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Associate Fellow Fatima Iqbal: 'I started running with excitement'

11 Jan 2022 | Advance HE In the second blog as part of our celebration of Associate Fellows around the world, we caught up with Fatima Iqbal from the University of New South Wales, Australia to find out what the recognition means to her.

Do you remember where you were when you found out you had achieved Associate Fellow recognition?

I was enjoying a brisk walk when I received the email that I had achieved Associate Fellow recognition. That email and certificate made me so excited that I started running!

What did receiving the award mean to you personally?

It demonstrates my commitment to teaching, learning and the student experience, through engagement in a practical process that encourages research, reflection, and development. It is evidence of my professional practice in higher education career, which makes me so proud and motivated.

Who inspired you to apply for Associate Fellowship?

Dr Anna Rowe, Senior Lecturer, Academic development at University of New South Wales (UNSW). She was my instructor in Foundations of University Learning and Teaching Program, and I was amazed by her knowledge and expertise in education. I look forward to learning more from her in future and progressing from associate fellowship to the professor level.

How did the reflective process affect you and your teaching practice?

Reflective practice has helped me in improving my teaching practice to effectively meet the learning needs of my students. It helps me a lot to take informed actions that can be justified and explained to others and that can be used to guide further action. It also allows me to adjust and respond to issues. Critically reflecting on my own teaching makes me examine my own thoughts, perspectives, biases, and actions that eventually help me in progressing.

What impact has the award had on you and how do you hope it will impact you in the future?

This award is a source of motivation for me. I am more enthusiastic towards my teaching career and confident on my teaching skills as it has been recognised internationally. I believe, this motivation will help in progressing as a better, skilled, and knowledgeable teacher in future. It will also facilitate me in engaging with like-mined people.

What are you most proud of in your academic career?

It is a privilege to be the part of academia because every day I am given the chance to learn from others, contribute to society and grow as a person. What makes me the proudest is when my class is full of students every day and with each passing day, their faces enlighten more.

I am most proud of establishing the up to the mark clinical training labs for optometry students of Pakistan at my last employer which is also my mother institute. For months we had been suffering from the lack of equipment and standard SOPs. I spent days there, from designing the room, meeting with builders to placing orders for the equipment, I did on my own. We were able to teach students complex conditions on simulators and hands on practice was very beneficial for them. Getting this all done really reminded me how much I enjoy a well-organised work space and I’m proud to say that the clinical rooms are still updating on my schedule, all these years later.

How has the shift to blended or online teaching impacted your practice?

The Covid-19 outbreak forced many universities across the world to transition from a traditional or blended format to fully online education. I am social and like humans as well. Online teaching saves your time from going to campus but it’s more difficult to build the connection with students. Some students need your attention and they prefer the on-campus versions over the online course components. Their perceived lack of motivation, lack of sense of community, and a high workload are influencing factors.

Successful blended teaching and learning requires a focus on what may best be done on campus, such as face-to-face interaction between students and instructors, and what may best be done online, such as providing flexibility and wide access to resources and experts. This requires a re-thinking of teaching and learning practice, as well as classroom layouts, as more interaction takes place, involving the students, instructors, and outside experts who participate in-person or virtually. Now I’m findings ways to leverage the student control to increase their motivation and engagement by learning different technologies, use of various devices, applications, virtual and augmented reality and simulations and serious games have been very useful. Teaching models for both classroom and online delivery must be reconsidered and recalibrated in response to new technological capacities.

Away from academia, what do you do to relax/have fun?

I enjoy cooking. Love trying new recipes. Along with it, I’m a big fan of travelling and exploring new places. Travelling soothes the mind and gives you chance to know yourself closely. Travelling re-energises the lost soul. In daily hectic life everyone is busy with their responsibilities, travelling somehow relaxes your mind. It gives you a chance to enjoy natural beauty and discover something new and gives your dreams feathers of imagination, you can imagine beyond the world. While travelling people learn to grow out of their limited thinking area. I think the exposure to new places and new people can be really reviving personally and also eye opening to see how other people live. To see how life functions, whether human or natural life, in other places is really humbling.

New To Teaching - next cohort begins 16 February 2022

This programme focuses on the basics of effective teaching practice, incorporating the latest innovations within fully virtual or hybrid teaching spaces for those new to higher education teaching. Find out more and book your place here.

Fellowship Application Builder

This six-week online, self-directed course is designed to enable you to use your experience of teaching and supporting learning in higher education to develop your Fellowship application. Find out more.


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