Stephen Cole the Elder Awards for Excellence

The Stephen Cole the Elder Awards for Excellence are the University of Adelaide’s premier learning and teaching awards.

These awards recognise outstanding contributions made to student learning by both academic and professional staff, and reward the University’s highest achievers in teaching, support of teaching, and supervisory practices.  

The Stephen Cole the Elder Awards were established through bequest made to the University of Adelaide by a descendant of Stephen Cole the Elder, pioneer South Australian colonist. The Stephen Cole the Elder Awards were first presented in 1991.

View former recipients of this award

Staff are encouraged to engage with the various resources available for applicant support. All inquiries can be directed to the Teaching Excellence Team.

Award categories

  • Excellence in Teaching and Support for Learning
  • Excellence in the Leadership, Support and Enhancement of Teaching Practice
  • Excellence in HDR Supervisory Practice

It is anticipated that at least one award will be made in each of the three categories; however, the Selection Panel reserves the right to award in fewer than three categories should the selection criteria not be met.

Detailed information on each of the three categories, along with the selection criteria, is outlined below.

Important information and resources for applicants


  • Selection Criteria

    All applications for Stephen Cole the Elder Awards for Excellence will be assessed by a Selection Panel convened by the Pro Vice-Chancellor Student Learning on the evidence provided in support of the criteria for each category.

    The application must demonstrate that the contribution has been sustained for a period of no less than three years.

    In assessing applications against the selection criteria, the Selection Panel will consider:

    • Enhancement of the student learning experience​
    • Reach of impact – Peers, School, Faculty, Institution, Community, Global​
    • Creativity, imagination or innovation​​
    • Cross discipline​
    • Scholarly literature​
    • Reflective writing – story telling

    Once an applicant has selected one of the three award categories, they must ensure that each of the following selection criteria are addressed in their submission.

    Excellence in Teaching and Support for Learning

    1. Approaches to teaching and support for learning that influence, motivate and inspire students to learn

    This may include: fostering student development by stimulating curiosity and independence in learning; contributing to the development of students' critical thinking skills, analytical skills and scholarly values; encouraging student engagement through strategies for learning and teaching; design of effective and innovative learning activities and environments; inspiring and motivating students through high-level communication, presentation and interpersonal skills.

    1. Development of curricula and resources that reflect a command of the field

    This may include: developing and presenting coherent and imaginative resources for student learning; implementing research-led approaches to learning and teaching; designing effective and innovative group experiences; demonstrating up-to-date knowledge of the field of study in the design of the curriculum and the creation of resources for learning; communicating clear objectives and expectations for student learning.

    1. Approaches to assessment and feedback that foster independent and effective learning

    This may include: integrating assessment strategies with the specific aims and objectives for student learning; providing timely, worthwhile feedback to students on their learning; designing authentic assessment tasks; using a variety of assessment and feedback strategies; implementing both formative and summative assessment; and adapting assessment methods to different contexts and diverse student needs.

    1. Respect and support for the development of students as co-creators and individuals

    This may include: participating in the effective and empathetic guidance and advising of students; assisting students from equity and other demographic subgroups to participate and achieve success in their courses; supporting students to participate as partners and co-creators in their learning; and influencing the overall academic, social and cultural experience of higher education.

    1. Scholarly activities that have influenced and enhanced learning and teaching

    This may include: showing advanced skills in evaluation and reflective practice; participating in and contributing to professional activities related to learning and teaching; using learning analytics to improve learning and teaching; coordination, management and leadership of courses and student learning; conducting and publishing research related to teaching; and demonstrating leadership through activities that have broad influence on the profession.


    Excellence in the Leadership, Support and Enhancement of Teaching Practice

    1. Distinctiveness, coherence and clarity of purpose

    This may include: exercise of leadership or support activities that have clear strategic and/or educational objectives and systematic approaches to implementation; development of resources that support and enhance teaching practice; demonstrated understanding of the principles of quality teaching practice in the design of activities and/or resources; demonstrated engagement with institutional strategic priorities in the design of activities and/or resources.

