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How gaining HEA Fellowship is a powerful tool to reflect on your own practice

16 Jan 2018 | Claire Hughes Claire Hughes, Course Leader, Southampton Solent University.

This blog was originally posted on the former Higher Education Academy website.

Claire Hughes, is a Course Leader with a portfolio covering the Chartered Management Degree Apprenticeship, BA (Hons) Business Management & BA (Hons) Business Enterprise with Entrepreneurship, having taught across both standard and non-standard provisions, which allows a wide range of pedagogic practice to be utilised.   Here she talks about the reflective journey the Senior Fellowship route allowed her.

Learning Journey

At Southampton Solent University, there is real support from senior management in the benefits of undertaking the HEA Fellowship routes to support, share and develop best practices and I can confirm that for me this is definitely true!

Whilst undertaking the HEA Fellowship route from Associate Fellow, to Fellow and recently Senior Fellow it was a reminder of what a powerful tool reflecting on your own practices is.  I was able to spend time reflecting on my progress in my academic teaching practices and the lessons I had learnt along the way, as well as sharing ideas and best practices with peers in a collegiate environment.

Reflection is not a luxury but an essential!

What I described above is pivotal to Higher Education, e.g. reflecting on best practice/areas for improvement, learning from internal and external peers, and we reinforce these important learning pillars regularly to our students.  However, in practice we rarely allow ourselves the luxury of actually taking up those words of wisdom to carve out some ‘me reflecting time’!  By completing the Senior Fellow, I found it gave me permission to set aside that ‘me reflecting time’ to highlight all the positive elements of my practices and identification of areas that I wanted to develop in the future. It allowed me to see the whole picture as opposed to the pieces of the pictures.  For example, during the busy teaching year we all go about our teaching normally in chunks, for example, how individual lessons feed into units, how the units feed into the courses and how each year that course has done.  However, we do not often get the chance to reflect on practices across the whole range of our own and peers’ successes across multiple courses.    

This for me was one of the most powerful outputs from completing my portfolio; by allowing myself that space, it gave me a direction on a journey that I had not truly understood I was on.  I realised through my journey from Associate to Senior Fellow I had a gained a wealth of experience in teaching across both standard and non-standard courses to a wide variety of students, both on-campus and off-campus.  I realised that my journey had opened up paths where I could use this experience to lead and influence internal and external peers along their journeys.  It gave me renewed confidence, belief and passion for learning and teaching and a further defined focus on where I wanted my journey to continue onto. 

It was then that I thought to myself, that this was a fantastic use of my time, yet it is something we often feel is a luxury that is normally trumped by other pressing teaching/administrative requirements.    For me the Senior Fellow route gave me that opportunity to beat this pattern and to carve out time to truly reflect on me and my purpose within my teaching.   Undertaking this process reminded me that I have always been passionate about the ‘art of teaching and learning’, that I would always want to try new things so as to enhance the student experience but this would be wasted without taking time out periodically to reflect on how my pedagogic art had developed and how I could influence and be influenced by others in best practices.    

So, for those of you out there thinking about starting out on your Senior Fellow route, I recommend it as it is a valuable process, but come to it with an open mind about the outputs, don’t think of it as simply a process to complete and carve out some really good quality ‘me reflecting time’.  In that way, you will find yourself further along in your journey that you possibly imagined!

Find out more about Fellowship.

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