The context for the project
The HEA's Strategic Enhancement Project has enabled facilitated dialogue between educational development and human resources staff with particular regard to academic staff development, recognition and career progression. The articulation with the UKPSF in these areas has been both a conceptual focus and an implementation mechanism. At Sheffield Hallam University (SHU) some of this work was already underway through developments such as the Sheffield Hallam University Code of Practice in Teaching and Learning; and incorporation of HEA Fellowship criteria into academic person specifications. The proposed introduction of a new academic appraisal has highlighted further opportunities to design and embed self-directed and developmental processes into a holistic framework which also incorporates the requirements of the SHU Peer Review and Enhancement policy and the need for fellows to Remain In Good Standing (RIGS) with the HEA. Through the SEP project the team devised an approach to appraisal which would:
- Move the ownership of the process to the appraisee, with more limited and defined roles for the line manager; this recognises the need for a process which is self-directed and developmental rather than administrative or managerial.
- Embed the UKPSF and RIGS as standard but allow for other professional body requirements to be evidenced.
- Promote the use of e-portfolios both to manage appraisal but also to integrate skills of curation and sharing to converge with SHU's new digital learning strategy.
HEA SEP funding allowed us to conduct desk research comprising a literature review and institutional interviews from a selection of UK universities. The outcomes of this research provided a) an evidence base to support the proposal and b) good practice indicators to inform the design of a pilot implementation. The team is currently conducting a pilot approach to appraisal using PebblePad. Various templates have been designed to capture work, professional and personal development elements of activity as well as peer enhancement and RIGS. Although it is currently being piloted with a newly formed academic grouping within a central directorate interest is being shown in this model from other parts of the institution. So although the pilot has not yet finished and remains to be evaluated, dialogue with other departments has begun and the pilot is being extended to an academic department located within a faculty and to a central directorate.
The areas intended for development
There were a number of aspects of institutional practice that Sheffield Hallam University felt could be enhanced by this work;
Their previous work on academic progression had started with ‘Professor’, and we are well on the way to developing a route for progression to ‘Reader’. The next phase was designed to develop a similar route for teaching and learning staff based on teaching excellence, and the UKPSF and HEA accreditation should be considered as indicators of success and incorporated into the criteria and expectations for staff. One of their key indicators was the number of academic staff holding or working towards a professional teaching qualification or fellowship of the Higher Education Academy.
The University commissioned their internal auditors KPMG to review appraisal. They concluded that academic staff had different needs to professional and support staff and that consideration should be given to a new process for academic staff. A new process should:
- Focus the appraisal conversations on areas that most motivate academic staff, linked to an academic CV and how this can further be developed to aid progression;
- Provide tools to enable academic appraisal managers to effectively manage and appraise staff
Academic standards and expectations
The University strategy states; "We will foster a culture of ambition and excellence in which staff have clear expectations and high standards to work to, and where excellent performance and achievements are recognised and celebrated. Staff will contribute actively to their disciplines and will be encouraged to advance their academic and professional standing so that they are acknowledged experts in their field". They felt that their challenge was to establish those standards and expectations in a way that both engages staff and achieves their aims.
Recruitment and selection
Finally, they were in the process of establishing expectations in job descriptions and person specifications for academic staff at lecturer, senior lecturer and principal lecturer level.