    1. Approaches to support and/or leadership that influence, inspire and motivate others to enhance their practice

    This may include: fostering effective staff development, capacity and capability through the delivery of leadership or support activities; contributing to the development of initiatives that support and enhance teaching practice; working with students as partners; encouraging staff engagement through effective communication, presentation and interpersonal skills.

    1. Breadth and depth of impact on colleagues

    This may include: evidence of impact on individual colleagues; evidence of impact on school, faculty, or the wider institution; demonstrated engagement within the university community; participation in professional networks internal and/or external to the university. 


    Excellence in HDR Supervisory Practice

    1. Supervisory practices that support outstanding student outcomes
      This may include: supervisory practices that facilitate high quality research outputs; supervisory practices that contribute to student publications, presentations and recognition; supervision practices that support students to achieve timely and successful research goals, including thesis completion.

    2.   Support for the development of students as individuals

    This may include: the engagement of research students in the broader intellectual life of the school/discipline, faculty and University; support and encouragement for students to develop as independent researchers; support and encouragement for students to develop the full range of graduate attributes. Applicants are encouraged to identify contributions to the development of international students and special efforts made to help them adjust to the University research environment where English is for many not their first language.

    1. Support for the enhancement of student career development

    This may include: the induction of students into the national and international research communities in their fields; the mentoring of students in their career development following completion of their research higher degrees; the facilitation of building professional networks.

    1. Contributions to the development of excellent supervision practices within faculties or the wider University

    This may include: the mentoring of staff new to supervision; involvement in and contribution to supervisor workshops and training; development of faculty and school/discipline policies and programs to enhance the postgraduate community and the quality of the environment for postgraduate research.

    Additional supporting documentation for the HDR category
    All applicants in the HDR Supervisory Practice category are required to supply a copy of their individual supervision dashboard from the Supervisor Classification and Reporting System (SCRS)

  • Eligibility

    Please ensure you read and understand all the eligibility requirements listed below:

    • Applications are invited from academic and professional staff, from all Faculties and Divisions of the University. Both individual and team applications are encouraged.
    • Applicants may only apply for one Stephen Cole in any year, in any category.
    • Applicants who have previously received a Teaching Commendation are eligible to apply for a Stephen Cole two years after receiving the Commendation. For team submissions, this includes any member of a winning team application who has contributed 40% more towards the winning application.
    • Applicants who have previously received a Stephen Cole are eligible to apply for another Stephen Cole five years after receiving the award. For team submissions, this includes any member of a winning team application who has contributed 40% more towards the winning application.
    • Academic and professional staff who have been employed for a minimum of three years (full time equivalent) at the University of Adelaide, including clinical, affiliate and adjunct title holders, who are eligible to apply.
    • Should an applicant apply for both a Teaching Commendation and a Stephen Cole Award in the same year, they can only be awarded one prize, and will be removed from contention from the other award type.  NOTE:  These award types are quite different so the same application will not be suitable for submission into both schemes.
    • All applicants must have the support of a formal nomination.

    HDR Supervisory Practice

    • HDR Supervisory Practice applications are restricted to applicants who are categorised as either a Mentor or Principal Supervisor A in the SCRS.
    • Supervisors assigned to the Category of Principal Supervisor C who satisfy the minimum three year employment requirement may also apply.

    Team Submissions

    • Team submissions can only include members with a contribution of 30 per cent or higher. This means that the maximum number of team members is 3. NOTE: Unlike the Teaching Commendations all members of the team must meet the above mentioned selection criteria (length of service etc.) and must be able to demonstrate an extended period of time working with the other team members.
    • See above mentioned criteria for previous award winners who are part of the team.
    • The ‘team lead’ should submit the application.  This person should be the staff member with the greatest level of contribution within the team. This person will need to meet all other eligibility criteria (length of employment).
    • Nominators should mention that they are nominating for the team, but note who the team lead is. Nominations for individuals cannot be accepted for team submissions.
    • See notes regarding the Team Statement of Contribution.
  • Nomination

    All Stephen Cole applications require the support of a formal nomination. 

    Nominations for the 2023 award have now closed. Please contact us should you have any questions.

