In 2007, I completed a non-degree module in learning and teaching in higher education (NDLTHE) and became an Associate Fellow when I was doing my PhD at the University of Leeds. 15 years later, I achieved a Principal Fellowship (PF).
In this short reflection, I would like to attribute three things to three major stages of my journey towards achieving my fellowship.
At the Principal Fellow Writing Retreat led by Prof. Sally Bradley (highly recommend), we learnt about ways to verbalise the impact we were making in student experience, strategic leadership, integrated practice and continued professional development at institutional level and beyond. The biggest takeaway, for me, was a sports analogy, which helped me immensely in determining what items of achievement would go into the REI (Record of Educational Impact).
As I built my list REI items, I realised that they represented work I had done in all three different jobs at my home institution (which were, for two full years, concurrent) in order to enhance learning and teaching locally and beyond: faculty member at the English Department, director of the university’s Teaching & Learning (T&L) centre, interim college master at one of the residential colleges. Over the years, every time I received an appointment or a renewal, my colleagues would start to worry: ‘Why would you agree to such heavy educational and strategic leadership commitments? What happens to being a faculty member?’ Building my REI list gives me an answer: what’s present in these three seemingly disparate jobs is a dynamic form of interconnectedness, one that foregrounds active learning and student-centred education.
My different jobs as a teacher, a researcher and a leader complement each other and help remind me of the reason of why I decided to work in higher education in the first place.
Writing the RAP (Reflective Account of Practice) with reference to the UKPSF and the Dimensions of the Framework gave me an opportunity to conduct with a systematic reflection of my T&L work. When mapping each of my REI items and its related activities to corresponding pairs of letters and numbers, I had to articulate the impact of what I had done in a lucid and, at times, assertive, manner, and that was something I never thought I could do. Talk about culture shock.
As I worked through the different sections of the RAP, I reflected upon why I did what I did. It was definitely easier said than done, but I had a quasi-enlightenment when I finished drafting. Deconstructing my strategies confirmed and reinforced something for me: my values, my priorities, my work ethics. At the risk of sounding disproportionately insecure, the process of RAP writing gave me a much-needed affirmation: there is tangible, describable impact in what I do. More importantly, it affirmed the value and significance of my partial secondment from my home academic unit.
The process of writing the RAP gave me tools to describe myself: my personal conviction and intuitive judgements became describable, assessable, and professional strategies, which in turn continues to inform me in my work in a concrete and more definable manner.
The journey of self-knowledge continued. One of the questions I received was ‘what kind of leader was I?’ The question sent me on a small project in which I read up on different leadership styles. Not only was I able to identify, with advice from my mentor, a response to the reviewer’s question, I was able to learn about the evolution and diversity of discussions of leadership and leadership styles; the nuance and complexities thereof are truly fascinating. Again, this is a case of acquiring further tools to understand and describe oneself.
It has been an incredible journey of enhanced and renewed self-understanding. Thank you, Advance HE.
Katrine Wong writes on English Renaissance Drama and cultural studies. She is also known for her expertise in outcome-based education, e-learning and pedagogical innovation. When she’s not at work, Katrine conducts Coro Perosi of Macao, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.
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Image credit: Fernando Wong