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Allison Barclay: applying for Fellowship (FHEA)

Allison is a UAL Short Courses tutor in jewellery design. 

AdvanceHE Fellowship demonstrates a personal commitment to teaching, learning and the student experience. It provides formal recognition that can be used for career planning and progression. UAL’s Professional  Recognition Programme provides staff with structured guidance to prepare an application for Associate, Fellow, or Senior Fellow. 

Whether you are starting out, want to move in a new direction or have significant experience managing teaching and learning activity, Fellowship recognises the professional status of your existing expertise.

The categories of Fellowship don’t necessarily coordinate with specific job titles, roles or seniority.  Use this series of case studies to understand the variety of experiences that may allow you to gain Fellowship. 

Hi Allison, thanks for agreeing to talk to us today.  Could you give an overview of your role(s) and responsibilities at UAL please?  

I’m a UAL Short Courses tutor in jewellery design.  I’ve been doing that for 2 years.  Alongside this, since earning my Fellowship (FHEA), I’m now working as an Associate Lecturer to mentor and review others’ applications within the Professional Recognition Programme too.

Could you tell us more about your journey to FHEA?  

I went to Art School originally and did jewellery design amongst other things. This led me to the Canadian Institute of Gemmology and I worked in industry for a number of years. For my FHEA application I used experience teaching at Holts Academy (now the British Academy of Jewellery).  We did formal summative assessment there and had to standardise to City and Guilds criteria, which you don’t necessarily do on non-accredited courses. 

On short course teaching you have to be able to connect with people very quickly, as it’s teaching over a short period.  You’re also (pre-COVID) in classroom with about 20 students, who can be anywhere from 16-60 and with a wide variety of abilities and needs.  You have to learn to improvise and collaborate with colleagues to bridge the gaps.   

When I started teaching at UAL I felt a responsibility to condense key information into the introduction to jewellery design course, for our 1.5 hours a week. But then I wanted to be able to give students the option of more independent learning outside that time.  And I was very conscious of teaching in English but to people who are based all over the world with different cultures and expectations. 

I’m a graduate of the MA Art and Science at Central Saint Martins too, which has helped me enormously in teaching multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary subjects. It was the first time I had really noticed the art of teaching rather than just the information being conveyed. I found it really sparked my interest in teaching and learning. It was inspirational. 

As a tutor UAL I was then looking for ways to continue to improve my teaching. I found information on Canvas and elsewhere about the PgCert and Fellowship.  I signed up for Thinking Teaching and that was great. It really helped me understand UAL’s expectations, particularly around critical thinking, and British teaching styles more generally. (I’m Canadian, so I haven’t been through the system here myself). It was great with the move to online teaching too.  The idea of asynchronous tasks, – asking questions in a forum, which students can then decide to engage with, or not, was so helpful. 

What was the spur to your decision to apply for FHEA at the time that you did?  

Having taken the Thinking Teaching course, I heard more about the Fellowship and decided to apply.  I wanted to reflect on my teaching practice for sake of my students’ experience as well as my own teaching career. I really care about helping my students springboard in whatever direction they want to go, so I feel a responsibility to communicate with them and to help them learn in the best way that I can.

How long did it take you to write your application?   

The whole process took about 4 or 5 months. I chose to put together a reflective account (an essay) for my claim. I wrote about twice the allowed word limit and then edited it down. I worked with Neil Currant (Educational Developer (Reward and Recognition)) to ask lots of questions and understand the parameters of what was required. He was so patient and helpful, giving me lots of references, with speaker videos and books to look at. 

I remember feeling a cross between imposter syndrome, “oh my gosh what am I doing”, and then excitement at all these new opportunities opening up. I spent quite a lot of time researching, watching the Youtube links and reading the articles. I felt having the space to reflect was so important. So often we’re so busy trying to know our subjects and constructing presentations or resources that we don’t have the space to sit and think.  We need to allow ourselves that time to let the penny drop. 

I’d aim to have everything written a week in advance and then come back to it to review, before submitting the draft for feedback. Some people can just bang out work like this and it’s done, but that’s not the way I function. I wanted to avoid all that last minute anxiety.  

Did your thinking about your teaching and learning practice change during the course of making the application? 

It did, in the sense of following up the references and seeing other people talk about certain practices, like, say, ice-breaker tasks.  I really admired that all the information for students was there, it was concise and in words that anyone could understand. You don’t have to use big words and put people off any more, that’s not where we’re at. The shift in vocabulary really helped me, and I carried that into my writing. 

What was the biggest challenge to overcome? Did you have any setbacks? 

I think I took the time to understand the requirements, so what I submitted was appropriate.  My biggest challenge was the Higher Education jargon. You find yourself thinking you’re saying one thing but the other person tells you “No, you’re saying that. And you don’t want that to be part of your teaching.” 

Did anything surprise you about going through the process of creating and making your application? 

I did find it really useful to understand and empathize more with different ways that people learn. I’ve always found it very easy for people to bark facts at me and for me to regurgitate that.  I know it’s not really learning because it’s not critical and it’s not reflective, but having an understanding that others just don’t do that was helpful. 

Now you’ve achieved FHEA, what impacts has it had for you, if any?  

I think it’s had a positive impact on my teaching for my online students. Since May 2021 I’ve become an Associate Lecturer (AL), reviewing and mentoring others through the Fellowship process too. There can be a lot of anxiety because conscientious people want to do it all properly. It’s nice to have had some feedback that I’ve been reassuring to others. And it’s fun, too, and I certainly continue to learn from other candidates. It’s much more of an exchange than it sounds on paper. 

What advice would you have for others looking to make an FHEA application? 

Go for it! Your curriculum could be great but that doesn’t matter if you’re not communicating it well. It’s not so much about the qualification, but about creating better interpersonal relationships. Also, it’s free, all it costs is your time. It’s well worth it.  

What’s next for you? 

Hopefully I’d like to move into undergraduate BA level teaching.  It hasn’t happened so far but it’s only been a few months so I remain optimistic. I’m certainly enjoying the AL role with the Programme too. It’s an opportunity that I’m really excited about, and career-wise it is making me reassess where I go next.

Read case studies for other levels of Fellowship

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