Innovative teacher awarded prestigious national accolade

Keele University’s Dr Russell Crawford has been awarded a highly coveted National Teaching Fellowship - the most prestigious award for teaching excellence in higher education.

Dr Crawford, who holds a unique, dual staff-student facing role at Keele, is one of only 54 academics across the UK to win the award in 2018. The National Teaching Fellowship (NTF) scheme is organised and run by the Higher Education Academy, and celebrates and recognises individuals who have made an outstanding impact on student outcomes and the teaching profession in higher education.

Last year, Dr Crawford, a Senior Teaching Fellow in the School of Medicine, and an Academic Staff Developer in the Learning and Professional Development Centre, also won the ‘Most Innovative Teacher of the Year’ category at the national Times Higher Education Awards. His sustained excellence in teaching has also resulted in eight years of recurrent teaching excellence nominations, two nominations for the Keele student-led teaching awards, and he has twice been runner-up for Professional of the Year and New Academic Tutor in the Keele widening participation awards.

Speaking about his award Dr Crawford said: “The prestige of this award cannot be overstated for me. In an ever-changing higher education sector, the NTF benchmark for excellence has remained constant and high, which is why year-on-year many worthy colleagues from across the country seek its recognition and I am honoured to be the newest of them.

“This recognition as having had positive impact at the national level is the most critical aspect of this award for me. As an educator, I have spent many years developing, refining and taking pedagogic risks to support my learners, and this NTF award means I am now crossing that line from having local to having national impact and therefore in essence, this is validation that creative, novel teaching practice is rewarded.

“In refining my teaching over the last decade, the approach that I feel this NTF award recognises is that of being an informed risk-taker. In every aspect of my teaching, from lectures to tutorials to large-scale events, I strive to come up with creative and novel ways to engage learners, which I honestly think makes all the difference.”

Dr Crawford is the creator of Braincept, an educational game that focuses on boosting learning in pharmacology, which was developed in response to students saying that they lacked confidence in this area. Dr Crawford’s assessments of Braincept revealed that playing the game led to knowledge gain and an increase in confidence among medical students. Other disciplines, including law, mathematics and physiotherapy, are now looking at whether the game can be used to aid student learning in these fields.

Dr Crawford is also responsible for Keele Basic Bites, a series of online videos designed to help self-directed study that average 20,000 views a year from around the world.

Professor Helen O'Sullivan, Pro Vice-Chancellor of Education, said: “I am delighted that Russell has been recognised for this prestigious award, which is a reflection of his dedication to his role, students and teaching excellence. We are extremely proud of Russell for his innovative teaching methods and ensuring his students receive an outstanding academic experience.”

Alison Johns, Advance HE’s chief executive, said: “The award of a National Teaching Fellowship is an outstanding achievement and I know that the whole sector will join me in congratulating the new NTFs. Advance HE is very proud to run these awards on behalf of the sector.”

The awards will be formally presented at this year’s UK Teaching Excellence Awards Ceremony in November.