University Teaching Fellows aim to raise internal profile of T&L with PVC support, By Dr Katja Strohfeldt-Venables

On the 10th November the University Teaching Fellows (UTFs) came together for their termly Community of Practice meeting. As chair of the Community for 2016/17, I welcomed all UTFs and outlined my focus for this academic year: “Raising the profile of UTFs”.

It was our great pleasure to welcome Prof Gavin Brooks to this meeting. Gavin gave an overview of current T&L projects within the University and acknowledged that it is important to utilise the UTF community for the wealth and diversity of experience it represents. He highlighted in particular, the upcoming review of the University’s Teaching and Learning Strategy in the spring and summer terms, to be ready for launch in 2018; an area where the views of the UTF Community would be extremely welcome. All members enjoyed a really positive discussion about the status of the UTFs and how the University values this community.

Additionally we discussed how the University could potentially support this community. It was very interesting and encouraging to hear that dissemination of T&L projects and sharing of good practice were on top of the list and important to all UTFs present. This includes dissemination within the University and outside. However, we also recognised that effective sharing of good practice seems to become more and more challenging as we face a myriad of commitments. If you have any ideas for how we can share good practice in T&L within the University more effectively and/or how the University can support us – I would love to hear from you. Just drop me an email:


University Teaching Fellows – Reflecting on the community by Katja Strohfeldt

With the start of the new academic year it is always a good idea to reflect on current practices and plan the year ahead. As the incoming chair for the Community of Practice (CoP) of University Teaching Fellows (UTF) I found myself reflecting on the identity and the purpose of this group.

What is the Community of Practice of UTFs?

It could be summarised as a growing community of staff members (academic and non-academic) who are enthusiastic about varying aspects of teaching, innovation and excellence. The University recognises each year a number of staff members for their excellent work in the area of T&L by appointing new UTFs.

Many congratulation to the new University Teaching fellows 2016-17, who recently joined the community:

  • Dr Laura Bennett – School of Law
  • Dr Philippa Cranwell – School of Chemistry, Food & Pharmacy
  • Dr Andrew Charlton-Perez – School of Mathematical & Physical Sciences
  • Dr Rhianedd Smith – University Museums & Special Collections Services
  • Dr Rachel Pye – School of Psychology & Clinical Language Sciences

I was actually thinking back to the time when I joined the group and we started having regular CoP lunch meetings, where there were only a handful of us meeting for a sandwich lunch (yes I am so long at the University already). It makes me feel very proud being part of a community which has grown quickly – in number and reputation. One of the strengths is its community spirit – everyone is able to draw on each other’s knowledge and experience from areas across the University. We meet in an informal setting and it is a great way to meet new people from across the University and make contacts.

What is my steer for the coming year?

Following on from my excellent predecessor Helen Hathaway – Helen thank you very much for being an excellent chair to the community – I decided to have an overarching theme for this academic year. I would like to explore further how the University utilises their UTF community and how we can give the group more of an identity and input in strategic areas. For this reason I have invited Prof Gavin Brooks (PVC for T&L) to our first meeting in the autumn term in order to give us a platform to discuss how the Senior Management Board sees our role. I hope that more detailed plans come out from this meeting, but the spring term meeting certainly sees the launch of the new UTF application process, with the summer term meeting welcoming our new colleagues.

Are you interested in becoming a UTF?

If you are interested in applying to the UTF scheme than I would suggest that you plan ahead. Have a look at the application form and identify areas where small tweaks might make a great impact. At this time of the year, you might be able to adjust your teaching or achievements in a way that you can apply to the UTF scheme with confidence. I suggest you get in touch with CQSD sooner rather than later and see if you can be matched with a mentor – this is another great way to meet new people. The new scheme will start off with a showcase lunchtime session, but I suggest you start thinking about it now and you are always welcome to also contact me.

Details of the 2017 UTF scheme will be announced in the new year.

University Teaching Fellows – A Growing Community by Helen Hathaway

As the new academic year starts it seems a good time to focus on the Community of Practice of University Teaching Fellows (UTF). It is a growing community of teaching enthusiasts who are not only committed to teaching innovation and excellence, but to continuing professional development of themselves and their colleagues.  As incoming chair of the UTF Community of Practice, I am looking forward to continuing the theme of mentoring which developed under Richard Mitchell’s leadership, and especially to encourage others in support roles to consider themselves as candidates to become a UTF.  Michelle Reid, a Study Adviser, and I are currently the only UTFs working in an academic support and development directorate and we would welcome others.

