Being an Effective Programme Director

man juggling items on first

Why is considering leadership approaches helpful?  

I’ve been championing the important role of programme directors for almost 10 years, previously in my capacity as head of the Quality Office in Academic Services and recently resurrected in my role within SALT supporting professional recognition through Advance HE’s Fellowship scheme.  I see many colleagues struggle to articulate successful ‘leading’ when they make their claim for Senior Fellowship and see the value of providing the support BEFORE many indeed take on or inherit the programme director role.   

I also hear stories of the challenges of juggling and almost literally firefighting that are epitomised in both research literature and blogposts of everyday realities (see for example Emma Kennedy’s recent account https://www.santanuvasant.com/2022/09/12/programme-leadership-in-higher-education-three-key-contradictions/). 

I can see the value of reflecting on my own ‘small l’ leadership as I prepare my own claim for Senior Fellowship recognition. Many of the characteristics I can see myself demonstrating, yet I didn’t know that these were ‘recommended approaches’ of effective leadership.  Donald Rumsfeld (then Secretary of Defense of the United States) said in a February 12 2022 press briefing  

“[A]s we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”  

The literature about effective leadership falls into that unknown unknown category for me. 

What are effective leadership strategies for Programme Directors? 

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be summarising some of the key findings from chapters in the book Supporting Course and Programme Leaders in Higher Education: Practical Wisdom for Leaders, Educational Developers and Programme Leaders, (SEDA, Routledge) (2022) edited by Jenny Lawrence, Susan Moron-Garcia and Rowena Senior. 

This post reflects on what we can learn from Doug Parkin’s chapter 6, in Part 2 on “Programme leaders as educational and academic leaders”. 

Some questions about leadership…. 

As Programme Director, how do you lead your team? 

  • What are the qualities of effective Programme Directors?  How do you know what is effective? 
  • What ‘training’ or guidance did you receive in effective leadership approaches? 
  • How DO you keep juggling (even when the issues aren’t “on fire” as in the featured picture)? 

Dimensions of Programme Leadership 

In his chapter, Doug Parkin outlines four aspects of leadership that he feels enables programme directors [1] to develop credibility and demonstrate trust so 

“that colleagues are inspired and trusted to innovate their practice routinely, deliver teaching inclusively and provide feedback for learning conscientiously” (Parkin 2022, p 97) 

These are 

  • Relational Leadership 
  • Embodied Leadership
  • Enabling Leadership and
  • Administrative Leadership. 

model of programme leadership comprising relational, embodied, enabling and administrative leadership interpreted from Doug Parkin's description - administrative leadership is disproportionately represented

Figure 1 Four dimensions of programme leadership – interpreted from Parkin (2022)

It’s a useful chapter not just for programme directors, but for anyone who is ‘small l’ leading and is therefore considering how their practice of supporting others best demonstrates the tricky Senior Fellow criterion of ‘Successful coordination, support, supervision, management and/or mentoring of others (whether individuals and/or teams) in relation to learning and teaching’ UKPSF, 2011, D3 Vii.  While ‘leadership’ isn’t explicitly mentioned in this criterion, its often inherent as staff reflect and evidence how they effectively engage and support colleagues to achieve a shared objective that enhances student learning. 

The chapter gives examples of what each of the other leadership styles might look like in practical terms for programme leaders (e.g. having a network of fellow Programme Directors to support relational leadership; modelling examples and active listening in showing embodied leadership) and also how institutions can enable the leadership through, for example, appropriate recognition of the value of the role, ongoing development for programme leaders, setting and clearly sharing the key vision and supporting communication with others. 

Too often it’s the administrative side of the Programme Director role that takes up the most time as suggested in my adapted Figure 1 and role holders get increasingly disillusioned and frustrated that they can’t necessarily do the staff support and pedagogical enhancements they’d like to.  In providing administrative leadership, the relationship with professional services staff is critical to freeing the time of Programme Directors and ensuring that administrative matters can run smoothly.  

Therefore, in the bedding down of the revised Faculty structure, we have the opportunity now to share the values of the programme and the administrative burden and to support Programme Directors to lead in effective learning, teaching and assessment practices in a more balanced way where the leadership dimensions can be applied more equitably (see Figure 2). 

A more balanced model of leadership (relational. embodied, enabling and administrative) overlapped in Venn diagram. Interpreted from Doug Parkin's description

Figure 2 A more balanced model of the 4 dimensions of programme leadership

And if we know what makes for effective programme leadership, why aren’t these qualities built into person specifications to get the most effective person for the role and appropriate CPD offered to support staff to gain the transferable skills?

