Saturday, 31 December 2016

2016: Reflections and the year ahead

"Which paths will you pursue, and which will you abandon? Which relationships will you prioritise, during your shockingly limited lifespan, and who will you resign yourself to disappointing? What matters?" (Burkeman, 2016)

Lots of reflective articles do the rounds at this time of year - out of all the recent ones I found the one above most pertinent. I started 2016 on a similar note by reading Reasons to stay alive by Matt Haigh Both discuss the fragility of life and the choices we make with the time we have. I've had enough personal experiences to know the truth of this, yet still feel that it can't be said or read enough.


I've been writing these blogposts for the last few years (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015) and find them helpful to look back on and compare the plans I made, the decisions I took and how I've changed during in the process.

"Ultimately, I'll be glad to see the end of 2015 and have tentative hopes that 2016 will be less chaotic."

This is what I wrote at the end of last year's roundup and while 2016 has not been particularly smooth it was not as much of a struggle as 2015.

Some of the positive things I did in 2016:
  • In February, I presented at the joint Information Literacy (IL) Group and the Tinder Foundation event on sharing knowledge of digital literacy practice between universities and public libraries - my write-up of this.
  • I was a guest lecturer for UCL MA Library and Information Science students in March. I enjoyed this and will be doing another stint next year -  in the same Leadership and Management module but on a different topic.
  • I started and completed an accreditation  programme to gain FHEA status within the Higher Education Academy - I find out in February if I've passed
  • In May, I volunteered to offer mindfulness workshops at my workplace. I initially stepped in to cover a vacancy but now provide them once a month - my write-up at the start of this
  • In July, I presented at the CPD25 event on staff development, specifically the PTTLs qualification
  • I revalidated my Chartership again
  • I started the Aurora programme, a leadership development programme for women in higher education. I am finding this incredibly valuable.
  • I started a regular yoga practice again
  • I applied to work from home regularly - this means I am able to see more of my little person which has a huge impact on my happiness levels 
  • I took a proper holiday - not exactly relaxing due to the small child in attendance but still something completely different
  • I joined the Journal of Information Literacy team

Conscious ambition

Everything I've chosen to do this year has been selected consciously with one or more of the following reasons in mind:
  • they will further my career/open up options
  • they will improve my knowledge in an area that I wish to know more about
  • it is something I believe strongly in
  • they are fun/interesting
This has worked well so far, with the occasional feeling of sadness that I can't take on ALL THE THINGS, but this is fleeting. I will definitely continue with this approach and try to hone it even further .

A change of scenery over the summer

Asking for help

It's been almost two years since I had a full night's sleep so it is important I take extra care of myself to prevent crashing - literally and metaphorically. I've been told on several occasions throughout my life that I present myself as calm and as if I don't need any help but also that I should probably ask for some. I have endeavoured to take this on board and it has already proven rewarding both emotionally and socially.

Keeping hold of my self

It's not that I've let my self go, necessarily, but that some of it has been put on hold. The Aurora programme and various people in my life have kept it from disappearing completely and this year I hope to get some of it back by doing more of what I enjoy - reading, gardening, yoga, running and learning new things.

This post is long enough now so I'll leave it here. I'm hoping we've all learned something from this last year and I wish everyone a fabulous 2017! What are your plans? Feel free to leave comments below.

Monday, 19 December 2016

The end of Fellowship?

This is the final part of my series of blog posts on gaining Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy.

If you’ve already read last week’s post you’ll know that I have completed my FHEA accreditation portfolio. I am very happy about this. Students and other staff may not know or care about it but it is a process I have found valuable and if it is accepted (I find out in February) then I will get a few extra letters after my name.

At the beginning of 2016, I decided to look into what gaining accreditation for my teaching involved. As my confidence had taken a nose-dive after various personal issues, I felt I needed to ‘prove’ myself again.

Rather than repeat everything I’ve done for it, here are a few links to the process I went through:
  • Embarking on Fellowship: More reasons as to why I started the process, an outline of the different types of accreditation the Higher Education Academy provides and the various route my institution provides to gain the award.
  • Choosing an FHEA mentor: I was required to have a mentor who was absolutely marvellous. This post covers what traits are required in a mentor and how I chose mine.
  • FHEA progress to date: Reflective Assessment Portfolio. I was required to write and collate a portfolio. This post contains information about what that consisted of and a more detailed look at the core knowledge and professional values I needed to demonstrate across the five small and two large case studies, as well as the professional development plan.
  • Technologies, peer-assisted learning, FHEA case studies...with a touch of Frost. This post goes into more detail about the two larger case studies submitted in the portfolio. The workshops were observed by academics at my institution, one of whom was my mentor. They offered feedback on improvements and used them to inform the references they provided – another requirement of the accreditation.

While it’s felt like quite a long process, I actually completed it ahead of my deadline by three months. As I took the Open route the deadline is chosen by the participant rather than the institution so there was no need to set this particular time – although it does feel nice to have submitted before Christmas.

So, these are the advantages I've found in doing this:

Accreditation – The award and the letters show to others that I currently teach to the standard set by the Higher Education Academy. If I wish to continue working in ‘teaching and learning’, which I do, then this is a useful addition to my CV.

A closer relationship with the members of staff - A member of an academic division has observed a workshops, offered improvements and written me a glowing reference. Another has mentored me for the last nine months and she is now more aware of what my work involves. She has been incredible in her support. She also observed a workshop and provided an amazing reference. I generally find it quite challenging to accept help but this has encouraged me to do that.

Putting my own work into context – Teaching is a large percentage of my role:I deliver inductions for new students; workshops and lectures for a range of Social Science cohorts; mindfulness workshops, and social media workshops to faculty and students.I also co-ordinate and promote my workplace’s digital literacy programme. I am generally up to date with most of what’s happening in the education sector, however, this has been a timely reminder to remain aware of the impact of external factors on the way I enable students to learn. 

Ultimately, I think it has been worth the effort for the reasons above and because it has helped me to regain some of my confidence. Of course, the point of doing this is to keep improving and learning, so it’s not the end and I'm looking forward to developing further.