In this 2nd in a series of nosey interviews, we asked out-going ANTF Chair, Sally Brown, to reflect on her teaching fellowship:
From early childhood, I always wanted to be a teacher and a writer, but never envisaged the kind of role I ended up having. Getting a National Teaching Fellowship was the icing on the cake! I didn’t enjoy myself studying English with Philosophy at Newcastle University, having been quite timid (yes really) and completely overwhelmed by the academic competition, and didn’t really get the best out of the opportunity. I regret, for example, not having studied abroad at all, (although I’ve made up for it since). I then taught English and Drama in schools, and after having children (there was not much in the way of maternity leave in those days, we were expected to resign when pregnant) I had a patchwork part-time career teaching in schools, Further Education, prison, the Probation Service, Home Tuition and so on, often with so-called naughty boys, then worked at Newcastle Polytechnic where I discovered my true metier in Educational Development, getting an MA along the way.
My first and continuing obsession was with assessment, and this led me to apply for a job with the Institute for Learning and Teaching, later subsumed into the HEA, then AdvanceHE. I became a Visiting Professor during this period at a number of UK and Australian HEIs (thanks Robert Gordon for offering me my first), then my last job as a wage-slave was as PVC for Assessment, Learning and Teaching at Leeds Met University, during which time I got my NTF.
Nowadays my semi-retired role includes a lot of grandparenting, but also paid consultancy and workshops in UK and European Universities and rather more pro bono work mentoring and supporting colleagues (particularly but not exclusively middle-career women) and being actively involved in the Association of National Teaching Fellows; and have just stepped down as ANTF Chair. I still write most days, and my current project with fellow-NTF Kay Sambell is a book on international perspectives on assessment. Doing a PhD by Published Works at the end of my working life inspired me to help others follow this route, about which I am rather evangelical. For me, the very best part of getting my NTF has been the fellowship of other NTFs, which provides an amazing community of practice. I rely on fellow-NTFs to answer pedagogic questions, keep me abreast of current developments, and to excite and challenge me.
I am fascinated by what comprises teaching excellence and am heartened by the existence in the UK of a scheme that aims to recognise and reward excellence. I see our job as NTFs as being to pay forward the support we had in our early days, and to champion evidence-based scholarly teaching alongside research in universities, as equivalent contributions to university life.
I don’t plan to fully-retire until I stop enjoying myself or don’t have anything to offer the next generation of academics and learning support staff who care as deeply about teaching as I do. Or until people tell me I should!
To learn more about Sally’s adventures in assessment, learning and teaching in higher education, click https://sally-brown.net/