What it means to be a National Teaching Fellow

By Helen Bilton, Institute of Education (2012 NTFS)

I had never heard of the National Teaching Fellowship Scheme, nor the University Teaching Fellowships, until a colleague who had achieved the status of University Teaching Fellow came and talked to our research group about the achievement. I actually was having a very bad day and missed the talk and arrived in a foul mood not knowing what anyone was talking about! When the meeting had finished Carol turned to me and said 'you should apply for that Helen you have done so much with students'. I didn't think much more about it until she sent through the information. I wouldn't normally have bothered but the encouragement from this colleague, who also said 'what have you got to lose' was enough for me to say 'go for it'. To say I was gobsmacked when I was told I had achieved the status of Early Career Teaching Fellow was to say an understatement. When the opportunity came around to apply for the more heady status of National Teaching Fellow having been encouraged initially by Carol gave me the impetus to say to myself 'why not?'.

Moral of the story: there are always people about who think a lot of themselves! But there are so many people who are brilliant but never think to shout about it. We all need to keep a look out and shout about our colleagues' achievements. Without my colleague being aware of and happy to help me, I would not have become a National Teaching Fellow. I now look out for others and say 'go for it'. If all of us could encourage one person, that would be a lot of people being acknowledged.

Being an Early Career Teaching Fellow meant I was exposed to some really nice people-always a bonus! It also meant I became more involved and felt more a part of the University. I came into contact with some amazing people, many of whom I'd not met before at the University. Being a Fellow has meant I feel even more confident about what I do with students, some of the things I have done are 'creative' and 'a bit out of the box' and the achievement has encouraged me to realise my beliefs are correct. It has also meant my passion for the last 33 years-children playing and learning outside has been recognised.

By Professor Shirley Williams Systems Engineering (2009 NTFS)

(extract from Teaching Matters interview with JEP):

You're now Professor Williams - how much did your teaching profile contribute to our success in gaining a chair?

I was so, so pleased about that! I guess when I started out, like all young lecturers I wanted to become a professor one day, but despite being promoted over the years (which I was very pleased about) I felt I wasn't a traditional academic - I'm not someone who has lots of publications in high class journals and all that - so I thought it wasn't worth applying, because if I applied I would be turned down and then I'd be disappointed.

But in recent years, the attitude of the University has changed, and the criteria have changed, and I think the roundedness of what I do helped my application. I felt it was the right time to be applying, and I think it was the drawing together of the students with the technologies that brought the case together.

You're also a National Teaching Fellow - what do you think impressed the NTFS Panel about your claim / what did you base your claim on?

One thing I did for the NTFS was ask people I knew - graduates and colleagues - for quotes and all this fantastic stuff rolled in!

My claim was based on my diversity of projects - my interaction with my students and colleagues within Reading, as well as my interactions with the national community (I'm a British Computer Society assessor). And also the international work - I've done a number of EU projects, and the work I did with the Community of Practice was truly international.

What does it mean to you to be a National Teaching Fellow, and what does it mean in practice for you?

When people say good things about you, it always makes you feel good - it's hard not to be a bit big-headed!

As a community the NTFS has really grown and I think perhaps, like all communities, being bigger makes it more difficult to know you are finding the right people. It has enabled me to keep up with what's going on, and it's brought to my attention teaching and learning publications I didn't know about - for example we recently published a paper on Digital Identity work, for which I saw the call on the NTFS list. So it brings things together.

I've had a number of invitations to speak at other places because of NTFS, but I think the greatest benefit of the NTFS is that it connects people from different places who share ideas and practices.

By Professor Julian Park, FDTL Life Sciences (2008 NTFS)

As a committed educator I applied for a University Teaching Fellowship because I believe it is a key route to ensure high quality teaching and learning is promoted within the University. The award provided funding to develop the engage in feedback website (http://www.rdg.ac.uk/engageinfeedback), which is now used internationally. My UTFS award quickly led to the opportunity to apply for a National Teaching Fellowship, which I was delighted to receive in 2008. As well as providing a great opportunity to network with like-minded individuals, it was a useful additional piece of evidence to support my promotion to Professor in 2010. Collaborations with other National Teaching Fellows has led to the award of £200k for the Enhancing Fieldwork Learning project, which is still on-going (http://www.enhancingfieldwork.org.uk/).

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