How did you feel when you found out you won the award? What did the recognition mean to you?
Absolutely elated – I had to contain the squealing as I wasn’t allowed to tell colleagues for nearly two weeks. The recognition was validation for me that what I was doing within higher education was worthwhile and impactful.
What have been your main achievements since you won the award?
Abertay had a restructure and I am now a Dean of one of our new Schools and am also now the lead for Pedagogic Research within the University. I have been invited to speak to a number of aspirant NTFs beyond Abertay.
How has becoming an NTF impacted on your career? Did it open any doors for you? How has it helped you to have a positive impact on your students/colleagues/institution?
It certainly had a positive impact on both me and the institution. I remain the only NTF within Abertay and it is something the University has celebrated internally and externally. The University enabled me to acquire funding to demonstrate the impact of my teaching interventions and to trial new things – much of which formed the evidence base for my NTF application. These projects now influence the curricula and student support across the university. NTF status is still not widely known within Scotland so it may still be early to see extensive personal impact but I see myself as someone who can help raise awareness of the Fellowship.
As one of a relatively small number of NTFs in Scotland, how do you think the Award has impacted the Scottish sector so far?
I think for those who are already well-connected with Advance HE activity then many of the institutional teaching and learning leads are doing some good work around raising the profile of the NTF award in Scotland. But there is still a good proportion of the sector unfamiliar with the award and its inference. However, once there is a bigger band of Scottish NTFs (hopefully across a range of institutions) then this should help too in raising awareness of the award.
How would you encourage more colleagues from Scottish HEIs to think about putting themselves forward for consideration?
I would encourage all colleagues who are innovating in their student interactions, and who know they are making a difference to the student experience, to speak to their institutional leads, to look at the criteria and draft a submission. Use colleagues in the sector to review drafts or to look at the evidence-base that might be used to support a submission (a number of us have volunteered to mentor aspirant NTFs).
Has your NTF opened-up any opportunities for collaboration or network-building so far?
Yes, I have been invited to present at other institutions on being an NTF so that’s always great in terms of connecting with others who are working in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning landscape. Also, being part of the NTF mailing lists means that there are often requests for information about others doing work on particular projects and that has definitely opened up collaborative opportunities.
How can Awards like NTF raise the profile of your important work around inclusivity?
Widening Participation is becoming increasingly important as universities are expected to implement their social mission credentials as charities. Many colleagues across the sector are doing great work in supporting diverse student groups and it’s great that the NTF award can acknowledge this. The awareness that organisations like Advance HE have of this work, enables you to signpost to other institutions/individuals what academics are doing in respect of inclusivity so that there can be shared practice.
What are you most proud of in your academic career?
Becoming Dean – but from a non-traditional practitioner background, and on the basis of my teaching leadership.
Who have you look up to most in your academic career?
I have been fortunate to have a number of former bosses who encouraged me to take up new opportunities and to broaden my experience and understanding of higher education. I wouldn’t say that there’s necessarily been one individual I have admired it’s more about qualities that individuals possess such as willingness to stand against the tide and push forward ideas that can be impactful and inclusive.
How do you think the sector has changed – good or bad – in the year since you won an NTF award?
I think the sector is requiring different things of individuals, I am not a fan of the advance of metrics but understand their place. I am pleased to see teaching getting higher prominence and the fact that recent UCEA data revealed that two out of three of universities now have a teaching track to Professor.
What role do you see National Teaching Fellows/The National Teaching Fellowship Scheme having in addressing the challenges faced by the sector?
I think it has a valuable role in celebrating the value of teaching excellence and putting the spotlight on individuals doing some great work in advancing this. Central government requires us to evidence where teaching excellence exists and NTF can help in this regard. Given the increased competitiveness for students, institutions should be shouting about their NTFs!
What, for you, encapsulates teaching excellence?
A willingness to innovate and evolve teaching practices to be abreast of change and also to garner an evidence base around impact of the change/innovation. Enthusiasm and a desire to engage students as partners in learning is also critical (to ‘infect’ students with a love of learning).
Away from academia, what do you like to do to relax and/or have fun?
I run, cycle long distances, watch lots of rugby and tend to my allotment.
Do you have any advice for this year’s cohort of winners as to how to maximise the impact of their award?
Make sure people know about it, don’t be shy in using the post-nominals and the email signature. Try to get invites to share your experiences internally and externally so that people are aware that you are doing some great things and the sector has acknowledged this!