Valuing Teaching and Influencing others – Ellen Spender reflects on her SFHEA Journey

coloured board game pieces with the one in front in focus

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!

Ellen is also going to share her story and tips in preparing her Senior Fellowship claim with opportunity for questions – Swansea University staff register via SALT’s Upcoming Events for this session on May 9th at 12 noon!

Ellen Spender, SFHEA, School of Management


I am Ellen Spender and I am a Senior Lecturer in Accounting and the School Engagement Partner in the School of Management. I completed my Postgraduate Certificate of Education in 1999 and I am a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Why did gaining Senior Fellowship recognition matter to you? Why apply?

I have been employed in Swansea since 2015 and it was around this time that I first heard about Fellowship and shortly afterwards applied for Associate Fellow of the HEA. This process enabled me to reflect on my teaching and, following this achievement, I was awarded several teaching awards and also received a National Inspire Tutor Award. In 2021 I decided to apply for Senior Fellowship to further reflect about why I teach and the importance of building good relationships with my students. It took me 9 months following registration to start my application as I found the idea of thinking about 2 case studies, unique to me, quite daunting. At this time, I started to think about what I do on a daily basis that makes a difference to not only my students but how I also support my colleagues. In addition to reflecting on my own teaching practice it was essential to collect evidence of how my teaching practice influences others. The benefits of applying for Senior Fellowship are numerous: it enables the reflection of your own personal development and how the practices you use influence your teaching and how you can use your practices to inform your colleagues.

How have you continued to apply the standards of the UKPSF in your work since gaining that recognition whilst teaching online?

Achieving SFHEA is not the end of the journey but rather a guide to use in preparation for future teaching. Reflection on prior experience informs future practice and I now use the Dimensions of the Framework to:

Design my programmes by reflecting on the blend of teaching strategies I use to develop an effective learning environment for my students.

Achieving SFHEA helps me with my research and preparation of teaching and assessment materials. It helps me reflect and research appropriate learning technologies relevant to my discipline with focusing on the quality of my teaching.

The process of completing my SFHEA enables me to continually use evidence-informed approaches to respect individual learners and the diverse learning communities I am part of.

What top tips would you offer to someone delivering blended teaching/online learning in HE?

  1. Provide students with prior knowledge – let students know what topics will be covered and direct them to relevant sources prior to the schedules class. This can be through articles, pre-recorded lectures, YouTube videos.
  2. Let students know what is expected of them and establish a routine. Will you expect the chat to be utilised, reactions to be used, cameras on, etc.?
  3. Encourage collaboration both inside and outside the learning environment. Set collaborative tasks for student to bring to class. Utilise breakout rooms when teaching online and encourage students to meets their fellow students and form a learning community
  4. For workshops and seminars limit the use of slides and encourage learners to look at each other in order to connect. Aim for student-generated content rather than a lecture style prepped presentation. Try to make sure the students do most of the talking.
  5. Let there be silence but not for too long. Try not to jump in straight away if students do not contribute. It takes time for students to trust the learning environment.
  6. Do not let the session run over time.

For someone not sure about applying for HEA Senior Fellowship recognition what words of encouragement could you offer?

Trust yourself. We are unique individuals and, outside of our teaching, we usually have another role within the university. This is a great starting point for one of the case studies. Applying for SF is a valuable experience and, the process of reflecting on my teaching practices and speaking to students and colleagues, it simply made me a better teacher.

What top tips would you offer to someone preparing a HEA Senior Fellowship application

  1. Attend an information session.
  2. Familiarise yourself with the terminology, descriptors and what is expected of you.
  3. Think about the contribution you make to your students and the university.
  4. Choose two case studies that you can discuss and evidence.
  5. Start collecting documents and researching data to evidence your claims in your application.


For Further Details

Visit SALT’s webpages for details of the internally accredited programme leading to Associate, Fellow or Senior Fellow and for links to Principal Fellow resources

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