'Louder voices for people in the middle of things': Reflections on the HEA 'Beyond Fellowship' conference

I spent yesterday at the HEA's 'Beyond Fellowship' Conference at Aston University. As well as catching up with old friends it was a chance to meet new people. Like me, most of those present support others in obtaining their HEA Fellowships and/ or teach on PGCert courses. I have shared here a summary of the key lessons I took away.

Going above and beyond
Claire McCullach, Eileen Hyder and Cherry Bennett, University of Reading

An occupational hazard of these conferences is that you meet like-minded people – in this case people who think teaching in higher education is important and that it is important for all staff to develop their teaching and gain recognition for the skills and knowledge they have. The tyranny of Key Performance Indicators can mean we are apt to measure success in terms of counting people who have a fellowship of the HEA rather than the process of becoming a fellow, and, perhaps more crucially, the responsibilities of being a fellow. Wouldn't it be great is every fellow took it upon her/ his self to mentor others through the fellowship process?

Digital portfolios for good standing
Chrissi Nerantzi and Kate Botham, Manchester Metropolitan University

We have recently submitted our re-accreditation documentation to the HEA and like many institutions we plan to offer a digital e-portfolio route alongside our 'written' route. I went into this session hoping for a sense of what an e-portfolio might look like, but I left with another challenge-- how do I document my own CPD? I need to record my own development more systematically and this was the challenge I left the session with. This blog is part of that process, but I am not always consistent in the way I record my reflections.

Beyond compulsion, KPIs and targets: an optimistic look at an alternative based on authenticity, prestige and expectation.
Martyn Kingsbury and Huw Rees, Imperial College London

The key lesson of this session was to build your practice on the 'prestige economy' of your institution. As Imperial is very very very research intensive, the speakers had developed an approach to their academic development which centres around valuing the research-based 'prestige economy' rather than fighting against it. Interestingly they found that motivation and demand for PGCert courses and other development increased when the programmes were no longer compulsory. Imperial is an outlier in terms of its research profile, even amongst research-intensive universities. I am still trying to think through the implications for my own situation.

Leading the Leaders and the Laggards: how Senior and Principal Fellows can support institutional and individual goals to enhance the learning experiences of students
Sue Eccles, Bournemouth University

In this session we had to do some group work. A collective sense of 'Why do we have to do this?' went around around the room for the few seconds it took for everybody to recognise their hypocrisy. We are always going on about the value of group work, working in teams, student as producer, student as knower etc. etc., but even we have a tendency to want to sit back passively and listen to someone talk about something or other for 40 or 50 minutes. Anyway –back to the session– as academic developers we are in the middle of things. We don't write and decide strategies (at least not directly), but we are expected to make them happen. In my notes I wrote 'Louder voices for people in the middle of things'. When senior mangers set targets for things like HEA Fellowships it often appears that meeting this target is the responsibility of a handful of people who are not senior managers. Teaching staff have all kinds of targets, aspirations, expectations and ambitions and we can often be frustrated when these conflict with our own targets, aspirations, expectations and ambitions, especially when it is our job to implement strategy. At a time when we are about to launch a new strategy at the University of Brighton, the question of who owns and is accountable for its contents is a crucial one.

A final plenary of the all the speakers (including those from the parallel sessions I didn't make) started with a discussion of 'ethical stealth'- terms which had emerged from one of the sessions. A sense of doing unseen work is very prevalent in my line of work, 'helping other people look good' as a colleague has put it. Ethical stealth is a problem though. One speaker noted that we need to be demonstrating our impact and we need to be confident that what we do has value. Doing good work which is unseen might please God, but not university senior managers.

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Discussion session for quantitative/ mixed methods

This is from a handout I developed for a discussion session on quantitative/ mixed methods.

Quantitative / qualitative approaches differences: Very crude representation of commonly thought differences. From Firestone (1987).

Quantitative

Qualitative

World view

Object facts independent of social world

Multiple realities socially defined.

Purpose

Explain through measurement

Understanding through actors' perspectives

Approach

Experiment: reduce randomness/ noise/ error which get in the way of explanation.

Ethnography. Explore definitions. Challenge assumptions

Researcher role

Detached

Immersed

Writing

Objective: facts speak for themselves

Interpretative

Conclusions

Explain reasons for phenomenon/ change in quantitative terms e.g. x% of variance explained by x,y,z,

Qualitative judgement e.g. 'strong leadership required...'

Discussion questions:

Does choice of method stem from our world view or does our world view stem from our choice of methods?

Is the primacy of qualitative methods in education studies a consequence of expediency/ ability or world view?

Does early specialisation in UK education mean social science and humanities reject quantitative approaches due to lack of sufficient mathematics skills?

