Students Staff

9 October 2015

It’s not only new students arriving at Essex

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Steve McMellor @ 2.36 pm

It is that busy time of year again with the squares packed with new faces as students arrive and find their feet at University. Learning and Development staff have also been busy over the last few weeks organising and hosting a wide range of induction events and training for new staff arriving at the University. These events are both a welcome to our new staff arrivals and also a primer to ensure they are prepared to deliver the excellent student experience that Essex is known for.


Professor Aletta Norval (PVC Education) introduces the education strategy to new academic staff

Over the last two weeks we have had 85 new academic and research staff attend an induction event where they were introduced to the University’s mission and strategic plan by the VC and our research and education strategies from the relevant PVC’s. They were introduced to the support services available to staff and students offered by Student Support, Learning and Teaching Technologies, Learning and Development, the Students Union and HR.

At the same time, in the Ivor Crewe lecture hall, postgraduate students preparing to work as Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTA) attended a two day event made up of a wide range of professional development sessions. 78 students received a welcome from Dr Luis Vasconcelos, Director of Research Training and attended a range of sessions with expert guest speakers. Professor Alan Mortiboys provided sessions on active learning, reflective professional practice and dealing with difficult situations, while renowned voice coach Stewart Theobold ran sessions on the effective use of the voice and pronunciation for non-native speakers. Postgraduate students also attended sessions on preparing to teach for the first time as well as having the opportunity to complete mandatory training such as the University’s equality and diversity and basic fire safety training. The new GTA’s also had the opportunity to question a panel of experienced GTA’s across a range of Schools and Departments about the detail of their roles.

In the same week, 25 postgraduate students attended a one day programme for Graduate Laboratory Assistants (GLA) and Graduate Demonstrators (GD) to better prepare them to demonstrate in practical sessions. Attendees were introduced to the challenges of teaching in labs and practical sessions with sessions with Dr Louise Beard from Biological Sciences and Professor Tracy Robinson from Psychology, as well as staff from Learning and Development. Students from Biological Sciences then go on to have a practical training session in the Biology Teaching Labs with a particular emphasis on lab safety.

This past week saw induction events for 90 new PhD students with a wide range of events to welcome them to Essex and prepare them for the rigors of an Essex PhD and introduce them to the Proficio professional development scheme for postgraduate students, unique to Essex. Two more events are scheduled for the next two weeks, ‘Progressing with your PhD’ and ‘Completing your PhD’ for similar numbers of 2nd and 3rd year PhD students respectively.

CADENZA iconAs part of all of these induction events staff and postgraduate students are introduced to CADENZA, the University’s professional development framework to foster teaching excellence for all staff who teach and/or support learning. The CADENZA pathway is accredited by the Higher Education Academy (HEA) and mapped to the UK Professional Standards Framework. Successful completion of CADENZA leads to four levels of HEA professional recognition through Fellowship. Over the last academic year 132 staff have gained HEA recognition through CADENZA. 57 as Associate Fellow, 58 as Fellow, 14 as Senior Fellow and three at Principal Fellow. Learning and Development will be supporting another 139 staff achieve Fellowship over their probationary period.

This professional recognition is becoming increasingly important with talk of a ‘TEF‘, a teaching excellence version of the REF. With the government committing to the introduction of a Teaching Excellence Framework in England, the HE sector has been asked by Government to improve the quality of information available to students about the teaching expertise of their teaching staff at all levels. As such HEFCE will be working with partners like the QAA and the HEA to collect data at institutional level through the staff record. In light of this you may have received an email from either the PVC for Education (staff) or the Dean of Postgraduate Research and Education (GTAs) asking you to check that your HESA details are correct with respect to your teaching qualifications or professional recognition. One of our main aims here is to reduce the proportion of ‘Don’t knows’ from our record which has been highlighted as an issue across the sector. You can access and edit your own details via HR Organiser under the ‘Update my HESA Details’ tab.

