The Level 7 Academic Professional Apprenticeship standard (L7 APA) is designed to help early career academics develop from their entry point into employment in higher education to full professional competence, whether that is in teaching or as a research specialist.
The apprenticeship standard is aligned to both the UK Professional Standards Framework and the Research Development Framework, and culminates in a three-month End-Point Assessment (EPA) where the apprentices are assessed by an independent End-Point Assessment Organisation (EPAO).
As the leading EPAO in the UK we asked so-called 'perfect' apprentices, who achieved distinctions in all three assessed elements, at one of the institutions we provide the service for, University of the West of England (UWE), Bristol, for their experiences of the programme and the impact they feel it has had on their professional practice.
Undertaking this Academic Apprenticeship has greatly aided my development and increased my confidence as a new lecturer – it has improved the learning experiences that I can provide for students.
I found receiving feedback from the programme team, mentors and peers observing my teaching and suggesting different approaches I could try the most useful experiences of the apprenticeship (although also the most anxiety-inducing at the time!). Gaining confidence from staff feedback encouraged me to engage with students to seek their views and feedback in order to identify ways to make teaching more engaging for them.
My peer support group has been a real highlight and I’m sure undertaking this journey has made us life-long friends! They have been a fantastic source of support and learning through our informal discussions, both on the apprenticeship and beyond on the challenges of learning to navigate academic life.
Undertaking this apprenticeship hugely helped me with the abrupt transition to online learning secondary to Covid-19. While I would still not claim to be an expert in online learning, I was able to use knowledge gained from this apprenticeship about how students learn and how technology can enhance learning to develop resources which received excellent student feedback. This learning also allowed me to support more established colleagues without these recent experiences.
The “off the job” training hours encouraged me to actively seek opportunities to improve student learning which I may not have done otherwise such as implementing and evaluating new therapeutics tutorials and involving patients in lecture design.
While the final hurdle of the end point assessment seemed daunting, it afforded a great opportunity to reflect on how far I have come and also to identify my ongoing development needs for my future career.
Adjusting from employment within a full-time clinical role to academia was a difficult transition and one that took me a while to become accustomed to. Despite having experience in small scale teaching and staff development, I had little exposure to higher education and how I would be expected to develop informative, engaging and constructively aligned teaching sessions to ensure the best possible student experience.
However, following completion of the Academic Professional Practice apprenticeship, I am now not only comfortable in developing individual sessions and modules, but I am also familiar with quality assurance processes, student feedback mechanisms and the underpinning theory which supports these vital aspects of employment within higher education.
Throughout this apprenticeship I have been able to collaborate, enhance my exposure and gain experience from colleagues not only in my own department but other departments across our organisation to compare, discuss and develop each other’s practice; to share good practice and enhance the teaching practices used across our university.
But the course wasn’t solely focused on learning about teaching practices and theories, it provided us with the opportunity to undertake educational enquiries into our own areas of expertise. By conducting an educational enquiry into the used of flipped classroom theory and its impact on knowledge retention it reinforced the evidence base suggesting this approach is more engaging for students, whilst also providing us an insight into methods we can employ within our own careers to continually evaluate the teaching practices we utilise every day.
Throughout this 18-month apprenticeship I have continued to develop as a professional, with my confidence growing from strength to strength with the assistance of my organisation and peers that I work alongside. The completion of my end-point assessment and the discussions I entered into during my professional conversation reinforced the journey I had undertaken and the steps I had taken to improve myself, to ensure that I am now in a position to continually provide high-quality, engaging, evidence-based teaching for our students. A position that I wouldn’t have been in had I not undertaken this apprenticeship.
Beyond the impact this has had on my teaching practices, this apprenticeship has also introduced me to an interesting new area of both research and personal development opportunities, reinforced by my decision to now progress my studies further and study Education, Policy & Society at King’s College, London from September 2021 to further my development as a professional and continue striving to provide the best student experience I can.
The Academic Professional Programme at UWE was the start of a journey of personal growth within the field of academia. Completing the 3 modules and the apprenticeship module, module X, enabled me to gain the skills and insight to develop myself into the role of an academic. The Academic Professional Programme took 18 months to complete. Within this time frame, I was able to explore my teaching philosophy and reflect on how previous experiences have shaped this. Looking at pedagogical theories enabled further understanding of how individuals learn.
Whilst being new to the role, this programme demonstrated the key to networking among other professionals. Within the group I was a part of, we were from all different faculties of the university and it was so interesting how we all trying to achieve the same or similar goals but doing this so differently. This was explored more within the peer group work and sharing best practice.
From teaching philosophy to enquiry to enhancing learning and teaching in higher education, I developed the skills I use every day in my academic profession. Module X, the professional development for advanced academic practice, demonstrated the importance of seeking opportunities to develop oneself further, being reflective and enabling the growth to occur. The assessment process is key within any programme and within Module X, the key is to prepare and working on it little and often.
Having a growth mindset is key within the profession of academia and this is the first step of unlocking the potential to succeed. Coming to academia from clinical practice, this programme helps to identify the transferable skills you already have and show the tools to develop your skills further. Completing this programme by exploring, engaging with the modules and networking, opens the door to developing your pathway within academia. It is up to you to take the step and walk through the door and discover where it can lead you to.