To what extent is the table above an accurate representation of differences between quantitative and qualitative approaches?

References/ further reading:

British Academy. 2015. ‘Count Us in: Quantitative Skills for a New Generation’. London: British Academy. .

Firestone, William A. 1987. ‘Meaning in Method: The Rhetoric of Quantitative and Qualitative Research’. Educational Researcher 16 (7): 16–21. doi:10.3102/0013189X016007016.

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Michel Foucault and the pedagogy of learning to swim

Reading Foucault today the following passage struck me, although it was little to do with the reason I've been reading Foucault.

The organisation of serial space was one of the great technical mutations of elementary education. It made it possible to supersede the traditional system (a pupil working for a few minutes with the master, while the rest of the heterogeneous group group remained idle unattended). By assigning individual places it made possible the supervision of each individual and the simultaneous work of all.

(M. Foucault 1977, Discipline and Punish, London: Penguin p.147).

Every Saturday morning I take my son to his beginner swimming lessons. The approach taken by the swimming teachers at our local swimming pool is very different from the approach taken by my own swimming teacher at the same level. At my son's lessons the teacher is in the water and she spends a few minutes with each while the other groups members talk, splash each other or practice putting their faces in the water (the traditional method in Foucaultian terms). When I learnt to swim, the teacher did not come in the water at all. He stood at the side of pool giving instructions to the whole group then altogether, then we all did as as said (or at least tried). I never actually saw my swimming teacher swim-- he used the discipline approach.

I have no view on which approach might be better in terms of teaching someone to swim. Perhaps there is a debate in the swimming teaching community about which approach to group teaching is best. This post is pure observation and not an opinion!

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"Ellen and Justin, we are drowning" Sheila's letter

I first met Sheila Quinn in 2000 when I was undertaking fieldwork for my PhD in Quebec's Eastern Townships. As long as I've known Sheila she has been a strong advocate for young people in her region, both as a professional and as a volunteer. Her son Angus, now 13, is autistic and right now things are very tough for Sheila. The special school Angus attends says it is no longer able to cope with his behaviour.

Her letter, addressed to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Ellen DeGeneres (who is the voice behind Angus' favourite character in 'Finding Nemo') has been widely shared on Facebook and has been picked up by Montreal's CTV.

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Designing a questionnaire for school staff (UK Governors/ School leaders)

This post may interest:

  • School governors/ leaders planning a staff questionnaire
  • Any seeking a (very) brief introduction to the options of designing any pencil and paper questionnaire.
  • Anyone looking for a LaTeX template for questionnaire design (this questionnaire is based on my slight adaptation of the paperandpencil.sty by Miriam Dieter & Anja Zwingenberger)

First thing: the actual questionnaire I designed

In my capacity as a school governor I designed a staff questionnaire last summer. I've made this available for anyone to use or adapt as they see fit. (Some of these questions are based on ones OFSTED ask teachers).

A basic consideration of options

There are many ways to do a staff questionnaire. Naturally online is fairly straightforward using third party software such as surveymonkey (free basic service, then £), or if you are more technically minded using various polling software and plugins in your own website (e.g. for wordpress). However in terms of online security paper and pencil questionnaires remain useful, and in a small(ish) school where everyone is in one place the benefits of setting up, administering and analysing an online questionnaire are probably not as great as for a larger organisation.

You may or may not be particularly worried about the presentation of your questionnaire. However, using your regular word-processing package (e.g. MSWord (£), LibreOffice writer (free and open source) etc.) will usually turn out to be more hassle than it's worth. Every time you try to move a box to a different place it ends up moving a whole load of other text (you've probably have experienced this behaviour when trying to put a photograph into a Word document).

If you wish to stick with a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) a publishing tool such as MSPublisher (£) or Scribus (free and open source) are likely to yield better results than word processing software. These will enable you to have more control over the page layout.

A bit more technical: using LaTeX

The questionnaire I designed is built in LaTeX and I've made the source code available in github. The key advantage of LaTeX (more about LaTeX here) is that you can have complete control over the layout with a combination of standard commands and some stylesheets. The .tex code can then be exported to .pdf leading to a document which can be printed off.

Link summary

.pdf version of the questionnaire we used at our school.  There are online services which can covert .pdf to Word (.doc/ .docx) though your mileage may vary.

Github access to the source code.

Further help

I'm happy to provide a small amount of free help (subject to my availability) to UK schools wishing to use the questionnaire (e.g. add school name/ logo, remove questions or make relatively minor amendments).

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Were the noughties the golden age of teaching in UK higher education?

