My journey to Principal Fellowship was challenging but fulfilling, solitary but collegiate, demanding but productive. Most crucially, the process of working towards and successfully completing the submission of the application was itself a remarkable professional development exercise.
Here are some reflections on my own journey, the benefits of the Principal Fellow recognition, some tips for those who consider applying and my future goals.
I decided to pursue PF pretty much as soon as I was awarded my Senior Fellowship back in 2016. The whole process made me realise my passion for teaching and learning and for mentoring others. It acted as a trigger for me to broaden the scope of my practice and its impact to the institutional level and beyond.
I applied for the role of the University’s Teaching and Learning Committee Chair and, in this capacity, I had the opportunity to get more involved in formulating teaching and learning policies and staff professional development programmes. The UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF) were set as a framework of every initiative. So, the work towards PF started right after my Senior Fellowship was awarded four years ago and it drove, to a great extent, my practice and interventions in the last four years.
Nevertheless, it was not until I started putting the application together that I engaged with the remarkable professional development benefits of the process.
What was challenging? The endless reflection, the critical evaluation of my initiatives and their mapping against D.4 descriptors. At the same time, it was fulfilling to realise how far I had come, how much invested I had been in my practice and the incredible change that my efforts had brought about in my institution and beyond. Most crucially, it was satisfying to watch my colleagues’ impressive growth under my mentorship and the collective and individual upskilling that was achieved through the professional development programme I developed.
Working towards the Principal Fellowship is a solitary process, in that there is a great deal of personal reflection, commitment and work. Having said that, I have enjoyed the collegiality and support that I received during the process.
On one hand, I was fortunate to be mentored by a wonderful mentor who was patient and persistent, supportive and detail oriented. It was really supportive to have her by my side through the process, as she kept inspiring me with her constructive feedback and was constantly asking challenging questions - those that would solicit the right answers for my submission. A big shout out of gratitude for Sally Bradley!
On the other hand, I was surrounded with colleagues and friends who championed my application, gave me feedback, references and support. I am deeply thankful to my powerful network! All in all, I feel I worked really hard but the whole process was instrumental in developing and further enhancing my engagement with and commitment to the UKPSF.
Tips for candidates
A few tips for those who are considering applying for Principal Fellowship:
Set your professional practice and intervention in the framework of the UKPSF - they should always be your point of reference.
Ensure that your institution is ready for the changes that you are about to launch - it is important that there is fertile ground for your interventions to grow and bring about benefits.
When you are ready to put together your submission, make sure that it is at a time that you are able to focus on this task and minimise other distractions - it is not a good idea to work on your submission in parallel to some other important project.
Consider taking a mentor – they will keep you in the right path and they will provide support and constructive feedback.
Make sure that you have a good support network to trust and rely on - your referees, your manager, your team members will offer valuable support and the right platform for your interventions (don’t forget that a large part of the claim is about mentoring others).
Benefits of Principal Fellowship and next steps
Besides the professional development aspect of the process, there are many intangible benefits. The recognition gives me confidence to further pursue my interventions and I expect to be able to have further support from my colleagues and partners. Moreover, it strengthens the institution and its teaching and learning standing, in the eyes of the regulator, the students, the parents, all relevant stakeholders and the university community. Last but not least, it motivates colleagues to pursue the enhancement of their pedagogic practice and their teaching and learning qualifications and skills.
My next objective is to reach out to PF networks from the UAE, the wider region and beyond and to pursue the establishment of a community of pedagogic practice to enhance teaching, explore synergies and ultimately improve student learning.
Are you a highly experienced professional, able to provide evidence of a sustained and effective record of impact at a strategic level in relation to teaching and learning, as part of a wider commitment to academic practice? Principal Fellowship may be for you. Find out more here.
Our Fellowship Writing Retreats offer the rare opportunity of space and time to think via one-to-one peer coaching and expert analysis to process your thoughts and craft your narrative for your Senior or Principal Fellowship submission. Click here for more information.