ANTF Writer’s Retreat 17-18 July, 2014

Association of National Teaching Fellows WRITER’S RETREAT!

19 NTFs came together for two days at Pelham House in East Sussex for a writer’s retreat. This was the first retreat organised by the association, and participants had all written abstracts outlining aspects of change, innovation and collaboration, and this was the starting point for a rich first day of discussion and development. Areas of expertise ranged from geomorphology to dentistry, medicine, business, sport, music, design, working with deaf children, employability, cognitive styles and the outcomes were equally exciting and reflected this diversity.

The facilitators had devices to aid the writing process, and in no time, Clive’s hexagons began to tessellate.

Clive at the writer's retreat Group working at the retreat

The initial book had emerging themes and working ideas for titles: “Space for Change: Where minds meet”. “Making educational change and innovation in HE happen”. “Empowering innovation in L&T in HE”. During the retreat,  lots of ideas and section abstracts came together centered around various aspects of ‘space’ such as physical space, imaginative space, diologic space and how learners and teachers work within these, and ideas also explored the concerns and issues that arise in these areas. As the time progressed, editors were chosen and progress felt real.

During the process, other ideas for publications – books, journals, collaborative projects – all began to emerge and the desire to include more NTFs grew. People put forward pitches for other publication ideas.


Brainstorms and mind maps filled the room as cells of people discussed ideas.

Writer's retreat brainstorming Writer's retreat activity

 In these two days, we came together, made connections, stimulated each other, and found common passions in education!


Will Katene embodied what we all felt with what he said at the end of that video clip:

It is all about working together. You have got to work together to achieve a common goal, and look what we have achieved in the last couple of days. Thank you to the organisational committee for what we have been able to do in such a short space of time. Look at the impact that we’re going to have when we share this collaborative practice. (words in Maori) Thank you!


Exciting, explosive, watch this space!

Blog article by Laura Ritchie.


The Association of National Teaching Fellows Annual Symposium 2014

The ANTF symposium took place on 28-29th April 2014 in Birmingham and included updates from the Higher Education Academy, Jisc TechDis, excellent keynote speakers, parallel sessions, Pecha Kucha and much discussion.

Thanks to Kirsten Hardie, Laura Ritchie who took photographs of the event, and more of these can be seen in addition to my own in our Flickr ANTF Symposium 2014 Album.

Macdonald Burlington Hotel Birmingham

Macdonald Burlington Hotel Birmingham – a lovely venue.

This was the first NTF symposium that I had attended and this is my personal account of it. It was a total buzz for two days, and being a relatively small group of around 60 delegates, many interesting and fruitful conversations could be had.

Pecha Kucha

The Pecha Kucha were 6 minute presentations made by national teaching fellows from a wide range of subject disciplines and backgrounds, and illustrated the high level of creativity in teaching practices within UK higher education. From crochet in the biosciences, pizza boxes as a pedagogic tool, peer-assessment (pier assessment groan), and the use of games in higher education, each and every one of the Pecha Kucha were outstanding. I was most touched by two of them, Pratap Rughani who is a documentary film maker and focuses on personal and community experiences of the world, addressing social and environmental issues. The other amazing story was from Anita Peleg who is a lecturer in marketing who talked about the artwork of her mother – Naomi Blake. Naomi survived the Holocaust as a child, and Anita talked about the transition in her artwork and sculptures over the years.

I hope to gather artefacts from each of the Pecha Kucha presenters to share back to the community at a later date because I really can’t do justice to each and every one of them here.

Drinks Reception and Book Launch

At the symposium, the fellows were invited to bring along any of their publications to display, and there were so many these will be listed separately on the BOOK page! The pre-dinner drinks session on Day 1 was kindly sponsored by De Montfort University and celebrated the success of the first ANTF book “For the Love of Learning” alongside an impressive range of titles from other fellows.


Perusing the National Teacher Fellow books

Perusing the books


Association of National Teaching Fellows Annual Symposium DAY 1

Engaging students in assessment for employability development – revealing (and resolving!?) our issues. Facilitator: Arti Kumar
ANTF ideas: Towards new publication developments: including plans fora publication-producing, writer’s retreat. Facilitator: Tim Bilham

Unfortunately I couldn’t attend Arti’s session. In Tim’s spot he talked about the success of the NTF book and that another book sprint is planned for this year in July. Sales of the current book are going very well, and Tim’s session raised ideas for the next book, and probably many more after that!-

Communications at the HEA.
Facilitator: William Syms, Head of Marketing and Communications, HEA

William updated us on the redevelopment of the HEA website, a mammoth job comprising of over 165,000 web pages. I think we would all agree that the content / case studies and reports on the website are super but not very retrievable, so the new site will have added search functionality. I’ve just tried out the new site and I must say the search functions work exceedingly well, and the new site looks great.

For a quick tour of the HEA website –>

“Blog log” – Dr. Vivien Rolfe
Chair: Dr. Laura Ritchie

Viv (me) ran a session on the ANTF website and what the teacher fellows wanted it for, how to grow our community, and what types of article would be appropriate to share? It was agreed that the blog was an informal space for news and sharing good practices, and that we would not expect items to be polished and of peer-review quality. The HEA would maintain the more official face of the NTFs on their website.

Keynote: “Moore’s Law. Friend or Foe?”
Ian Yorston, Director of Digital Strategy at Radley College

Ian presented an entertaining keynote challenging us to think about the use of technology in our education settings, and how the concept of bringing your device and even bringing your own technical ecosystem to your education should be encouraged. He talks about Moore’s Law states that the power of computers grows exponentially, therefore education providers need to change their monolithic approaches to keep up. Ian was a fantastic and inspiring keynote.


