This blog was originally posted on the former Higher Education Academy website.
Chris Atkin is Professor of Higher Education at Bishop Grosseteste University. Having worked in higher education since 1993 at a number of different institutions, Chris teaches across a range of graduate courses, supervisor research students and support staff in their research and knowledge exchange activities.
Chris was the first official member of the Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (ILTHE), the first professional body for higher education staff involved in teaching and the support of learning, which became part of the newly-established HEA in 2003. ILTHE members were recognised for their commitment to teaching and learning in higher education, and became our first Fellows when the HEA was formed.
I joined the Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (ILTHE) in 2000 as one of the first group of 24 members, and received my certificate as part of the 12 new members who were able to attend a ceremony in York to mark the first ILTHE members. In fact I can claim to be the first member - with a name like Atkin I was always going to be first or last!
At the time I was leading a Postgraduate Diploma in Adult and Continuing Education at the University of Nottingham and (I, the team, School and University) wanted to show support for this first attempt to establish a professional body for higher education staff involved in teaching and the support of learning.
Becoming an HEA Fellow has allowed me to better reflect on my practice – and that of others – and see the opportunities for alternative teaching strategies. The experience of teaching and researching within higher education has also afforded me the luxury of seeing just how different we all are as learners; “hand knitted” as my former colleague Mal Leicester would say.
My Fellowship has also ensured that I continue to engage with new thinking and new pedagogic approaches. It has also reminded me at times how challenging new pedagogic practices can be to introduce. The problem with those supporting learners in higher education is they are generally discipline experts and hence find it difficult to understand why learners find their discipline difficult to understand. The HEA provides a vehicle to share with, and learn from, others often wresting with exactly the same joys and challenges.
I think for me that HEA Fellowship is important because it shows a commitment to the process of teaching and supporting learning which compliments an academic’s affinity to their discipline. It also demonstrates to higher education learners our desire to achieve a level of expertise and currency in supporting learning as part of our professional role as an academic.
For me teaching is about using a range of approaches to support student learning. Mediating the existing knowledge base and working with learners individually or collectively as co-inquirers. I think there is always a need to negotiate part of the learning process with students to reflect their strengths, challenges and aspirations. Pope John Paul II told a friend of mine – Bart McGettrick - that all trainee teachers should be made to study a subject they don’t find easy to remind them how their learners often feel. A sentiment I would support.
Find out more about Fellowship.