Posted 17 June 2019
Harper Adams is leading the university sector with its level of qualified teaching staff – with around 86% of academics holding a Higher Education Academy Fellowship, more than double the UK average rate of 41.8%.
HEA Fellowships show that staff consider a wide range of factors when they support students, including recognising that students learn in different ways. It illustrates that they have a thorough underpinning subject knowledge, and that they use feedback from students to continually develop their teaching and support.
“Having so many with these qualifications is a sign of a staff culture that is engaged in teaching excellence and reflecting on their practice”, said Dr Lydia Arnold, Educational Developer. “Students expect their lecturers and professional services staff to be engaged in development around teaching and learning– so gaining this qualification is student-driven, but also it’s enjoyable for staff to get the recognition.”
This is not the only sign of successful teaching and learning at Harper. The university has also had great success in the Teaching Excellence Framework, where it has been awarded two Gold ratings for the quality of teaching.
Harper policy requires staff to gain a PGC or Fellowship as part of their employment. But while the central team will happily sit down and help develop applications and reflect on their practice, a top-down approach isn’t generally required. The University has its own momentum; with most staff having a Fellowship, new staff want to do it as part of professional development.
Dr Moira Harris, Senior Lecturer in Animal Science, who recently gained a HEA Senior Fellowship, said: “Putting together my application was a lot of work, and I was surprised by the amount of detail, supporting evidence and introspective reflection that was required. However, I was pleased with the final result and even more delighted to be informed in March that my application had been successful and I had been granted Senior Fellowship.”
Gaining a qualification is not the end point, either. Staff are continually setting up opportunities to share teaching tips, ideas and evidence about which approaches work. One group, the Pedagogy Interest Group or as it is better known, the Harper PIG, gets together each month to share ideas and allow members to access the experience of others in approaches to teaching, learning and assessment from the wider university.
Emily Chapman-Waterhouse, Lecturer from the Animal Production, Welfare and Veterinary Sciences department, who helps organise the group, said: “We invite staff employing novel approaches in their work invited to give bite size presentations each month, prompting broader discussions. Whilst supported by the University’s Senior Management Team, this is not a University governed group. Based on anecdotal evidence, there has been a ‘ripple effect’ after the sessions, which we think will lead to better informed and supported practitioners.”
Sessions are also regularly held for staff featuring a wide range of national and international experts to ensure that they are kept up to date with cutting edge practices and information. Recently, there have been sessions around mental health and well-being of students, ways to support students as they arrive at the university, marking and assessment, and supporting students with effective notetaking.
Balancing elements of roles in academia, which blend teaching, research and outreach, can seem a battle with time. Yet the culture of professional development means opportunities to learn more are seized upon. At a recent learning and teaching forum, registrations had to be closed because it was full of staff who turned up to explore and discuss themes of assessment and feedback. External speakers regularly comment on the turn out and engagement from staff who turn out in high numbers to consider different teaching and support approaches.
Andy Jones, Director of Learning, Teaching and International, said: “We are extremely fortunate to have so many teaching staff committed to improving teaching and learning across the University. The interest in developing pedagogy has increased notably in recent years and the percentage now holding fellowships and related qualifications is a testimony to the high quality of staff we employ.”