What does being awarded a National Teaching Fellowship mean to you?
I am deeply humbled and honoured to receive this prestigious award. It is an incredible honour, and it holds profound personal and professional significance for me.
Professionally, it is a validation of my commitment to inclusive teaching and the impact I strive to make on the lives of the students that I teach. It reinforces my belief in the importance of employability-focused higher education as a transformative force in our society.
Personally, it instils in me a sense of pride in the work I do. This recognition encourages me to continue pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the classroom and to share my knowledge and experiences with fellow educators, ultimately benefiting the next generation of leaders. Importantly, it reinforces my unwavering commitment to making a positive impact on the lives of all the students that I teach, and the broader field of higher education.
What do you consider the impact of this recognition will be to yourself, your students and your colleagues?
For myself, this recognition serves as a powerful motivator to continuously strive for excellence in my teaching. It encourages me to remain innovative and passionate in my approach to making teaching and learning more personalised and inclusive.
My students are the primary beneficiaries of this award. Because of this award, my commitment to inclusion has become even more visible. Therefore, it sends a clear message to them that their education is a top priority for me, and that equity and inclusivity are core principles of my teaching philosophy.
I hope that this award will encourage my students to embrace their identities, backgrounds and (dis)abilities, knowing that these differences enrich my teaching environment. In my classroom, they can expect an inclusive atmosphere where their voices are heard, their perspectives are respected, and their growth as employable individuals is nurtured.
At the Business School level, I believe that this award brings into focus the exceptional work of my colleagues. While this award acknowledges my work and its impact, it also shines a spotlight on the significant inclusion efforts that my colleagues undertake on a daily basis. It is through their support and encouragement that I am able to sustain my commitment to disability inclusion. This recognition highlights our collective commitment to creating an inclusive and supportive learning environment at the Ulster University Business School.
At the institutional level, this recognition underscores our university's commitment to one of its core values - inclusion. Our institution lives by this value and strives to be a leader in fostering an inclusive and diverse educational environment. The award showcases our collective commitment to creating an inclusive environment for staff, students, partners and the wider community.
What, for you, epitomises teaching excellence?
Teaching excellence, in my perspective, centres on personalising inclusion, ensuring that every student, including those with visible or non-visible disabilities, is well-prepared for employability and/or entrepreneurship. This approach involves cultivating a teaching and learning environment that not only embraces differences but harnesses them as catalysts for both academic success and responsible citizenship.
I think excellent teaching requires offering tailored support, employing adaptive strategies and displaying unwavering commitment to eliminating barriers that could impede any student's progress. It's about cultivating an atmosphere where every individual feels not only valued but also capable and empowered to excel.
By personalising inclusion, an excellent teacher ensures that each student is not only ready for the job market or entrepreneurship but also equipped with leadership skills essential for making meaningful contributions to their communities, all while prioritising the wellbeing of people, profit and the planet. This vision of teaching excellence transcends the classroom, nurturing critical, confident and courageous individuals who can thrive in a diverse and ever-changing world. This is what I strive to achieve in my career as a teacher.
Have you any immediate plans for maximising the impact of your National Teaching Fellowship?
Yes, I have an action plan for maximising the impact of my National Teaching Fellowship. Firstly, I intend to leverage this recognition to disseminate good practices in inclusive teaching to a broader audience, both within my institution and externally. In collaboration with like-minded colleagues, I am already co-leading a Special Interest Group in Inclusive Teaching (SIGIT) within the business school, and through this SIGIT, I am planning to promote more actively a simple idea: when we take an inclusive approach to teaching and learning, all students benefit. “What’s necessary for some is useful for all”.
Then, I intend to take a more active role in mentoring and supporting doctoral researchers and newly appointed lecturers. As a critical friend and mentor, I aim to provide guidance and create a nurturing environment for them to learn from my experiences and expertise, with a specific emphasis on advancing teaching practices that promote employability and entrepreneurship.
Lastly, I want to advocate for the importance of disability inclusion in education and its impact on the local economy, particularly within the Northern Ireland region. This commitment entails active participation in policy discussions, collaboration with the NTF community of outstanding teachers, and the organisation of policy co-design workshops aimed at fostering equity and inclusion in companies throughout Northern Ireland.
Have you got any advice to prospective NTFs?
1. Showcase your commitment to integrity, innovation and inclusivity in your application.
2. Highlight the impact you created and emphasise the broader significance of your efforts by sharing concrete examples of your work.
3. Seek mentorship to strengthen your application so that your dedication shines through in your application.
Dr Paul Joseph-Richard is a Lecturer in Human Resource Management at Ulster University. After an extensive career as a human resource management (HRM) professional, he started his full-time academic career in 2015. As a Chartered Psychologist of the British Psychological Society, Paul is committed to transforming pedagogic practice and the student experience through his unique approach to personalised inclusion.