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This year I am embarking on a journey towards Higher Education Academy Fellowship.  This award is given to academics and other higher education workers who can demonstrate professional commitment to learning and teaching.

Why should librarians apply for HEA fellowship?

  1. To become better teachers (and learners)!  It’s so easy, given the constraints of time-slots and spaces, to stick with teaching methods that have worked in the past.  Fellowship gives us permission, support and time to reflect on and improve our practice.  It brings us together with academic colleagues and encourages us to explore pedagogic research.  Our users should feel the benefit!
  2. To gain a useful qualification.  Universities increasingly require their teaching staff to have this qualification, and it is becoming an essential or at least desirable qualification for many librarians.
  3. To raise our credibility in our institutions.  Library teaching goes way beyond showing students where the books and photocopiers are – inductions and library tours are just the beginning.  Librarians can help students navigate the complexities of information today: databases, e-journals,  fake news, fake journals, plagiarism, and social media, not to mention primary sources … building their information literacy for study, work and life. Fellowship shows that we teach and that we are serious about teaching.

What does an application involve?

The HEA offers four categories of Fellowship.  I’m aiming for Fellow: “an academic-related and/or support role holding substantive teaching and learning responsibilities”.

In their applications, applicants must give strong examples to show that they meet the requirements of the relevant Descriptor of the UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF):

  • Knowledge, of your subjects and of teaching and learning.
  • Activities, such as designing, delivering and evaluating learning activities.
  • Values, for example supporting learners of various backgrounds.

What is expected will depend on which category of Fellowship is chosen.  Associates must demonstrate their teaching practice; for Senior and even more so Principal Fellow, the applicant would need to show that they are influencing the teaching of their colleagues and their sector.  Find out more from the HEA website.

Top tips (so far)

  1. Make the most of local support.  I’m fortunate that my institution is supportive, running a scheme which aims to help applicants gather evidence and submit their applications effectively.  Many of my colleagues, including librarians, have already achieved the award, so I will not lack for guidance and support.
  2. Connect with other librarians.  Along with all the discussion you’d expect on social media, there is a mailing list.  My lovely colleague Sarah George recently set up a jiscmail discussion list for librarians interested in HEA.
  3. Understand what you need to cover.  In particular, it’s important to look beyond ‘stand and deliver’ teaching in a classroom setting (though obviously if you do lots of this, that is helpful).  All kinds of activities can be considered teaching and learning.  Unfortunately for Special Collections workers, work with members of the public cannot be included (boo!).  Fortunately, we can include learning support for colleagues and other librarians in higher education (hooray!).
  4. Plan ahead to fill gaps in your evidence.  In particular, librarians struggle to find evidence of ‘assessment’ when applying for Fellowship.  Our teaching is often informal, and therefore not marked or assessed.  To fill my gaps, I’ve offered to assist archaeology academics with assessing heritage-related learning modules.

Keep in touch

I’ll share details of my progress and learning via this blog, the above mailing list, and Twitter.  I would love to hear from Special Collections Librarians who are Fellows or working towards the award.

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