Deanne Bell describes her academic journey and talks to us about gaining HEA Fellowship:
I earned a BBA in Finance and International Business in 1987. As a mature student I completed the coursework in a MSc in sports psychology, earned two MA degrees (counsellor education and depth psychology with a specialism in community psychology, liberation psychology and ecopsychology), and earned a doctorate in depth psychology in 2011.
I began a full-time, tenure-track teaching position in 2013 at Antioch College, a historic liberal arts college in the US with a focus on experiential learning. In the US, academic tenure is awarded after multiple reviews of contract over several years, which include, among other things, an assessment of the faculty member’s teaching effectiveness and approaches, student evaluations of that effectiveness and peer teaching observations. But there is no requirement for teachers to complete postgraduate teacher training in the US. Remarkably, once you’ve earned a doctorate in your field it’s somehow expected that you can teach effectively in your subject area.
It’s interesting that you have looked to HEA Fellowship – was it the professional standards framework that particularly interested you?
I began searching for training programmes that could help me develop and become the kind of teacher that consistently provides learning opportunities in which students can increase their understanding of the world in which they live. I found no such vehicles in the US so began to look internationally. It’s then that I discovered the HEA and your programmes.
The professional standards framework was a significant factor in deciding to attempt to become a fellow of the HEA. Its clarity drew out of me a kind of critical reflection that my successful reviews of contract for academic tenure have not. The professional standards, importantly, ask a teacher in higher education to scrutinize relationships between what and how we teach to the professional values we hold. This self-examination promotes a consideration of the ethics we bring to our teaching practice. I think this is important if we think of teaching as having a much higher purpose than transferring knowledge from the academy to students.
How do you find the process of Fellowship and reflecting on your practice? Would you recommend this to colleagues? What lessons could you share with them?
The process of putting together my materials was transformative. Before this I had never considered the components that make up the areas of activity, core knowledge and professional values that the dimensions of the framework delineate. If we deeply care about how what we do impacts student learning then the aims of the framework are probably operating in the background of our minds quite often. But the fellowship process foregrounds these dimensions. I think it makes good teaching practices more intentional thereby promoting them.
I found the process so generative that I have suggested to Antioch College that we consider bringing the workshops and fellowship process here, despite there being no requirement to do so. I think making the process available to all full-time faculty at Antioch will elevate the practices and standards used and used to measure teaching effectiveness, which will increase the value of the education we offer.
How do you envisage that Fellowship may impact on your teaching?
Attaining fellowship has given me confidence to utilize practices and ideas that I believe are crucial to shaping good learning environments. By increasing my understanding of what constitutes good teaching I will hopefully be able to more readily deploy these strategies in the classroom.