Senior Fellowship: Reflections on the process

Today I received confirmation that my Senior Fellowship application to the HEA had been accepted. I thought it helpful if I shared a few insights in to the application process with others who might be considering individual entry route.

There are three ways to achieve recognition with the HEA –

  1. Individual entrance route
  2. In-house accredited CPD schemes
  3. Through recognised qualifications (e.g. a PgC which leads automatically to Fellowship)

In 2011 the HEA launched new levels to their recognition scheme  (there are now four levels of recognition: Associate Fellow, Fellow, Senior Fellow and Principal Fellow). I suspect many institutions will take a little while longer to develop internal CPD systems for the two new levels of recognition and so for now the individual route may remain the favoured approach for some  colleagues.

I completed a Fellowship by individual entry in 2007 and have taken the same route for the Senior Fellowship. The application comprises a 6-7000 word reflection on practice and two ‘case studies’ of practice. It needs to demonstrate all of the areas of activity, all the professional values and all areas of knowledge as described by the Professional Standards Framework. It is not enough to list how you meet each requirement – there is a need to show how you apply the knowledge and values in practice. The biggest challenges in the application process were:

  • Managing the time needed (which is significant)
  • Going beyond description in the account to ensure sufficient reflection
  • Selecting areas of practice on which to reflect

The process requires some detailed planning. The approach I took was to begin with the activities. I simply plotted out what I did against each of the headings listed. So, against ‘assessment and feedback’ I located my roles, projects and practices (present and past), likewise I asked myself what had I done in the area of learning design and developing student guidance and so on for each activity area. Simply creating a list provides the raw material for the reflection.

The next thing I did was to place the ideas in to chronological order so they made sense in terms of my personal progression – of course doing this showed up duplications and sparked additions. Initially I planned to create matrix to ensure I had all values and areas of knowledge covered, but this was quite limiting and made a tick box exercise of the process. Instead I took each activity on my list and reflected by asking a series of questions around each point, including:

  • What did I do? (description of the activity)
  • Why did I choose to work this way? What shaped the decision? (was it the influence of a colleague, a particular belief, a policy, an engagement with a particular academic idea or theory or case studies from elsewhere). What knowledge and understanding informed this way of working? **
  • How was this way of working beneficial to students, colleagues and/or others (including industry partners)?
  • What was the impact? How do I know this approach was working well?
  • What was learned about working this way? Are there things in future that need to be done to refine this approach further?

**these were the most important questions as they gave opportunity to review  both values and knowledge

I then tagged the emerging narrative against each of the framework requirements by adding  “(v1, k3)” – these are the labels given to the framework requirements (k = knowledge, v = value). These tags were added where I believed my reflection demonstrated the criteria. By doing this I was able to see where the gaps were. My original draft was lacking in v4 for example and so I was able to track back and ask where, in my activities, did I draw upon this this value?

The case study elements (perhaps these should be re-named since they are more like illustrations of practice) are a thicker, and more focused, description of things that you have done. I considered these to be a zoom lens on two areas of my practice. I could adopt the same approach as for the general narrative but had more space to provide more detailed description and reflection.

During the process it was really important for me to have a critical friend who could chat through the sticking points and offer me feedback. I had hoped the application would take a day if I chained myself to my desk but in the end it was much longer. Overall the process has been valuable (if not a little intense) – it provides a useful opportunity to look back at what has been achieved and I was particularly pleased to see that my values had not waned too much! It was quite motivational to retrace my steps over years of practice and it was also helpful in informing planning for new CPD. While I was frustrated by the time commitment needed, without this dedicated ‘thought space’ the benefits of the reflective process would not have been realised.

Professional development on professional development

I usefully spent today at Liverpool John Moores University in a workshop run by Janet Strivens and Rob Ward from the Centre for Recording Achievement, around PDP and eportfolios.

Key points from the session:

PDP is a culture that can be embedded and not an output

The use of constructive alignment can be stifling and at odds with the irregularity and risk taking nature of PD

There is a degree of confusion in practice about PD as output and PD as process.

PD incorporates meta learning, decision making and critical self review. It is an intense activity and should not be reduced only to blocks but should be valued and embedded.

PD helps learners assume responsibility for learning; the knock on effect is that staff are freed to teach and enable and not to micromanage. (there is then a potential efficiency).

PD and e-portfolios are complementary (enhanced reflection, asynchronisity) but can also be the source of tension when the technology is the design driver.

Good PD is intensive to demands upfront design.

Whilst staff and students may resist and in some cases resent PD, once normalised in to systems staff and students can see huge value in developing mutual understanding of learning styles, skills in managing uncertain knowledge and information, skills for the changing world and personal realisations.

Confusion between employment skills and employability skills may be evident in some systems.