An Institutional response 

A Programme Directors Working Group was established in February 2022 to scope how to better support those who fulfil this vital role within Swansea University.  The Group reported its findings about appropriate induction and ongoing CPD for Programme Directors at the PD Community Forum on December 7th, 2022, and feedback is being reviewed and next steps developed. 

Part of the remit has been to explore continual professional learning opportunities regarding ‘leadership’ and members of the Group made specific recommendations on this.  Contributing to that will be my recommendation that exploring the types of leadership as suggested by Parkin should be a key aspect to support professional development of Programme Directors.  And not just upon appointment.   

To be effective and address what Ellis (2019, p31) identifies as critical transition period “the months either side of becoming a programme leader have emerged as of central importance”, CPD in effective leadership skills should be available to all, to prepare staff to effectively lead programmes to provide an excellent student learning experience. 

Watch out for other synopses of this useful book in supporting Programme Directors over the coming weeks and the seminar series by OCAED and SEDA to support the book. 

Recordings of the seminars are expected to be available from their website: 

Talking Teaching across the Globe – Oxford Brookes University 

 

 

Louise Rees 

Senior Academic Developer (HEA), SALT 

(1) Programme Directors at Swansea University = Programme Leaders in the SEDA book 

Gaining HEA Senior Fellowship recognition and the value of being an assessor

In the HEA Fellowship blog, we’re continuing to measure the impact that HEA Fellowship has on teaching practices, on students and on the practices and approaches of peers. We’ve also asked for some suggestions when teaching/supporting learning online!

In this post, Desiree Cranfield, from the School of Management discusses her HEA Senior Fellowship recognition (SFHEA), with pointers to the impact on her practice that has arisen by her being an assessor on Swansea’s Experiential route:

Being an assessor has been an eye opener … inspiring me to think of other innovative approaches as I read and assess the submissions.

Continue reading “Gaining HEA Senior Fellowship recognition and the value of being an assessor”

SALT’s highlights of 2022!

How quickly time flies, we are already in 2023!

We would like to reflect on the past year at SALT with you. 2022 has been both challenging and exciting for us at the university. It has been the time where many of us have returned to campus to teach, reconnecting with colleagues and students. This has been difficult for some, as many of us have had to adapt to new ways of teaching, learning, collaborating and connecting. It is the year where various digital education trends have surged: virtual reality, gamification, online teaching and learning, online training sessions and much more. At SALT, we’d like to reflect on the year 2022, and outline some of our favourite moments.

International Women’s Day 2022

International Women’s Day is celebrated on 8th March every year. It is a chance to celebrate women’s history, remember women’s struggles and to focus on women’s resistance across the world. This is important to us at SALT, so to show our passion for the event, we produced a podcast.

Effective Practice Seminars

Our CPD team in SALT organised a wide range of Effective Practice seminars online via Zoom. These sessions discussed various topics with academics and professional services staff. Don’t miss out and watch our recordings.

Bookable Canvas Clinic sessions service release

This year the Technology Enhanced Learning Development team released a new support service for academic staff, where you can book a session with one of the TEL team for support with anything Canvas related. This new support service continues in 2023.

The SALT Conference 2022

We held the annual conference on July 13th 2022, filled with inspirational talks and discussions. For many, it was great to connect face-to-face again. Read about our conference below, and watch our session recordings.

Student Nominated Award Winners 2022

Recognising and rewarding excellent teaching is a core part of our work and SALT is home to the Student Nominated Teaching Awards. This continues to be one of the highlights of our year. Congratulations to the winners.

International Men’s Day

International Men’s Day is globally celebrated annually on 19th November to recognise and celebrate the cultural, political, and socioeconomic achievements of men. The broader aim of the event is also to promote awareness of men’s issues. This is important to us at SALT, so we created a podcast.

Questioning Assessment

One of SALT’s highlights include  ‘Questioning Assessment’, an online panel discussion programme, hosted by academic partners Dr Joanne Berry and Dr Patricia Xavier along with Rhian Ellis. This addressed some key questions and assumptions about assessment. Why assess? Does pressure in assessment lead to resilience?  Why do students fail? Do we trust our students?, followed by a pilot workshop at SUSALT22.  

