Supporting Staff in Assuring and Enhancing Quality of Learning and Teaching

James Bennett

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, James Bennett from Academic Quality Services (AQS) shares how he was able to draw on his work in supporting staff in developing new and revised programmes of study to gain HEA Associate Fellowship and the adjustments needed to support staff in changing delivery modes in the pandemic.

What’s your role in supporting academic staff to assure the quality of learning and teaching?

Having worked in HE at Swansea University for around five years, I currently lead the Programme Development, Approval and Review sub-team within Academic Quality Services (AQS). My role as an Academic Quality Development Officer is focussed around supporting academic staff to develop, critically reflect on and continually enhance the delivery of their programmes.

Why did gaining Associate Fellowship matter to you?

Achieving AFHEA status was really important for me in terms of gaining formal recognition of my experience of supporting staff to develop and deliver academic programmes. I valued the opportunity to reflect on how I was able to demonstrate evidence against the dimensions of the UKPSF and this, in turn, helped to identify any gaps and training needs.

How did the shift to online learning and teaching influence your work/what you advised on?

AQS have continued to provide targeted support to staff and key University Committees and Boards in the online environment. Indeed, many efficiencies quickly became evident from working in this way. We have supported staff to make key changes to their programmes, including how they are delivered, in order to meet student expectations and we have provided space for colleagues to reflect on how their experiences of delivering learning through the pandemic have impacted on their approaches to curriculum design, teaching and assessment.

What adjustments did you have to take into account in your support to staff? Where did you go for ‘help’?

We have certainly needed to adapt our approach to engagement with staff within the virtual workspace and this has presented both challenges and opportunities. I am lucky enough to have a wide network of colleagues both within the institution and across the sector.  Members of the Association of University Administrators (AUA) have been an important source of information and guidance, and the AUA forums and network events have been useful in terms of gathering intelligence at the sector level. The QAA have also developed a good deal of guidance around assuring quality during the pandemic.

In what ways do you more consciously use/refer to the Dimensions of Practice to guide the support you provide?

Having achieved Associate Fellowship status, I am now much more aware of the dimensions of the UKPSF and will refer back to the core knowledge, areas of activity and professional values as a marker for my continuing professional development.

For someone in a similar support role who is not sure about applying for HEA Associate Fellowship recognition what words of encouragement or top tips could you offer?

It is really important that we continue to recognise and celebrate the role played by Professional Services staff and those in learning support roles, who contribute to all aspects of learning, teaching and assessment to deliver an outstanding student experience.

I would certainly encourage colleagues who support teaching and learning functions to apply to become Associate Fellows.  Engaging with the dimensions of the UKPSF and reflecting critically on the work that you do to meet the standards is a really valuable experience and really helped me to identify where my strengths are as well as the areas that I am going to target for continued development.

The support I received from SALT, (particularly Darren and Louise) was exceptional and the Canvas Course and ‘Fellowship and Questions’ sessions made the process of applying very clear.

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.


Professional Services staff are not restricted to Associate Fellowship recognition.  The category of recognition is appropriate to the individual’s breadth and scope of experience in supporting learning and teaching in Higher Education.  Apply Advance HE’s Fellowship Category tool to help determine the relevant category for you.

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