There are different types of evidence that you would use in different contexts throughout your career. Here, we are focussing mainly on reflective evidence. As an EFS applicant you will be asked to demonstrate your capacity to write and/or speak reflectively on your practice as an educator.
What is reflective evidence?
Have you ever wondered why you did something in a particular way in the past but couldn’t remember? Or perhaps you tried something in one class and it worked but then it didn’t in another? Well, only by reflecting on the past, can you then describe the What? How? Why? and the So What? At the EFS, we are expecting you to reflect on your past experiences in a deep and meaningful way, in order to understand your own underlying motives and to gain insight into teaching and learning processes. By reflecting in this way, your implicit thought processes are made explicit which means that not only do you better understand yourself and your own actions, but you can now better explain to someone else what you did, why you did it and what it achieved. This is why reflections are so important.
Many professions have understood the benefits of practitioners reflecting on experiences, and especially on critical incidents, to enhance future learning, and therefore the future quality of practice of individuals and the profession as a whole. Sometimes this reflection is done orally in large groups, but more often it is done in very small groups or on our own. In your application for fellowship, you will be committing your reflections to writing. Reflective writing is the art of writing about one’s experience with the context of hindsight, emotion, analysis, and with a view to identify lessons for the future.
Writing about our practice, instead of just thinking about it, gives us access to that great human invention of communication that transcends memory. It means that even if we can’t really remember what we were thinking at the end of last’ year’s course, we can access those ideas very easily if we wrote them down. This is becoming even more interesting now that cognitive research is identifying distinct differences and benefits to our capacity for learning when we write something down – especially if we write by hand!
Here, though we want to think about the practice of writing reflectively. What words do we use, what is the style involved and (for academics) how do we get used to writing the word ‘I’?
There are many researchers and specialists who have written about reflective writing and Jennifer Moon is one of the most well-known of these. This is an introduction that Jennifer Moon wrote for students in higher education, who are often asked to write reflections as assessment tasks. Reading this will give you insight both into writing the reflective narrative for your EFS application and into using reflective writing with your students or other learners.
Other types of evidence
In an HEA Fellowship application, you are unlikely to want to use detailed quantitative data, after all, you’re not writing a report! However, some of this evidence might be valuable for you when making your case for FHEA or SFHEA, e.g. in relation to A2, A5, K5, or V3. These measures are certainly important evidence in many other contexts, so you do need to be confident in your use of them. The most obvious, and usually most available, form of quantitative evidence comes from university standardised student satisfaction surveys. At ANU, these are called Student Evaluations of Learning and Teaching (SELT). However, you will typically not be including figures in your application and remember that a detailed mass of data that means a great deal to you might mean very little to someone else, so always consider how you are communicating your experiences in a reflective context. Try to summarise and use quantitative evidence concisely and only where relevant.
Quantitative evidence might include:
- data from student surveys (e.g. SELT):
- benchmarked against relevant comparisons (e.g. similar course sin your School/College; College averages for the same year group/cohort)
- Showing sustained trend/impact over the past 3-5 years (if you convene a course at ANU, you can download a SELT time series here and discuss that in your application)
- Sustained high rates of student retention (or an improvement in retention when you took over a course)
- Improvements in student grades/success/tasks over time (but be careful that you are not breaching confidentiality)
- Outcomes of specific pre- and post-tests you have used to evaluate innovative approaches to learning
- Student data that is post-graduation, to show your long-term impact (e.g. number of students who achieve positions in your discipline – especially pertinent to higher degree research students)
- Proportion of your students (again, especially higher research students) who have continued into research/employment.
As with quantitative evidence, you might feel comfortable including some qualitative evidence of your impact on teaching and learning. Again, only do so in the context of your reflective narrative and only where relevant.
Qualitative evidence might include:
- Student quotes (if used sparingly and strategically), from student evaluations, or extracts from emails, cards, messages, as long as they illustrate the impact your teaching has had on them (preferably as specifically as possible).
- Scholarly impact as an educator (more important for FHEA, SFHEA and PFHEA applications), such as mention of:
- profession recognition (that’s also one of the reasons you are applying for HEA fellowship in the first place)
- educational leadership roles
- testimonials (reviews, DVC, PVC, Deans, Heads, peers)
- teaching qualifications (in higher education or educational technology)
- teaching awards (College, institutional, national)