Engage in the process of innovation, as a top chef would do.
My Name is Almudena Ortiz, and I am a lecturer in the Biosciences Department. I teach molecular biology and microbiology for first-year biology, zoology, and marine biology students.
I am originally from Spain, where I earned my PhD from the University of Cordoba. Before getting a lectureship at Swansea University, I was a postdoctoral associate at the University of Florida for five years. I have been teaching at Swansea University for a little bit longer than two years.
Do you recall what you initially thought about the UK Professional Standards Framework at the start of the course? What did you know about Fellowship?
To be honest, I did not know much about the fellowship at the beginning. I knew that obtaining fellowship was one of my probation targets, but it wasn’t until the PGCert induction that I become familiar with the reasons why it is important for early-career academics, like me, to consolidate their commitment directed at maximizing the students’ learning experience via taking a PGCert in Higher Education.
In my opinion, the UKPSF gives academics with teaching responsibilities guidance on how to deliver quality teaching in Higher Education. The purpose of UKPSF is to promote good practices by encouraging lecturers to research and review the pedagogy, adopting an inclusive and empathetic teaching approach, and embarking on a life-long journey aimed to improve their delivery.
My teaching identity has been shaped by my career choices, my previous experience, my commitment to the students, and the acquisition of a sense of competence throughout the past years
Towards the end, you were asked to reflect back over the course and how your practice related to the UKPSF. What did you “glean” from preparing that final assignment?
While I was preparing for the final assignment, I spent quite a long time reflecting on how my identity as a teacher has developed since I started my academic career as a PhD student. My teaching identity has been shaped by my career choices, my previous experience, my commitment to the students, and the acquisition of a sense of competence throughout the past years. These aspects, however, have been enhanced by the environment where I now develop my teaching. For me, feeling part of a community, like the HEA, that facilitates professional development through mentoring, consultation, learning, and reflection is central to develop a unique teaching identity and deliver competent and effective teaching.
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?
This is going to sound a bit cliché, but I feel that the three dimensions of the framework are equally important. When I started lecturing, I was more focused on the core knowledge, e.g., the subject material, researching the appropriate learning technologies, or choosing the best method of evaluating teaching effectiveness. Now, my focus point is broader and incorporates aspects from the other two dimensions like developing more effective learning environments and approaches to support students, or recognizing the importance of good professional practices in Higher Education.
How it has impacted the way in which you think about educating learners in the Higher Education environment?
I guess now I am more aware of my responsibilities as an instructor. The PGCert program and the UKPSF have helped me step up my teaching. The design and the structure of my lectures, and the way I deliver them have changed drastically in the last two years.
You got a PGCert but you also gained Fellowship recognition. Why did gaining Fellowship recognition matter to you?
Obtaining fellowship makes me feel recognized as a professional within the community of Higher Education. Also, I feel more accomplished now that I can tick off one of my probationary targets.
How are you planning to continue to apply what you’ve learnt from the PGCert and especially the standards of the UK PSF in your teaching? i.e. maintaining good standing
Delivering effective teaching while acknowledging the importance of treating every student as an individual is a continuous process. I feel you can always polish something, e.g., your slides, the content, the assessments, etc. It is hard to find the ‘recipe’ that works for teaching your class, and when you find it, you should engage in the process of innovation, as a top chef would do.
What top tips would you offer to someone who is starting to teach in higher education – they may or may not be starting the PGCert?
- Be patient, gathering good content and making your class engaging takes time (at least 2-3 semesters).
- Be open to learn and take advice from your peers.
- Take on the students’ feedback but only the constructive comments.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself. Understand that you cannot cater to everybody, so stop living in fear of the students’ evaluations.
- You will be a good teacher; it is a matter of time and effort.