Rebecca Coleman works as an EAP Tutor and CELTA Main Course Tutor at the University of Kent and is also a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Here she talks about her journey and the significant value of gaining the Fellowship.
As an English for Academic Purposes (EAP) Tutor and Cambridge CELTA – Main Course Tutor at the University of Kent, I knew I had achieved a lot since my arrival in 2011, but I had no idea what my 7 years higher education experience was worth, and moreover how to reflect and sell myself in my role.
Prior to joining Kent University, I had previously taught and lectured at Canterbury Christ Church University and Concorde International School in Canterbury and spent 3 years with the International Baccalaureate Organisation in Cardiff reviewing and designing their international curriculums and translating educational documents from French and Spanish into English. Therefore, it was an opportune time to reflect on over a decade's worth of experience in learning and teaching.
From chatting to colleagues and peers in Higher Education it became clear that the HEA would help me to grow in my role, by consolidating my experience to date and giving me confidence in my achievements. Initially I applied for Fellow, but I found that my role did not really fit the criteria at this level, and so on seeking further advice from our in-house HEA team, I was strongly encouraged to apply for Senior Fellow, which matched my role more closely.
My university recently became an in-house recognition panel for the HEA CPD Route and were extremely encouraging. The process was daunting at first as I did not know where to begin, and so I was extremely grateful of the support and guidance of the in-house team who helped me to navigate through the HEA criteria and claim process. The style of the HEA was also very different from the academic genres I am used to and so that took some adapting to. In some ways, I found my Fellowship application more challenging to write than my Master’s degree as I struggled with the reflection side of things, as well as the ability to sell myself confidently. However, I found commencing with the case studies a good way into the writing process as well as mapping my accountabilities with the HEA criteria by using the excellent planning sheet provided by my university. I also found my writing needed a narrative, which was another hurdle I had to overcome. There was a lot of drafting, revising and support from my mentor assigned to me by the university who kept me on track and gave me invaluable support and guidance.
In gaining my SFHEA I have received more respect from my colleagues and a heightened sense of confidence in my work. I now have a better understanding of my role and its impact on learning and teaching which is of enormous satisfaction to me. I now take pride in the leadership and managerial aspects to my role and see their significance not only for my department but also across the university and outside community. Additionally, I feel ready to take my work to a higher level in terms of leadership and authorship, which without this qualification I would not have thought possible. It leaves me to question where we would be without the Fellowship system?