I’ve known for weeks, but only today, 28th July 2011, do the Higher Education Academy National Teaching Fellowships get formally announced. I am very proud to have got one. In one sense I sound a bit of a cliché saying that — it’s what everyone says — but it means a good deal to me that I have been given this award. The process of applying was one I quite enjoyed, even though it undoubtedly put me under some time pressures during the spring term in order to do so. You effectively have to create a convincing and coherent narrative about yourself as a university teacher/lecturer. For once — thankfully — there is no real template or proforma. You create your own account.
By far the most meaningful part of the whole process for me was what happened when I had to solicit ‘evidence’ from colleagues and students to support my application. The cynics amongst my readers could say that this basically means getting people to say nice things about you. It does, but there is, of course, no guarantee they will. I approached a number of students — mostly ex-students. The relationship can feel a bit more complicated if you are still marking someone’s work – of course they are going to say nice things! But the genuine enthusiasm and warmth of my students’ responses, and their absolute willingness to write supporting statements for me, was one of the highlights of my year, if not actually my entire academic career. I recognised myself in what they said, but also saw myself through their eyes. I printed out all their comments and will always keep them.
In addition some of my own colleagues at Wolverhampton and from English departments elsewhere also gave me supporting statements, and I am very grateful to them and also to Jane Gawthrope, Jonathan Gibson and Brett Lucas from the English Subject Centre for doing so.
I am not, as yet, entirely sure what being a National Teaching Fellow means or involves. This is probably not an existential question I am going to lose sleep over, and we get ‘briefed’ come October. It means I can use the title, but much more significantly it says something about teaching mattering to me, and about something of my identity as an academic — in part — being a teacher. Of that I’m proud.
Our local hospital is pioneering the use of can openers
for brain surgery, hip replacements and bypasses.
This will apparently save the NHS so much money
(they said on Central News) that if successful
every household in the country
is to be given its very own can opener
and trained to perform such operations at home.
The Minister for Health is certain
it will also be possible to remove teeth, warts and verrucas
with can openers that have had only minimal adaptation.
In time the money saved from the entire population
undertaking major procedures on each other in the kitchen
with only negligible rising of mortality rates
will be used to commission a state-of-the-art laser can opener
connected to a computer the size of just one tin of baked beans
which nonetheless will have parts with such precision
your lover will be able to put you to sleep
and open up the serrated edges of your heart.
It all began for me several years ago when I undertook a postgraduate teaching certificate in Higher Education and there was a module on ‘Technology Supported Learning’. I sat at the back with my arms folded for most of it and thought “this doesn’t have much to do with me”. The assessment, however, required me to discuss how I was using an aspect of technology-supported learning in my teaching, which I wasn’t. In desperation I spent a couple of long evenings locked in my work office with my computer, a takeaway and Wolverhampton’s guide to using our Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). I then tried out a four-week experiment with my Level 3 Fin de Siècle undergraduate class. I set up a few online activities and encouraged them to join in. Some did, some didn’t, but enough did for me to be able to evaluate their responses to what they’d done online via a questionnaire, and based on those responses I took the leap of making a much more intergated online component part of my two Level 3 Victorian classes for the following academic year.
Getting to grips with any new teaching practice or approach is always a question of trying it out and seeing what works, refining if necessary. There’s been a fair amount of that over the subsequent years, perhaps particularly around the area of assessing online.
I couldn’t now, however, imagine teaching these two modules without their online component. They’d be lesser courses without it.
This blog started in 2009 about an academic year in the life of me, Rosie Miles, who teaches English at the University of Wolverhampton in the UK. The aim is to give a ‘hands on’ account of being an e-tutor on the courses I teach that have an integrated online component, using our Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) WOLF (the Wolverhampton Online Learning Framework).
The modules which I have used to develop online activities both concern the Victorians: one is a module on the ‘high’ Victorian period, and the other on the Fin de Siècle. My blog aims to describe the various activities and other related issues about being an -e-tutor. I sometimes also stray off topic into other poetry and literature interests.
In 2011 I was awarded a National Teaching Fellowship, in part for the online work I have done in English Studies. I was also an E-Learning Consultant for the HEA English Subject Centre for several years until its closure in July 2011 and visited HE English Departments around the UK demoing some of the activities I describe in my blog. If you are in an HE English Department and would like to see more of what I describe here then please invite me. R.Miles@wlv.ac.uk