Last week I shared the first of my three case studies from my FHEA application, “From micro-management to effective supervision”. This week I want to share my second case study from that application, which discusses some of the challenges present in today’s highly diverse university classrooms and how I tried to address them. While the case study I’m sharing here focuses mainly on my experience as a module convenor with overall responsibility for the content, delivery, and assessment of a sequence of modules that were delivered to a mixed undergraduate and postgraduate cohort, similar challenges actually permeate most if not all areas of academic practice.
Personally, I first became interested in this topic during my first year as a teaching assistant, and I actually wrote one of my case studies for my Associate Fellowship application back in 2016 on facilitating active tutorial participation from conversion MA students with different academic and cultural backgrounds. Back then, I felt frustrated, because despite my best efforts at being engaging, encouraging, and supportive, there was a subset of students in all my tutorials whom I seemingly couldn’t get to fully participate, which I felt negatively affected both their own achievement on the module and the experience of the other tutorial participants.
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A little over a year ago I signed up for UCL’s Arena Two course, which consists of a series of lectures, events, and activities intended to facilitate the development of our didactic and pedagogical knowledge and abilities, with the final aim to apply for recognition as a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA) — a scheme meant to provide transferable professional recognition for teaching in higher education. After a bit of interruption to the end of that programme due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic last year, I finally managed to complete my FHEA application in November 2020 and was recognised as a Fellow in February this year.
I found the entire process really useful to me personally, though as so often it definitely is one of these things where you only get out as much as you’re willing to put in. What I found especially beneficial personally was the reflective element involved in peer discussion throughout the programme and in writing the three case studies for the fellowship application, which really helped me with both my confidence and professional development as a teacher, and a big part of that was not just sharing and reflecting upon my own practice, but seeing what other people were doing, where they felt they needed to improve, and what they were trying to do about it. This I found would often give me an impetus to think about parallels in my own practice and consequently influence how I approached or contextualised similar issues when I encountered them. In line with this, I thought it might be a nice idea to share my own three case studies here.
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