My job title at the University of Reading is Academic Developer in the Centre for Quality, Support and Development. The Centre has three sections: Quality Assurance and Policy (QAP), Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL), and Academic Development & Enhancement (ADE). I work in the latter ADE section alongside seven other academic developers.
A key role for me is contributing to the University’s Academic Practice Programme (APP) that is designed for new staff. The APP is the taught route towards Higher Education Academy (HEA) recognition. My responsibility is to convene the second module of the APP that leads to full HEA Fellowship. The majority of participants on my module are probationary lecturers whereas on the first module the participants come from a much wider range of student-facing positions, e.g. disability advisor, graduate teaching assistant, lab technician, etc. Convening the module necessitates detailed planning with other module convenors and the programme director, making arrangements for face-to-face delivery days, managing assessment and moderation matters, and tutoring groups of participants.
Reading University is rolling out two major Teaching & Learning (T&L) strategic initiatives currently: the Curriculum Framework and the Assessment & Feedback Project. I act in support of both. The Framework articulates academic and pedagogic principles and makes explicit graduate attributes. It is used to inform the design, approval and review of curricula. One strand of the Framework is the internationalisation of higher education. It is my responsibility to work in partnership with colleagues across the University, sharing expertise, creating or sourcing resources and supporting them as they introduce and evaluate measures to internationalise their curricula. I am due to take up a liaison role, too, with a partner institution in China that has requested professional development provision for its academic staff. For the Assessment & Feedback Project I act in support of a fellow academic developer to enhance practice in this vital area of concern.
In addition to the above major roles, I manage and develop my department’s blog – the T&L Exchange. This blog hosts case studies, most of which are reports on internally funded teaching and learning projects that have been conducted by University staff and students, often collaboratively. Currently I am revitalising this blog through adoption of a fresh interface and by exploring ways via social media to increase readership and connectedness with a larger community of interested parties across the higher education sector in the UK and beyond.
Furthermore, I sit as an advisor on one committee, namely the Enhancing Student Engagement Steering Group and I am secretary of the Postgraduate Taught Programme Directors’ Community of Practice which focuses on the quality of student experience and engagement. These two relatively minor roles are valuable to me because they provide wider exposure to T&L developments across the institution.
Finally, I am in the planning stages of conducting a small-scale research project into international undergraduate students’ adoption and selection of productivity apps for learning. This venture involves my colleagues in TEL, the Student Success & Engagement Department and an academic School – the International Study & Language Institute.
In Week 2 of the SLEC, I completed a self-diagnosis of my confidence levels in areas of activity/awareness as an academic developer:
What are my strengths?
Having worked in so many contexts, I think I am open to multiple perspectives on educational development issues. Everything else that I feel able to do to support colleagues and initiatives really stems from this openness, I believe. On a more technical expertise note, I suppose that I am strong in technology enhanced learning, diversity & inclusion and internationalisation of higher education.
What are my priorities for improvement?
I really need to appreciate the UK scene better and perhaps this could be achieved through more exposure at national events, e.g. participation in conferences. I need also to think on a grander scale, aim for wider impact. At the moment, I’m still mostly focused on helping individual lecturers, single departments or programmes.