As a National Teaching Fellow (NTF) myself, reviewing submissions for the National Teaching Fellowship Scheme (NTFS) felt like an appropriate way of giving back, and this was one of the reasons that first encouraged me to become a reviewer.
The other reason I have is that my current practice involves supporting professional learning for higher education (HE) staff, Fellowship, and I regard reviewing as a means to develop myself. Also, reviewing submissions feeds my interest in the nature of excellence and how it is understood within the context of HE teaching. Conceptualising and articulating their ‘excellence’ is something that I feel is a central task for potential NTFs, so it helps me support them. Having experienced my own award ceremony, and attended other NTF award events as well, it is just amazing to be part of the process.
The reviewing process is both challenging and fascinating. Fascinating to see the variety and diversity of applicants and challenging to balance rigour; to access and appreciate the standpoint and context of the applicants and to be constructive and clear in the feedback I write. The training from Advance HE has developed strength and clarity over recent iterations and the webinars and tasks they ask reviewers to complete are incredibly valuable in supporting my review work. The team is also really well organised and helpful too.
I learn every time I review an application and I make a point of doing the training each year as it gives me insight and refreshes my review work in advance. I gain from seeing the range and diversity of applications: the different voices, styles, the way each applicant engages with excellence. The sort of activity they present gives me an opportunity to learn and reflect and I gain immense insight into how different subjects, learning environments and individuals work and how they constantly strive to enhance learning for their students. The passion I often see in applications is immensely humbling and encouraging.
To any aspiring reviewers reading, my advice would be: do it.
Approach the team and give it a go, you will learn a lot, especially if it’s something you are wishing to target or something you are supporting in your role. Do, however, schedule diary time after the submission period so you have the time and space to give it the energy and attention the process deserves and requires.
Dr Ruth Pilkington (NTF, SFSEDA, PFHEA) is a freelance educational consultant, Visiting Professor at Ulster University, formerly at Liverpool Hope and the Higher Education Academy. She consults for Advance HE, SEDA and UK institutions on professional learning; as reviewer and accreditor; mentor; on academic leadership and mindfulness; and on dialogue for fellowship.