Impact of a National Teaching Fellowship: A magic key to new partnerships, opportunities and collaborations – Rachel Barrell

When I became a National Teaching Fellow (NTF) in 2016 I had no idea where this award would take me – colleagues spoke of it ‘opening doors to new opportunities and careers’– but little did I know that within two years of gaining the award, I would move from teaching in a UK university to working internationally in South East Asia.

My work as a Principal Lecturer at the University of Worcester in the UK played a pivotal role in the development of my research linked to students as partners, both in the learning and leadership aspects of course design and development. The student role as change processors (Gibbs, 2012) and work carried out by Kezar (2005, p.1) shows that a collaborative and shared leadership model among staff and students is a key component in fostering student success. My research built on these findings and an initiative called ‘Working in Partnership (WiP)’ revolutionized the student voice on a primary initial teacher education programme. The impact was clearly demonstrated through increased student engagement, evidenced through a number of indicators including survey metrics (internal and external), course and Institute improvement planning, retention and achievement data and involvement of students in additional opportunities.

Students talked with passion about their role in WiP….students were confident that they were seen as individuals …they have been completely reinvigorated.”
External Examiner (2015)

Reflecting on Arstein’s Ladder of Participation model (1969) I felt that we had moved from a culture of tokenistic partnership to a model of learner empowerment where students were given responsibility for actively managing aspects of course development.

Figure 1. Ladder of Participation, Arestein (1969)
Figure 1. Ladder of Participation, Arestein (1969)

This research was shortlisted for a Times Higher Education Award for Outstanding Student Support in 2015 and played a key part in becoming a Senior Fellow in 2015 and also being awarded a National Teaching Fellowship in 2016.

One of the things I became increasingly aware of through the development of the WiP initiative was the impact it had on those around me – students became more prominent and engaged members of the course community, colleagues began to reflect on their own attitudes towards student involvement and therefore began to see students as partners in the learning process. A values based culture was firmly established which was not tokenistic but central to the vision of the course – authenticity, trust, honesty and empowerment embedded in all aspects of course design – outcomes, content, pedagogy and assessment. Wider impact included running Share and Inspire workshops to other programme leaders across other discipline areas within the university and also more widely at a number of national conference in the UK. Students also were involved in the presentation of the project which reinforced the scholarship aspect of student engagement – authentic partnership in learning and teaching.

In 2017 I moved to Malaysia with my family and, after a brief spell of travelling, I am now a Visiting Fellow at the University of Reading Malaysia, working in the School of Psychology. One of the main reasons why I secured this post at Reading was due to my National Teaching Fellowship – I had no idea how valued and prestigious the award was internationally which has been amazing. I have also been able to cross over to another discipline – my background in teacher education used as a basis to explore themes and areas of research in the field of psychology. My work around students as partners has now grown an intercultural perspective and am involved in a research project at Reading Malaysia looking at developing high impact pedagogies which promote intercultural student engagement. A key theme of this research is again values – developing authentic learning experiences which challenge cultural assumptions and encourage students to reflect on their part in a community of learning.

As part of this research I was also invited, as a National Teaching Fellow, to spend some time at the Centre for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning (CETL) at the University of Hong Kong who are doing incredible work around the internationalisation of the curriculum. The opportunity to collaborate and share knowledge with like-minded professionals who are also passionate about teaching excellence has been an incredible experience and has again shifted my perspective on teaching and learning. An internationalised curriculum is more than just content – it is about learning and teaching and changes to pedagogy and ensuring the active involvement of students in this process – but most importantly enabling students to appreciate ‘how other cultures and values can shape one’s thoughts, language and behaviours in a safe place. (Zou & Cheung, 2016).

Gaining a National Teaching Fellowship has impacted significantly on my career – I am now on a journey that I could not have predicted. The hardest part was having the confidence to make the application – I felt I was just ‘doing my job’ – working hard to secure the best possible experience for students. However, with mentoring and support from colleagues, I was able to appreciate the impact of my work and the process of writing the application made me realise just how much I had achieved and the impact it had on my colleagues, students and the wider community. Now, as part of my role at Reading Malaysia, I am supporting colleagues with their applications for teaching fellowships through both a mentoring role, and also through providing tailored workshops around key aspects of practice and pedagogy.

My advice is to go for it – get involved in the outstanding work that Advance HE carry out and become part of the academic community who are invested in the transformational power of learning and teaching.


  • Arstein, S.R. (1969). A ladder of citizen participation. Journal of the American Institute of Planners, 4, 216-224.
  • Gibbs, G. (2012). Implications of ‘Dimensions of Quality’ in a Market Dimension. York: Higher Education Academy.
  • Kezar, A. (2005). Promoting Student Success: The Importance of Shared Leadership and Collaboration. (Occasional Paper No. 4). Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Centre for Post Secondary Research.
  • Zou, T.X.P. & Cheung, S. (2016, Jun 24). Teaching across cultures: Issues, strategies and actions. Retrieved from
Rachel Barrell
Rachel Barrell

National Teaching Fellow, Higher Education Academy (Now Advance HE)
Visiting Fellow, University of Reading Malaysia
Please cite as: Barrell, R. (2019, January). Impact of a National Teaching Fellowship: A magic key to new partnerships, opportunities and collaborations. Teaching and Learning Connections, 8. Retrieved from

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