Arti Kumar credits her 2005 National Teaching Fellowship with leading to a major promotion, several published books and articles, and further awards including an MBE “in recognition of services to higher education” in 2008. Even after retirement, a Lifetime Achievement Award followed in 2011 from the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services and an Alumni Honour in 2015 from Bishop Cotton Girls’ School in Bangalore “for outstanding inspirational achievements”.
Arti was awarded her NTF in 2005 for her inspiring work with students and staff in the field of career management skills (CMS) integrated with personal development planning (PDP) and employability. Back then, she was Senior Careers Adviser and PDP Coordinator at the University of Bedfordshire. It was her own personal experience and uncertainty about the future after completing her undergraduate degree that had motivated her commitment to help students develop career maturity, become global graduates and effective professionals. That, linked with her prior teaching qualification and experience, enabled her to achieve excellence in developing, leading and delivering a range of accredited and assessed modules as part of degree programmes, regardless of subject discipline. She led a team of careers advisers and coordinated, taught, assessed and continually improved pedagogy for the career development module. She also wrote and designed Your Future: a Guide to Career Development, as part of an East of England Development Agency funded project.
In 1999, Arti went on a six-month secondment to the University of Reading as Careers Education Manager, primarily to write the text and design the web-based resource Career Management Skills Online. She ran staff development workshops for both careers and academic staff and helped to launch the mandatory module in every subject area across all faculties. CMS Online later won awards and was sold to more than 60 other institutions. In 2005 this initiative was a key factor in Reading’s success in winning a Centre for Excellence in Teaching & Learning (CETL).
Back at the University of Bedfordshire, Arti’s role as PDP coordinator was instrumental in the University’s success in winning a CETL for its institution-wide positive response to the UK’s PDP agenda. Arti was appointed Associate Director of the CETL. This allowed her to work extensively with academic, careers and learning support staff, and with students from all faculties. Her pedagogy and its associated resources are comprehensively described in her 2008 book Personal, Academic and Career Development in Higher Education – SOARing to Success.
The book was written as her main NTF project. Funds from the Fellowship made it possible to buy out one day a week for a few months to focus on researching and writing and developing the SOARing to Success model. The SOAR model provides tools and techniques for animating, personalising and contextualising the recursive relationships between Self, Opportunity, Aspirations and Results. It has proven benefits for students as it develops their skills, knowledge, attributes and experiences in an integrated holistic frame.
Building a Self-MAP is central within this process of Appreciative Inquiry into Self: individuals critically appreciate the unique strengths and development needs that arise from their Motivations, Abilities and Personality. The Opportunity aspect of SOAR requires students to research and write up a specific job study of their choice for an assignment. They also explore and use extra-curricular experiences to develop skills and express interests. Students understand how the changing dynamics between the internal world of Self interacting with the external world of Opportunity generate, clarify and modify Aspirations. At this stage in the SOAR process they learn to make and implement decisions and plans.
Results are about evaluating and learning continuously from personal results and feedback, and also demonstrating results through greater effectiveness in learning, work and authentic self-promotion wherever this is required. Triangulated self, peer and tutor assessments prompt reflection, action and articulation that result in authentic Records of Achievement, CVs, application forms, LinkedIn profiles and potential success at interviews and assessment centre activities.
Arti took a leading role in helping to revise the entire curriculum at the University of Bedfordshire during 2006-2010, working with CETL and faculty staff to create aligned strategy and policy. The SOAR model was embedded in all degree programmes as the most effective pedagogy for personal and professional development within curricula. Many smaller projects were approved and funded under the overarching umbrella of the CETL’s PDP and employability aims.
At national and international level, Arti delivered key-note presentations, workshops and training events on SOARing to Success approaches. Since this pedagogy is universally but flexibly applicable, and capable of being contextualised and personalised, it has received excellent feedback from diverse groups of staff and students in the UK and overseas – notably in Denmark, South Africa, the Netherlands and Australia.
Authoring the book also led to several other publications, such as online and print articles and book chapters on topics related to innovative pedagogy, employability, action research, assessment centres, student engagement and staff development. Notably, Arti led a project on assessment centres with careers and academic staff, exploring how employers’ practices in graduate recruitment can inform, challenge and motivate students to develop a range of employability skills and attributes.
In 2007 Arti was invited to lead six HEIs in the Midlands as part of the collaborative three-year NTFS National Action Research Network project on Researching and Evaluating PDP and E-Portfolio Practice.
She was the overall organiser for field research in three Indian cities in February 2010, as part of the AGCAS PMI 2 project. Nine careers professionals visited graduate employers and HEIs in India to conduct focus groups with their alumni who had returned to India. She participated in the Bangalore study visit and edited the overall report.
Another project involved creating a new resource in collaboration with three staff from Sheffield Hallam and the Open University. The resulting web-based STARS resource was launched in 2010.
After her retirement in August 2010, the University of Bedfordshire offered Arti an honorary research position and agreed to administer her remaining NTF funds. The money enabled her to deliver presentations and workshops in Denmark and Australia, and present papers at conferences in the Philippines and Italy.
She maintained activities with Advance HE and was commissioned to write as part of the Innovative pedagogies series. Arti also remained active with the Association of National Teaching Fellows, writing a chapter in For the Love of Learning in 2013.
Arti continues to freelance as an education consultant, is currently a carer trainer and a mentor for the Aspire Foundation. She added one more publication this year to her credit: Bangalore, Britain and Beyond – connecting past and present.