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Celebrating teaching excellence

Q & A with Professor Steve Rutherford (Senior Fellow/National Teaching Fellow)

21 April 2020
Steve Rutherford (and his dog!)

Name: Steve Rutherford, Senior Fellow and National Teaching Fellow

Job title/Role: Professor of Bioscience Education, Director of Undergraduate Education, Division Lead for the School of Biosciences Education Division, Academic Lead for the Learning & Teaching CPD Project for the CESI.

School/College: BIOSI

When did you become a Senior Fellow / National Teaching Fellow / both? I became a Senior Fellow in 2015. I was awarded my National Teaching Fellowship at the beginning of 2017.

Why did you decide to apply for an Advance HE Fellowship?
I felt it was important to gain the external recognition of the more-advanced level of engagement with the educational community within the University and without. Having a Senior Fellowship meant that the School could emphasise that there were colleagues within the academic staff who had a very strong education focus, and were taking learning and teaching to another level. It provides a reputation for the School to have as many Senior Fellows as possible. The process of putting the application together was also an opportunity to me to think about myself, my approaches to teaching, and to take a moment to stop and evaluate what I do and what I believe about teaching.

I applied for a National Teaching Fellowship because I felt that I was appropriately experienced and aligned to the ideals of the NTF scheme to gain that ‘badge’. As with the Senior Fellow above, it would also mean that there was some recognition of the innovative approaches I have tried to adopt in my teaching. I felt that I was doing some interesting and unusual stuff, and that it would be nice to gain some external recognition for that. It also came with a pot of money to use for L&T-related CPD, which was very useful!

How has being a Fellow had an impact on what you do?
Being a Senior Fellow has meant that people tend to come and ask my advice about things, and it also has led to more interactions external to the School. We have a good community of Senior Fellows, which has the potential to be used to develop new ways of teaching, and enhancing the student (and staff) experience.

Being a National Teaching Fellow has meant being part of a much wider (and very friendly and encouraging) community of scholars both nationally and internationally. It has led to me being included in some national an international projects, and given the opportunity to collaborate with other people who are as obsessed about teaching as I am. I was also able to use part of the NTF stipend to help pay for an EdD course, which in turn has led to a whole area of Pedagogic Research activity.

How do you envisage being a Senior Fellow/National Teaching Fellow impacting on your future and any upcoming projects/work?
Senior Fellowship will hopefully mean being part of a community within the University that is a ‘first port of call’ for advice or leadership for innovative projects. There is a deep well of experience in this community of colleagues which is waiting to be utilised for the benefit of the whole University.

Being an NTF has already impacted on my career development, and I expect will continue to do so in the future. I will hopefully be involved in more international-level collaborations, funding applications, and supporting/advising other teaching-focused colleagues.

What advice would you give to colleagues thinking of applying for Senior Fellowship or National Teaching Fellowship?
For Senior Fellow, my first piece of advice is always to think what your personal ‘teaching philosophy’ is. Where do you see yourself as part of the learning and teaching process. Then start to question that. Ask yourself why you feel that way, or what you base that perception on. There is no right or wrong position to have, but if you don’t know where you stand, then it’s hard to rationalise how you support others in their own development.

Also try to work with others and mentor or support them. This helps colleagues develop, but is also a rich learning experience for you as a person (and will give you things to talk about in your Fellowship application).

For National Teaching Fellow, have a chat to Nathan Roberts of the CESI, or to any of the NTFs that we have at Cardiff, and think about the 3 main criteria of individual excellence in teaching, supporting others, and investment in your own CPD. Then think about what you can do to enhance those within the context of what makes you ‘tick’ as someone who supports L&T. What excites or interests you?  What is unique about you and your professional role?

Find out more about Senior and Principal Fellowship and how to apply 

Find out more about our National Teaching Fellows and how to apply  

You can also visit the Advance HE website or email us 

Keen an eye on the blog for more profiles on our current Senior and Principal Fellows and National Teaching Fellows.