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Principal Fellowship: what difference does it make?

09 May 2019 | ANNAMARIE MCKIE Annamarie McKie is the Teaching & Learning Development Manager at the University for the Creative Arts (UCA) and became a Principal Fellow of the HEA (PFHEA) in November 2018. In this blog she assesses the impact and influence of Principal Fellowship.

Annamarie McKie is the Teaching & Learning Development Manager at the University for the Creative Arts (UCA) and became a Principal Fellow of the HEA (PFHEA) in November 2018. In this blog she assesses the impact and influence of Principal Fellowship.


As I began the process of articulating my claim for Principal Fellow, I remembered Stephen Brookfield’s (1995) critical lenses (autobiography, students, colleagues and theories) from my teaching days on the PGCert in Learning and Teaching.  Could this reflective schema provide a useful organising tool for my own PFHEA Reflective Account of Practice (RAP)?  As an experienced senior academic developer with wide-ranging strategic responsibilities in learning, teaching and student engagement, I have always been seeking mechanisms for professional development that move beyond reductionist and simplistic views of what academics do and how they can develop towards a view of academic work as social practice which capitalises on the academic team members themselves.  Whilst studying for my educational doctorate, I have been introduced to Appleby and Pilkington’s (2016) work around critical professionalism and Roxa and Martensson’s (2009) exploration of influencing learning and teaching cultures.  These theoretical constructs have strongly influenced my approaches to academic development, focusing more collegial and self-improvement approaches which capitalise on collaborative networking and reflection.  My RAP would be full of examples of how I had challenged institutional mindsets around teaching and learning, and these theoretical ideas provided a strong rationale for why I had pursued this particular approach to educational development.  Using Brookfield’s (1995) critical lenses enabled me to critically reflect on my teaching and learning role and illustrate a path of thinking (self, students, colleagues and theories) that demonstrated impact and influence throughout my PFHEA claim.  

Whilst attending Sally Bradley’s PFHEA Writing Retreat (highly recommended), I was encouraged to filter out my ‘10-15 key Record of Educational Impact (REI) amassed over a 20-year period of working in higher education.  It was during this process that I found myself asking lots of ‘why’ and ‘what’ questions. Why did I become a librarian and why did I move into a teacher educator role? What makes for good teaching? What sort of reflective teaching suits a creative arts community?

I pondered on my converged identity as librarian-academic developer-manager-leader and how this might provoke an overarching theme for my narrative.   The liminality of not knowing “what kind of professional you are” (Whitchurch, 2013:87) poses a particular set of challenges for me as a librarian striving to attain credibility as an academic developer without a sense of belonging, a common history, beliefs and interests. To add to the epistemological uncertainty, I do not have an arts degree: I am a historian-sociologist, and chartered librarian, working in a specialist creative arts university.  My own reflective doubt around these aspects was a strong trigger for me in deciding to do an educational doctorate entitled. ‘How do creative arts lecturers in HE talk about reflecting on their teaching?”. Cathartically, I wondered if knowledge and experience in different library roles has equipped me with a naturally inclusive stance when it comes to introducing and negotiating change in learning and teaching?  I found myself drawn to Whitchurch’s (2009) description of a ‘Blended Professional’ - identifying as someone with ‘multiple understandings of the university’, able to work in ambiguity; find a way forward; embed and integrate professional and academic knowledge; the ability to achieve credibility in academic debate/space; and to manage duality of ‘belonging’ and ‘not belonging’ to academic space.  As I reflected on my impact and influence in learning and teaching over the last few years, I began to realise the value of my blended professional ‘Mode 2’ (Gibbons et al, 1994) professional skills in leading and managing change projects, of being able to interpret and translate between communities and taking a people and client-oriented approach.  This deeper thinking about professional identity provided a compelling narrative for my PFHEA claim on which I was able to pivot much of my Reflective Account of Practice. 

I became the UCA’s second Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy in November 2018.  My achievement was posted on our university Workplace online environment and I received a letter of thanks from our Vice-Chancellor (now framed on my office wall!).  Since achieving PFHEA status, I have been inspired to write two articles on reflective teaching in the creative arts and been referred to as the ‘Duchess’ by a lecturer colleague. The latter response to my PFHEA status may be a term of endearment but it is an aggrandisement that I feel a little uncomfortable with.  I would say that gaining my PFHEA status has enabled me to not only see the value of my work in generating creative and inclusive teaching cultures at UCA  and this was evidenced in our recent TEF submission, but also to focus more of my energies into fostering an evaluative mindset.  We can all find lots of records of educational impact in our various pedagogic roles, but as Morrissey might say, “What difference does it make?”

About the author: Annamarie McKie, is the Teaching & Learning Development Manager at the University for the Creative Arts (UCA), a specialist creative arts university based in the south-east of England.  She has held various senior learning and teaching roles in art and design universities since 2000.  After initially qualifying as a librarian in 1994, Annamarie worked in the public sector and then moved into academic libraries, specialising in art and design librarianship.  Active in the Art Libraries Network (ARLIS), she became a keen exponent of the benefits of librarians gaining a better understanding of creative arts pedagogies.   After an 18-year career in libraries, in 2011, she moved into a role as a Senior Lecturer in Academic Development, developing the university’s HEA Fellowship CPD scheme and teaching reflection on the PG Certificate in Creative Education.   In January 2014, Annamarie began an Educational Doctorate at the University of Roehampton, exploring how creative arts lecturers talk about reflecting on their teaching.   She is a member of the Heads of Educational Development Planning Group (HEDG) and an active member of the Staff and Educational Development Association (SEDA). She has recently published a chapter entitled ‘Making sense of practice through peer-supported review’, for new SEDA Special on Reflective Practice.  She has also written a forthcoming article for the online journal, JUICE (Journal of Useful Investigations for Creative Education) on reflective teaching in the creative arts.  Annamarie became UCA’s second  Principal Fellow of the HEA in November 2018. 

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