Jane is a Reader in Conservation at the Cardiff University and has been studying and working in conservation and collections care in Wales since 1984. She has worked in both the public and private sectors including acting as Conservation Manager for the Council of Museums in Wales. Jane now teaches on Cardiff University's BSc in Conservation and the MScs in Collections Care and in Conservation Practice. Jane is the stewardship representative on the Welsh Federation of Museum and Art Galleries, a Trustee for the Cynon Valley Museum Trust and an ACO for International Council of Museums – Conservation Committee Preventive Conservation Group.
“My journey to applying for HEA Fellowship has been a long one! As an ‘accidental academic’ I found it difficult to describe myself as an inspirational teacher, even though I like to think that I’m good at what I do.
After working in museums as a conservator since graduating, I started teaching courses at Cardiff University in 2002, and have worked my way through the ranks since then, becoming Reader in Conservation last summer.
Although you can have a wealth of knowledge and experience of your subject as a professional, the biggest challenge as a teacher is finding the best way to transmit this knowledge to students without simply offering instruction manuals.
Because I teach conservation as a laboratory and field practice, it’s very hands-on. I’ll be teaching a student how to hold a scalpel and peel away layers from ancient artefacts like an Egyptian coffin, but there’s no way I can simply lecture to them how it actually feels, as it’s such a tactile job. Becoming a conservator is not something that students can learn without doing it themselves, so I have to be able to teach the skills to learn by doing. Sharing that tacit knowledge has made me dig deeper in developing how I teach.
I’m incredibly passionate about learning and teaching. Because of this, I’ve spent a lot of time mentoring colleagues in their applications for HEA Fellowship. Those of us who’ve been in the profession for a long time often don’t have the teaching qualifications if we’ve come into higher education from professional practice. So having the HEA Fellow qualification is a good opportunity to think about how you work and then seek recognition for your teaching.
Four years ago, I decided I should actually apply to become a Fellow myself, but somehow never made the time to make the application, and I questioned whether I was ‘the kind of person who applies for fellowship’.
After 15 years of working in higher education and mentoring others, I decided last summer that it was about time I did it. Having looked at the standards, I thought that I might have what it takes to become a Senior Fellow, so I thought I would stretch myself and apply for it.
The opportunity for self-reflection and reflexive learning was just fantastic as I went through the application. Taking that time to think about why I teach has been great. I enjoyed gaining theoretical clarity on the direction I had been taking in my teaching. The process has also helped me make some practical decisions about how I was developing my modules.
I had two colleagues review my application, who both felt that although I was passionate about describing what I do, I had to do more to ensure I gave the right evidence to address all the headings, so I’d definitely recommend getting several opinions on your application.
After getting the feedback from colleagues I had another pause on working on the application distracted by the usual rounds of teaching, marking and writing. Then just before Christmas, I was diagnosed with cancer, which of course brought about a rollercoaster of emotions and self-reflection. In between various treatments, there was a good opportunity for me to look back over my work as a teacher and I turned afresh to my application.
I worked on my application when I had energy and had supportive meetings with my referees over coffee and cake. I admit I found having the time to think carefully about their advice very beneficial. I submitted the final version as soon as I got back to work in June. To find out in September that my application to become an HEA Senior Fellow was successful has been amazing and felt like a return to work on a high.
I now feel so much more confident in talking about how I teach, and I want to share this across the disciplines at Cardiff. I’ve been talking to colleagues in Social Work and Pharmacy about teaching methods and developing vocational placements as they give students invaluable life skills. So hopefully this is something we can roll out across the institution eventually. This year I will be the assessment and feedback lead in my school and the Senior Fellowship is a fantastic platform for this important role.
The process of applying for the Senior Fellowship has definitely had a big impact on my teaching. In the process of preparing the application I have lectured on teaching practice in the profession in Barbados, Copenhagen, Melbourne and China. Most of the presentations were offered in partnership with graduates or colleagues. I wouldn’t have had the clarity to do that without going through the process of applying for Fellowship.
My advice to other academics considering whether to apply is don’t wait, do it now! Don’t feel like you have to be the “be all and end all” of teaching in order to apply, as you’re probably never going to feel like that. The process helps you realise that you to reflect on your own practice and discover why you are already a good teacher. To then achieve that recognition by becoming an HEA Senior Fellow is just fantastic.