This is a guest post by James McDowell. This is one of the 2013 Teaching and Learning Innovation Projects funded by the Teaching and Learning Institute at the University of Huddersfield (TALI). It is the final post of 11 guest posts by TALI funded projects.
In 2009, the University of Huddersfield’s Teaching and Learning Strategy set out an institutional vision for the four years to 2013, with one initiative being to support academics in becoming a Fellow of the Higher Education (FHEA); in 2012 the university became the first higher education institution in the UK at which 100% of academic staff teaching on undergraduate or postgraduate courses achieved FHEA status.
As part of demonstrating their commitment to continuing professional development, academics were also encouraged to achieve professional recognition within their disciplines and subject areas, and many of my colleagues in the School of Computing and Engineering elected to become either a Member of the British Computer Society (MBCS), or a Member of the Institute of Engineering and Technology. During this time however, I had been working towards my PhD in the field of technology-enhanced learning (TEL), and after being named Winner of the ALT-Epigeum Award for Most Effective Use of Video in 2011, I found myself drawn towards the professional accreditation scheme offered by the Association for Learning Technology (ALT). Developing a portfolio of evidence of how I had used technology to enhance my teaching, I achieved recognition as a Certified Member of ALT (CMALT) early in 2012, and on the strength of my portfolio was invited to become a CMALT Assessor.
Having engaged with TALI’s Teaching and Learning Innovation Projects in each of the three years since it was launched, I recognised that while the Learning Technology Advisors (LTAs) and related staff in each of the university’s seven Schools had been key to the success of many worthwhile projects, they were sometimes ‘unsung heroes’ whose invaluable work I believed deserved greater, more formal recognition. In line with an aim of the Teaching and Learning Strategy that academic-related colleagues will be “high-achieving reflective people, at the forefront of their fields … [and] active in appropriate professional practice”, CMent was therefore conceived as vehicle by which to contribute to that aim, facilitating professional recognition for our LTAs through becoming CMALT Holders.
Building initially upon the work of an ongoing, university-wide project through which video-enhanced assessment and feedback (VEAF) practices were being extended into each School with the help of Academic Champions, CMent sought to deepen the involvement of the LTAs with this and other TALI-supported Innovation Projects. Identifying both previous work which might contribute to a portfolio, and opportunities to work with academics to embed TEL and VEAF practices within their teaching, a group of ten candidates comprised of LTAs and other academic-related staff have been mentored through the process of documenting these activities as part of the development of their CMALT portfolios.
Following the initial meeting, a dedicated e-portfolio system was made available for candidates to view examples of successful portfolios, to begin developing case studies and collating evidence against each of the key criteria to be met, and to provide opportunities for peer review and feedback to help disseminate best practice. In additional one-to-one sessions, areas including the impact of learning difficulties such as dyslexia and Asperger’s Syndrome on students have also been explored with candidates, highlighting how and where TEL and VEAF practices can be used to help meet legislative requirements.
Building a successful CMALT portfolio is expected to take at least six months, and can often take substantially longer, but two members of the project team have already submitted their portfolios, and while awaiting accreditation have begun mentoring other candidates who are continuing to build their portfolios with a view to submission before the end of the academic year.
Huddersfield may have been the first university to see all academics achieve FHEA status, but the race is still on to become the first institution to achieve 100% CMALT status amongst those working in learning technology roles. Since the C-Ment project began, it has emerged that University College London also recognises the importance of achieving professional accreditation for those working in learning and technology roles, and in 2011 UCL launched its own scheme to support 20 candidates through to becoming CMALT Holders – we may have made a later start, but we’re making ground on them, and it’s great to know that Huddersfield is in direct competition with an institution like UCL.
Finally, and hot off the press, our abstract for a symposium entitled “Enhancing institutional practice through CMALT accreditation” which will describe the work of the project has been accepted for the ALT annual conference, alt-c 2013, to be held at the University of Nottingham on 10th-12th September 2013, and we will be there flying the flag for Huddersfield!