Evaluating the Edinburgh Teaching Award


How can you get recognition for your contribution to teaching and learning?

How can you get help to develop further?

The Edinburgh Teaching Award (EdTA) is a supported developmental pathway designed to allow you to reflect on your teaching over a period of 6 months to two years.  The EdTA has been running for two and a half years and currently has 213 participants and 42 completions. As well as working closely with an individual mentor, you can participate in group meetings and writing retreats.

Here is what some of the participants in a recent evaluation have been saying:

Within the school it is creating dialogue and there is the beginning of a community of practice of teaching and learning.

For me, I do find this incredibly useful, very beneficial to me.

Have I applied my learning – absolutely, in many ways: to my own learning and teaching delivery and course and programme development; to advising others on good practice; to strategic developments; to disseminating good practice wider.

The EdTA was set up to fit in with busy and complex professional roles and to be adaptable to suit participants’ particular interests.  If you join the EdTA you will work with a mentor to write a blog reflecting on your teaching, assessment and support for learning. The total word count for the blog is from 2500 to 8000 words and you can focus it on what interests or puzzles you about your teaching.

You will also make a record of your successes in teaching and the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) opportunities you have taken up. You can select this CPD from within or beyond the University and it doesn’t need to be events. Your CPD might involve writing about your practice, learning online or leading a project. Some Schools run their own local versions of the Edinburgh Teaching Award as well, so do ask about that. These local versions can be especially closely tailored to what works in particular subject areas.

Completing a level of the EdTA leads to one of the forms of Fellowship awarded by the Higher Education Academy (HEA). Gaining Fellowship from the HEA provides national recognition of commitment to professionalism in teaching and learning in higher education. The EdTA forms part of the University’s wider CPD Framework for Learning and Teaching, all accredited by the Higher Education Academy. The Framework also includes the Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice and a range of other programmes and awards. Developed in consultation with the Senatus Learning and Teaching Committee, the Framework provides a coherent structure for CPD and professional recognition for staff in relation to learning and teaching. The Framework is tied into the University’s wider processes for recognition and reward for good teaching. The Framework is led from the University’s Institute for Academic Development and you can find more details on our website.

Now that the Edinburgh Teaching Award has been running for two years, we have invited Professor Murray Saunders to conduct an evaluation for us. The evaluators were particularly interested in how participants experienced being part of the process. Overall, people working toward the award thought the framework was flexible and adaptable and, while hard work, fitted in quite well with the demands of academic life.

The blogs in particular were valued as a process which enabled participants to think more deeply on the teaching and learning practices they were engaged in. When participants met together, many thought this was a worthwhile experience, especially as a means of exchanging and sharing experience and methodologies. This kind of support, alongside the mentoring process was appreciated.

The quality of the mentors was highlighted as a critical success factor for participants. Working with mentors helped explain the framework and how to navigate through the documentation which was made more understandable. The documentation and platforms made available for participants were an area many felt might be further developed in order to simplify them and make them more ‘user friendly’.

However, many participants found that the readings and introduction to the literature on pedagogy enabled confidence to grow and provided a rationale for a variety of teaching designs and a way of understanding better how students learn.  Given the pressures of academic working, the writing retreats were valued by some as a guarantee of time to spend on reflective writing.  This type of reflective practice is the first to suffer once the pressure is on.

The evaluation suggested that the EdTA as a change or developmental strategy had many positive aspects and presented a worthwhile challenge for the University as it is scaled up to involve a wider group. In particular, the universally valued mentoring process is a dimension which will need careful attention in terms of both time and people.

We hope to build on this excellent start to create valuable developmental opportunities for colleagues across the University. Dr Daphne Loads has taken over the lead on the EdTA with Emily Salvesen as manager, and they will be working with Dr Velda McCune (IAD) and Dr Catriona Bell (Veterinary Medicine and part-seconded to the IAD) to develop more School-level versions. We want to capitalise on what works in the EdTA but also to improve those aspects that participants and mentors have identified as ‘sticky’. We plan to simplify the Award systems and also trial the use of WordPress as a more user friendly platform for the Award. If you are interested in being a participant or mentor please get in touch:  iad.cpdframework@ed.ac.uk.

Velda McCune

Velda McCune is Deputy Director of the IAD and Head of the Learning and Teaching Team. She has oversight of the continuing professional development opportunities which the IAD offers for staff involved in teaching and supporting student learning. An important focus of her work is collaborating with colleagues in Schools and Colleges to take forward research and scholarship relating to teaching and learning in Higher Education.

Murray Saunders

Murray Saunders is Professor of Evaluation in Education and Work at the University of Lancaster. He has research interests in the nature of evaluative practices, the relationship between education and the workplace and the connection between social change and development and evaluative practice.

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