Congratulations to Dr. Penny Van Bergen from the Department of Educational Studies who has recently been awarded Advance Higher Education Senior Fellowship.

The HEA Fellowship program is a formal recognition scheme for professional practice in higher education teaching and learning support. Fellowships are awarded to individuals who successfully apply to the Advance HE Academy, for their teaching and learning support experience, accomplishments and practice. There are four categories of HEA Fellowship: Associate Fellowship, Fellowship, Senior Fellowship and Principle Fellowship.

And Gladly caught up with Penny and asked her about her teaching and her approach to the fellowship application process.

Tell us a bit about your teaching and what you included in your fellowship application.

In the first part of my application I talked about professional development workshops and mentoring I have provided to beginning lecturers and tutors at Macquarie. My primary teaching responsibility is for a large educational psychology unit called The Learner, in which I teach my students about how learners develop across time, how memory and attention ‘work’, and how socio-emotional factors influence the learning process. Much of this knowledge is relevant for higher education teaching too, and so I also try to share this knowledge with new staff outside my discipline.

In the second part of my application I talked about initiatives I have designed to engage education students in high-quality educational research. Evidence-based classroom practice in schools is critical, and yet education students often draw a false distinction between research (for academics in labs) and classroom practice (for teachers on the ground). To bridge this gap, I’ve led the development two undergraduate research scholarship schemes, a research support page on iLearn, and new research-led curricula. Others in my department have also been involved in similar initiatives, and together I think we’re making great progress in changing student mindsets about the importance of research.

Would you recommend others do this – why?

Yes, but with a caveat. I think it is important to do it for the right reasons. The application takes time, and it can be uncomfortable focusing entirely on yourself. On the positive side, it provides a really great opportunity for reflecting on your own teaching, making connections between theory and practice, and considering new directions in a strategic and systematic way. With this in mind, I would time your run when you think that reflection would be most useful to you, and when it can be used as a tool to support your future activity.

Why is it important to recognise teaching in this way?

Teaching is a core business of the university, and together we change the lives of thousands of students. I think research has traditionally been better recognised than teaching, but both are absolutely critical. The more visible we make teaching, the better we collectively become in supporting student learning.

Posted by Kylie Coaldrake

Learning and Teaching Development Coordinator, Office of PVC (Education)

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