Since I obtained my PhD and got my first teaching job at the University of Bath back in 2000, I realised pretty early on that teaching was what sparked my passion: communicating ideas, co-creating knowledge with students, instilling confidence in them. Working in such a research-led environment, however, it was not easy to find the professional validation required to advance and make a career in academia. Beyond students’ appreciative feedback, the perks simply weren’t there. In fact, for many years I ploughed on, literally sustained only by the results I obtained in student evaluations. In 2007, way before my institution put in the scaffolding and support for academics to gain teaching accreditation, I learned about the Higher Education Academy and their Fellowship scheme. I knew instantly that this was for me and I applied independently to become a Fellow.
The pride and confidence from having those post nominal letters were my first tools to start carving the professional niche I was working so hard for. It was a turning point. The tide was finally turning and teaching was starting on the slow climb to the summit from where research and researchers had ruled unrivalled. There is no doubt that the wider context was changing inexorably to the point where we are now. Teaching is now firmly on the agenda and this is generally positive for teaching academics and students – although our policy makers should not forget that teaching and learning are relational and contextual endeavours that can hardly be captured by the metrics of the NSS and league tables. Better to leave this Pandora box for another blog entry…
My first Fellowship was followed by a further certification as a Senior Fellow in 2015. These professional accreditations have undoubtedly been key in my academic progression and, more importantly, in giving me a sense of professional identity that prior to becoming a Fellow, was vague and a little timid. Just as important is that, beyond their actual currency in the academic professional market, the Fellowship scheme gives a solid framework to our teaching practice that can easily be bypassed in the busyness of our daily jobs. It provides the space for reflection, for reading up on relevant scholarship, for spelling out why we do the things we do in the classroom. And this is all fundamental, as our practice and professional identities remain invisible unless we turn them into narratives we can tell each other.
For further information on HEA Fellowship please click here.