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How I used the Fellowship process for professional development

12 Sep 2018 | Amy Gerrard Amy is an Enterprise Education Officer and Researcher in the award winning Centre for Entrepreneurship at Liverpool John Moores University. Her role is threefold, and involves working with academics to create enterprising opportunities for students, working with extracurricular students interested in starting a business, and managing research projects around enterprise education.

Amy writes about her experience of using the HEA Fellowship application as a tool for professional development. She discusses how examining your own values, and how these mesh with your teaching practice and organisational culture, can help you use the Fellowship application for growth, as well as professional recognition.

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Goal setting

I love my job at Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU). I work as an Enterprise Education Officer and Researcher, which means I get to have meaningful conversations about enabling students to become more entrepreneurial every day. As a member of support staff at the University, who is deeply involved in the support of teaching and learning, I am constantly engaged in ways that we can better ourselves for the overall impact on quality of teaching and learning.

Whilst creating my professional development goals for the year, I realised that seeking HEA Fellowship would provide me with more than one opportunity to develop, for more than one purpose. By setting this goal, I hoped that I would gain professional recognition amongst my peers and the academics that I work with at my University, whilst giving me a boost in self-confidence, as I would have professional recognition of my practice. I also hoped to embark upon deeper reflective practice, which is a requirement of the M.Ed course that I am currently taking.  My personal tutor on this course encouraged me to apply for Fellowship, so this was the starting point of building a support network in advance of my application, a crucial step I’ve found.

My University supports the Fellowship scheme through the Teaching and Learning Academy. I received a tremendous amount of support from my colleagues there, who talked me through the process in detail, they shared extremely valuable resources with me to help me get started, including a detailed explanation and contextualisation of the professional framework. I started producing drafts and was able to send them over to the Teaching and Learning Academy for meaningful feedback.

Weaving in values.

Writing the critical reflection was a lengthy task for me, involving a lot of thinking time, mind mapping and talking to people. I wanted to produce a reflection that truly represented the way I think and feel at work, and how this translates into my teaching and learning support. An important aspect of my role in Enterprise Education is communicating the value, relevance and benefits of enterprise to both staff and students. I really wanted this to come through in my reflection, as it is a part of my role that I feel can be most challenging, but the most rewarding. I was able to weave this theme across all aspects of the Professional Standards Framework, as I feel that it affects my Teaching, my Core Knowledge, and my Professional Values. This process was extremely valuable, one that I would recommend to anyone involved in teaching and learning. What are your values, and how are these translated to your students?

One of the ways I achieved this was to take the Myers Briggs type indicator test, to help me gain a better understanding of why I teach the way I do. I came back as INFP (introversion, intuition, feeling and perceiving). Taking this test almost felt like validation, that it was OK to be me, and have these traits as an educator. It’s OK for me to be quiet and calm, it’s OK for me to be idealistic, creative and caring, in fact, and it’s great that I’m built this way, these are my strengths. In practice, this translates into my advanced ability to listen to the student, and help them to lead and take charge of their own learning, rather than me leading them from the front. My role is not to transmit or gift knowledge, but to empower learning and foster an environment where students can thrive. However, I am now acutely aware of my misgivings and can articulate these to my colleagues and students and encourage them to do the same, so that we can work towards a common understanding and harmony at work.

Distillation

I was able to use this reflection to cumulate all of the ways I am effective in my role in HE. This exercise has helped me to realise that the culture and values of my organisation are congruent to my own identity and values, which is helping me obtain a better sense of professional confidence, and a renewed sense of motivation to progress. For example, one of the core values of LJMU is ‘innovation’. This value resonates with me and my personality type, which allows me to operate in an environment that appreciates my contribution, and embraces my entrepreneurial spirit fully. It appears that the fellowship process was the ideal vehicle for me to achieve this higher level of professional confidence by joining up the dots between my values, teaching, and my organisation.  

When it came to compiling my reflection I decided to work methodically through the framework, but I did find that I needed clarification on a few aspects relating to my institution in particular. In this instance, I was able to reach out to a senior lecturer in my faculty who had recently been through the process. He was more than happy to help me by reading my draft and offering feedback. I was really quite surprised at how supportive people are when you open up and let them know that you are trying to better yourself for the benefit of the whole university.

This was perhaps the most valuable part of the process for me; building a network of supporters who want to help you progress. Setting myself a personal development goal, and using deep reflection in combination with sharing my goal with colleagues and mentors, to critically reflect on my values and practice within the context of my university is my key takeaway from the application process.

Where next?

I submitted my application, which was reviewed by a panel, and was notified of the outcome around 4 weeks later. I was delighted to hear it had been accepted. In the back of my mind, self-doubt creeped in, thankfully to no avail. Being accepted felt great, almost like I'd passed an important exam! It felt just as sweet to share the news with people that had helped me along the way, it was their victory too.

Since I’ve become a Fellow, I have been invited to present my practice at an Advance HE Symposium on Enterprise and Employability, and I’ve had the opportunity to submit an expression of interest for a journal managed by Advance HE. I’m excited about the future, and I’m extremely happy to be part of the global Fellowship community.

You can follow Amy on Twitter @amygerr

For further information about Fellowship please click here.

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