Fostering Transformative Mindsets: Innovation and Excellence in Teaching through the Global AdvanceHE Fellowships Scheme

The value and importance of investing in Continuing Professional Development (CPD) for those who teach has never been more obvious than over recent weeks in the global pivot to teaching online. Arguably, teaching has never been more complex as educators now have many more options to consider and technologies available to them in the learning design process. Hopefully, when our physical campuses open again, the legacy of the COVID-19 experience will be a generation of educators more aware of the range of online teaching and learning options, with a better understanding of why, when and how to more fully embed them to support a transformative curriculum.


Dublin City University (DCU) is committed to a transformative student learning experience. It follows that our capacity to deliver on this institutional commitment is highly dependent on achieving our goal of fostering an innovative and transformative learning environment for our teachers and those who support teaching. An important part of cultivating such an environment is valuing the importance of teaching, recognising teaching excellence, sharing examples of good teaching practice and promoting the continuing professional learning of DCU staff. The University’s Strategic Plan and Teaching & Learning Strategy outlines a multifaceted approach to meeting this goal. One of the initiatives that we are undertaking to support our transformative mission is adoption of the AdvanceHE fellowship scheme.  

DCU.jpgAn AdvanceHE  Fellowship demonstrates a personal and institutional commitment to professionalism in learning and teaching in higher education. Across four categories, from Associate to Principal, Fellowship provides individuals with recognition of their practice, impact and leadership of teaching and learning. AdvanceHE Fellowships have been adopted by higher education institutions globally, with over 128,000 individuals from across the world who have become Fellows of AdvanceHE (previously Higher Education Academy). This global recognition of teaching expertise is particularly important in the university context as academic staff routinely work with international colleagues around the world. 

After visiting a number of universities in the UK and Australia highly engaged in the programme, DCU formally launched a pilot of the Fellowship Scheme in October 2019.  In the first phase, three staff members were nominated by each faculty to apply for a “Senior Fellowship” along with members of the Teaching Enhancement Unit (TEU). Five staff have successfully completed their fellowships with a further four expecting to hear good news shortly. The remaining staff aim to complete their submission by portfolio by the end of June. Furthermore, six graduates from our postgraduate certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education are finalising their submissions for “Associate Fellow” for May 2020.


Phase two of the pilot is now underway with discussions through Associate Deans for Teaching and Learning (ADTL) to help identify the next cohort of DCU staff to participate in this internationally recognised scheme. The next phase also involves the development of a DCU Teaching Excellence Academy where in partnership with the TEU we can harness the experience of our Senior Fellows in supporting the CPD of their colleagues. This initiative recognises the importance of discipline differences along with the complex and distributed nature of teaching expertise, and seeks to build through the Fellowship Scheme transformative pedagogical mindsets for the design of transformative learning experiences. 

Thinking of Going for Fellowship of SEDA? Reflections on the Experience

By Clare Gormley

Having recently completed the SEDA course Supporting and Leading Educational Change (snappily called SLEC), I thought I would share some reflections that might be of interest to those of you considering it. You might, for example, be actively involved in educational  development as a member of a central teaching and learning unit, you might offer postgraduate teaching-related programmes to academic staff, and/or you might lead a team that implements funded projects of a technological and pedagogical nature. If you are toying with the idea of gaining a professional qualification for this type of work, then read on to explore if this course might be a good fit for you.


Course Description

First, some basic facts. This is a 12-week online course that as the website goes is “designed to accredit and advance your work in supporting and leading educational change in further or higher education”.  It is divided into two six-week blocks before and after the Christmas break. Successful completion of the course leads to Fellowship of SEDA (FSEDA).  SEDA is the UK-based Staff and Educational Development Association, a professional body that seeks to promote innovation and good practice in higher education.  Established in 1993, the overall mission of SEDA is to offer members professional learning opportunities, professional recognition, and practice-oriented publications with the ultimate goal of supporting student learning.

As someone who has worked in academic development for a number of years, but who did not have a qualification in that specific field, I felt it was time to give time to probe and more deeply reflect on the way I have been approaching my role. I wasn’t looking for CPD that focused primarily on the science and craft of teaching, I wanted something that was tailored to a role where you are supporting and hopefully enabling other staff to develop as teachers.  To my mind the distinction is important and the big questions for educational developers are very different: Are there better ways of evaluating the impact of various initiatives we are spending time and money on? How are other institutions designing and offering their CPD for maximum gain? Are we doing the right thing as regards the opportunities in place to support the sharing of teaching practice? Am I doing what I really should be doing in my job? These were the types of questions I wanted to explore and develop more confidence in through learning from an international community of peers.

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[You can read the remainder of Clare’s reflections on her SEDA Fellowship experience on her personal blog].