Dr Sana Almansoori, Director, Unit for Teaching Excellence and Leadership (UTEL) at the University of Bahrain, describes her route to HEA Fellowship and the impact and benefits she has seen for staff and students at University. Sana is a Senior Fellow of the HEA. To date, there are 153 HEA Fellows at the University of Bahrain.
Back in 2006, I attended a PG Certificate course with York St John University and was pleased to find out at the end of the programme that I was eligible to apply for HEA Fellowship.
I had really enjoyed the programme, in particular learning about the Professional Standards Framework (PSF) which was probably the first time I had seen a robust definition of what it means to be a teacher or a lecturer. And it began to dawn on me how central and how important this document, the PSF, is to developing teaching at every career level.
Certainly the PSF has been key to me continuously improving my own practice. The evidence you offer in a Fellowship application is not like writing a list or CV, the reflective process makes you interrogate and question objectively what you are doing, what’s been successful and why it’s been successful. The application process really draws this out. But once you’ve gone through the reflective process it’s something you start to do automatically- and you’re continuously challenging yourself – why am I doing this, how is it helping my students, i.e. how is it helping the learners?
In my role in the university as Director, Unit for Teaching Excellence and Leadership (UTEL), I see a lot of staff coming through our accredited programmes; and frankly some are sceptical about participating and indeed about Fellowship helping their teaching, especially where they may have already been lecturing for a number of years. But what I notice in those people is a seismic shift from sceptic to ‘convert’, usually when they are introduced to the PSF and also around the time they start putting together their portfolio of evidence for Fellowship, when they notice how the process of reflection is starting to impact on their practice and the learning of their students.
We recently did a comparative exercise looking at the impact of the Fellowship programmes against those attending ‘routine’ development courses and workshops. It was clear that staff going through the accredited programme have a far deeper understanding of their practice and have a different way of thinking about their teaching. The tell-tale factor is that those following the route to Fellowship are continually providing examples of work which evidences the impact on students, and how their students are developing their learning. With the other groups, while their workshops are of course useful and beneficial, they talk about the impact on them, not so much the student. It’s the PSF that helps the Fellow reflect on their practice with the learner centre stage and it instils a rigour and desire for continuous professional development. My advice would be to take the Fellowship route – you won’t look back!
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