Promoting Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

Mandy Jack and Dr. Pamela Styles at SALT were pleased to deliver a workshop at the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Event, September 2022, hosted by the Faculties of Science and Engineering/ Medicine, Health and Life Sciences. It was great to share effective practice with colleagues from across the University and to talk about how we can work together to make students feel more included. 

HEA Senior Fellowship – Within a Team, make Sure you explain YOUR Impact

Words: We Hear You

In the HEA Fellowship blog, we’re continuing to measure the impact that HEA Fellowship has on teaching practices, on students and on the practices and approaches of peers. We’ve also asked for some suggestions when teaching/supporting learning online!

In this post, Sophie Leslie, Student Partnership & Feedback Development Officer in Academic Quality Services shares her story of helping staff to engage with student feedback and the important role of mentoring others in gaining her HEA Senior Fellowship recognition (SFHEA).

“A large part of my role is to support staff engagement with student feedback and quality enhancement and therefore the mentoring and coaching part of this is vital

Continue reading “HEA Senior Fellowship – Within a Team, make Sure you explain YOUR Impact”

A guide to disconnecting when needed…

We are all guilty of not being able to switch off from work sometimes. This can be even more so when we have apps such as Outlook and Teams downloaded on our mobile phones, notifying us every hour of the day, even on weekends. But what is this doing to our wellbeing? It is very important to remember to set boundaries with the digital world, and this includes turning off your notifications!

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams offers different ways to access, receive, and manage notifications. These settings include how, when, and where your notifications appear, custom settings for channels and chat, appearance and sounds, turning off specific messages, and so on.

To manage your notifications, select Settings and more Teams more icon in the top right of Teams, then select Settings Settings button  > Notifications  Activity button.

Top tip: completely turn of all notifications if you’re on a holiday or just some well needed time off from work, and switch them back on when you return to work. 

 

Outlook

Schedule your notifications on Outlooks and take charge of your quiet times. Having notifications of emails from Outlook on your days off can be very annoying, or distracting if you’re trying to get work done!

The settings process for managing Outlook notifications will differ depending on what device you use.

Outlook Do Not Disturb feature:

Outlook app sidebar screenshot

You can even schedule when you’d like Do Not Disturb to be enabled:

Outlook app do not disturb settings on a phone: Screenshot

 

 

Leading in Teaching and Learning: A Professional Services Perspective

Photo of Gareth Hill

We’re continuing to measure the impact that HEA Fellowship has on teaching practices, on students and on the practices and approaches of peers. We’ve also asked for some suggestions when teaching/supporting learning online!

Fellowship isn’t however restricted to just academic staff who teach.  A range of professional services staff who also support learning have this recognition and we feature one of these in this month’s blogpost.

The Senior Fellowship to me was about leadership within teaching. It enables you to review what has worked well, but more importantly to look forward as a leader as to what your subject area needs and how you can implement this”

Continue reading “Leading in Teaching and Learning: A Professional Services Perspective”

HEA Fellowship – an opportunity for cross-cultural pedagogical reflection

Giselle Tur Porres photo

In the HEA Fellowship blog, we’re continuing to measure the impact that HEA Fellowship has on teaching practices, on students and on the practices and approaches of peers. We’ve also asked for some suggestions when teaching/supporting learning online!

In this post, Gisselle Tur Porres from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Science shares her story of reflecting on both pedagogical and cultural differences in supporting learning helped frame her claim for HEA Fellowship (FHEA).

“As a reflective practitioner myself, the Fellowship recognition process has allowed me to reflect, rethink learning and teaching experiences and work towards further development of my teaching practices, with cultural pertinence

Continue reading “HEA Fellowship – an opportunity for cross-cultural pedagogical reflection”

Make 2022/23 your year to gain HEA Fellowship Recognition

sunflowers field
sunflowers field
Sunflowers – Image by Siggy Novak on Pixabay

What are you planting today to harvest tomorrow?  Lailah Gifty Akita

The last 2 to 3 years have been a real challenge, but also meant a lot of changes and innovations in teaching practice. If you do not currently hold a category of HEA Fellowship, then make 2022-23 the year to complete an application. Consider what you have done the last 3 academic years and what you will be doing this academic year and how that experience can be harvested to gain HEA Fellowship.

Watch our for regular encouragement from SALT’s Recognition Team to plant the first seeds of your Fellowship claim.

More information about gaining HEA Fellowship recognition at Swansea University can be found here.

