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).

My Background

I am Xiaorong Li, a research assistant at Swansea University. Since I joined Swansea University in 2020, I gained experience in Higher Education teaching as a demonstrator for three undergraduate modules in simulation based product design and scientific computer programming, as well as through supervising a MSc project in numerical simulation of flows around structures. I gained my Associate Fellowship recognition this year (2022) in April.

Why did gaining Associate Fellowship matter to you?

I am enthusiastic about teaching. I absolutely enjoy the moments when students are engaged with the learning material and become increasingly confident that they adopt deep learning approaches and become independent learners. Therefore, I have attended a few training courses and read books and articles online to find out how to help students learn.

Applying for the Associate Fellowship was a very good opportunity to reflect on what teaching philosophy I have established, what approaches I have used, if they have been effective towards achieving the outcomes I aimed to attain, and, going forward, what aspects of my practice require improvements. Further, the UK PSF presents a great framework for CPD and committing to the UK PSF is an excellent way to ensure that my knowledge and teaching practice remains current.

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.

Your Top tips from supporting learners in an online mode

It is worthwhile to familiarise yourself with the functionalities of online teaching delivery platforms such as Zoom to be able to manage a class better. For instance, breakout rooms are very useful during demonstration sessions to separate students into smaller groups and address their problems more efficiently. Setting a limit on the amount of time you spend with a student in the breakout room can also make sure that every student’s problems/questions get addressed to some extent.

Recorded videos are very powerful. I recorded a series of videos and made them open access online to show students how to use a software for their course. Not only it saved me a significant amount of time which would have been spent on explaining what is in the videos repeatedly to the students, it also allowed the students to learn the software in their own time and largely encouraged independent learning. I noticed that apart from learning what was taught in the videos, some students also read more articles and watched more tutorials that they could find online to fill in some knowledge gaps before they turned to me for help.

What words of encouragement could you offer to someone thinking of gaining recognition?

Putting together an application takes some planning and time, but I feel that taking the necessary time to reflect upon and evaluate past teaching experiences during the process was also very helpful independently of the fellowship.

What would be your top tips in preparing a claim for HEA Fellowship?

1) Plan in advance. Join SALT’s webinar and sign up for the Canvas course where there are plenty of resources to guide one through the application process. The “needs analysis” form was incredibly useful. It helped me decide which category of fellowship was the most suitable, identify areas that needed strengthening to form a strong application and plan actions to collect relevant experience.

2) Ask the SALT team for help whenever you need it – they are extremely helpful!  They went beyond simply answering questions and guided me through a lot of the application process. Without their help, my application would have taken a lot longer to put together than it did.

3) Make use of training opportunities. Most of the training sessions are very informative. They will help form a framework for reflecting on your practice.

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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