Report on the “A conversation with successful NTFs” webinar

This blog has been contributed by Prof Debbie Holley, Events Officer on the ANTF Committee, who has organised our roadshow events for aspiring NTF and CATE winners this year. Here she reports from this webinar, in November 2020.

Image shows a Zoom meeting, featuring five female and two male presenters from the webinar event
The ‘rogues gallery’ from the webinar! The event was facilitated by Debbie Holley (centre top). Guest presenters were Professor Sally Brown (bottom right; @ProfSallyBrown), Dr Steve Briggs (bottom left; @drstevebriggs), and Beatriz Acevedo, (bottom centre; @beatrizacevedoX) . Support from Advance HE came from Leonie (top left), Dan Amin (top right), and Karen Hustler (centre). Thanks to everyone!

The Association for National Teaching Fellows (ANTF) and AdvanceHE collaborated to run this national webinar for aspiring National Teaching Fellows. Fully booked with 65 participants and a waiting list, this session offered a brief re-cap of the scheme and highlighted updates; the AdvanceHE pages have the forms, links to great videos and lots more.

This time we concentrated on what the evidence can be for the three main criterion; and explored this through the lens of our three panel guests.

A) individual excellence

B) raising the profile of excellence

C) developing excellence

Dr Steve Briggs shared his journey as a Professional Services member of staff at the University of Bedford, and showcased how he set about identifying an issue in the sector, where learning developers are seen as ‘betwixt and between’ and not ‘fitting in’ terms of recognition and reward in terms of University staff recognition pathways.  He set about challenging and changing this, through working with the Association for Learning Developer in HE (ALDinHE) by leading change and developing their own national framework for the Certified Practitioner (CeP) and Certified Leading Practitioner (CeLP) awards.

Dr Beatrix Acevedo, Creative Oracle and lecturer in sustainability at Anglia Ruskin University, based in their Business School challenged all of our preconceptions with her journey of seeking more creative ways to communicate her teaching passion! Her main message was to create an individual authentic and personal narrative that reflects across the three areas of ‘excellence’.

And Professor Sally Brown, one of the award co-founders added, in her own wonderful style:

‘shy bairns get nowt’ analogy – for non-Geordies,  this means if you don’t write about it, we don’t know you have done it! Key message is to step up, explain what you have done, the impact of this for yourself, for others and say why it matters..

Sally has some excellent resources, including a very detailed powerpoint about what counts as evidence on her blog. We concluded by encouraging participants to think about mentors, teams and collaborations as their way forward.

The full recording is available here (passcode v&&fZw8B)

Thanks as ever to the AdvanceHE team, Leonie, Dan Amin and Karen Hustler

Debbie Holley, on behalf of the Association for National Teaching Fellows (ANTF)


Webinar three: 3rd December 2020 “Institutional/Individual perspectives”

This webinar will briefly re-cap the previous two sessions, and the panel will include a representative from those tasked with staff development in our institutions, to offer the institutional viewpoint about the scheme, as well as NTFs happy to share their experiences. We will record and blog.

3rd December 2020 1-2pm (currently full with a waiting list in operation)

Educators in lockdown: Skills skills skills!

This week, we will feature a series of blogs from Professor Susan Smith, Associate Director, Centre for Learning and Teaching, at Leeds Beckett University. Susan first shared her findings and reflections on educating in a lockdown back in May; in this fourth instalment, she reflects on how everyone has developed new skills – social as well as technical. You can find Monday’s introductory blog here, Tuesday’s instalment on lockdown working as a ‘messy business but getting tidier’ here, and Wednesday’s blog about coping better here.

Head shot picture of Susan Smith

Some members of our team light heartedly mentioned their rusting social skills as we lost opportunistic corridor chats, office friendships and missing the feel of being part of, for now, a whole- university campus.

We have, though, gained other new skills in spades though some felt that this did not compensate. When I reviewed the vocabulary used about the range of skills that colleagues said they’d learnt since the beginning of lockdown, it revealed that initial technical glitches and low confidence have now morphed into more active skill development. We have developed between us a range of nuanced skills- online collaboration, team and project management, time management, prioritisation and looking at new ways to be much more creative and engaging in teaching and in support roles. We have fostered brand new collaborative projects (which seemed lost for ever in the spring) and these are also now emerging from academic staff in the Schools as reinvigorated research and practice enhancement ideas.

