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"Working in education means constantly adapting and improving what you do"

19 Apr 2021 | Advance HE Laura Minogue, Senior Lecturer in Academic Practice and Programme Lead, PgCert in Academic Practice and Fellowships Programme at the Centre for Teaching Excellence & Student Success (CTESS), St Mary’s University, shares her experience of gaining Senior Fellowship.

Why did you choose to become a Senior Fellow?

The time felt right for me to apply for Senior Fellow. I had been course leader of the St Mary’s University Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice in recent years and felt I had made sufficient change and impact to write something meaningful. After a steep learning curve in my role, I was also ready to pause and take some time out for considered reflection.

What pathway did you choose to achieve your Senior Fellowship?

At St Mary’s we have a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Route to Fellowship accredited by Advance HE. All applications are submitted as an e-portfolio using Mahara.

What approach(es) did you use to bring your evidence together and articulate your effective and successful practice in teaching and learning to influence and support others’ professional practice?

  • I began with reflection, which involved jotting down some notes about what I felt I had achieved in recent years. I focused first on what I personally felt had gone well before broadening that out to think about how I had gone about it and then how I knew what I had done had been successful.
  • The next stage was collecting evidence. I began by brainstorming possible sources of evidence before narrowing that down to what was the best fit for each case study. I also actively included a range of different perspectives in my evidence e.g. documents I’d created myself as well as external examiner’s reports, feedback on workshops and testimonials from people I had worked with.
  • Alongside this I also reflected on the scholarship of learning and teaching in my work. I began by reflecting on the key authors I use in my professional practice and then undertook a bit of additional reading. This also helped me reflect on my professional values.

What support, advice or guidance did you use to help you?

I had access to our institutional documents including our Fellowships handbook and other resources such as a Senior Fellow case study planning template. I also received very helpful written feedback on a draft of my portfolio. In my role leading the Fellowships programme at St Mary’s, I also had the advantage of having read and given feedback on many Senior Fellow applications in recent years.

What learning did you gain from the process of applying for Senior Fellowship?

The reflection I undertook for my Senior Fellow portfolio enabled me to clarify my approach to teaching and learning, particularly in my work leading the PgCert in Academic Practice and the  Fellowships Programme at St Mary’s University. It made me think about my own professional values and how those linked to the Professional Standards Framework for Teaching and Supporting Learning (PSF, 2011). At the core I discovered something I knew I was doing but hadn’t really fully articulated: this is the belief that relationships are at the heart of good teaching. Although writing your portfolio takes time, it was an enjoyable process for me which I worked on over a period of a few months. My key learning point here is that proper reflection takes time!

What impact has achieving Senior Fellowship had on you and others you know that have achieved Senior Fellowship?

The primary impact I would say is increased confidence in my role. Secondly, it has been really good to gain recognition for my work in a way that is visible, both at the university and more widely.

How have you changed practice through your support of other colleagues?

It may be too soon to say how my practice has changed as I only gained Senior Fellowship in December 2020. However, I think the process of writing the portfolio enabled me to make my own practice as an educator visible to myself. For example, I came to realise that my coaching and mentoring skills are at the core of how I do my job and work with others. This was a useful realisation as it is something I can develop still further and continue to work with my colleagues in an interactive and collaborative way.

What advice would you give to others considering applying for Senior Fellowship?

  • Start with reflection. Really stop and think about what you do, why you do it like that and what impact it has on the people around you. In practical terms, think about not just what you did but how you went about it and give enough detail about that.
  • It is also so important to include a range of “voices” in your evidence. For example, don’t just include documents you’ve produced yourself, it’s good to also have other perspectives, for example your external examiner, student feedback, testimonials from staff and students and other examples of your work.
  • Think about the key authors who influence your professional practice. Where necessary delve into some additional reading into key aspects of learning and teaching that are relevant to your individual practice. When you’ve done some reading, reflect again!
  • When you write up your portfolio, use a clear structure for all sections and make this apparent by using sub-headings. This helps you to remain focused as you write and to make sure that you describe, reflect and evaluate.
  • Take advantage of the Fellowship support that your institution offers, feedback on drafts for example or the opportunity to attend a virtual (or real) writing retreat.

How do you plan to continue developing your practice and use your Senior Fellowship to support others?

Working in education means constantly adapting and improving what you do and it’s so important to interact with others in your field in order to do this. I feel I have an even deeper appreciation now of the importance of ongoing CPD and as a result will continue to participate in CPD events as much as possible. I have personally learnt so much from the sharing good practice events I have attended run by Advance HE, Staff and Educational Development Association (SEDA) and others. I know accessing CPD can be difficult for staff working in traditional lecturing roles due to heavy teaching loads and related commitments. In my own sphere, the way that I support others to gain Senior Fellowship will continue to evolve. I intend to develop the induction workshops for Fellowship to include more time for reflection. I also want to continue to promote the importance of engaging in CPD along with highlighting to senior management how vital it is that staff are given proper time to do this.

Are you an individual able to provide evidence of a sustained record of effectiveness in relation to teaching and learning, incorporating for example, the organisation, leadership and/or management of specific aspects of teaching and learning provision? Then Senior Fellowship may be for you.

For further information, resources and and guidance on applying, visit our dedicated Senior Fellowship page.


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