I started my academic job search around the Autumn of 2001, just as the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) was taking place. Those on the market a year or two before me may have a different take, but to me I couldn't have entered the academic job market at a worse time. [I appreciate that anyone entering since has probably had it much worse.] I applied for and interviewed for various geography lectureships and research assistantships without success, but in Autumn 2002 I landed an interview at the University of Southampton in the Modern Languages department; I was offered the job and started in January 2003.

The job I actually got, was at the Subject Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies (LLAS), 1 which was itself part of a national network with 23 other subject centres collectively called the Learning and Teaching Support Network, which later become part of the Higher Education Academy (HEA). My job title was the Academic Coordinator for Area Studies and I was brought in to manage the Area Studies Project, which was collaboration of six subject centres. Despite the learning and teaching focus of the subject centres, I knew very little about teaching in higher education when I started off, and I knew I knew little about teaching in higher education. I thought I knew a bit about higher education policy, but it turns out I didn't know as much as I thought. Over time the job evolved and I led various projects on interdisciplinary teaching and learning, organised workshops for new academic staff in languages and related disciplines. I read lots of papers, I carried out a few research projects, published a few academic papers and reports, and met hundreds of people from all round the UK and beyond. No need to go on here-- I have a CV for all that stuff.

Fast forward to 2015 and, among other things I am teaching new lecturers at the University of Brighton aware they they have come into a greatly impoverished sector. In part I mean 'impoverished' in money terms, but also resource and support impoverished. In the 2000s there were 24 subject centres which provided workshops, research funds, subject specific expertise on a national level, a sense of community and, perhaps most importantly informative and up-to-date websites and publications. The HEA commissioned its own research, projects and reports into a range of matters. Separate from the subject centres was the Fund for the Development of Teaching and Learning (FDTL), the National Disability Team, Jisc (still around) and the later on the Centres for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETLs – there was some disagreement about whether it should be pronounced 'settles' or 'kettles' (See David Kernohan's post on 'Ghosts of Teaching Excellence past' for his excellent analysis)).

Most of these are dead now. The subject centres are gone; the HEA is a rump of its former self trying to work out how to be self-funded, and known to many academics as a sort of DVLA for HE teaching). Many of these projects are mere memories to those involved in them, their websites and resources deleted, hacked, destroyed or if we are lucky, archived.

Some CETL's have a legacy, ironically because they funded buildings and refurbishments; our Creativity Centre at Brighton is still in use for its intended purpose. Now teaching excellence is all about a thing called the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).

I didn't realise it at the time, but I was actually part of the golden age of teaching and learning in higher education. Its easy to get nostalgic, and not all was plain sailing, but here I really have to acknowledge my privilege.

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Notes:

  1. Still going as a separate centre at the University of Southampton

Am I a qualified teacher in UK higher education? Bog snorkelling through the swamp of HESA recognised teaching qualifications

Universities throughout the UK are trying to increase the numbers of academics who hold a teaching qualification. There are many good reasons, but the expectation that the Teaching Excellence Framework will use this as a metric has focused minds on the subject.

As universities our provision is usually based around PGCert in Learning and Teaching in Higher courses and Higher Education Academy Fellowships. This is where clarity ends as far as recognised teaching qualifications are concerned and there is whole bunch of other stuff that 'counts', even if it is not directly related to teaching in higher education. This is not an opinion piece of the strengths and weaknesses of various teaching qualifications, but an opportunity to put on your wet suit, snorkel and face-mask to travel through the swamp of Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) recognised teaching qualifications.

What follows is purely my own work. It is not authorised by the University of Brighton, the Higher Education Statistics Agency, the Higher Education Academy or anyone else.

Am I a qualified teacher in UK higher education?

As someone who teaches on a PGCert in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education and supports staff preparing their HEA Fellowship applications, I am increasingly asked 'Am I (already) a qualified teacher in UK higher education?' Does my X certificate count as a teaching qualification? Does my accreditation as a Y count? I was a secondary school teacher; does that count? I'm an accredited member of the pedagogic branch of the Guild of Advanced Basketweavers- does that count?

The Higher Education Statistics Agency collects data on the numbers of academic staff at each university who are qualified HE teachers.

Some universities publish their data online. I've rummaged extensively around the HESA website and as far as I can see there is no place where all data is published. Moreover I can't even find a copy of the actual definitions of HESA teaching qualifications on the HESA website. The only places I can find them are on individual university websites (example from Newcastle here).

So the categories which 'count' as a qualified teacher are as follows.

01: Successfully completed an institutional provision in teaching in the higher education sector accredited against the UK Professional Standards Framework.