We have redesigned our annual pedagogic project funding programme which is now going to focus entirely on ways to improve the online and blended learning environment.

We all want to get better at developing skills which emotionally engage colleagues and students online. We have all noticed (and have figures to support it) how student numbers are increasing in lectures and staff numbers are increasing at meetings and educational development workshops which were patchily attended in the past. It’s easier to fit in meeting or a lecture when you don’t have to travel, find a room and worry whether by it overrunning, you’ll get home in good time. We find attendance is strong with the new blended and online approach, but we still expressed concerns that we don’t really know how students and staff colleagues are really engaging when their cameras are off– does it matter? They are adults and they are consumers, the use of the camera is their choice …That said, we must get better at supporting our staff to help our students to engage with learning sessions as actively as possible, to build online project groups, contribute, and have fun.   The same can be said of staff -only meetings- how can we encourage new voices to contribute beyond the conversation panel.  Maybe these typed panel conversation comments are the new voices from shyer colleagues who disliked speaking up in large face to face events and meetings. We have learnt that it is important to take these typed comments seriously and diligently note and absorb them.

Professor Susan Smith, Associate Director, Centre for Learning & Teaching, Leeds Beckett University


Educators in lockdown: living in the unknowing (but finding a better sense of our future and priorities)

This week, we have featured a series of blogs from Professor Susan Smith, Associate Director, Centre for Learning and Teaching, at Leeds Beckett University. Susan first shared her findings and reflections on educating in a lockdown back in May; in this final instalment, she reflects on how, while we are still in a state of ‘unknowing’, we are developing a better sense of our future and our new priorities. You can find Monday’s introductory blog hereTuesday’s instalment on lockdown working as a ‘messy business but getting tidier’ here, Wednesday’s blog about coping better here, and yesterday’s blog about finding new skills here.

Head shot picture of Susan Smith

Our future on campus is still unclear, and we must remain living in this state of unknowing. As I mentioned before, being in the psychotherapeutic state of “the unknowing” has become a valuable but tense reflective exercise and it is different for everyone. We blithely encourage students and colleagues into “reflective practice” on placement experiences, dire critical incidents, academic practice, failures. Now we are having to do it properly on ourselves. Some of the staff interviews I did as part of this research were deeply reflective. The pandemic has made us all dig deep, develop coping strategies to understand the present and make sense of the future.

The pandemic has profoundly changed the way we have worked- just as the Industrial Revolution shifted cottage industries to factories, moving from the country to large cities. The principle remained the same in the 1800s – you still left your home to go to work and returned in the evening. It’s not like that now. We are still primarily working at home. This current state of affairs is going to continue for at least the rest of this academic year and it’s unlikely that full face to face teaching, graduations and large campus meetings will resume any time soon.

Whereas our early days of sudden home working in March were marked by a sense of surrealism and shock, it does seem now, from the interview findings, that the future of our work is slightly clearer. We all would wish to retain this more flexible approach in the future with a mixed diet of home and office working to meet the requirements of the service.

Our interviews have shown how we had adapted and grown. We worry much less about the digital tools collapsing. We are now thinking constructively about approaches to support more robust and engaging blended learning, the future of the TEF & NSS, new ways to enhance continuation and emotional engagement, digital capability and pedagogy, ways to enhance inclusion and the hearing more staff and student voices, building higher level skills into the curriculum and exploring the real value of face to face teaching in a blended curriculum.  

Our priorities as a team, we all agreed, seem to be becoming clearer too.

As we now understand and recognise the importance of emotional engagement and collaboration for ourselves, so must we catalyse it in our staff so they then can model it for their students. As we have in our team stopped feeling overwhelmed by technology, we must now return to the core of our work – being led by the reasoned evidence, the “why? and the pedagogy and focussing much less on the overwhelming “how to…” of the digital tools.

It seems from our rich, qualitative data that we have also recognised we need offer colleagues responsive, pedagogically- led support and ideas tailored tightly to their practical needs. As they learn the new skills to emotionally engage their own students in online learning, we need, in parallel, to emotionally engage our staff colleagues by humanising ourselves, try to reduce social barriers through the screen and illuminate their contribution and discussion.

We press on into a much- changed future and have surprised ourselves by how well we have adapted.

Professor Susan Smith, Associate Director, Centre for Learning & Teaching, Leeds Beckett University