Steps towards Fellowship
I began working in higher education in 2011 having previously worked as a manager in a local authority setting. As a relative newcomer to HE, I found engaging with the professional standards framework (UKPSF) helped me focus and position myself as a teacher within a new environment. I became an HEA Fellow in 2014 and Senior Fellow in 2016. During this period my institution ran its own accredited Fellowship scheme.
I received great mentor support during my application writing phases, so between Fellowship milestones, I agreed to mentor other staff members and join a team of staff who reviewed applications through the University`s scheme. This gave me a useful familiarity with the framework from the reviewer perspective, in terms of what an effective reflective commentary looks like.
The impact of professional recognition
Becoming a Senior Fellow gave me the necessary self-efficacy boost to go beyond my institution to work out some of my next developmental steps. I took up opportunities to begin contributing to several cross-sector expert panels. Back home, the learning gains from this proved dynamic in my progression to the leadership roles of School Director of Teaching and Learning, and Principal Lecturer. It was around this point that my previous project management experience kicked in to help me begin to anticipate infrastructure hurdles that would need to be overcome to develop teaching practice on a larger scale across my institution.
Getting into position to drive institutional change
Moving forwards to lead staff development through my new roles, I faced a significant peer challenge in convincing hard-working, busy teaching colleagues to spend more time developing their Fellowship applications. My institution had changed its approach from running an accredited scheme to supporting staff to apply individually to the HEA to gain professional recognition.
However, more of my colleagues were noticing my Fellowship progression and raising application queries with me. We needed more robust arrangements for staff to apply for Fellowship, but it was a significant challenge to change perceptions and systems across the institution in order to make this happen.
Initially I started in my School and College by persuading senior managers to let me introduce a peer-led approach. I piloted training events to support staff with Associate, Fellow and Senior Fellowship applications. These proved very popular so I have now developed a training programme across these levels for the full academic year, which has been made widely accessible. I was also able to introduce arrangements on a wider scale by going beyond my institution, consolidating external recognition and expertise and bringing this back to do things differently at Lincoln.
I also increased local ownership by involving Fellows in training delivery as they achieved recognition. This approach has helped to raise the profile of staff development activities and make them more meaningful across the wider academic community.
Consultation with Senior and Principal Fellows helps me to arrange suitable facilitators for events. I also coordinate a team of administrators, project officers and digital developers to drive change through effective use of key institutional systems. This is enabling me to gradually achieve more organisational buy-in to establish a centrally administered and peer-led approach.
Fellow-led reflection and learning
Applicants often say that they benefit from hearing from those who have recently made successful Fellowship applications. Fellow presenters have told me how they enjoy the opportunity to reflect on their teaching. This approach brings together recognised Fellows and others to reflect together on work in progress. Training activities are flipped to digitally capture the range of contributions, widen access and give opportunity to senior colleagues to review practice.
Design for development
My emphasis on peer dialogue and reflection stems from formative mentoring and conference experiences heightened through informal dialogue. This has resulted in some highly productive partnerships and learning gains. Those of us who love to teach and talk on the conference fringe can move forward together and make good things happen!
HEA colleagues are great partners in this reflective process. A day I spent recently with them at their York headquarters gave me the opportunity to develop the staff development conversation further. Sharing experiences generated rich discussion and collective reflection that going forward will inform my future practice and help me write more of my Principal Fellowship application.
Catch me at the next conference and let's get talking teaching!