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Why I became a Fellow and Senior Fellow in quick succession

06 Mar 2019 | Jay Rixon Jay Rixon, Senior Manager at The Open University, explores her experience gaining both Fellow and Senior Fellow within quick succession.

Be honest, but for the process of recognition for HEA Associate, Fellow or Senior Fellow, would you ever really reflect on your work in detail, examine your practice, measure your impact or follow a creative task or innovative act through from inception, implementation and impact? If I was answering this question, the easy answer would be no.

On a day-to-day basis I don’t consider the bigger picture of my work, the impact on the people and institution around me. Let me be clear, it is not that I don’t care or value that perspective, but I either don’t find the time or I have not seen the merit of taking stock or reflecting on my professional practice. It seemed a lot like navel gazing or like self-promotion. 

Working for an organisation that has an ‘open to all’ remit, and teaches via distance learning, means that my practice does not deliver to teaching. I manage projects and curriculum developments and in many ways am far removed from the frontline. However, I am fortunate to be in an area where I have the professional ‘space’ to be creative, to have autonomy to test and learn within my professional practice. 

This is where, for me, the process of going for and working towards two different categories of HEA Fellowship has been incredibly valuable. It has also been such a boost to my professional practice, confidence and to the way I now choose to reflect on my practice and pro-actively seek new professional challenges for myself. 

I have so enjoyed reviewing the requirements for professional recognition and aligning elements of my practice, past and present to those requirements.

The process has asked me to reflect on my work, the ideas I implemented, the tasks that I introduced, the innovations that I developed and actually look back on those ideas and see what became of them, how did they make a difference, why did they work, or not work and what was my response to those outcomes. 

An example of this is that I have been genuinely surprised to see a small creative task I completed, going on to have a life of its own and continuing to make an impact. This task came out of a spontaneous collaboration with a colleague, where my creative arts background skills could be applied to illustrate some of the challenges our students face, and our response to those challenges. 

I wrote about this piece of work in my Senior Fellow application. Would I have done that reflection, the joining of the dots from an idea, to the part where I took a creative risk, to the work being further developed and used now in internal and external events to national and international attendees? Would I have examined the bigger picture if I had not been reflecting on my practice but for my application? Of course not! 

This HEA Fellowship application process has also helped me to consider how I am influenced by scholarship and research, and how I also develop those areas of my professional practice- without the application process and the outcome, I just don’t think I would be developing in those areas. 

Since applying for my HEA Senior Fellowship I have some welcome opportunities to take part in a scholarship research project and submit work to not one, but two national conferences, where I will be taking part in workshops and presentations on my professional practice. For this work, I have also been afforded the opportunity to collaborate with others, colleagues who are more experienced than me in these areas and colleagues who are on a similar journey. I learn from those people in the same way, once again valuing the autonomy I have to do this work within my current role. 

After gaining my Associate and Fellowship status in quick succession over the last two summers, I am actually going to miss the process next summer. I have highly valued the outcome and display my HEA Fellowship status with pride. But the part I will miss will be a process which helps me to reflect on my current practice and plan for future developments.  

I now find myself asking colleagues if they have gone through the Fellowship application process, and becoming an (an unofficial) ambassador for HEA Fellowship as I feel that the process is just as valuable (if not more) than the outcome. 

So all I can say if you have not yet applied for HEA Fellowship or have more categories to apply for- then what are you waiting for? This is time to be spent on you, your practice and your professional future, not a moment will be wasted. 

To find out which category of HEA Fellowship may be appropriate for you, try the Fellowship Category Tool today and start your journey to professional recognition of your teaching and/or supporting learning practice.

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