What do people get out of being a National Teaching Fellow?

In response to a recent JiscMail discussion regarding the National Teaching Fellowship Scheme, several fellows offered accounts of what the award meant to them. This blog has previously published such accounts from NTFs teaching Law, Science  and Music.

Professor Debbie Holley

Professor Debbie Holley, Bournemouth University inaugural lecture 2018.

The new testimonies feature as part of a WONKHE.com article. The contributors to the article were Stephen McHanwell, Peter Hartley, James Davenport, Debbie Holley (photographed above) and Vivien Rolfe, and below are details of what some of us got out of being a National Teaching Fellow.

  • The NTF changed my life – enabling me to gain a Professorship (Sheffield Hallam) and focus on educational development. This enabled my move to lead the Educational Development Unit at Bradford where we managed to influence institutional policy and bring in over one million pounds worth of project funding (HEA, Jisc) to investigate sector issues such as e-portfolios, student transitions, computer-aided assessment and assessment feedback, as well as being involved in two collaborative CETLs. I was Project Director on the PASS project, investigating programme assessment, and materials from this project are used by a number of universities to inform current plans, The project is continuing to develop post-funding, and we will have chapters in two new publications issued in 2018 (co-author with Ruth Whitfield from Bradford). Along with other initiatives which my NTF stimulated, this has enabled me to extend my career into semi-retirement.
    Peter Hartley – NTF 2000, Education
  • Because the NTF money was awarded to the individual NTF, the NTF could use it on “experimental” ideas, or ideas without the sort of certain return that bids to internal or external funders tend to require. In 2016, I submitted a paper (with colleagues, both internal and external) to SIGCSE 2017, the major US Computer Science Pedagogy conference. It was rejected. Nevertheless, I went (I was already in the States, but it still cost £1000), observed the various tracks of the very large conference, talked to people and showed the rejection to some “old hands”, and got valuable advice. This led to a (rather different) resubmission based on the same underlying research, which has now been accepted to SIGCSE 2018. The institution will now pay, but it would never have paid for the vital exploratory visit.  Another example is taking a student to FOSDEM (Free Open Source Developers’ European Meeting) to talk about his final year project. This was great  for the student, even though his project was not accepted into the main tree of the software, and gave me a great insight into what the barriers were to getting student code accepted.
    James Davenport – NTF 2014, Computer Science
  • My NTF funding of £10,000 awarded in 2012 was a lifeline for me as I moved universities at that time and therefore had the autonomy to develop my area of open education practice, particularly where internal funds were not available. I built national and international reputation in the field of open education, and the money funded conference attendance and travel, and over 30 research outputs since January 2014.
    Vivien Rolfe – NTF 2012, Physiology and Open Education
  • My NTF was of huge personal and professional benefit. It took three institutions and five attempts to finally gain this so much desired and valued award, and meeting the other NTFs in Liverpool Cathedral, and sharing the time with senior staff from my institution and my family was an evening i will never forget, as we walked across the candle lit walkway, pianist playing, to enjoy our meal together. No, it is not about financial award, it is about building community, having an expert body to reach out to for inspiration when times get tough and you have a deadline. It is about being welcomed in most Universities across the UK, there is a kindred spirit who aims high and puts the students at the heart of learning. But with University funding severely pressed, students expecting more and the demands of both TEF and REF, the NTF remains the one space where we can have that small amount of ‘creatively’ money and use it to offer our students the most wonderful set of learning experiences. The REF and TEF both, in theory will deliver additional ‘corporate’  funding to Universities. But our students deserve better – and we, the  exceptional educators who facilitate their learning and engender a love of the discipline deserve small scale funding pots to facilitate the pushing at the boundaries of education that our line managers, so tied up with corporate finance, are unable to offer. Who would have funded Jan Sellers Labyrinth work? Viv Rolfes OER work? My own JISC work delivering benefit to not only the institution, but the sector?
    Debbie Holley – NTF 2014, Digital Innovation

If you are part of the NTF community and wish to share your ideas or details of your innovative teaching practice, then do communicate via Twitter @NTF_Tweet or the NTF JiscMail list.

Happy New Year and lecture invitation

A Happy New Year to all National Teaching Fellows and visitors to our blog. We kick off the new year with an exciting event at the University of Bournemouth. On Wednesday 31st January Professor Debbie Holley will be giving her inaugural lecture which will enlighten us on many aspects of digital and open innovation, and the impact on student learning. Debbie is Head of the Centre for Excellence in Learning at Bournemouth.

Please visit the university website for further information.

Debbie Holley Invitation

Teaching the new generation of law students – by Becky Huxley-Binns

I like young people.

There, I said it. I like their hope, their reliance on technology, their values, their politics, their apolitics, their potential, their aspirations. I even like the grumpy ones. I even like them when they have no WIFI, and I like them when they use Wikipedia and think it is deep learning. I love the way they make language evolve and I have no clue whether to be insulted or flattered (you are ‘sick’, you are ‘savage’, etc).

