I started working at CCCU in September 2013 following a number of roles in London secondary schools. This is my therefore my fourth year as a Senior Lecturer at CCCU and as a tutor on the Teach First programme. Within this time, I have also undertaken roles as Programme Lead for the London programme and, most recently, Subject Lead for Religious Education in the South Coast area.
Completing my HEA Fellowship application was a unique and reflective experience. It was an opportunity to make links between my philosophy of education, personal values and experiences, as well as the responsibilities and roles I have undertaken within Secondary and Higher Education. It really brought to the fore, and together, my ideas about supporting trainee teachers and the potential impact of my work.
The Teach First programme is similarly unique. Rather than ‘students’ or ‘student teachers’, we use the term ‘participants’ for the trainees with whom we work. The trainees work exclusively in schools with high levels of socio-economic disadvantage. Like me, most of the tutors come straight to the role having been teachers and mentors within schools. Furthermore, as we continue to spend the majority of our time within schools through observations and training days, I think we continue to maintain our teacher identities and thus thinking of the ‘students’ as the young people in the training schools rather than our trainees. However, this task forced me to consider my transitioning role from teacher to teacher educator and the ways in which I make an impact on student teachers and Higher Education. Reflecting on standard K1 was therefore particularly useful in considering how to teach Higher Education students rather than the subject knowledge as a school teacher, from which I have historically drawn. I realise that, although my work as a school teacher still informed my practice, some other crucial theory and themes underpinned my work in HE, for example, partnership working, collaboration and use of critical approaches to research.
Our portfolios of participants are often smaller than other training routes – this year there are five participants in the South Coast region, but we see them more frequently than perhaps other tutors might. We undertake half termly observations, termly reviews, conference training days and bespoke work with mentors, so bringing out the distinctiveness of the programme was crucial to help my assessor understand the impact of my work. The formative feedback was particularly useful here – drawing my attention to the areas which were not automatically understandable or applicable and needed further clarification. My work with my mentor was also helpful in helping me to consider the impact on HE students for every example, as well as considering use of different types of evidence, including colleague references, student feedback, ,as well as data.
I began to complete the process by tracking my career back and the values and theory which had supported my past choices and actions, which until now had been implicit rather than directly linked. It was therefore a meaningful, personal process in my professional life. This year, my participants are undertaking a wholly new programme – a PGDE rather than PGCE, the first module of which requires them to consider how their emerging philosophy of education is affected by critical reflection on pedagogy and evaluation of teaching opportunities. The process of completing my HEA Fellowship has helped me to support trainees in considering the direct relationship between vision, theory and impact.
The HEA process was also an opportunity to pause and reflect on my personal achievements within my subject area, for example, winning a significant bid for conference funding. I undertook an enhanced analysis as part of the HEA process about the impact on students and teachers. In considering impact and achievements, I have also developed further targets and ideas for future actions based on the process, for example, greater use of case studies in my work with Higher Education students.
I would therefore encourage colleagues considering undertaking the HEA Fellowship for its value in a number of ways both personally and professionally. The material is directly beneficial for appraisals but also the reflective process, which we so often request of our students, has helped me to consider the relationship between values, theory and impact within a HE setting, as well as my own career.