Celebrating 500 Fellows at Swansea University – HEA Fellowship – an investment for your future

In this difficult period of adjusting to online learning and teaching, gaining recognition for your teaching as an HEA Fellow may not be something at the foremost of your to do list. However its a very rewarding application process, enabling you to reflect on your teaching practice, celebrate the approaches that have worked well and consider ways to support more effective student learning. As part of SALT’s 500 Fellows celebration, read how one of our current Fellows and assessors found it helpful along with their application tips.

Dr. Rhys Jones, Senior Lecturer and Programme Director for the MA in Digital Media in the College of Arts and Humanities shares his experience of applying the UK PSF in his teaching practice and tips from his role as mentor and assessor for those applying for HEA Fellowship through the Swansea Application Route for experienced staff. Rhys gained HEA Fellowship recognition through completion of the PG Cert in teaching in HE (PGCtHE) in 2012 through the medium of Welsh. He has been assessing PGCtHE portfolios since 2015, and supporting the Swansea Application Route since 2017. (More details about Rhys: https://www.swansea.ac.uk/staff/arts-and-humanities/academic/jonesr/)


“I’ve been working at Swansea University for twelve years, first as a Welsh-medium teaching fellow, then as a lecturer in Digital Media.  I finished the PG Cert in 2012 when it was a large portfolio of work with cross-references at the front to the UK Professional Standards Framework [1]. In some respects, I feel I started the PG Cert too early, because I found the reflection on practice to be so important and I didn’t have that much teaching experience to reflect upon.  I really enjoyed covering aspects of the theories about learning and learning about varying methods to gain feedback from students.  For example, “minute papers [2]”, where students identify one thing learnt from the session – which I use in paper and electronic form as part of my ‘teaching toolkit’ – the variety of tools I can use to gauge how students are learning and how effective my teaching is.”

What is the most important dimension of practice of the UKPSF for you?

“It’s a jigsaw.  You cannot view them in isolation – they need one another and even if you consider the Areas of Activity by themselves, the Core Knowledge and Professional Values- the Ks and Vs – are implicit. It’s likely you won’t be an effective teacher if you view them in isolation.  For me now, it’s difficult to separate these dimensions.”

So, given your subject (lecturer in digital media), how much important is K4 – the use and value of appropriate technology – to you?

“The key word there is appropriate. You have to critically examine why you are using the technology. Ironically in the PG Cert I used a paper version, rather than an electronic version, of the “minute paper” approach to evaluate the effectiveness of my teaching intervention (K5) and when asked why, well I explained that it was the technology most appropriate to the circumstances. That’s the value of K4: it comes down to knowing what is possible and when and how to use it.  This morning I used Kahoot, sometimes I use PollEverywhere[3], but on other occasions I use Google Forms to collect information about student needs as part of their dissertation preparation for example.  Certain digital technologies can establish the student’s baseline level of knowledge, check surface level understanding.  It’s about knowing what you want to do first, then asking yourself, is a digital approach appropriate? It can be as unhelpful to rush into using digital technologies as it can be not to use them at all. You need to have an awareness of when and why to use them.”

What’s been the impact on your practice of your assessing role?

It’s been pleasing to see, ….that there is some universality in teaching regardless of the discipline

“It’s been pleasing to see, through reading or talking with applicants, that there is some universality in teaching regardless of the discipline.  For example, being a bit worried about teaching large classes!  It doesn’t matter if it’s management, science or engineering, the teacher can feel the same!

I’ve also been able to take some tips from other applications and apply that in my own practice.”

How else have you maintained ‘good standing’ as an HEA Fellow

“I’ve not been able to go to many formal CPD sessions through SALT/staff development.  But for us, having colleagues nearby on one corridor – this is vitally important to enable corridor conversations to take place.  I can go and discuss how a session has gone and share tips on different approaches.  This enables us to impact one another’s practice.

I do consider Twitter to be part of my CPD: I follow some key people who are teaching interesting courses, teaching in my discipline or cognate subject area and I also follow some HEA Principal Fellows – they often have interesting stuff to share.  I follow some hashtags also such as #AcademicTwitter which can be very useful as long as you’re prepared to filter through tweets.  I also occasionally lurk around #LTHEChat [4]

Words of Encouragement for Future applicants?

“It’s worth applying, because it will help you reflect on your teaching practice. We really don’t do that enough because of time pressures, but developing your application will give you a more holistic view of your role and will help you to be better in the classroom.

Don’t be scared of the teaching theories either – there are nuggets of wisdom. I’m very keen on evidence-based pedagogical interventions. I particularly welcome the work of Professor Phil Newton – he busts many myths [5]. And don’t think that new is always good – for instance there’s a lot of encouragement to go to a flipped classroom approach, but there is evidence that a well-planned and presented lecture can be just as effective in supporting student learning.”

Top Tips for someone putting a claim for HEA Fellowship together?

Think of it as an investment for your future, for developing your personal journey through reflection on your practice

“Read the material on teaching approaches and teaching in your discipline but be critical of it. Is it underpinned by literature (V3) and does it consider how students learn (K3)? Also, try and apply that material in your work. For example, if it’s known that students learn better in short periods of teaching activity, then design your teaching sessions accordingly.

Also be open to be critical of your own teaching. A major reason for referring applications is that the person hasn’t demonstrated that their approach is effective, mainly because they haven’t reflected on their practice. Of course there is a great complexity of factors to take into account with different student cohorts, but you can acknowledge these caveats and recognise that perhaps there is scope for a change.

You may think you don’t have enough time to put in a ‘good’ application, but think of it as an investment for your future, for developing your personal journey through reflection on your practice.”

And where are you heading?

“Well. I’ve been programme director for the MA in Digital Media since 2013. That enables me to have a much broader perspective of our provision – to consider: what are incoming students looking for? How does our curriculum align with industry and subject benchmarks? I’ve also just finished six years as departmental assessment officer and been able, I hope, to influence the practices of my colleagues about QA of assessment. At some point, I’ll be considering an application for Senior Fellowship.”


[1]The UKPSF was updated in 2011.  Rhys’ work was referenced to the version of the framework that applied prior to then.

[2] There is a range of summaries about the use and value of minute papers. An early article is that of Stead D. (2005) “ A review of the one-minute paper”, in Active Learning In Higher Education Vol 6(2), 118-131. (https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1469787405054237)

[3] There is a range of options to engage students and to check their understanding.  See SALT’s website for a comparison of these: https://salt.swan.ac.uk/polling-solutions-aka-clickers/

[4] LTHEChat is a weekly Twitter chat hosted on Wednesday evenings 8- 9 p.m. during term-time on a variety of topics: https://lthechat.com/

[5] Phil Newton’s staff profile: https://www.swansea.ac.uk/staff/medicine/learningandteaching/newtonpm/.


For help interpreting the UKPSF Dimensions of Practice, see these resources available on the HEA’s website: https://www.advance-he.ac.uk/knowledge-hub/dimensions-framework.

Also, see SALT’s website for information about Senior Fellow criteria: https://salt.swan.ac.uk/routes-to-fellowship-2/

Remaining in Good Standing is expected as part of the Code of Practice for HEA Fellows – see SALT website: https://salt.swan.ac.uk/after-fellowship-what-next/

Since this interview in February 2020, many things have changed in how we teach/support learning in HE! Notably, in the use of appropriate learning technologies and also that the design and implementation of effective learning activities remain vitally important, whether face to face, or delivered online or asynchronously.

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