What makes a lecturer stand out in today’s world of multiple information channels? According to Dr Diane Westwood – one of only 55 new National Teaching Fellows announced for 2015 – it’s doing what the best teachers have always done, “using what resources are available to make learning dynamic, engaging and effective”.
Now in its 15th year, the National Teaching Fellowship Scheme (NTFS) recognises, rewards and celebrates individuals who have made an outstanding impact on student learning and the teaching profession. The 55 new National Teaching Fellows bring the total number across the UK to 643, representing 40 disciplines.
Dr Westwood is a Principal Lecturer in Learning and Teaching based in the Faculty of Applied Sciences’ Department of Psychology at the University of Sunderland. She said that she was thrilled that her work has been chosen from the hundreds of nominations, commenting: “I have sought inspiration for teaching in my own discipline, Psychology, by looking to the arts and that has opened up a whole new world of possibility for me and my students”.
Professor Stephanie Marshall, Chief Executive of the Higher Education Academy, said: “The National Teaching Fellowship Scheme celebrates outstanding achievement in learning and teaching in higher education. Each year when I read about our new National Teaching Fellows what stands out for me are the comments made by their students, who describe them as innovative, engaging, entertaining, genuine and passionate about teaching; this year is no exception. The new 2015 National Teaching Fellows we honour today are truly deserving of the award.
“The award really does raise the profile of excellent teaching and supports NTFs not only to develop their career but to make further impact through innovative learning and teaching practice. Receiving a National Teaching Fellowship is just the beginning. NTFs are an active community of passionate and enthusiastic professionals, working to enhance learning and teaching in their institutions and the sector to help make even more positive changes to students’ learning. I’m delighted and honoured that the HEA manages such a valued, peer review-based scheme to recognise the very best in higher education teaching.”
The NTF award judges innovations and teaching excellence and assesses a teacher’s career journey, including developments in their thinking.
In her work Diane has developed learning and assessment to encourage curiosity and creativity, drawing on her research on playfulness and taking inspiration from other disciplines, welcoming collaborative working between departments and faculties.
Dr Westwood added: “I was inspired by working with colleagues and students in documentary film making and finding that many of their topics were similar to those we were teaching in Psychology – topics such as attitude change and mental illness. The reasons for using film-making are obviously very different between the two disciplines, but I was impressed by the power of film to engage both makers and audiences, this led me to digital storytelling.
Diane supports students to produce and share their digital stories, finding that for many this is a powerfully transformative new mode of expression. Students are very proud of their digital stories with one colleague observing that students seemed ‘two inches taller’ and a student commenting “I wanted to run home and show my digital story to my grandad”.
Interim Vice-Chancellor, Shirley Atkinson concluded: “Diane is a stimulating and adventurous teacher; her approach is really about exciting and liberating both students and tutors so that they can work together, as partners, in producing new knowledge.”
The National Teaching Awards will be officially presented at a ceremony being held this autumn at Liverpool Cathedral.