Associate Fellowship, that’s for me I thought, as I looked at starting a Fellowship application and examined the various descriptors! But ultimately, that wasn’t the journey I completed. I’m grateful for the support of others in making me realise that although I’m in learning support and not full time teaching, my role and leadership in learning technologies has a significant impact on the teaching and learning of others, which can fully evidence the standards of Senior Fellowship.
I hope this account of my journey supports Learning Technologists, Instructional Designers and others in learning support roles to embrace the task of mapping their manifold skills to the Senior Fellowship descriptor of the UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF).
Reading, writing and more reading
As the Learning Technologist responsible for the implementation of Learning Portfolios across Dublin City University, and a team lead of various national and international projects, my teaching time over recent years was somewhat limited and I really struggled to see how I could address the teaching elements necessary of a Senior Fellow. However, I was strongly encouraged by DCU management and members of the Academy that, in fact, my role and career to date, was extremely relevant and applicable.
Unsure, I nevertheless embarked on an ultimately very rewarding journey to Senior Fellowship in April 2019. At this time, DCU adopted the Advance HE fellowship scheme and supported an initial cohort in their application efforts.
From the start of the application to submittal, the journey was pitted with reading, writing, more reading, stressing, revising, peer reviewing, more revising, and doubting, but finally pride in the completed application.
I probably don’t make the process sound appealing, but it was entirely worth the trials along the way and I’d like to share some of the things I’ve learned.
There is a LOT of material to review on the UKPSF Framework and Descriptors. There are even more supporting materials and guides. While a lot of it is essential in understanding what it takes to evidence a successful application, in short, I found it overwhelming.
My advice is to give it all a first pass and then whittle down the materials to a few key documents. For those in learning support, I found this document invaluable. I reviewed the areas of activity documented within and sought examples of where I could mirror this in my own practice and started to document and evidence the impact of my work. It was challenging to decide on which areas of my practice to focus the Case Studies on but this emerges through the writing up of the Areas of Activity.
Dialog with colleagues similarly embarking on their own Fellowship journey was very useful. They can prompt you to think about different aspects of your practice and its impact that you can often overlook.
We collectively found that the Fellowship application consumed our thoughts and if we weren’t writing about it, we were thinking, or talking about it. We continually asked ourselves if we were overthinking the process? With the benefit of hindsight, we weren’t.
The fellowship application requires both a lot of thought and time. How long? Well, approximately four months is my experience. Whilst this was on and off visits to the application and searches for evidence, my strong recommendation is to do this in concentrated blocks of time. An odd hour here and there makes it very challenging to get into the flow.
Getting a first draft on paper was key. I found it impossible to do anything on the first draft but simply get examples of practice on paper. Trying to focus on all dimensions at once was difficult. The second revision was where I focused on clearly mapping my experience to specific Areas of Activity, Core Knowledge, and Professional Values. When more coherent and comprehensive case studies emerged, it was at this point that a review by an Advance HE member was very beneficial.
Advice and support from the Advance HE crystallised where I needed to place my efforts to ensure a successful application. On the back of this, a third rewrite/revision then more clearly targeted the seven evaluative criteria in Descriptor 3.
Overall, one the greatest challenges for me as a Learning Technologist was finding examples in my own context that were relevant to teaching and the assessment of teaching. Whilst a learning support role does make this more difficult, I’d encourage you to reach out and contact those lecturers and students who you have supported and interacted with. Typically, you will find a wealth of evidence of your impact on the teaching and learning of others which is relevant to a Senior Fellowship application.
Reflection not narration
Throughout the process, it’s important to reflect on, rather than narrate your experience. This was certainly something I found difficult, but revision after revision honed my mostly descriptive account of practice into a reflection on ‘what do I do?’; ‘why do I do it that way?’ and ‘how do I know it works? Achieving this within word count was an added complication though!
Re-reading the final submitted draft of my application, and having a fuller appreciation of the impact of my work on others, showed me how much I can and do contribute to the field of teaching and learning. This is something that I wouldn’t have seen as clearly without undertaking the Senior Fellowship Application process. The HEA Fellowship Scheme has provided me an opportunity to publicly receive recognition of my work and has given me additional confidence in my professional practice. It was a journey but a very worthwhile one.
For me, as a Learning Technologist it validated my place and contribution to Higher Education so I would encourage all those supporting learning to carefully review all Descriptors and aim high!
Fellowship demonstrates a personal and institutional commitment to professionalism in learning and teaching in higher education. Across four categories, from Associate to Principal, Fellowship provides individuals with recognition of their practice, impact and leadership of teaching and learning. Find out more and apply direct here.
Lisa is a Learning Technologist at Dublin City University. For the last seven years, Lisa has worked on cross institutional projects with DCU and currently she is focused on integating e-portfolios to best support the student learning experience In addition, Lisa also founded the E-portfolio Ireland community of practice. More information can be found on her professional portfolio.