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Cécile Tschirhart Q&A: be challenged by students and learn from it!

28 Feb 2020 | Advance HE Cécile Tschirhart, Associate Teaching Professor, Head of Student Experience and Academic Outcomes and School Proctor at the Sir John Cass School of Art, Architecture & Design, looks back on her career since winning her NTF award in 2006.

What, or who, first encouraged you to apply for NTF? What were your goals or aims that you hoped gaining NTF would help you reach? 

The then Head of Professional Development suggested I applied. I did not think I would achieve it but liked the idea of evidencing my work and thoughts in a framework I could relate to. I did not think I could achieve such a prestigious award as all the other models of success at the time were research based. 

Do you remember how you felt when you found out you won the award? What did the recognition mean to you?

Shock! It meant and still means a lot to me. It is the award I am proudest of. I come from humble beginnings in a remote part of France with no local university! I never dreamed I would achieve so much. The NTF gave me enormous confidence.

What have been your main achievements since you won the award? How did your NTF Award contribute to these achievements?

I applied for number of promotions over the past 15 years. I am now an Associate Teaching Professor at London Metropolitan University, elected member of academic board and of the Board of Governors. All of these opportunities would not have happened without the NTF award. 

How has becoming an NTF impacted on your career?

Enormously. A lot of doors opened for me: committee member, events, Learning and Teaching and research opportunities and have remained open since.

What are you most proud of in your academic career? Did NTF play a role in this?

My recent promotion as an Associate Teaching Professor is directly linked to my NTF award (which was in 2006!).

How do you think the sector has changed – good or bad – in the years since you won an NTF award?

This is a broad question... the sector is much 'harder' (metrics, leagues tables etc.) at a time where academics are required to have much 'softer' skills to support students. An interesting paradox...

What role do you see National Teaching Fellows and the National Teaching Fellowship Scheme having in addressing the challenges faced by the sector? 

Share excellent practice, create networks, have the opportunity to work together on challenging questions such as the inclusion, curriculum content, access, transition etc. 

What, for you, encapsulates teaching excellence?

Fearless willingness to be challenged by students and to learn from it!

How has your NTF assisted you in your various management roles as Dean of Students and School Proctor for The Cass, for example?

It has allowed me to seek support across the NTF network when needed and to work with colleagues across disciplines.

How has being an NTF allowed you to enhance the student experience at The Cass?

My role at The Cass is extremely varied. I fully operate in the 'third space' where I engage with students and staff on pastoral and academic support and strategies. Being an NTF is not a pre-requisite but knowing that I am an NTF helps! 

I mentor colleagues to achieve HEA fellowships and I love the exchanges these sessions bring. It further reinforces my knowledge of peers' practice. 

What do you see as the role of the NTFS in your discipline area?

Unfortunately, my main discipline area, which is languages, is very much at risk, but the NTF has allowed me to work in and with other disciplines confidently such as education and creative subjects. 

Have you collaborated with anyone in the NTF community in relation to your work on game-based learning? Or, on reflection, has gaining an NTF opened up any broader opportunities for collaboration and dissemination you work?

My work is now better described as being focused on HE pedagogy, which includes game-based learning. I have definitely benefited from broader opportunities thanks to the NTF.

Away from academia, what do you like to do to relax and/or have fun?

I spend time with my family and friends whenever I can. I read for pleasure and do crochet to untangle my thoughts!

Do you have any advice for this year’s cohort of winners as to how to maximise the impact of their award?

Enjoy the moment! Let everyone know! Educate your leaders! 

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Applications for a National Teaching Fellowship 2020 close on Wednesday 18 March 2020. Institutions can nominate up to three individuals for the award. Find out more.

Share your #NTFSis20 story with us on Twitter and join the Advance HE Connect group especially for National Teaching Fellows.


Cécile Tschirhart is Associate Teaching Professor, Head of Student Experience and Academic Outcomes and School Proctor at the Sir John Cass School of Art, Architecture & Design. She is also a Senior Fellow and won her National Teaching Fellowship in 2006.

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