Lancaster University

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National Teaching Fellowship Scheme Winner

07/03/2006 08:39:37

For the sixth time in seven years, Lancaster University has a winner in the prestigious National Teaching Fellowship Scheme (NTFS) organised by the Higher Education Academy.

Dr Andrew Folkard with a Geololite
Dr Andrew Folkard with a Geodolite

Lancaster’s 2006 NTFS Fellow is Dr Andrew Folkard, a Lecturer in Physical Geography who is committed to teaching mathematical, statistical and quantitative skills to non-specialists.

Andrew aims to effect a “revolution” in attitudes across all areas where students are required to engage with quantitative material, even though, he says, “many of them view it with fear, antipathy or boredom.” In 2002, through a University grant, he worked with focus groups of students who had found his second year statistics course difficult. Through lengthy discussions with students he has now adopted an approach which focuses on what quantitative skills can do to help them.

On his first-year quantitative skills course, Andrew breaks down the barriers many students have to mathematical material by using a staple of student humour – celebrities in surreal situations – as a way of introducing complex ideas. For example, he teaches one statistical method with a story about stars of the World Wrestling Federation arguing about the length of scarves they had knitted for their local church fete.

Andrew is keen to support student diversity. He provides “virtual fieldtrips” using video recordings and photography for students with impaired mobility who are unable to tackle the difficult terrain found on fieldtrips. In his third-year module, he uses one weekly session to cover scientific material and the other to point students to potential career opportunities. This linking of difficult scientific course material to the reality of career relevance engages the students’ curiosity very effectively.

Nationally, Andrew is actively involved with the Higher Education Academy’s Subject Centre for Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences (GEES) for which he has produced a much valued resource briefing on Mathematics, Statistics and Quantitative Skills. In 2003, he was awarded Lancaster University’s Pilkington Prize for excellence in teaching in recognition of his contribution.

The 50 winners, chosen from a record 242 nominations submitted by higher education institutions across England and Northern Ireland, will each receive awards of £10,000 to support their learning and teaching. The winners will receive their awards at a ceremony and dinner in London on 19 September.

The National Teaching Fellowship Scheme (NTFS), launched in 2000, recognises and rewards teachers and learning support staff in higher education in England and Northern Ireland for their excellence in teaching. Funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and the Department for Employment and Learning in Northern Ireland, the scheme recognises and rewards individual excellence in teaching in higher education.