NTF and Me:

In this first of a series of nosey interviews we ask an NTF to reflect on what their teaching fellowship means to them; and a host of other teaching-related questions….

First up is in-coming ANTF Chair, Becky Huxley-Binns 

If you’d like to post to ‘NTF and Me’ or know an NTF with plenty to say (!) then do make contact: with Chrissi (Nerantzi) C.Nerantzi@mmu.ac.uk or James Derounian jderounian@glos.ac.uk

Questions, questions…..

  • Did you enjoy your time as a student?

At primary and secondary school, very much indeed. I was a sponge and just wanted to learn. At University, less so. My expectations were not really met – but I think that is because I had not had the foresight to understand what University would be like and how much I would have to do independently. No regrets, but I should have worked harder in my first and second year.

  • Were there any particularly memorable tutors you remember; and why?

My final year company law tutor. She knew what we were studying was tough, had a lot of complex detail, but would make sense when we finished and could reflect on the big picture. She kept telling me this, and understanding my weekly struggles; she was ace, such empathy, such patience and understanding.  And she was right, I did get it in the end, and before the assessment!

  • How would students describe your teaching? 


  • What motivates you – about HE – to get out of bed each morning? 

Knowing I can and do make a difference to students’ learning experiences and their lives.

  • Can you tell us about a successful teaching experience of yours? 

Not an individual one, but that moment when you are teaching something nuanced and complex, where the qualitative factors which have to be balanced mean there is no one ‘right’ answer, and when a student ‘gets it’ and they cross the threshold and have a mini epiphany – their faces are the most rewarding, the happiest, the funniest, the best thing in teaching.

  • And, a difficult teaching experience, or a ‘failure’ even; and what you learned from this?

Oh, I had set some really easy and helpful reading to one class to help them understand the following week’s class and it was so easy and would have taken them 15 minutes and they would have cracked the issue and not one, NOT ONE, had done it.

And I walked out of the room in anger. And I lost that group, never to get them back. They lost trust, engagement and, almost certainly, respect for me. There are lots of ways I could have handled it, and I didn’t.

I never did it again. I did carry on setting the reading and I carried on explaining why it was important – and told later classes how badly I had acted and what impact it had had – and I think they felt sorry for me and read the article. And they cracked it. One class’s loss was later classes’ gain, but I felt dreadful.

  • The researchers get to play all “the good tunes” – do you agree? 

Not at all. I am a researcher, but I work in a provider proud to be a teaching institution where we genuinely value teaching and teaching excellence. And teaching is a great gig. That said, I do love research – it broadens my mind and captures my imagination, but I am not in the REF and so my research is for the love of it, never for the impact.

  • If you could give 1 bit of advice about teaching to your younger self, what would it be?

Listen. To colleagues, to students, to peers, to managers. Don’t believe everything you hear, but always listen.


  • Beyond the university, what ‘floats your boat’? 

My daughter, who is 12 and utterly awesome (in the proper meaning of the word). She is funny and resilient and creative and the most interesting person I have ever met.

  • What has it meant for you to become a National Teaching Fellow?

See my blog in September!

Under new management!

Greetings NTF,

and welcome to The Blog. Chrissi Nerantzi [C.Nerantzi@mmu.ac.uk] and I – James (Derounian jderounian@glos.ac.uk) – are the new Blogmeisters and will be posting regularly on teaching and learning, NTFs and our Association (ANTF).


We welcome ideas and offers of short pieces – around 400 words – we don’t want to be an ‘echo chamber’ but rather wish to reflect and converse on topics of mutual interest. With some good pic’s of course!

We are amongst friends!

….Before we forget, Chrissi and I want to thank Viv Rolfe very much for her kindness and help in gently leading us towards taking on the blog 🙂


James and Chrissi

ps. I have just also arrived here… Chrissi here 😉

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.