We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University News


Durham academic awarded National Teaching Fellowship

(16 December 2016)

Durham University’s Dr Sam Nolan, Assistant Director, Centre for Academic, Researcher & Organisation Development & Honorary Fellow in the School of Education has become only the fourth Durham academic to be awarded a National Teaching Fellowship. 

The National Teaching Fellowship Scheme (NTFS) celebrates excellent practice and outstanding achievement in learning and teaching in higher education, and these awards are the highest honour the Higher Education Academy bestows to those working in Learning and Teaching at Universities, recognising significant input at departmental, institutional and national level.

Dr Nolan talks about the background to the Fellowship and its benefits. 

Explain the work you have undertaken to become a National Teaching Fellow (NTF).

My NTF application covers my entire career at Durham, having held positions in the Physics Department, Foundation Centre and now as Assistant Director at the Centre for Academic, Researcher and Organisation Development.

My fellowship, awarded through a University endorsed application, is built on my interests in digital pedagogy and largely funded through the University’s Enhancing Student Learning Experience Awards. An early example was the development of new virtual approaches to practical science, which has supported first-year undergraduates as they enter the physics laboratory for the first time. This work led not only to great engagement with laboratory learning, but also to further collaborative projects with colleagues in Durham (Chemistry) and across the UK and Europe. Alongside this, working with colleagues across the institution, I developed a national conference for Teaching Focused Academics, giving those employed primarily for teaching in Higher Education a chance to share scholarly activity across disciplinary boundaries and develop a national voice.

How do students benefit from your Fellowship?

Working with students as partners is very much key to my work. A good example of this the Transitions into Higher Education project, which I lead on and provides an online course for all incoming undergraduate students to take prior to arrival. The course is made by students, for students and highlights the differences between school and University study. Over 3,800 of our students took the course this year, and feedback has been exceptionally positive.

As one questionnaire response indicates:

“I feel much more prepared. The course has helped me to understand what the work load will be like, how to balance academic and social time and also what to expect from university life.”

In addition students were asked: How did you feel before and after doing the course?

The frequency of keywords given in response to this question is shown below:

Indirectly, as I lead key elements of postgraduate and staff development at Durham, I’m able to share my experience and work collaboratively with postgraduate students and academic colleagues to enhance learning and teaching.

How are you intending to develop further the work you have done, and how will students benefit from this? 

I am currently developing a new online pre-arrival course to address the needs of Durham’s postgraduate taught students as they make the transition to Postgraduate study. Needs are identified through focus groups, and include enhancement time and career management e-learning activities, plus video interviews with current postgraduate students, academic staff and potential employers. During this project, working with Durham students as partners will add an authentic voice and credibility to the work. Partnership is achieved both by having student developers working on the project, along with review committees of students who feedback on the materials produced to allow us to enhance the course. This course will be launched in September 2017.

For further information on Dr Nolan’s National Teaching Fellowship see 

Share this story