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Supporting colleagues in learning and teaching development

26 Nov 2018 | Dr Catherine Bovill My name is Cathy Bovill and I’m a Senior Lecturer in Student Engagement in the Institute for Academic Development at the University of Edinburgh. In September I was awarded HEA Principal Fellowship. In this blog I reflect on a few areas of my work that have been particularly significant in contributing to my own and others’ development.

My name is Cathy Bovill and I’m a Senior Lecturer in Student Engagement in the Institute for Academic Development at the University of Edinburgh. In September I was awarded HEA Principal Fellowship. In this blog I reflect on a few areas of my work that have been particularly significant in contributing to my own and others’ development.

On receiving my PFHEA, I was overwhelmed with all the good wishes and positive messages I received from colleagues around the world, and this led me to reflect on the important role many colleagues have played in my development. I became an academic developer and began researching co-creation of the curriculum and students as partners 12 years ago, at a time when there was little conversation about partnership and co-creation in UK higher education. This meant in the early days I had to look further afield for colleagues and collaborators. Although this was tough, because my own institutions at the time needed significant convincing that co-creation of the curriculum was worth discussing, as a result I started to create a more international group of colleagues who became my go-to learning community. In my PFHEA application I drew on many examples of large scale projects, programme design, local academic staff development and strategic work that were informed by conversations with this learning community, but in this blog I wish to highlight two examples of my work that I think have offered, and continue to offer, particularly positive development experiences for me and for others.

From 2013-2016 I was Associate Editor (Europe) for the International Journal for Academic Development (IJAD). I was thrilled to join a vibrant, critical and thoughtful editorial team. I have been involved in various journals, but for me this remains the most positive editorial structure I have worked within. Each area of the world had a Co-editor and an Associate Editor (total 8 editors). All papers were scanned by one editor, and another editor dealt with copy editing. All the other editors worked to ensure as short a turnaround time as possible for papers sent out for review and then tried to make sensible and fair decisions on the outcomes of the reviewing process. The editorial process was robust but also offered developmental and constructive feedback to writers and reviewers. There was a strong sense of collegiality as we all strived to maintain high standards, ensure the international nature of the journal - encouraging papers from countries and scholars whose voices were heard less often - and we were constantly questioning how we could make enhancements to the way the journal ran. I learned masses from my IJAD colleagues/friends around the world, but I also believe that in the process, I guided others in their development as researchers and scholars. I have run many writing for publication courses and the lessons from being Associate Editor on IJAD have been invaluable in informing the ways I support others in their writing about learning and teaching.

My second example focuses on current work at the University of Edinburgh. I have developed a strategic plan to support student engagement in learning and teaching across the University. I have created a new student engagement network open to students and staff. The Edinburgh Network: Growing Approaches to Genuine Engagement (ENGAGE)  showcases good practice from students and staff at the University and from international visitors. The aim is to stimulate debate, provide support for colleagues, and to share examples to help others enhance student engagement. I have also launched a series of student engagement guides aimed at staff. The first two in the series are EngagEd in learning and teaching conversations, and EngagEd in feedback and assessment. These booklets start with a small amount of evidence of why the topic is important and then provide a range of ideas of how you might enhance your practice, followed by real examples from around the University to give people ideas of what might be possible.

Another strand of the student engagement plan has been the launch of a coffee and cake conversations initiative. I secured funding from the Festival of Creative Learning at the University of Edinburgh and I advertised to staff and students for anyone who wanted to go for free coffee and cake in March-May 2018. I then matched one student and one staff volunteer from the same School, and asked the student to bring two friends. They were given £25 to go for coffee and cake, and I provided some instructions that included taking a picture of themselves and answering some questions that were provided in case there were any awkward silences. Groups were free to answer as many or as few questions as they wished. Students and staff talked of the power of getting to know each other in more human terms, they felt there weren’t enough opportunities for this kind of conversation on campus. Since running the initiative, five Schools have indicated they would like to try running their own version of coffee and cake conversations.

My experiences discussing these student engagement initiatives at Edinburgh with colleagues has helped me to develop my own understanding of student engagement further. These conversations are also informing the way I design future activities that are likely to have more impact, and to be of most use for students and staff.

These examples provide a small flavour of some of my work. I feel incredibly fortunate to do the job that I do and to benefit from the support of so many generous colleagues locally and globally. I am very grateful to all of you who have played a part, through dialogue and collegiality, in helping me to develop over the years to a point where I have been recognised as a PFHEA. I look forward to continuing to influence others by guiding and mentoring colleagues in their teaching, learning, research and scholarship. I hope to inspire colleagues to develop a passion for learning and teaching and ultimately to make higher education a more positive experience for students.

Dr Catherine Bovill is Senior Lecturer in Student Engagement at the Institute for Academic Development, University of Edinburgh, and Visiting Fellow (Knowledge Exchange) at the University of Winchester. Cathy is a Member of the UK Teaching Excellence Awards Advisory Panel and an Editorial Board member for Teaching in Higher Education.

Find out more about becoming a Principal Fellow.

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