Hopefully you are also aware that you can now use HR Organiser to book all your professional development activities at Essex
via the ‘Book a new Learning Activity’ tab. Details of upcoming workshops for the next academic year can be found on the CADENZA webpages and downloaded as pdfs for GTA’s, PG CHEP participants and general Academic and Research staff. There are also workshops for Professional Services staff and we also have a range of writing workshops coming up to support more experienced academic staff who are required to gain HEA recognition via the CADENZA process.workshops

So with almost 300 new staff and postgraduates officially welcomed to the University over the last few weeks, it is time to start preparing for the January induction events for new Academic and Research staff, new GTA’s, new GLA’s and the annual teaching and learning conference, also held in January. Alongside this and the ongoing programme of professional development workshops, Learning and Development are also working on new online resources to streamline induction, mandatory training and our professional development provision.

You can find out more about the staff development offer at Essex through the Learning and Development web pages, including details of how to find and book workshops using HR Organiser. Alternately you can contact us about any workshops, development activities or professional recognition at


Dr Steve McMellor

Learning and Development Adviser


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28 September 2015

Spotlight on Teaching Quality

Teaching quality: the debate intensifies…

The last few months has — once again — seen increased attention directed towards how Higher Education institutions survey, record and encourage teaching quality amongst their academic staff. In the wake of the Conservative Party’s manifesto commitment to introduce a Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) to partner the existing Research Excellence Framework (REF), much ink has been spilled speculating on what basis and by what means teaching excellence ought to be judged (Grove, 2015a). Particular attention has been given to the (enhanced) role the Higher Education Academy might play (as the body presently responsible for granting individuals and institutions recognition against the UK Professional Standards Framework for teaching and supporting learning in higher education (UKPSF, 2012). The potential for utilising the statistics relating to teaching qualifications amongst HE staff that the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) already collects has been debated. And opinions differ on what weight should be accorded to the results of student surveys – such as National Student Survey – when appraising teaching quality.

Plenty of attention has been drawn to the potential problems involved in using any of the existing institutional structures and metrics. Discussion of the HEA’s future role has already raised the possibility of it becoming a type of education institute which would charge individual fellows – as well as institutions, as it currently does – for membership and monitor their ‘good standing’ in some way (Havergal, 2015). Prospective overreliance on student surveys has drawn the accusation that teaching quality would be unhelpfully and unrevealingly elided with teacher popularity and individuals’ ability to entertain students (Grove, 2015a). Furthermore, the utility of HESA statistics has been questioned by the recent statement (5 August 2015) made by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) which revealed that – in 2013-14 — English universities were not able to submit data on teaching qualifications for 40.8 per cent of their academic staff, preventing HEFCE from making any meaningful comparisons at an institutional level (Grove, 2015b).

How institutions are being proactive

With so many open questions, divergent viewpoints and on-going debates, it is no surprise that more and more individual institutions are being proactive and deciding for themselves what standards they want their staff with teaching responsibilities to reach. For new academic staff at Essex it is clear: if you have education (teaching and learning support) as part of your contract, you are asked to have gained HEA recognition at Fellowship (D2) level by the end of your probationary period (usually three years). This can be done by following a demonstrative, direct application route via the University’s CADENZA process (accredited by the HEA), which is particularly helpful for more experienced teachers. Alternatively, two HEA-accredited developmental pathways are also available: Module 1 of the University’s Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education Practice (PG CHEP) (ideal for any new appointee with little or no teaching experience), and the first part of the Medical and Clinical Education programme (for qualifying member of Health and Human Sciences staff only). If you are thinking of or have recently applied for promotion, you may also find that the University asks you to gain HEA Fellowship (D2) within a couple of years of promotion being granted.

How can you get information, advice and support?

If you are a new member of academic staff with education responsibilities there is a wide range of support available to you. As well as your academic induction to the University, Learning and Development provides a series of ‘Pathways to Fellowship’ workshops which run throughout each autumn term. These help orientate new staff with the University’s probationary requirements relating to professional development, introduce the routes staff can follow to fulfil these and provide opportunities to practise reflective writing and professional log keeping for colleagues who haven’t come across these approaches to CPD before. A wide range of workshops relating to both CADENZA and PG CHEP are run throughout the academic year.

For staff who would like more in-depth advice about how to fulfil probationary requirements (or professional development conditions relating to promotion applications), our Learning and Development Advisers are available for one-to-one consultations (email us to arrange).

What else can you do?

