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Why it's fantastic to be the 100,000th HEA Fellow!

15 Mar 2018 | Claudia Slimings Claudia Slimings, Senior Lecturer in Population Health, Australian National University.

This blog was originally posted on the former Higher Education Academy website.

Dr Claudia Slimings, our 100,000th HEA Fellow, works as a Senior Lecturer in Population Health at ANU Medical School. Here she talks about her journey to Fellowship and how it helped her overcome her personal barriers to teaching, providing the foundations from which to thrive.

What a privilege and an honour to be the 100,000th HEA Fellow! My path from a naturally shy researcher in an insecure academic climate to a confident higher education professional was an incredibly enlightening journey. HEA Fellowship quite literally saved my academic career.

Like many people, I entered higher education via a traditional research PhD and post-doctoral trajectory. Initially I was unsure about teaching as a career option as I was absolutely terrified of public speaking – conference presentations and research seminars were something to be avoided! When I joined the medical school at St. George’s, University of London as a Lecturer in Epidemiology the time had come to face my fears. Over a two year period I studied for a Postgraduate Certificate in Healthcare and Biomedical Education which “taught me how to teach” and bridged the gap between research and teaching roles in academia. It also opened my eyes to the pedagogical foundations of teaching and learning, discovering there was much more to teaching than just public speaking (although of course the presentation skills did undergo some work!)

I didn’t immediately apply for HEA Fellowship because I returned to Australia soon after completing my training and I didn’t realise that HEA was a global organisation. It wasn’t until I joined ANU in my current role that the subject of HEA Fellowship arose again. I was thrilled to find that HEA Fellowship was recognised in Australia and that obtaining Fellowship is actively encouraged by ANU through its Centre for Higher Education, Learning and Teaching. In my own personal circumstances, having completed the requirements for Fellowship a couple of years ago, the HEA was extremely helpful in completing the application process.

The requirements for HEA Fellowship can seem daunting at first, but the support and training I received was excellent and it was a pivotal point in my career. I still pull out my portfolio on a regular basis when I am seeking some inspiration! Fellowship adds a level of integrity to teaching careers in higher education in a climate where, sadly, research prowess is often more highly valued by many universities.

The one aspect that has resonated with me the most on my journey to Fellowship is the art of developing reflective practice. I remember the day I attended a workshop on critical reflection, which, at the time to someone with a scientific background, sounded “fluffy” and I was initially sceptical. How wrong I was! I now employ those reflective skills on a daily basis to inform and develop my teaching practice. Those skills also give me the confidence to experiment with my teaching because I know I can stand back and take an objective, balanced view.

Medical education has unique challenges and the importance of Population Health to practising medicine is not immediately apparent to many students. Fellowship has equipped me with the confidence to teach my discipline effectively and with a passion that I will hopefully instil in our future doctors. The path to HEA Fellowship also showed me that there is more to teaching and learning than that specific to my own discipline. The increasingly integrated curriculum in medical schools continues to demand new and innovative pedagogical approaches. The future is very exciting indeed!

Find out more about Fellowship.

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