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NTFS 2022: Adding sparkle so your NTF application shines

27 Sep 2022 | Dr Dawne Irving-Bell Dr Dawne Irving-Bell is a Reader in Teaching and Learning at Edge Hill University and a 2022 National Teaching Fellow. In this blog she offers insights into her work and gives advice to those considering applying to the National Teaching Fellowship Scheme.

As a teacher, I am dedicated to raising the profile of the scholarship of teaching and learning and passionate about creating opportunities for others which is why I founded The National Teaching Repository.  

My work to establish the repository was at the core of my National Teaching Fellowship Scheme (NTFS) claim. In this blog I will explain a little about the repository, how I wove it into my submission, before sharing insights I hope will be of value to those crafting their own NTFS claim.  

The National Teaching Repository                                              

The National Teaching Repository is an open educational resource with proven reach and impact across the global higher education community: a platform where colleagues can store, share, and discover interventions that lead to real improvements in teaching and learning in a way that secures recognition for their practice, making their work citable, sharable, and discoverable. Showcased at the 2022 UNESCO World Higher Education Conference, a report highlighted the value of the repository that treats all research outputs equally, with educators who share their resources having a positive impact on teachers and their students worldwide.  

Image of the logo for The National Teaching Repository

My claim  

In drafting my submission, my critical friend suggested I weave a ‘golden thread’ throughout my claim. It is a lovely analogy, but with such a diverse range of evidence, strict criteria, and stringent word limit, I didn’t have a clue how to achieve this in practice. During an Advance HE workshop one speaker offered a different approach: “Some of your evidence will be like as a ‘gemstone’, with more than one way to look at it, so turn it to show the best side, and then polish until it shines”.  

Using this analogy, I realised that if you have a diamond (a strong piece of work), it doesn’t matter which way you turn it, every side has the potential to catch the eye. I found this concept easier to navigate, and as I polished the different elements of my National Teaching Repository work, I was able to add something sparkly into each section, and very quickly the application as a whole began to shine. 

Crafting your claim   

The National Teaching Fellowship is a prestigious award, with applicants nominated by their institution. So, to begin contact your institutional Teaching Excellence Accreditation Lead (TEAL). The TEAL is the person who looks after the scheme in your institution so it is important that you meet with them as early as you can to help understand your institutions process around candidate selection and discuss the possibility of being put forward. Every participating institution has a TEAL, but it may not always be clear who that person is. If you are unsure, a good place to start is your institutions Centre for Learning and Teaching Development.  

Remember with a maximum of only three nominations per institution, being put forward is an achievement itself.  

Your TEAL will be able to guide and advise you on the process, provide you with time scales, and possibly support you in drafting your application. They will also be able to help you complete some of the unseen aspects of the application that sometimes get overlooked, such as the photographs.   

Discover what support your institution has to offer and don’t be afraid to ask for help. I found speaking to colleagues who already hold the award invaluable, and in addition to support from my TEAL, I discovered that Advance HE offers a series of workshops. They are brilliant and my advice would be to attend as many as you can!  You may also find it useful to visit the past NTFS winners page to secure additional insights that may help to inform your thinking and shape your writing as you begin to craft your application.  

Having familiarised yourself with the application process, you can plan your approach. Writing and submitting a successful application takes time, so in whichever way works best for you, start by mapping your experience against the criteria. Set aside at least a couple of hours. Don’t worry about the exact criteria at this stage, just get everything out of your head and down on paper!  

Every great application tells a compelling story. As you write ensure that your claim addresses the criteria, but also think about the reviewers, those who will be reading your claim. The narrative is key, and in drafting your submission try to write in a style that will grab the reader’s attention, stimulate their interest and be memorable. Start with a strong opening. Try to make your descriptions powerful and use sharp dialogue, where every sentence makes a point and adds value. Keep referring to the criteria, to ensure that your claim is cohesive and speaks to the reach, value and impact your work has. Try to weave in that little something ‘extra’, something unique or memorable that makes your ‘story’ stand out, either in approach or via the outcomes achieved. If you have feedback from a previous application, be sure to action any advice given. If written well, your claim will take the reviewers on a captivating journey. Throughout be sure to articulate how your work has made a real difference to the lives of others and have a good balance between showing and telling, which brings me to evidence.  

Evidence may take many forms. In gathering, be creative, include a diverse range, but remember to consider the focus of your claim and be mindful about how you will present the evidence to make a clear and confident argument around your reach, value, and impact. For example, use a combination of qualitative testimony (supporting statements), and back that up with evidence of the impact of your work, which could be positive student survey data, or statistics to illustrate student outcomes.   

The final piece of advice I’d offer is if you can, find yourself a mentor. Perhaps someone who is an NTF or holds a CATE Award, someone familiar with the process (and criteria!), who you trust, who is willing to act as a critical friend. 


Dawne is a Principal Fellow, proud CATE winner and was honoured to receive a National Award in recognition of her outstanding contribution to Teacher Education. With a passion for visual-thinking and technology education, she established The National Teaching Repository, an OER with proven reach and impact across the global higher education community. 

We feel it is important for voices to be heard to stimulate debate and share good practice. Blogs on our website are the views of the author and don’t necessarily represent those of Advance HE.

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