One of the ways in which you can clarify your own status is to make sure the information the University holds about you is up-to-date and accurate. You can update your HESA record at any time via HR Organiser. There is no replacement – of course – for talking with departmental colleagues and your mentor about how to plan appropriate development activities to support your education responsibilities. Such engagement with your disciplinary community at Essex will help you take full account of your current workload and other employment or research-related requirements that you have to fulfil.

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22 September 2015

Welcome to Essex 2015-16

Welcome to academic year 2015-16 at Essex!

We in Learning and Development are really looking forward to working with you and we would like to take this opportunity to remind you of some key ways in which we can help you develop your academic practice.

Recognising your talents and achievements in educationCadenza icon

CADENZA is our very own professional development framework. Accredited by the Higher Education Academy (HEA), CADENZA offers you real variety when it comes to gaining professional recognition for your teaching, tailored as it is to meet the diverse needs of our talented and vibrant academic community.

CADENZA (direct entry) is direct application route to HEA fellowship. This is particularly suited to experienced teachers as you base your claim on the teaching and learning support you have already done and upon which you can reflect deeply.

Practise, Reflect and Develop your academic practicePG CHEP icon

Our Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education Practice (PG CHEP) is a credit-bearing, masters’ level qualification consisting of two modules. Module 1 of PG CHEP leads to Fellow (D2) status with the HEA as well as giving you 30 credits towards the full postgraduate certificate. The PG CHEP route is ideal for new appointees with limited teaching experience who would like to develop their practice incrementally across all dimensions of their academic practice: teaching and learning support; teaching-related management and administration; and research. (Note that qualifying members of academic staff in the School of Health and Human Sciences staff can achieve Fellow (D2) status on successful completion of the first part of the Medical and Clinical Education programme.)

Module 2 of PG CHEP further develops your professional skills and insights as an academic practitioner. It centres around a substantial action-research case study and supplies the remaining 30 credits towards the full award of your postgraduate certificate. As well as being a natural follow-up to Module 1, experienced colleagues who want to benefit from a tailor-made and fully supported developmental programme in academic practice – perhaps in preparation for or following promotion — are invited to fast-track to Module 2. If you are already an HEA Fellow, or have completed 30 credits of a PG Cert. programme elsewhere, or have more than three years’ full-time teaching experience already then you can make a fast-track application. Email us to find out more.

Talent + training = creative leadership at Essex

Learning and Development also delivers the University’s leadership programmes: Future Leaders and Strategic Leaders. Both courses lead to national recognition through either the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education (LFHE) or the HEA. If you are interested in getting a place on one of our two schemes, talk to your Head of Department or Section.ETA

Workshops and development sessions

Throughout the year we will be presenting a veritable smorgasbord of workshops and development sessions for academic staff and researchers. Designed to support staff at every stage of professional development and to help implement our Education Strategy, our workshops are open to all Essex staff and colleagues working with us at partner institutions. So, if you want support for your first-year undergraduate teaching, or are looking to boost your confidence as a public speaker, then check out our list of upcoming events on the Learning and Development website. You might also like to know that we also offer a workplace coaching service, Coaching for Success, which is available for all staff by arrangement.

Resources and rewards for excellent academic practice

Supporting and developing excellence in education is what we are all about and whether you want some funds to develop a teaching innovation you have in mind (pitch to our Teaching and Learning Innovation Fund), would like to gain recognition for the great teaching you’ve been doing (apply for an Excellence in Teaching Award) then get in touch. Our door is always open.

Sharing good (academic) practiceTALIF

Our InPractice blog is there to celebrate your successes in teaching, share accounts of good practice and set your experiences in the wider context of HE teaching and supporting learning. We’ll be drawing projects and ideas to your attention regularly over the coming year but we’d love to hear from you – email us your posts.

It only remains to say: we all hope the new academic year goes well in all areas of your practice. Do let us know if there is anything we can do to support you.

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16 May 2014

Taking a 30,000 Foot View of Learning and Teaching

Filed under: Conversations, Issue 3 — Tags: , , — inpractice @ 1.36 pm

Chris Saker from Mathematics talks to In Practice about his application for Senior Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy through the Cadenza route, the benefits of reflection, and closing the gap between school and university. (more…)

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