PD in a competitive HE Market is hugely important for adding value to an individual; the evidence base is growing to help articulate this case (see CRA).

The language of PD can be interpreted to focus on practice, practise, application, planning and reviewing. It need nit be abstract.

Students showcasing their attributes through portfolios and cvs etc. is only a tiny part of the PD journey, the real value for the student is in the journey of self understanding that ultimately informs such outputs.

Questions remain around what to assess: quality of evidence, ‘academic-ness’ of reflection or individual progress.

Excellent examples of embedded PD are brave and bold!

For more information

Marketing and the impact of inquiry led work-based learning on individuals

How do you market a course that essentially provides a structure for individuals to develop their knowledge, understanding, skills and practice in areas entirely relevant to them (the area is not prescribed). The course comprises a structure and a facility for dialogue and an assessment brief that seeks to be useful for all professionals.

Is such a product too broad to market? What is the strap line? Some thoughts ….

  • Research your work and learn more about the factors that shape your practice.
  • Undertake small projects to improve your working practices.
  • Me-learning: customise your learning to support your own professional development.

Is the nature of inquiry based learning always a strength? For a moment I questioned this; but I didn’t need to look  far for some answers.

It seems that whilst this form of course can be perceived as hard to pin down, the students undertaking the course can readily articulate the benefits, relayed here:

  • I learnt more about the vast range of tasks I undertake and realised the magnitude of my role. I realised how much I have added to the job and built up my role to meet the organisation’s needs.
  • With the changing economy this course has allowed me to take stock of the impact of current and potential events upon the organisation. Through having a vehicle to stand back and analyse the influences upon my work I am able to make better choices about business activity.
  • I looked at how I learn, now this has been passed on around the company. I am more aware of the learning styles of colleagues and therefore of the strengths and limitations of different approaches of working with different individuals.
  • Researching case studies of practice is helpful because it brings something back to the business – new ways of doing things and projects that we may now try out.

So it would seem that the real stories of learning and change to individual practice and to organisational practice provide an authentic underpinning for a marketing approach.

An introduction to learning journals (resource paper)

When I have looked for a resource on learning journals, rarely have  I found anything which covers all of the essentials at a useful level. I produced a brief paper to support students using learning journals in the workplace. This paper has been useful within a number of initiatives at Harper Adams so far – it looks at what learning journals are, why we might use them and how we can practically go establishing a journal.

Download – An introduction to learning journals

Competence Wrappers : A creative curriculum solution for work based learning

The competence wrapper module may be seen as a vehicle to collate and enhance workplace learning that focus on the development of specific and technical skills and related areas of knowledge (or learning achieved through a range of training initiatives or non credit baring courses). The competence wrapper is a way of adding value to practice based learning through the addition of systemic reflection, the linking of the learning to an organisational context and sector issues and through the development of meta-learning (including learning awareness, decision making and learning habits).

Work-based learning is currently being achieved in a variety of ways; to achieve and justify academic credit for this learning it needs to be brought together, interconnected and deepened. The wrapper module seeks to enable this to occur. A wrapper module can be seen to draw together learning from potentially a wide range of sources including existing NVQ training and in-house company training, short courses, work-place experience and conference events.

Wrapper modules

  • are a versatile way of adding value to existing learning and thereafter accrediting that learning.
  • give credit for the development of professional skills and knowledge, and for the development of associated knowledge, personal development planning and reflective skills.
  • recognise that there is a great deal of valuable learning already being undertaken in and through the workplace.
  • devolve the development of work-place skills, competence and knowledge to external experts, to real world practitioners and industry experts.
  • may vary in credit value according to the volume of learning being wrapped and the breadth and depth of the wrapping added.
  • seek to add additional layers of learning on to existing provision.

Layers of knowledge and skills sit within the wrapper module (click to view):

(Work-based) Priorities for 2010

I am quite often asked what it is that I actually do … sometimes it is helpful to reflect upon this point as it helps personal prioritisation of work on a day to day and week by week basis amongst a view of the bigger picture. For my own and others information then, my priorities for the coming months are as follows:

1. develop a shell module framework (cross institutional framework plus and individual entry route)

2. launch a fully online leadership and professional development module

3. evaluate and report upon the pilot online module

4. promote creative approaches to work-based learning through staff development sessions

5. evaluate the impact and effectiveness of work based learning provision through a range of methods (data gathering phase)

6. facilitate the formation of new work-based learning opportunities.

7. facilitate the cross fertilization of ideas amongst staff (subsumed in 2. perhaps but worthy of inclusion also).

8. develop promotional material for work based learning, informed by evaluative work

9. hunt down external examples of good practice in teaching and learning and bring them back to share internally (this involves networking, event attendance, online awareness).

10. actively seek out opportunities for external dissemination of good practice, new developments and research.