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Teaching in the spotlight – Innovation for Teaching Excellence

07 May 2019 | Dr Celia Brigg Dr Celia Brigg - Associate Director in the Programmes and Events Directorate at Advance HE - looks forward to Advance HE’s Teaching and Learning Conference, 2-4 July 2019 at Northumbria University. In this blog she discusses some of the highlights of the conference and reveals the motion for the annual debate.

Dr Celia Brigg - Associate Director in the Programmes and Events Directorate at Advance HE - looks forward to Advance HE’s Teaching and Learning Conference, 2-4 July 2019 at Northumbria University. In this blog she discusses some of the highlights of the conference and reveals the motion for the annual debate.

With responsibility for all our conferences and events, I find there is rarely a quiet moment, except during August! However, as spring arrives and brings longer and warmer days, I start to get a great sense of anticipation as the build-up to our biggest conference of the year begins in earnest. The Annual Teaching and Learning Conference occurs in the first week of July every year. It brings together more than 650 passionate teaching and learning practitioners across three days to discuss issues, policy development and practice innovations that will enhance the student learning experience in many different ways.


This time of the year sees the publication of the conference programme; after many months of work from both us and the sector in submitting and reviewing papers, I’m really excited about the shape and content of the conference, the thought-provoking and challenging keynotes, the interactive breakout sessions and, of course, the Annual debate. This year I am really looking forward to hearing from Diana Beech, Advisor to the Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation on her views around what makes for teaching excellence alongside those of Debbie McVitty, Editor at WonkHE; will they agree, or will there be contradictory views that spark debate and discussion amongst our delegates? 

This year the conference focuses on innovation for teaching excellence and covers six themes: 

  • Interdisciplinary or multi-disciplinary innovation in teaching and learning practice.
  • Innovation in inclusive curricula.
  • Innovation in blended and immersive teaching and learning practice.
  • Innovative practice that aids transition and retention.
  • Innovation practice to support employability.
  • Innovative practice to enhance assessment and feedback.

1. Parallel sessions

There are three key aspects of the conference that excite me most. Firstly, and top of my list because I find it is the most interesting part of the conference, is the privilege of attending many of the parallel sessions. Seeing the true passion and skills of the global HE community around teaching and learning is inspiring, and I think this gives us all the opportunity to reflect on our practice and look at how we can enhance it. So whether it is a session designed around a crystal maze style interactive teaching experience, or the fast-paced ignite sessions – can the presenters get through their 20 slides in the 5 minute time allowed? – or a more traditional presentation that outlines enhancement in teaching and learning, they all show the continuous development of the student learning experience, the real commitment of those who teach or support teaching within HE, and the desire of the sector globally to share best practice, support peer development and enhance teaching excellence.

2. The opportunity to network

My second favourite part of the conference is the opportunity to network. It is central to the conference:  an evening BBQ on day 1, and a dinner and debate on day 2; alongside the coffee breaks and lunch breaks, these opportunities provide me with the time and motivation to catch up with colleagues old and new. I also use these times to delve deeper into the work I have heard about during the day, to make those personal connections and share detail around T&L practice that will enhance my work for a long time after the conference has finished. It is also really great to meet the people we have been working with during the planning of the conference, often for the first time face to face and to hear about their experiences of the conference and what is inspiring them.

3. The annual debate

Finally, in my top three moments, is the annual debate, hearing key influencers from the sector debate a hot topic, who challenge us to think differently and they’re always very entertaining too. Previous years have seen us argue about whether measuring teaching excellence is possible and whether higher education should be free for all. This year, the motion will be – “This house believes that the metrification of higher education is ruining the student experience” – this has been crowdsourced by Advance HE and received 30% of the vote from colleagues across the sector. Will you be for or against? I know my views currently, but will they be changed by our passionate debaters? Can I be convinced that the pressures of constantly measuring everything do not detract from further enhancement of the student learning experience? I don’t know, but I can’t wait to hear the debate from both sides.

Having read a large number of the papers submitted, I am confident that we have some great content and that Northumbria University will be buzzing with the chatter of enthused and inspired delegates and knowledgeable speakers. I am already drawing up my list of hot sessions not to be missed and you can do this too as we have now published all the session abstracts online alongside the full programme

We will also launch the conference app in a few weeks and this too allows you to build a personalised agenda for the 3 days and to begin to network with your fellow T&L peers.

So I look forward to welcoming you in Newcastle for three days dedicated to being passionate about teaching and learning, the student experience and innovation for teaching excellence - see you in July!

Find out more about the Annual Teaching and Learning Conference and how to book your place.

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