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Building a strong and active learning community at the University of Warwick

24 Mar 2021 | Dr Letizia Gramaglia and Dr Rebecca Freeman Throughout March we are celebrating our Senior Fellows and the impact that the recognition can have on institutions and individuals. Here, Dr Letizia Gramaglia and Dr Rebecca Freeman from the University of Warwick explain what Senior Fellowship has done for them and their institution.

Dr Letizia Gramaglia, PFHEA, Head of Academic Development (ADC) & Director of the Warwick International Higher Education Academy (WIHEA)

Our experiential route to fellowships was launched in 2014 and from the offset we considered SF as a key category. As a small central team, in the first year of the scheme we strategically focused our efforts on identifying and supporting colleagues whose experience would map to SF with the idea that not only they could act as advocates for the scheme, but were well suited to become mentors and reviewers. 

We were amongst the first institutions to have a dialogic route, which has been highly successful and rewarding, but has also proven to be very resource intensive. It is only thanks for the generous commitment of so many Senior Fellow colleagues (like Rebecca!) that we can claim success in this area.

Later reaccreditation of the scheme provided an opportunity to reflect and build on this work with the introduction of our Academic and Professional Pathway for experienced staff (APPEXP) which has been thriving under the leadership of Dr John Kirkman. He has introduced more effective and structured mechanisms to support mentors and reviewers and has been building engagement with a steady pool of around 40 reviewers and mentors across the university of which more than half have themselves gained Senior Fellowship through APP EXP.

More broadly, we have positioned Senior Fellowship as a strategic benchmark which has both internal and external currency – it provides accepted evidence of influence not only on students but on the teaching practice of others and a mark of professional collegiality which is valued in promotion cases, committee membership and affiliation to the Warwick International Higher Education Academy (WIHEA).

One of the greatest benefits of working towards Senior Fellowship is the affirmative process of explicitly formulating achievements and claiming one’s sphere of influence, and that very often gives them confidence to put themselves forward for further leadership roles.

leti warwick

Dr Rebecca Freeman, SFHEA, Associate Professor and Dean of Students

I applied for Senior Fellowship in 2014, at a point where I had been working in the School of Life Sciences at Warwick for three years. I’d previously gained Fellowship at another institution and had engaged with Advance HE so I knew the value of Fellowship for providing the space to reflect on practice, and a connection with pedagogical work across the sector.

I joined the Life Sciences department to develop the culture around teaching and partnership with students. By 2014 I had worked with colleagues to implement a number of changes, including introducing a VLE, working more collaboratively with students and building more development for colleagues around teaching practice. Applying for Senior Fellowship enabled me to take a breath, to reflect on my practice and role.

I applied through the dialogic route which involves preparing some supporting documentation, reflecting and providing evidence against D3 which forms the basis of a dialogue with a panel of staff. Honestly, this was a bit nerve wracking, but worth it!

The process enabled me to articulate my values in relation to teaching and learning and recognise the value and importance of my work and leadership role. On a practical level I was also able to use the narrative to inform underpin applications for promotion opportunities and for funds to support learning and teaching development projects.

Working towards Senior Fellowship was also about exploring a route through which the excellent teaching of colleagues in Life Sciences could be recognised. I am a huge advocate of Advance HE Fellowship across all categories and recognised the importance of engaging my colleagues in recognising their impact as educators.

In my department I led work to encourage all teaching staff, from post-doctoral teachers through to professors, to work towards Fellowship at the appropriate level. I mentored colleagues, including the Head of Department, through the process and developed others as mentors resulting in 31 staff achieving Fellowship over five years.

This recognition of teaching practice also enabled us to put forward staff for Warwick Awards for Teaching Excellence (six winners) and national bioscience teaching awards. Promoting fellowship as a department provided a basis for a shared departmental dialogue around teaching and learning, secured greater prestige and recognition and encouraged the building of a strong and active learning community.

rebecca freeman

In celebration of Senior Fellow Month, we will be sharing stories from Senior Fellows and applicants over the course of March. 

Are you an individual able to provide evidence of a sustained record of effectiveness in relation to teaching and learning, incorporating for example, the organisation, leadership and/or management of specific aspects of teaching and learning provision? Then Senior Fellowship may be for you.

For further information, resources and and guidance on applying, visit our dedicated Senior Fellowship page.

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