    • Nominations are invited from managers, senior managers, and educational leaders, including Deans, Directors, Postgraduate Coordinators, Heads of School/Discipline, and Faculty/School Managers.
    • Nominators are required to submit a brief (100 word) statement in support of their nominee. Nominators will need to note if their nomination is for a team or an individual.
    • We encourage nominators to contact their nominee and inform them of their nomination.  Applicants will be required to indicate who their nominator is, and what their relationship is to them (Head of School etc) when they submit their application.

    NOTE: Your Nominator will be sent a copy of your application once submitted. As part of the nomination process they will be asked to confirm both the applicant's excellent practice, and that the applicant adheres to the University's Values and Behaviour Framework.

  • Elements of the applicaion

    Each application for a Stephen Cole the Elder Award for Excellence in Teaching must include the following elements:

    1. 75 word application summary (to be entered directly into the online form)
    2. Written statement (no more than eight pages, minimum 11pt font)
    3. Curriculum vitae (no more than four pages plus one additional page per team member, if applicable)
    4. Optional supporting materials (maximum of four pages)
    5. Individual SCRS supervision dashboard (for HDR Supervisory applicants only)
    6. Team Statement of Contribution (team nominations only) – Team nominations must complete one A4 page which consists of the following:
    • Name and indication of the percentage contribution of each team member (in order from highest to lowest). Note that team members are required to have a contribution of 10 per cent or higher, with a maximum of 10 team members.
    • An explanation of the role of each team member

    Online application form
    Your application must be submitted online.
    Please ensure you have prepared all the required documentation PRIOR to completing the form, as any progress can not be saved.


    Application Summary (75 word limit)
    The summary should include a description of the program and its contribution to student learning. The summary must be:−written in the third person−avoid jargon and use plain English−inform the broadest possible audience about the program. Please note that hyphenated words will be counted as one word


    Written Statement
    The written statement is the central element of the application. It provides the opportunity for candidates to describe their activities and achievements, and specifically address the selection criteria for the relevant category. The written statement should written by the applicant/s, and the majority of the written statement should be devoted to addressing each of the selection criteria for your category in turn. The application should demonstrate a reflective approach, in which the applicant/s not only describe the nature of the activities, but demonstrate an awareness and understanding of the impact that the activities have had on student learning.

    • Your written statement can be a maximum of eight pages, with a minimum font size of 11pt Calibri or Arial. Margins can be no smaller than 2cm.
    • Written applications must address the selection criteria outlined the guidelines document.
    • Don't forget to check out our Resources for Applicants page, where you can view successful applications and receive tips and tricks for collecting evidence and how to write reflectively.
    • Reference list: applicants should use their preferred recognised reference style throughout and include a reference list within the 8 pages. Links to reference lists online will not be reviewed by the panel.


    Curriculum vitae
    The curriculum vitae should outline the applicant’s educational qualifications, career history, and roles and responsibilities in learning and teaching and/or supervisory practice. The curriculum vitae is limited to four A4 pages for nominations from individuals. Teams may extend this limit, but a limit of one extra page per team member is recommended.


    Optional supporting materials
    Selection is based primarily on the written statement addressing the selection criteria. However, applicants may include selected teaching materials that are explicitly discussed within the written statement. This is limited to four A4 pages.

    • Printed supporting material should be included in the application package (maximum four pages)
    • Digital material should be accessible via URL links within the written statement (maximum four links).

    Examples of supporting materials could include, testimonials (letters), employer feedback, SELT data, unsolicited feedback (in the form of an email etc.), teaching materials, photographs, printed articles, survey results

  • Formatting requirements

    Item Requirement
    Page size A4
    Font Arial or Calibri, 11 Point (narrow fonts must not be used).
    Bold for headings/subheadings
    Regular for body text
    Page numbers Pages numbers at bottom right
    Margin At least 2cm with clear definition between paragraphs
    Paragraph spacing


    Header Applicants name should be on each page as a header (on either the top right or top left corner)

    All documents should contain page numbers as a footer

    NOTE: applicants can include their name and the page numbers in the one footer, rather than have their name as the header.  It just has to be included on each page.


