“The best part …was the peer discussion with both my colleagues who commented on my teaching approach through the peer observation process and my academic mentor who let me through a constructive feedback recognise the areas I should work on and improve as well as how to show my key strengths.”
Tell us about yourself:
My name is Najah Battikh and I have been working at Swansea University as a Teaching tutor in Chemical Engineering since September 2017. In addition to Swansea University, my experience has come from teaching in other two higher education institutions in and outside the UK. I have worked for 2 years as a full-time Teaching Fellow at the School of Chemical Engineering, Al-Baath University, Syria and then at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh for 4 years as a Teaching Assistant in Chemical Engineering.
Why did gaining Fellowship recognition matter to you? Why apply?
Developing my career as an academic in the UK is my ultimate aim so I am always looking to develop my teaching qualifications and research focus. Obtaining the fellowship status meant a good step not only to develop my career but also to promote my teaching with advanced and creative pedagogical input.
What did you “glean” from the process of preparing an application with reference to the UK PSF?
Reflecting on my teaching practice offered me great opportunity to evaluate what I am doing and find out possible ways for improvement based on critical reading and understanding of pedagogical research and practice. To do so, I have been exposed to wide range of readings that discuss different pedagogical methods related to the five areas of activities; this has provided me with a better repository of knowledge in this subject in comparison to what I gained when I prepared for my Associate Fellow status.
How it has impacted the way in which you think about educating learners in the Higher Education environment?
Reading through different pedagogical frameworks has enabled me to recognise how much flexible the teaching approach should be in order to adapt to the specific dynamic and size of the learning groups at different levels. Understanding the wider context has highlighted to me that enhancing the teaching approach starts at the early stages in the selection, the preparation and the design of the delivered knowledge. Also, it changed my perception on how technology would be used and enabled me diversify the use of different technologies in my delivery based on the teaching activity, ultimately to maximise the students’ engagement and understanding.
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?
In such a multicultural higher education environment, I believe two UKPSF components are crucial to the success of teaching approach; they are:
1. Students engagement in terms of their diversity as well as learning activities
2. The suitability and strength of the core knowledge
Students’ engagement does not only fertilise the energy of the learning activity but also it enhances and maximises the learning outcomes of the students regardless their levels. The knowledge must be suitable for the level of learners in order to meet the principle of diversity and to support weak students. However, it should have the element that triggers further exploration by students.
What were good parts of the application process? What things were more challenging?
The best part that contributed the most to the development of my application was the peer discussion with both my colleagues who commented on my teaching approach through the peer observation process and my academic mentor who let me through a constructive feedback recognise the areas I should work on and improve as well as how to show my key strengths. Being a researcher in chemical engineering, I encountered a challenge when I started reading about teaching and learning theories as it was totally a different and new subject. This challenge was dissolved when the readings started to have more applications of the theories so I could understand the theories in a better way.
How you have continued to apply the standards of the UK PSF in your work since gaining that recognition? i.e. maintaining good standing.
Running different teaching activities (lecturing, lab, etc.) for both undergraduate and postgraduate courses has urged me to keep looking for strategies to engage students and maximise their learning outcomes. I have kept looking for and employing different technologies to aid students thinking as well as encourage their engagement and critical reflection during the class. Also, before the start of this academic year I worked on updating teaching materials and programmes according to the knowledge and skills I gained from the application process, so I check knowledge stability, diversified the teaching activities with other sessions (peer-discussion, students’ presentations and feedback, research tasks, etc.) and improved the design of my lectures presentations to contain more engaging materials.
For someone not sure about applying, what words of encouragement could you offer?
Going through this process will definitely change your perception and thinking about teaching in higher education. You will recognise a huge conversion in the way you will be talking about pedagogy in higher education afterwards. It is a professional qualification but, on the other hand, directly contributes to your teaching approach, students’ satisfaction and, consequently, to the promotion of your academic career.
What top tips would you offer to someone preparing a Fellowship application – any category?
It is crucial to, first of all, understand what do you do in your teaching and what are your key strengths and weaknesses. Read through different practices and theories and believe you always have much to add to your approach. We all teach and do some mistakes so critically and honestly discuss your approaches with colleagues so you get the best reflection that can help you to enhance your practice.