One of the strengths of the community is the ability to draw on knowledge and experience across the University by networking in an informal, though structured, way. In the coming year the areas of excellence and good practice about which I would hope to encourage discussion and development are embedded academic skills. For an example of a current project where this is already happening in a tripartite partnership see

Other ways in which the Community can contribute to the development of teaching – especially important in the context of any emerging Teaching Excellence Framework – are in offering its breadth of expertise of teaching matters on University strategies and plans, and to disseminate good practice.

If you are thinking of applying to be a UTF, my advice would be to look at the criteria now as it is likely you can plan your teaching for the Autumn and early Spring terms to strengthen any areas where you feel less confident of completing all four sections of the application. Most importantly it gives time to reflect on your teaching and achievements. No need to wait for the award to be launched in March with its strict deadline: start now to think about how to present your experience and expertise. You may also get double duty if you have already applied, or are considering applying, for Senior Fellowship of the HEA via the FLAIR CDP route: the necessary analysis of your teaching philosophy, looking at the UKPSF (UK Professional Standards Framework)and the reflection on the wider impact of your activities will also help in your UTF application. A mentor is the best possible support you can have in the process – everyone I have spoken to says so. Come and join us! Please contact CQSD or me for an informal discussion or to be put in touch with a potential mentor.

Congratulations to the new University Teaching Fellows 2015-16:

  • Dr Tabarak Ballal, School of Construction Management & Engineering
  • Dr Richard Harris, Institute of Education
  • Dr Karsten Lundqvist, School of Systems Engineering

Details of the 2016 scheme will be announced in the new year.

Inaugural Writer’s Retreat for finding your FLAIR by Dr Sam Weston

On 4th June at London Road, CQSD ran their first writing retreat for UoR staff embarking on the pilot FLAIR CPD programme, to document their previous teaching experience and apply for HEA recognition at Associate Fellow, Fellow, Senior Fellow and Principal Fellow status.

The day began with a tag-team presentation from Clare and Nina outlining the plan for the day and reminding participants of what they were expected to do over the next few hours. The session included short warm-up exercises reminding us all of UKPSF descriptors and suggestions of examples for each of  the Areas of Activity, Core Knowledge and Values – more of a challenge than expected – and revealed a competitive nature in some participants! It did, however, help to explain the cross-over nature of many of the participants’ evidence samples.

Once the workshop and presentation was over, participants scattered across Building 22 into dedicated writing rooms, allowing them to really spend quality time working on their submissions, with drop in access to CQSD experts all day.

The day was a huge success for staff from CQSD and participants; the ability to come and talk things over with experts, who made themselves available for the whole day, and spent dedicated time talking the anxiety out of many of the participants was an invaluable resource when trying to complete the template for submission.

I can honestly recommend this writer’s retreat to anyone embarking on the FLAIR route for HEA recognition. The process was both light-hearted and gently teasing whilst reflective, reassuring and supportive in equal measure.

Learning on Screen Awards by Nadja Guggi

Learninng_on_screenCongratulations to Matthew Nicholls, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Classics, who has been shortlisted for a prestigious Learning on Screen Award by the British Universities Film & Video Council (BUVFC) in the Courseware and Curriculum Non Broadcast/Multimedia Award category.

Here is a short clip from Matthew’s entry, ‘Digital Modelling of Ancient Rome and the Roman World’:

Matthew has been using digital modelling software to build a detailed model of the ancient city of Rome as it appeared around AD 315. He spoke about ‘Rebuilding the ancient world, digitally’ at the ‘Sharing Good Practice’ event last July and presented on ‘Integrating digital modelling into student teaching and assessment’ at the recent Teaching & Learning Showcase on ‘The use of technologies in Teaching & Learning’.

If you want to find out more, Matthew will talking about his project in a keynote speech at the University’s annual IT Supporters Conference on 18 April – just before heading off to London for the Awards ceremony! Fingers firmly crossed.

Becoming a Senior Fellow of the HEA

As part of its remit, the Higher Education Academy offers professional recognition to its members – colleagues are able to apply to be an Associate Fellow, Fellow, Senior Fellow or Principal Fellow.

