Inspirational New National Teaching Fellow

Posted on 30 August 2018

Professor Andrew Parsons has been awarded a prestigious National Teaching Fellowship by the Higher Education Academy in recognition of his inspirational and innovative approaches to teaching.


Professor Andrew Parsons making use of molecular models to explain key concepts in organic chemistry

The National Teaching Fellowships are awarded on an annual basis by the Higher Education Academy. The National Teaching Fellowship (NTF) scheme celebrates and recognises individuals who have made an outstanding impact on student outcomes and the teaching profession in higher education. 

Professor Andrew Parson's approach to teaching combines inspiration and innovation with solid and secure student learning. His use of the lecture format is particularly novel, for example deploying poetry, pop music, printed t-shirts and pre-lecture slideshows to help students remember fundamental principles. This has even attracted students from other departments to attend his lectures! 

Working with AstraZeneca, he pioneered the introduction of pilot-scale experiments into the undergraduate programme. Third year students are introduced to the excitement and challenges of process development chemistry as part of a team project to prepare a ‘blockbuster’ medicine under different conditions, and hence discover the most effective synthetic route.

Andy also introduced ‘chemical communication’ final year projects into the BSc programme, whereby students can gain academic credit for working in local schools and developing an educational intervention for the pupils they are working with. These projects have proven to be an ideal stepping-stone for students considering a career in teaching Chemistry, as well as providing role models for local school pupils.   

A keen advocate of technology enhanced learning; in January 2017, Andy delivered the first ever University of York MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), called ‘Exploring Everyday Chemistry’.

Following a re-run in July 2018 the course has now attracted over 10000 learners from over 100 countries. It was recognised as ‘excellent’ following Quality Assurance, and received outstanding learner feedback including:

‘Being taught by someone with such passion in what they do makes the learning process an awful lot easier! And fun!’ 

Andy continues to innovate in his teaching of chemistry and, over the next few years, he is leading a team in an ambitious e-learning project aimed at fourth-year Masters students.

Reflecting on his National Teaching Fellowship award, Andy said:

‘I am absolutely delighted! Although an individual award, my efforts to provide innovative, engaging and inspiring teaching and learning experiences has arisen through collaboration – I am very grateful for all the help and support of colleagues and I have been very fortunate to work with so many talented and highly motivated chemistry students.’

The National Teaching Fellowship awards have been running since 2000, with up to 55 individuals from across the whole Higher Education sector being recognised each year.  On gaining the award, fellows play an ongoing role in enhancing teaching and learning within their institution, the HE sector and further afield.  The Department of Chemistry is unusual in now having two National Teaching Fellows, the other fellowship having been won in 2013 by Professor David Smith