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.