This includes PGCerts and similar university provision for new lecturers which in most cases leads to accreditation at D1 or D2. At Brighton completion of a PGCert will also give you D2 (Fellow of the HEA-- category 03)

02: Recognised by the HEA as an Associate Fellow (AFHEA, D1)

03: Recognised by the HEA as a Fellow (FHEA, D2)

04: Recognised by the HEA as a Senior Fellow (SFHEA, D3)

05: Recognised by the HEA as a Principal Fellow (PFHEA, D4)

These are the Higher Education Academy (HEA) Fellowships. A higher fellowship supersedes a lower one. I received my Fellowship in 2008 and my Senior Fellowship in 2014, so my category is just 04 (rather than 03 and 04)

06: Holder of a National Teaching Fellowship Scheme Individual Award.

This is competitive Scheme scheme which has run since about 2000. According to the HEA website there are 643 fellows as of 2015. I don't know whether this includes those who have retired or died, but there will be only a handful of these in each university anyway (there are currently 132 members of UniversitiesUK).

Categories 01-06 are clear. You have them or you don't. Moreover, they are all designed for the purpose of teaching in UK higher education. Now for the bog-snorkelling where we head into the realms of other sectors, equivalences and interpretation.

07: Holder of a PGCE in higher education, secondary education, further education, lifelong learning or any other equivalent UK qualification.

Now we are into the territory of teaching qualifications designed or other sectors/ age groups. Note that primary PGCE does not appear in this list. Is it 'any other equivalent UK qualification' though? If it was it would be in the list though, surely?

08: Accredited as a teacher of their subject by a professional UK body.

The definition of professional body is important here: "A professional body is a group of people in a learned occupation who are entrusted with maintaining control or oversight of the legitimate practice of the occupation."  For example, the Higher Education Academy describes itself as a 'professional institution', rather than a professional body. It might have some degree of oversight into teaching in higher education, but it does not have control.

The University of Newcastle's guidelines offer 'Subject-discipline accreditation of any kind (e.g. Member of the Academy of Medical Educators (MacadMED)'. While the example may be correct, the 'subject discipline accreditation' description  may not be as HESA intended.

In terms of subject discipline a holder of CELTA, DELTA or MA TESOL (or teaching English to speakers of other languages would be a qualified teacher), but as far as I can see there is not a professional body that regulates and controls the teaching of English as an additional/ second language, but there are professional organisations in the field of English teaching. I'm not a lawyer(!), but there seems to be a clear legal distinction between a professional body and a professional organisation. However, it may be that those who wrote the original guidelines were not using a legal framework. I suspect the spirit rather than the letter of the law was intended here, but I may be wrong abut this.

We were unsure whether our primary school teachers could fit into category 07, but they would definitely fit into this category 08 if they were teaching primary education as they would be members of the General Teaching Council (in England), the professional body for teachers… but wait... the GTC was abolished in 2012! The Teaching Agency took over some functions of the GTC, but is the Teaching Agency a professional body? The Teaching Agency has “...responsibility for the supply, quality and regulation of the education workforce”.  The phrase 'professional body' does not appear, but looks like a duck, waddles like a duck etc. Perhaps the definition of a professional body is not important after all. Does your head hurt? To confuse matters further the Teaching Agency is England-only, so the answers may be different for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

So if we accept primary school teaching qualification in this category, this would only apply if the qualified primary school teacher was teaching primary education and not if the qualified primary school teacher was teaching French. But if a qualified secondary school teacher were to teach primary education, they would qualify as an HE teacher under category 07.

09 Other UK accreditation or qualification in teaching in the higher education sector.

I'm not sure what goes into this category. There might be some older (pre-late 90s) qualifications or accreditation out there. I suppose the English Teachers might come into this category if they are ruled out of Category 08, but only if their qualification was primarily concerned with teaching in higher education as opposed to other sectors/ age groups.

10 Overseas accreditation or qualification for any level of teaching.

This could mean anything as long as it wasn't done in the UK. My wife is qualified as a pre-school and primary school teacher in the Province of Quebec. She's not entirely sure the extent to which the accreditation is recognised in other Canadian provinces but were she to get a job in a UK university her Brevet d'Enseignement places her firmly into the qualified HE category, whatever subject she was teaching. Some while a UK-qualified primary school teacher might not be recognised under 07 or 08, with a non-UK qualification there is no ambiguity whatsoever.

Additional questions.

So what should I do if I can't work out if I'm a qualified teacher in HE?

Do your fellowship of the Higher Education Academy

I am a qualified teacher under HESA, but I don't think my qualification has prepared me well for teaching in a university. What would you advise?

Do your fellowship of the Higher Education Academy

I'm not a qualified teacher in higher education. What should I do?

Do your fellowship of the Higher Education Academy

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