My application for Senior Fellowship was principally motivated by its stringent professional standards regarding not only classroom practice, which is still an important consideration, but also influence on peers in leading and supporting learning and teaching. The countless opportunities my current institution (The Trafford College Group) has accorded me to influence different aspects of our higher education provision, in addition to my external examiner roles with the University of Hull and the University of Chichester, positioned me well to apply for Senior Fellowship as I had plenty demonstrable practice and impact examples to cite. Although I already had a General Teaching Council for England (GTCE) qualified teacher status (QTS) and a Zimbabwe primary school teaching qualification, Advance HE Senior Fellowship was important as it exclusively focuses on higher education in contrast with the former which focus on secondary and primary school teaching respectively. In addition, in contrast with my secondary and primary school teaching qualifications, Advance HE Senior Fellowship is premised on what an individual has actually demonstrated and achieved through practice for a sustained period. Teaching qualifications are more about potential, Advance HE Fellowship (in my case Senior Fellowship) is about evidence-backed and evidence-based achievement, intricately linking theory, policy and good practice. Stating the obvious, the Advance HE Senior Fellowship is a globally recognised status which makes it a world class achievement for me, being professionally acknowledged by eminent peers within higher education.
What it means for my students
Like any great news, it tastes best when shared. So, I shared my Senior Fellowship status news with my students. They were excited and motivated by it. Their responses ranged from the customary, “Well done!”; “Congratulations” to the more poignant, “That gives us even more confidence in you”; “What an honourable achievement, and how lucky we are to have you teaching us”; “…you inspire me to achieve the best I can…”. To me, this shows that students pay attention to their lecturers’ achievements and recognitions. It is a source of pride, motivation and inspiration for students. They trust us and our institutions more. It serves as confirmation for them that they chose the right institution with qualified, competent and recognised practitioners, which matters in student choices of who to study with. Besides, attainment of Senior Fellowship status models positive attitude to learning and achievement for students. They become aware that we are not complacent when it comes to professional growth and development. Through this, hopefully, our students can learn not to be complacent themselves. At least, that is what some of the quotes of student messages to me illustrate. Also, putting one’s practice to the ultimate test of scrutiny by peers and experts at Advance HE is a sign of my confidence in my own practice, that I am open to it being appraised by an globally credible body like Advance HE. That will also inspire students’ and applicants’ confidence in us as an HE provider as they will be confident in the quality of education they receive within our institution.
What it means for my institution
My institution, which has been supportive through my management (Gary Spicer and Mark Harris), celebrated my attainment of Senior Fellowship status as a collective achievement, something that transcends my individuality, a reflection on our supportive environment which nurtures talent and achievement. This is consistent with the Senior Fellowship UKPSF requirements which, among other things, insist on individual practice in the context of a community of practice, about effective team membership and leadership. Thus, to my institution, this is also about the enabling ethos of our University Centre, without which there is no environment to develop and grow the attributes Advance HE looks for in a higher education lecturer like me. Furthermore, it is a significant contribution towards continuous professional development.
The process of applying for, and eventual attainment of, Senior Fellowship has been an eye-opener for me. It has given me a rare opportunity to systematically reflect on my own practice, skills, attributes and competencies and impact on my institution. This has given me new motivation to keep developing and contributing to my students, colleagues and institution, putting a mark – however small – on higher education practice. I would encourage peers who have not yet attained Fellowship with Advance HE, at whatever category, to give it serious thought as it is the ultimate HE recognition one can get in the world of higher education provision at the moment.
Dr Controllah Gabi is a lecturer and course leader for the BA (Hons) Childhood Studies at the University Centre, Trafford College Group. He is also an external examiner for the University of Hull and the University of Chichester.
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