburgh University Students’ Association’s Student-Led Teaching Awards are back to recognise outstanding members of learning and support staff. After a challenging year for everyone, we’re celebrating our worthy nominees by shouting about their successes across our digital platforms. 


Richard Sparks
Professor Richard Sparks

What is your full name? 

Richard Sparks 

What is your job title? 

Professor of Criminology 

What school or service do you work in? 

School of Law 


Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your role. 

I have worked at the University of Edinburgh for about fifteen years now. For part of that time I was Head of the Law School, and I have been a Director of a collaborative research centre, but I have always seen teaching as a central part of what I do, and I am glad that nowadays I can focus on it once more.


What does it mean to you to have been nominated for a Teaching Award this year? 

It is a privilege to be nominated for a Teaching Award at any time. It is wonderfully gratifying to know that we have communicated with someone in such a way that they feel moved to express their appreciation in this way. I think that this year in particular, when everyone is making such great adaptations and many of us are struggling with that in various ways, it is especially reassuring to know that sometimes it, well, sort of works! 


What’s your favourite part of your role and working with students? 

It’s not that I don’t like the sound of my own voice(!), but what I chiefly enjoy is conversation. Teaching is a special kind of conversation, and the more people feel confident to express their views to me and one another the happier I am. 


How have you adapted your approach to teaching and supporting students under the Hybrid Model this year? 

I am astonished – and full of respect for – how hard I see my colleagues working to make teaching, learning and supporting students work this year. It has been exhausting, but they have been magnificent. Sometimes I worry that we over-complicate things, and simpler is sometimes better. Sometimes I worry that I am talking too much, bombarding students with too many different things. 

I happened upon one simple idea that has worked well for me, which is that instead of recording me talking to (or at) people, I record me talking with someone else, generally someone who has a particular take on the topic. We all enjoy listening in on other peoples’ conversations, don’t we (or is that just me)? 


What’s been the biggest challenge in your role this year? 

Tiredness, mainly. I would love to have met some of my students – they seem such nice people! 


What would you say to the student(s) who nominated you, or students who are considering submitting a nomination for a staff member who has had an impact on them? 

I think whoever nominated me twigged that it would mean a great deal to me, and they were dead right. Students – this means more to your teachers than you might think, so don’t hold back. 

To find out more about the Teaching Awards and browse nomination categories, please visit the Students’ Association’s website. 

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