As the new academic year starts it seems a good time to focus on the Community of Practice of University Teaching Fellows (UTF). It is a growing community of teaching enthusiasts who are not only committed to teaching innovation and excellence, but to continuing professional development of themselves and their colleagues. As incoming chair of the UTF Community of Practice, I am looking forward to continuing the theme of mentoring which developed under Richard Mitchell’s leadership, and especially to encourage others in support roles to consider themselves as candidates to become a UTF. Michelle Reid, a Study Adviser, and I are currently the only UTFs working in an academic support and development directorate and we would welcome others.
One of the strengths of the community is the ability to draw on knowledge and experience across the University by networking in an informal, though structured, way. In the coming year the areas of excellence and good practice about which I would hope to encourage discussion and development are embedded academic skills. For an example of a current project where this is already happening in a tripartite partnership see http://blogs.reading.ac.uk/engage-in-teaching-and-learning/2015/06/05/mind-the-skills-gap-auditing-and-embedding-information-literacy-skills-development-across-the-curriculum-by-jackie-skinner-and-helen-hathaway/
Other ways in which the Community can contribute to the development of teaching – especially important in the context of any emerging Teaching Excellence Framework – are in offering its breadth of expertise of teaching matters on University strategies and plans, and to disseminate good practice.
If you are thinking of applying to be a UTF, my advice would be to look at the criteria now as it is likely you can plan your teaching for the Autumn and early Spring terms to strengthen any areas where you feel less confident of completing all four sections of the application. Most importantly it gives time to reflect on your teaching and achievements. No need to wait for the award to be launched in March with its strict deadline: start now to think about how to present your experience and expertise. You may also get double duty if you have already applied, or are considering applying, for Senior Fellowship of the HEA via the FLAIR CDP route: the necessary analysis of your teaching philosophy, looking at the UKPSF (UK Professional Standards Framework)and the reflection on the wider impact of your activities will also help in your UTF application. A mentor is the best possible support you can have in the process – everyone I have spoken to says so. Come and join us! Please contact CQSD or me for an informal discussion or to be put in touch with a potential mentor.
Congratulations to the new University Teaching Fellows 2015-16:
- Dr Tabarak Ballal, School of Construction Management & Engineering
- Dr Richard Harris, Institute of Education
- Dr Karsten Lundqvist, School of Systems Engineering
Details of the 2016 scheme will be announced in the new year.