This blog was originally posted on the former Higher Education Academy website.
When I first heard about HEA fellowship, I was thrilled with the idea about the recognition for teaching and learning. A colleague who gave a presentation about it told me that I have considerable experience in teaching over many years and that I should consider myself pursuing it. My initial thought was pretty unnerving just like many others out there which deliberated along the lines - can I do it, does my experience matter, where and how do I begin and more specifically and most popular doubt – do I have the time to do it given the teaching and marking load along with many other administrative and teaching duties. All these questions are valid and it is only natural if you are thinking along the same line. And, yes the answer is – it does matter and it is doable. All you have to do is drop ‘IM’ from impossible and it becomes ‘POSSIBLE’. I must say, it was a positive experience reflecting on over 25 years of work in the education sector and personal development through the lens of the UKPSF which was extremely significant and very rewarding.
I became a Fellow of the HEA in January 2017. My journey began sometime in September 2016 and I must say the first glance of the various documents and guidelines was rather intimidating. Having looked at the UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF) which was the first time I had seen such a dynamic definition of what it means to be an educator which made me realise how central and how vital is the UKPSF document to enhancing teaching at every level. The whole process of writing the claim as demanding as it was, it also made me realise the role of an educator and how that role can transpire learners into many magnitudes. The evidence I provided in the Fellowship application is not simply a narration of what as a teacher I did in the classroom but it is a very important reflective process that made me as an applicant to cross examine objectively at all levels of what I did in my class, how it was done, what has been successful or not and what I did to improve the less successful methods or activities.
The reflective process truly draws this out and having gone through this process, it enabled me to automatically engage in such process and continuously challenge myself with current classroom practices by asking am I merely repeating what has been successful in the past, should I explore new methods, should I attempt new activities, how is it supporting my students and are the learners improving? This actually focuses on placing our students in the heart of the entire reflection process and emphasises on student benefiting in their learning experience and that’s what we are here for, our core business in higher education. Surely time well spent 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 scholastic environment. It became a reminder of what a powerful wealth reflecting on my own practises is.
The accreditation of being a HEA Fellow has given me immense satisfaction, recognition, confidence and it means a lot, especially having the title FHEA next to my name. I now very proudly and confidently encourage my fellow colleagues to engage in this path. I have also given presentation about my journey and the application process at CPD session. In addition, I have been elected as a mentor in my department for mentoring colleagues in their application process.This in itself I consider to be a great recognition and a privilege in addition to the mentoring process. I have successfully mentored a colleague who has put it his submission in February this year and am currently in the process of mentoring another colleague. Sharing my HEA experience with colleagues enabled me to see the scepticism in some of them about the fellowship especially with those who has been teaching for many years. However with the two 2 mentees, I noticed that there has been a shift from being sceptic to more receptive when they engaged themselves with the UKPSF and noticed how their reflection brought positive difference and outcome in their students. It also gives me immense pleasure to share my experience with them, exchanging ideas about our practises and learning from each other. This also enables me to apply some of their teaching methods that enhances and focuses student learning.
I understood that my journey had unfolded ways where I could apply this experience to lead and impact colleagues along their journeys. It has contributed renewed confidence, conviction and passion for learning and educating with clear focus on where I wished my journey to proceed.
I believe the accreditation is beyond recognition and reflection as it raises the bar of professionalism in teaching and learning. The Fellowship route may well be a path less taken and a challenging one but certainly a well worthy route – so what are you waiting for? Go for tt and be the next Fellow!
Find out more about Fellowship.