I was very recently successful in gaining recognition as a Senior Fellow, the first at the University of Reading. The process is relatively straightforward, although it does take time, especially as it can easily fall down the ‘to do’ list with all the demands on HE staff.

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What it means to me to be a National Teaching Fellow by Helen Bilton & Professor Julian Park

By Helen Bilton, Institute of Education (NTFS 2012)

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 across the University, many of whom I’d not met before. 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 Julian Park, FDTL Life Sciences (NTFS 2008)

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, 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.

PhD student wins 2012 Teaching & Learning Support Programme Portfolio Prize

I’m surprised and thrilled to have won the University of Reading’s Teaching and Learning Support Programme Portfolio Prize! I’m looking forward to attending the Teaching and Learning Awards ceremony on the 18th September, where Professor Gavin Brooks, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Teaching and Learning), will make the presentation. Let me explain…

I’ve had the privilege of contributing to the BA English programme during my PhD, by leading a seminar group on the Part One ‘Researching the English Essay’ module in 2010/11. I was keen to get focussed training and feedback as I took on this new responsibility, so I enrolled on the University’s Teaching and Learning Support Programme (TLSP). This 20-credit Master’s level module is accredited by the Higher Education Academy, and designed for postgraduates and staff involved in supporting student learning.

Throughout the year I attended a number of TLSP workshops run by enthusiastic and experienced trainers; I was particularly inspired by sessions on pedagogical theory – ‘how students learn’ – and on creating synergy between research and teaching. I also attended various Higher Education Academy events across the UK, which offered a valuable opportunity to learn from other teaching professionals on more specific topics like teaching performance poetry and post-millennial literature. I took part in reciprocal teaching observations, and was even filmed giving a practice presentation. I reflected on these many activities in a written portfolio, where I articulated my student-centred approach to teaching and learning.

I was delighted when my portfolio passed with Distinction, and honoured when it recently won the annual TLSP Portfolio Prize for the best portfolio submitted in 2011/12. This recognition is especially encouraging so early in my career, and I’m thrilled to receive £1,000 towards continuing my professional development.

So, big thanks to those students in my first seminar group, for their willing participation and thoughtful feedback. I’m grateful, too, to my PhD supervisor and teaching mentor, Professor Alison Donnell, for her constructive observation of my teaching practice. Many CSTD staff, faculty members and fellow graduate seminar leaders have shared creative suggestions for seminar activities with me. It’s great being part of a University that’s so committed to enabling effective learning and rewarding good teaching. I’m hoping to be back in the classroom – as both teacher and learner – again soon!

Nicola Abram

How jolly good to be a Fellow!

Shortly after receiving the news that I had been made a Teaching Fellow of the University I found myself talking to a number of colleagues from other institutions involved in teacher education. I must admit to being a little embarrassed when my host, who I had told about the Fellowship in a quiet conversation, introduced me to the assembled company by announcing that I had just received the honour. They were generous with their congratulations and compliments but more to the point here, is that they were all seethingly jealous that I worked in an institution that recognised teaching in this way! We’re all obviously very aware of the pressures associated with the REF and notwithstanding those academics in every institution will doubtless have a plethora of things they are in the midst of researching or would dearly love to research. And research of course bring many types of rewards both to individuals and their institutions. However, the business of imparting what is discovered through research and encouraging and equipping new people to follow their own research interests through what we in the trade call ‘teaching’ can sometimes seem overshadowed by the business of research. The danger of this of course is that we end up with a research community that does research for the sake of research: without people to teach its findings, research can neither be applied, questioned or developed by others. How lucky we are then that, at Reading at least, teaching is recognised and rewarded.

The University Teaching Fellowship and Early Career Teaching Fellowship Scheme affords colleagues the opportunity of reviewing what they have done in their programme based teaching in the greater context of how this may have addressed the University’s priorities for teaching and learning. Personally I found this a valuable exercise. It wasn’t so much a question of looking at it all and thinking, ‘goodness, what a lot I’ve done and what a jolly good fellow I must be!’ as seeing, for the first time really, how the work that I had been doing did indeed reflect and contribute to the University’s grander project. In turn, this realisation enabled me to see how I might contribute further and meeting other Fellows for the first time genuinely excited me about the possibilities of sharing ideas and expertise in teaching methods among new colleagues and, ultimately, students. So thank you CDoTL for this scheme. It’s good to be a fellow and I jolly well intend to make the best of it.

Andy Kempe