When I initially started preparing my application for Principal Fellow of the HEA, I had a real sense of impostor syndrome. Doubts started to creep in when I looked at the UK Professional Standards Framework. “I’m not doing enough for this level” my inner voice said, almost two years after successfully achieving SFHEA. As I started noting down some of the things I had done in relation to each standard, I realised what had been achieved and how much I had developed within my roles. I have always presumed that everyone was doing the things I was and slowly that realisation changed, thanks to encouragement from colleagues, particularly an Associate Dean within the School of Health Sciences. Planning the application provided an excellent opportunity to sit down, reflect on my career to date, the successes and challenges I had faced in developing the educational side of my role, in addition to continuing with clinical practice.
Next was the documentation, which felt like doing a dissertation on the subject of ‘me’. Not an easy task, when your natural tendency is to help and encourage others but play down your own achievements. Having been fortunate to have been awarded funding for educational coaching the previous year, I had already started evaluating my contribution to educational development within my programme and teaching. Next was thinking about wider contributions under the headings of strategic leadership to enhance student learning; policies and strategies; integrated academic practice and continuing professional development. Somehow the brain dump grew, and the mind mapping got messier, as I tried to decide which aspects were relevant whilst also considering which category was the most appropriate. Eventually I was ready to put it into a document, 37 pages later I had my story. I then asked for advice from Rachael-Anne Knight, the Associate Dean, who found time in her busy schedule to give some excellent constructive feedback and advice on where to showcase the achievements more. Amendments made, I pressed send and it was gone and forgotten about as I went on holiday. When I returned to work it was a lovely surprise to find I had achieved PFHEA status and had some excellent feedback from the reviewers.
So why did I do it?
As one of the new ‘Leads for Teaching Excellence’ in the School of Health Sciences at City, University of London, I had been encouraging and supporting staff within the division to apply for fellowship awards. I had reviewed drafts and completed references. As a firm believer in trying to practice what you preach, I thought I should also consider why I was encouraging colleagues to apply for recognition. Many reasons came to mind, but a sense of achievement, recognition for hard work and innovation to support students, improve educational experiences and a means of evidencing that were a few. These factors were all relevant to me, so I took this as an opportunity to reflect on my own current practice and plan how I could further improve and develop educational strategies.
The award helped me to highlight how external contributions to the professional and accrediting bodies have helped to develop skills to use within internal roles in the School of Health Sciences and wider university. The relationship between my many different roles became much clearer as I reflected on each aspect. My next job is to encourage others to develop and expand their skills to achieve their goals and continue to improve the quality of education for students, whilst keep looking for ways to develop myself and the programme.
So is it a reality or fiction? I still feel like it’s fictional at times, but peer review of my application both internal and external suggests that it is in fact reality - and that can only help motivate me to believe I can do more in the future.