How to put students at the heart of what’s done

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How to put students at the heart of what’s done



Sam J Nolan, Assistant Director in the Durham Centre for Academic Development (DCAD), Durham University discusses the importance of Teaching Excellence and his experience drawing from the Teaching Excellence Programme to establish a Leadership in Learning and Teaching course at Durham.

Q1. Why did you take part in the Teaching Excellence Programme and what was your role at the time?

I took part in TEP in last year, and at the time I was Head of Academic and Researcher development at Durham University.

Q2. Before you took part in the programme, what were you looking to gain?

I was in the process of developing a Leadership in Learning and Teaching course at Durham and I wanted to have a look at similar courses and get ideas around the way it is done at Advance HE. I attended as an exercise in sharing best practice, and to come away with some good ideas.

Q3. What were your impressions of the programme?

I really liked the programme; the element I particularly enjoyed was having different thematic days. The programme offers focus on key themes, with one day on TEF, one day on student inclusivity and one on employability. I had a small role in our TEF submission and it was very powerful to look at other institutions TEF statements for comparisons. In addition, Pauline’s session on what makes a good statement was very useful.  I also liked using action learning sets. Practically this meant that participants were able to work with the tutor and support each other on issues and challenges they were having in their own context. I’d encourage people to attend the TEP. It’s been instrumental for me in terms of developing good relationships from people from other institutions and across the sector, which has broadened my outlook on the variety of higher education.

Q4. Which masterclass did you find most useful and why?

I really liked the inclusivity masterclass led by Hugh. It presented a gamified approach to the student journey across the academic year. As a cohort, we had to consider student challenges and what the faculty and institution could do to support them.

Q5. As a result of the programme, what are you doing differently?

I’ve used a large amount of what I’ve learnt on the TEP. When we started the Leadership in Learning and Teaching course at Durham, we had a dozen academics across the institution leading on curriculum change, which is underwritten by inclusivity. The first day of the course was focussed on external challenges like TEF, and I was able to draw from the masterclass to inform this. We had a speaker and then use action learning sets, in a similar style to the programme content but adapted to our institution.

Q6. How would you define Teaching Excellence?

I think it has to be putting students at the heart of what’s done, which means working in partnership with students on teaching enhancement and curriculum design. The distance between what we do and what the students’ need can be quite vast, it’s important to narrow that divide.

If you have a proven track record in higher education teaching and you’re seeking to refresh and reinvigorate your teaching practices, discover more about the benefits and learning outcomes of the Teaching Excellence Programme.

This article was originally posted here.