Celebrating 500 Fellows at Swansea University – Laura Mason

“Leadership should be about being a role model and helping and supporting colleagues to think more about their teaching and ways in which they could enhance their practice for their students and themselves.”

“I think it’s important that we value great teaching, and teachers, in HE. For me fellowship is one of the ways that we can show this commitment.”

Tell us about yourself:

I’m Dr. Laura Mason a sport and exercise scientist from the College of Engineering. I came to Swansea as an undergrad in 2000 and never left. I’ve been teaching here since 2005. I became a fellow of the HEA in 2015 just before the Swansea direct application route began and a senior fellow through the SAR written route in 2018.

Why did gaining Fellowship recognition matter to you? Why apply?

Within the College of Engineering I sit in the learning and teaching enhancement centre (LTEC) so I’m committed to trying to enhance the taught experience we offer our students. I think it’s important that we value great teaching, and teachers, in HE. For me fellowship is one of the ways that we can show this commitment.

What did you “glean” from the process of preparing an application with reference to the UK PSF?

Preparing the application is essentially like doing an audit of your teaching and teaching related activities. It’s a very useful experience for that reason, even before you have written a word for the application itself.

How it has impacted the way in which you think about educating learners in the Higher Education environment?

It has opened my eyes to a whole new research area where educating learners is the focus. I read more pedagogic research and think much more about my modules and how I can develop and evaluate them.

What is the most important element of the UKPSF in your opinion – the Areas of Activity, Core Knowledge or Professional Values – or any particular one and why?

The areas of activity are the key (although I couldn’t pick just one!). This is what we actually do in our role as lecturers and is the bread and butter of the UKPSF, just strengthened by the core knowledge and professional values. It’s what you actually do to enhance your teaching and students education!

What were good parts of the application process? What things were more challenging?

The best part about the process is that it gives you the opportunity to really think about your teaching practice and reflect on that element of your career. It’s a really good stock check. It’s a nice opportunity to meet new colleagues from across the university at the preparation workshops too. The most challenging thing for me was the writing style. I never write anything in the first person and found it very difficult to write about myself and my achievements without being overly critical in my reflection.  

How you have continued to apply the standards of the UK PSF in your work since gaining that recognition? i.e. maintaining good standing.

Like most of us I am continuously looking for ways to improve my modules so feel like I am in a cycle of evaluation and change. Being an assessor as part of the Swansea application route keeps the UKPSF fresh in my mind but it also allows me to see some great examples of good practice from other colleges across the university and cherry pick ideas. It’s like a year round SALT conference (but with more paperwork!). Being a HEA fellow also gives you access to some great resources and contacts through Advance HE which has been really useful in continuing to develop and enhance my practice.

For someone not sure about applying, what words of encouragement could you offer?

If you have been teaching in HE for some time you know you have the core knowledge and the chances are that you are doing all the areas activities with professional values underpinning it. So it’s really just about giving yourself time to piece it all together and dig out the evidence to support your application.

What top tips would you offer to someone preparing a Fellowship application – any category?

“Block off some time. Do the self-diagnosis and gather your evidence first”

Block off some time. It’s not an easy thing to do dipping your toe in every now and then particularly as, for many of us, it’s a very different style of writing to our academic research work. Do the self-diagnosis and gather your evidence first so you know what you want to write about where.

What’s the key criterion for you about being a Senior Fellow?

The leadership element is obviously the key change from fellowship but it’s important to remember that leadership in this area isn’t about managing colleagues. Leadership should be about being a role model and helping and supporting colleagues to think more about their teaching and ways in which they could enhance their practice for their students and themselves.

 

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