Wine reception

Wine reception


Association of National Teaching Fellows Annual Symposium DAY 2

Keynote: “Collaboration”
Professor Stephanie Marshall, Chief Executive, HEA

Stephanie gave an update on the status of the HEA and how she and her team are bringing forward their plans and ideas to become a self sustained organisation more quickly than anticipated. Stephanie invited all NTFs to contact her with ideas or should they wish to get involved in shaping the future of the organisation. Go to the HEA site for updates. Stephanie and other colleagues from the HEA including Rosa Spencer were around for the entire symposium, so it was lovely to speak with them, and the Association of National Teaching Fellows is committed to supporting the HEA through the present difficult times.

“From dissertation to publication”
Sally Brown, Emerita Professor LeedsMetropolitan University

Sally Brown

Sally Brown

I’d not met Sally before but I don’t think I’ve ever learnt so much from a conference workshop. Sally talked about publishing from your dissertation, but everything she said would apply to everyone involved in publishing. Visit Sally’s website for further information (

The top tips for me were:
1) Don’t have time to write? Yes you do! Use every spare space in your diary, and Sally finds that a 15 minute period can be time well spent.

2) Perhaps someone within the NTF community could mentor you? She said Granny and Grandpa NTFs, not me.

3) When submitting to journals read them to get a feel for the style of article and writing, and contact the editors rather than submit speculatively.

4) Think about other publications – quick articles such as comment or opinion pieces?

5) Become a reviewer yourself where you can learn by the feedback comments of other reviewers!

“Professional Frameworks” – Professor Julian Park, Principal Fellow HEA
“Games and learning? It’s a doddle”Alex Moseley & Dr. Nicola Whitton

I was sorry to miss Alex and Nicola’s session but attended the one by Professor Julian Park and Dr Anne Crook from Reading University. They presented on the UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF).

This was a great session. There are currently around 830 Senior Fellows of the HEA and 160 Principal Fellows, and national teaching fellows form a relatively small number of these. People can apply for fellowships sometimes through their universities as part of accredited courses, or directly to the HEA. In round table discussions we talked about how perhaps NTFs could buddy up if they were considering going for a fellowship? Our table thought that the distinction between “senior” and “principal” was quite reflective of the individual’s present role and not necessarily their level of expertise and ability.

Dr Shirley Evans Jisc TechDis
Accessibility and Technological Support for Higher Education

TechDis is a small unit that works along side Jisc and the HEA to explore and provide advice to ensure inclusivity and accessibility within Higher Education, primarily through the use of technology, but also by recommending common sense and good practice. Shirley explained that around 200,000 students in higher education have a declared disability. From a show of hands in the audience it was surprising how many people had not heard of TechDis at all.

Their website ( is packed full of advice, not just about the technology but good academic practices to ensure we provide an inclusive approach to our work. The team regularly speak at conferences and run webinars, so there are plenty of opportunities to catch up with them.

Shirley talked about the “Voices” project that led to the development of student-friendly voices – Jack and Jess – for use with text to speech software. She talked about “Tbx Toolbox” – a series of resources on academic and personal skills useful for both staff and students. She also talked about Jisc and the “Discover Jisc” pages on the website to help locate the many tools, publications, toolkits and advice that Jisc have produced over the years.
A starting point for anyone wishing to review their understanding of accessibility would be “OASES“, an evaluation tool again located on the TechDis website.

For a quick tour of the TechDis and Jisc websites –>

Well there ended an inspirational and exhausting two days. What an amazing and inspiring group of people. I am very much looking forward to next year’s symposium. In light of feedback we are trying to find a more suitable date for the event and if you are an NTF please fill in our survey below (you can complete the survey on this page by scrolling down it or by visiting the SurveyMonkey site).


This blog post is by Viv Rolfe and entirely represents my own views and ways of expressing myself.

Playing the tune and bringing the students with us.

On February 28th at the University of Chichester, I played a concert with my long-time accompanist and Head of Music and Media, Ben Hall. What was so special about this concert as we are both musicians? Well, in our daily roles, the students see us as lecturers, researchers, and really as overall musical academics, but seldom do they see us in the capacity of being professional performers.

We took this opportunity to draw the students in, with the Multi-camera Live Event module filming the event as part of their assessment there was a team of 8 students with 4 cameras, complete with a rolling track for moving shots, and the Music students advertising and hosting the event. It was a chance to use students to document and showcase the use of the University’s prized piano. The Centennial D is probably the oldest Steinway concert grand piano in Europe. It was made in 1876 and really defined what was to become the modern piano. The instrument has a different iron frame to modern grand pianos, with less tension, richer harmonics, and there is tri-stringing further down the tenor register. The sound is pure velvet and second to none, but I might be biased.

Laura Ritchie and Ben Hall

Laura and Ben photographed by Andrew Worsfold, keen music enthusiast and employee at the University of Chichester.


The event was also a personal challenge. Balancing academic duties with presenting a memorised concert was my way of showing the students that I am up for the same processes that we expect them to undertake. None of us ever stops learning, and conveying that to the students, staff, and public is important to me. Actually, it is essential, because if you believe, have drive and commitment, then so many limits to how much you can learn and accomplish are lifted. I am certainly going to keep stretching and growing. I hope you do as well.


By Laura Ritchie
2012 National Teaching Fellow