 

Associate Fellowship recognition – supporting student learning as a demonstrator

photo of Xiaorong Li

In the HEA Fellowship blog, we’re continuing to measure the impact that HEA Fellowship has on teaching practices, on students and on the practices and approaches of peers. We’ve also asked for some suggestions when teaching/supporting learning online!

In this post, Xiaorong Li from the Faculty of Science and Engineering shares her experiences of supporting learners as a demonstrator and how, in reflecting on that, gained Associate Fellowship recognition (AFHEA).

Continue reading “Associate Fellowship recognition – supporting student learning as a demonstrator”

Preparing to teach (again) – Top Tips to get you back in the swing

We hope that you were able to recharge your batteries over the summer and so may be starting to think about your teaching for this coming semester.

Here’s some easy, concise tips and suggestions of how you might review what and how you teach or provide support to your learners.

Some Fundamentals

  • Review your syllabus – check out the learning outcomes, content and assessment. In particular make sure that Week 1 is planned really well and that materials are engaging, inclusive and accessible.
  • You might record the assignment task and criteria in a video – click this link to self-enrol on a course to explore using Studio in Canvas. You’ll probably cover the assignment expectations in class, but this will be an easy ‘go to’ resource to signpost to students.

The TEL Team within SALT is offering a range of sessions to help get your content ready on Canvas.  Visit: Get Ready for 2022/23 – Swansea University

  • Find out about your students – how many might be enrolled, their backgrounds (e.g. mature/international/visual or learning impairments). This information will help to inform you of any adaptations necessary to have relevant examples/case studies and suitable approaches and materials.
  • What learning spaces have you been allocated and/or what are possible other spaces you can use? We’d recommend you visit and familiarise yourself with the teaching spaces, and the equipment, if possible before you teach. Check out the centrally bookable room images on Flickr: Learning Environments’s albums | Flickr
  • Refamiliarise yourself with your teaching methods (SALT can help with e.g. using podcasts or Flipped Learning approaches – see our webpage: Pedagogy – Swansea University).
  • Look (again) at past module evaluations for practices to improve – but take a long perspective and don’t respond necessarily to possible ‘fads’.
  • Try not to leave things to the last minute! Your tone of voice and presentation for audio/video resources can be negatively impacted when you are under time pressures. (For other tips, review this excellent resource: Top 10 Tips for accessible, engaging video microlectures (edgehill.ac.uk))

Delving a bit deeper:

  • Get peer feedback – as a one-off or as an ongoing activity.
  • Investigate what professional development courses are available that would help hone your skills? SALT’s programme can be booked via our Forthcoming events: https://bit.ly/SUSALTEvents but there may be other sessions available organised through the University’s Department for Training Services, at School/Faculty level or via your subject or professional body.
  • Review resources you have previously highlighted. Remember all those ‘likes’, bookmarked web pages or articles you emailed to yourself to look at? Time to read priority ones.
  • Keep reflecting on your teaching – as you teach, make notes on your slides/handouts/ keep a ‘teacher’s diary’. This activity will be particularly helpful for HEA fellowship claims/remaining in good standing and for PDR/promotion.

Engaging with your learners

  • Think about how you can engage your students and harness enthusiasm for your course. If you’re still teaching online, we have various Tips or you can use a range of active learning approaches or engagement activities in person or online.
  • Share your teaching philosophy – explain why the course is designed as it is and why certain aspects reflect professional requirements.
  • Ask students about what their goals are and find out their prior knowledge on your subject – you can then tailor activities and build connections.
  • Set clear expectations of both self and students and you might want to consider jointly developed rules or assignment tasks (co-created activities)
  • Think about how you might build community among your learners, introduce ice breakers and make it fun e.g. a PADLET to collect photos/favourite music

Connecting with your team

  • Get to know colleagues who teach or support learning on your course – including those in professional services such as student experience advisers, subject librarians, technology enhanced learning staff to support one another and provide a great programme level experience for your students.

SALT can help!

If you need help with any of the above, please get in touch with us in SALT: salt@swansea.ac.uk or via our website: Swansea Academy of Learning and Teaching (SALT) – Swansea University

Sources

The above suggestions reflect a combination of ‘crowd sourced’ suggestions via Twitter in August 2022 combined with the 2021 blogpost by Alexandra Mihai: Time to reboot and start the new semester (substack.com) – her blogpost has some suggestions specific to teaching again in the pandemic and includes more links to further resources.

Word version of the above post: Preparing to teach blogpost Sep 2022