Dr Charles Buckley is an NTF and Senior Educational Developer at Liverpool University. Here he shares his take on “NTF and me” –
- Did you enjoy your time as a student?
I really enjoyed my time studying at university and worked hard to make up for lost time in further education where I didn’t fully apply myself. I’d always wanted to teach and was determined to get the most out of time spent in teacher training, school-based practice and the camaraderie of being with other like-minded learners in a small cohort of Primary Physical Education students. During postgraduate study, I really embraced the opportunity to learn about a subject I have always felt passionate, Sports Science, in a great university with dynamic tutors and excellent facilities.
- Were there any particularly memorable tutors you remember; and why?
My final year undergraduate dissertation tutor. She showed a genuine interest in what I was researching and allowed me to follow my interests whilst nudging me in the right direction in terms of methodological rigour. At the same time, she had an empathy balanced with instilling realistic expectations and milestones to keep me on track.
- How would students describe your teaching?
I would hope that most might say I am thorough and well-prepared as well as involving them in sessions in a meaningful way.
- What motivates you – about HE – to get out of bed each morning?
I love my role as an Educational Developer because there’s so much to the work which presents new challenges each day and allows me to network with a wide range of colleagues both inside my own university and beyond. I must admit to sometimes feeling a little out of my comfort zone and have learnt to thrive on this as the reward for feeling I’ve made a difference to others is addictive.
- Can you tell us about a successful teaching experience of yours?
Ones that tend to stick are those where I have made a lasting impact on students who have, many years later, said that they made career and life-changing decisions based on something I said or a connection I provided them with. A memorable example would be a colleague who now holds a senior lecturing job in university who thanked me for inspiring him to follow a teaching career after he showed great promise in the way he interacted with others in micro-teaching opportunities.
- And, a difficult teaching experience, or a ‘failure’ even; and what you learned from this?
I spent some time trying to become an effective teacher and tended to be very self-critical and dwell on negative experiences. I often tended to compare myself with other tutors who were naturally gifted at communication and developing great relationships with their students. Gaining my National Teaching Fellowship really made a difference to my confidence and I’ve learnt to follow my own path and celebrate some of the strengths I have rather than worry about things going wrong or comparing myself too much to others. I also think that, over time, I’ve accepted that things do not always go smoothly and that I can reflect and learn from mistakes. I enjoy trying new approaches and try to plan carefully but be adaptable and embrace spontaneity.
- The researchers get to play all “the good tunes” – do you agree?
I really enjoy the integration of research, scholarship and teaching and considering the ways in which they can support one another. I’m very optimistic about the growing interest in good teaching and how this is increasingly permeating university promotion criteria. Rather than dwelling on a dichotomy of teaching and research, I think we should emphasize the ways in which they are both essential for effective learning.
- If you could give 1 bit of advice about teaching to your younger self, what would it be?
Focus on positive experiences and collect examples of good feedback you receive from colleagues and students. Be pro-active in watching and learning from others and their approaches to teaching but allow yourself to find out what works best for you and always experiment with new ideas. I also think it’s really important to talk with students regularly both in and out of sessions.
- Beyond the university, what ‘floats your boat’?
Having two fantastic children and spending precious time with them.
- What has it meant for you to become a National Teaching Fellow?
This is my proudest achievement in my professional career and I genuinely feel part of a supportive group of creative colleagues.