  • Evidence

    Applicants must provide evidence in support of their claims against the selection criteria, and will be expected to draw upon a variety of evidence, which may include:

    • Self-assessment, reflection on professional development, and scholarship/publications
    • Student and/or staff feedback (e.g. surveys and evaluations, unsolicited feedback),
    • Student learning (e.g. assessment results, grade distributions, retention and completion data, learning analytics).
    • Peer review (e.g. review of classroom practice, curriculum content, or learning materials, mentoring relationships, review of scholarly contribution and research relating to teaching and learning).
    • eSELTs (ensuring that these are supplied in context, i.e. – benchmarking against others within your school, faculty or the institution.)

    Applicants in the HDR Supervisory Practice Category category are also encouraged to consider the following sources of evidence, in addition to those listed above:

    Applicants in this category are required to supply a copy of their individual supervision dashboard from the Supervisor Classification and Reporting System (SCRS).

    • promotion of industry engagement,
    • demonstrated engagement in high quality and innovative research supervision practice,
    • successful and timely HDR completions,
    • any co-publication or production of other research outputs with or by their candidates,
    • the development of HDR candidate’s employability skills and professional networks,
    • positive post-graduation outcomes of candidates, and
    • supporting statements from current and graduated candidates and academic colleagues


    Refer to this additional information on types of evidence , which was presented in the online information session.


  • Submission

    In 2023 applications should be submitted via an online form.

    Applicants will need to attached their written statement as an eight page PDF document, with any additional information submitted as separate documents (instructions on the online form will guide you) by 9.00am Monday 16 October, 2023

    Receipt of all submissions will be acknowledged by email.

    We advise all applicants to send a copy of their submission to their nominator, as the nomination will also be viewed as an endorsement of the final application.

  • Selection process

    All applications for Stephen Cole the Elder Awards for Excellence will be assessed by a Selection Panel on the evidence provided in support of the criteria for each category.

    The selection panel consists of:

    • Pro Vice-Chancellor (Student Learning) - Convenor
    • Director, Education Quality
    • Dean of Graduate Studies (or nominee)
    • one Deputy Dean (Learning and Teaching)
    • one previous Stephen Cole the Elder Award recipient

    In assessing applications against the selection criteria, the Selection Panel will consider:

    • the extent to which the claims for excellence are supported by formal and informal evaluation
    • the extent to which the approaches and activities described enhance the student learning experience
    • the extent of creativity, imagination or innovation represented by the application, irrespective of whether the approach involves traditional learning environments or technology-based developments.

    NOTE: University reserves the right to not award if there are any concerns regarding adherence to the Values and Behaviour Framework

  • Notification and Prizes

    Each year up to four Stephen Cole awards are made.

    It is anticipated that at least one award will be made in each of the three categories; however, the Selection Panel reserves the right to award in fewer than three categories should the selection criteria not be met.

    All recipients will be awarded $8,000 which will be credited to a project code of their choice (consultancy funds preferred).  Prizes cannot be split, with teams required to nominate one project code for the entire amount.

    Applicants will be advised of the outcome from early November. Feedback for unsuccessful applicants will be provided to assist with future applications.

    Vice-Chancellor and President’s Award for Excellence in Learning and Teaching

    Each year, one successful Stephen Cole applicant may also be selected to receive the Vice-Chancellor and President’s Award for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, and will be awarded an additional $2,000 in prize money.

    The recipient of this award will be announced live, at the Celebration of Learning and Teaching.

  • Celebration of Learning and Teaching

    All recipients will be presented with a certificate of achievement at the annual Celebration of Learning and Teaching event, which has been scheduled for Thursday 30 November, 2023. 

    Family and friends in addition to work colleagues are encouraged to attend this event.

  • Resources for applicants

    A range of resources are available on the Resources for Applicants page (staff log in required) including information session recordings, previous applications, important definitions and more.

    Depending on their availability, you can also be matched with a mentor (previous recipient) who can review your submission and provide editing advice. Please contact us to find out more.