I am not entirely sure why I like them so much. They are snowflakes. They lack resilience. They just don’t know so very much. They don’t know what I know I knew when I was young, a million years ago. But do you know what, they know different stuff to me and they know it differently.

Statua Lustitiae

Deval Kulshrestha, Statua Lustitiae CC BY-SA 4.0 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law#/media/File:Statua_Iustitiae.jpg

Perhaps it is because my dad was so funny and facetious about ‘young people today’ when I was growing up (him a maturist, me a Gen X) and perhaps because both my parents encouraged me to challenge the status quo, to question norms and generally to be irritating, that generational educational perspectives became something of a research hobby of mine in later life. But perhaps it was one particular ex-colleague of mine, who shall remain nameless, but who moaned (all the time) about students; that they didn’t prepare, they didn’t know how to communicate, they didn’t know life as she saw it, they didn’t know anything. And I always thought, well they do not want to be you. Why cast them in your mould? Why judge them against criteria they would reject? Why don’t you like the students you teach? Mutter mutter mutter…

Alternatively, maybe it is because when I retire, oh happy days, my pension fund will be reliant on the economy being healthy and in order for that I need the next generations to be successful. And to be successful, they will have to adapt to a future the likes of which we have never seen and cannot predict. That realisation, a few years ago, caused a seismic shift in my teaching philosophy. I stopped teaching to models designed 20, 30, 40 more years ago, with subject content as the main (only?) driver behind curriculum design, and started to try to teach students to be more confident in dealing with ambiguity, uncertainty, and change using the content as the context but not the paramount consideration. And I integrated technology into and across all learning activities. As someone famous said, or perhaps it was a meme on Facebook, if students cannot learn the way we teach, we should teach the way they learn.

And the more I read about gen Y and gen Z, the more I like them. Gen Z’s are the ones coming into university undergraduate programmes now. They were born after Google was created. They are the same age as or younger than Wikipedia. Smart phones pre-date them, so they do not really think of phones as technology at all. The oldest Gen Z might, just might, remember the start of the global recession, but all of them have been brought up in the aftermath of it and through austerity. They are finally more frugal than their older compatriots, the millennial. Gen Z do not remember 9/11, and will not remember being able to take water through security at an airport. They do not think that texting, emailing, snap-chatting, What’s-apping, Instagramming particularly novel, but rather routine and utterly normal. They do not use Facebook, they are not that old. They are told HE used to be free but they know they will pay, and pay a lot, and for a long time.

Because I like Gen Z so much, I wish I could make things easier for them.

  • Like the cost of housing, and the likelihood they could get on the housing ladder.
  • Like relieving the debt burden from their investments in their University experience (it is little wonder so many are actively looking for work-based education like apprenticeships is it? Add the benefits of the levy for employers to that, and whence Universities eh? #justsaying).
  • Like reassuring them Brexit will be OK.
  • Like Trump. I have no idea how to solve that problem but I wish I could, for all of us, but mostly for gen Z who look at the world, and their place in it and their future in it, and despair.

But I can make life a little easier for them. I can encourage colleagues across the sector to reflect on curricular and co- and extra-curricular demands on students and think about the extent to which they are necessary, sufficient and desirable, for future generations. Yes, I know that means we have to review the purpose of HE, which is fine. Can we review the purpose of HE as the student sees it please? Not as we do or (worse) as we did when we lived through it. We are here to support their learning for their futures. Can we make sure that when we focus on what we teach we spend as long thinking about how we teach it? And how we can integrate technology into the learning journey? Can we acknowledge that students will and do use Google and Wikipedia and YouTube to learn; and can we help them develop beyond those sources of information, rather than pretend (or rather sillily insist) they do not exist? Can we look to the most innovative and successful businesses and adopt their practices into our own for our students’ good? Not only in physical and virtual environments, but not ignoring physical and virtual environments, but also by letting the presence of, the cultures of, the expectations and the values of Gen Z change the culture and expectations and values of higher education itself. Institutionally and systemically, let the students make us better for the students’ sake.

Prof. Becky Huxley Binns

I am a Professor of Legal Education and Vice-Provost, Academic Enhancement, at the University of Law. I previously held a Chair in Legal Education and was Co-Director of the Nottingham Law School Centre for Legal Education at Nottingham Trent University. I am very experienced at  teaching all levels of legal education from GCSE to Doctorate level. I was Law Teacher of the  Year in 2010 (nominated by students). I am a member of the UK Teaching Excellence Awards  Advisory Panel, the HEFCE Postgraduate Information Steering group, the HEA Global Teaching Excellence Award (GTEA) Strategy Group, and I was  Chair of the UK Quality Assurance Agency Law Subject Benchmark Statement Review Group  2015. I became a National Teaching Fellow in 2012 and am Chair-elect of the Committee for the Association of National Teaching Fellows.