Professor Michael Martin PFHEA, Australian National University, reflects on working with the HEA and rewarding effective teaching at a "strongly research-focussed university."
The much-loved tale of Dorothy and her (apparently) flawed companions as they journey to the magical land of Oz has much in common (and much not!) with the HEA’s forays into the real land of Oz(tralia). Their journey was as much about self-discovery as it was about exploring new vistas. The path to recognition in Learning & Teaching similarly involves self-reflection and self-discovery. Sure, there may be no wicked witch of the west, and no good witch of the north in professional recognition processes, but the discovery (and further development) of brains, heart and courage often come about through sound reflective practice, usually along with the ultimate revelation that all three were there all along. And professional recognition is not the degree certificate, clock and medal that the Magnificent Oz gifts the scarecrow, tin man and lion, respectively, that reflect those underlying capacities – but, oh, what a difference that recognition makes!
The ANU forged its relationship with the HEA a few years ago when my colleague Dr Beth Beckmann PFHEA took an idea to my Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington PFHEA, to energise the ANU’s efforts in Learning & Teaching by engaging with the Higher Education Academy to offer professional recognition for teaching and learning support staff at the University. Marnie liked the idea, so Beth set about making it happen. Around that time, Marnie had seconded me from my usual life as a Statistics Professor into her portfolio to lead the development of another initiative designed to support staff at ANU - Education Indicators for Promotion, a comprehensive set of activities and supporting evidence examples that staff could use as a guide when assembling promotions applications. The idea was to give staff tools to evidence their claims for promotion – with a particular focus on teaching. The link between professional recognition and promotion is strong – and so it was natural that I became involved as Beth’s right-hand person in seeking accreditation with HEA for the ANU to offer its own professional recognition scheme, the Educational Fellowship Scheme (EFS). After many, many pages of accreditation material, and an initial band of one PFHEA (me) and eight SFHEA’s rewarded by direct application to HEA (forming the basis of an initial core set of assessors), the EFS was born in early 2013. Some 500 Fellows later, over 300 at ANU and the rest spread across our vastly dispersed sector (including into New Zealand), there is now an extraordinary base of Fellows down under.
Working towards building this juggernaut has not been all plain sailing. Rewarding effective teaching at a strongly research-focussed university has had its moments, but we have had the strong support of our DVC(A) and our Nobel-Laureate Vice-Chancellor, Professor Brian Schmidt SFHEA (the first Nobel Laureate to hold an HEA Fellowship). We also engaged productively with an Office for Learning and Teaching/HEA initiative, the Transforming Practice Programme (TPP), led by Professor Patrick Crookes PFHEA, within which we explored the fledgling links between our growing Educational Fellowship Scheme and promotions policies and practices at the ANU. Over the last couple of years, as the EFS has taken hold as a central part of the Learning & Teaching landscape at the ANU, an increasing number of staff at ANU have been promoted with teaching being a central part of their case for promotion.
With brains, heart and courage (not to mention the ruby red slippers), we have taken an amazing journey down the Yellow Brick Road. With the EFS now firmly embedded at ANU and beginning its second term of HEA accreditation, we have a strong core of outstanding, effective and professionally recognised teachers at Australia’s National University. As Dorothy might say, “There’s no place like home!”