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NTFS 2022: “Recipe for success is being strategic”

08 Aug 2022 | Dr Colm Murphy National Teaching Fellow 2022 Dr Colm Murphy, Subject Leader in Media, Film and Journalism at Ulster University, writes that being strategic, focused and passionate about addressing the educational and inclusive needs of your subject area are key to NTF success.

It is one of the highlights of my life to receive such a prestigious award as the 2022 National Teaching Fellowship.

It gives my colleagues and I in Ulster University and National Council for the Training of Journalists strong endorsement for the mammoth transformation that I have been leading to update journalism education. This has been to ensure that quality, fair and impartial journalism not only survives but thrives in the rapidly changing digital landscape.

It encourages us too in the work we do to encourage inclusive access to the profession, including raising £500,000 annually for the NCTJ Journalism Diversity Fund. To ensure too that, internationally, journalists have the right safety and resilience training to do their job and stop the downward slide of global press freedom. The kudos that the award carries will hopefully allow us to secure more support for these important initiatives.

So for those setting out on this path, firstly I would say be strategic and focused and start early. To achieve many of the impacts it can take several years, so some element of forward planning is important to meet the criteria. It took me seven years from looking at the original criteria to making the application. Research, develop, publicise and evaluate new and relevant initiatives to ensure your teaching and learning is real, relative and refreshing. Do not be afraid to try new techniques, technologies and vary them as students will like this too. But be clear that at all times you are trying to improve the learning and link that to key evolving skills the students require. Even if you are not a head of department or course leader, you can influence the subject area by being innovative with how you deliver your curriculum or develop or improve your own modules. Or take a voluntary role within a national subject group so you can influence developments beyond your professional role. But ensure that you are making a real and effective contribution to them, not just a name on a committee. Be clear about how your contribution enhances the experience of learners.

Secondly, a third of the marks on the NTF application goes towards how you enhance the teaching and learning of others or improve the support for students. Again, it could be new facilities or upgrades of existing ones that you design and plan, mentoring, organising continuing professional education or professional conferences or seminars on teaching and learning in your subject area. Remember that part of this has to include influence outside your immediate professional role, so early involvement with sector groups or production of open resources like textbooks is important in working towards this goal. Enter awards, get verbal feedback from participants in your projects or those impacted as well as quantitative data.

The final third of the NTF application gives marks for your own professional development so be proactive and get internal and external development – join professional membership groups, attend relevant conferences. However, this section is not a rattling off of courses attended. It should show a strategic, focused approach with an underlying philosophy that can broaden into networking, reading, professional groups – everything that impacts on making you more effective as a leader of learning.

Finally, attend the relevant workshops on the NTF (online and physical), ask questions, get feedback and seek the support of experienced mentors when drafting your application. These could be people who have already got an NTF, or if you have an internal teaching and learning support team. Look, if possible, at other successful applications and give yourself plenty of time to draft the application – months, not days. It may all seem daunting on top of everything else, but nothing good comes easy. So look at the criteria today and start planning.


Dr Colm Murphy of Ulster University is a director of the National Council for the Training of Journalists and chair of its education and international group and £500,000 annual diversity fund. A former Sunday Times journalist, he is a Principal Fellow and won the NCTJ Teaching Innovation Award.

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