Imposter Syndrome – On that rollercoaster – AGAIN!


Louise Rees, Senior Academic Developer in the Recognition Team reflects on recent emergence of feelings of imposterism.


Developing our Identity as an Educator in Higher Education

Developing as an educator in Higher Education and considering one’s identity is a topic covered in the last module of the PG Cert Teaching in Higher Education here at Swansea University.  We explore how our teaching philosophy and approaches can be represented through visual metaphors and other creative approaches which I shared at the 2023 SALT Conference.  As we start to consider how our identity is being influenced, many discussions note that imposter phenomenon (commonly termed imposter syndrome) is a prominent feature of the feelings of staff new to teaching, whether in academic or professional services contexts.  Teaching in higher education is often viewed as a roller coaster.  If we’re lucky, we get a ride which has seats with a firm base for our feet rather than a ride where our legs dangle!

Where is the support to address Imposter Syndrome?

There are a range of support mechanisms for postgraduate students in various institutions (e.g. Does the feeling go away if you progress to become a member of academic staff? And what about those professional services staff that support learning?  What guidance do they have?

Imposter syndrome is clearly a feeling that stubbornly refuses to go away for many in academia demonstrated by the 125 articles in our IFind catalogue covering this topic over the past 10 years (search conducted October 16th 2023) and a plethora of blogposts, podcasts, videos, images and websites offering tips (some recent sources at the end of this post). Many studies show its ongoing prevalence among female staff or those self-identifying as BAME (Reynolds, 2021) – hence the provision of leadership development courses such as Aurora and Diversifying leadership from Advance HE.

Why is it that we doubt ourselves?

I continue to doubt my capabilities, and I put it down to not a fear of failure, but one of perfectionism and that surely others will be able to do it better than me?  And it’s happened to me very recently when I was asked if I’d facilitate a workshop on creative approaches to support reflection for another institution arising from my presentation at the 2023 SALT Conference.

What could I possibly offer in terms of new approaches or a different slant?  The facilitator of the workshop series at the other HEI is themselves very well regarding in active learning approaches and creative reflective techniques!  I would be laughed at surely or mutterings of ‘well we learnt nothing new there since X has shared those approaches with us before!’

Before accepting the invitation to deliver the workshop, I thought about it and almost declined. But I decided to contact the facilitator (who I briefly ‘knew’ in other professional contexts) and was open with them about my imposterism!  What followed was a supportive conversation about how they hadn’t shared their approaches with the particular staff group who I’d be running the workshop for, providing reassurance in my approaches and a mutual recognition that we all experience these self-doubt feelings during our careers.

The stimulus for this blogpost

An October 2023 podcast with Ijeoma Nwaogu on Overcoming Imposter Anxiety stimulated my reflection about imposterism and why it is that we doubt ourselves. Not only as new teachers, but perhaps as experienced staff faced with something new.  Take online teaching, learning and assessment strategies for example.  Or responding to Generative AI to ensure assessments are authentic, or preparing for a curriculum review, or indeed facilitating a workshop on creative approaches (me!).

We have become ‘experienced’ and comfortable with methods, yet as the podcast recommends, we should adopt a growth mind-set (see Dweck, 2014) when faced with challenges, recognising that things may not go entirely to plan, (its OK to fail – that’s how we learn – that’s the message we tell our students so why not us?). Knowing when to stop working at something – that sufficient is OK – but the pressure of e.g., critical peer reviews of research and publications or metrics of student evaluations or comparison with others or our own perfectionism makes us fearful that good enough is NOT acceptable.

How our practice responds to imposterism

When we are faced with moving out of our comfort zone to learn and deliver something new, I would argue that we often regress down Kugel’s (1993) stages of development as a ‘professor’ to Stage 0/1 – we focus on becoming subject experts in the discipline and/or the approaches and practice until we are ‘perfect’.  We are very self-centred, focusing on our own performance and worried what students think of us.  Our immediate reaction is to want to appear to be ‘the expert’ and afraid that students might question our expertise.  That’s what happened to me.

However, as Nwaogu indicated in her podcast, its OK to be vulnerable (see Lowrie’s 2019 blogpost), to be authentic with our students (Fidler and Espinosa-Ramos, 2023), to use our individual personality to connect with our learners (Hockings et al, 2009) rather than comparing ourselves with that other lecturer who effortlessly connects with her students exchanging wit as if performing in a Comedy Club.

Important Concepts about Imposter Syndrome

There are a several concepts that Nwaogu discusses in her podcast – but a couple that I wanted to focus on.

  1. The difference between belonging and mattering, of
  2. “Reveal to Heal” and
  3. Of being present not performance.

That whilst it is good as an educator to experience a diversity of viewpoints and expertise, sometimes what gives us confidence is to have those around us who we trust, who share similar values and approaches, whom we can trust. Termed Mattering. Its important to feel we matter.

And when feelings of impostership start to emerge, be brave enough to ‘Reveal to Heal’ – since sharing one’s uncertainties can connect with those who share exactly the same feelings yet remain unspoken. Again, this has been my experience that others are just as scared as you are, just waiting for someone brave enough to voice their fears.  To do so, you need to trust in people, hence the Mattering.

And finally, that while we might consider that the only people learning in your class are those actively answering questions and engaging, it’s the quiet person who is thinking and reflecting, and comes out with the insightful question every once in a while that is probably gaining the most.  They are exhibiting deep learning. Sometimes called ‘lurkers’ or being vicarious learners learning from observation (Bandura, 1977 – see summary explanation Albert Bandura’s Social Learning Theory In Psychology (, Susan Cain also notes the power of listening often demonstrated by introverts. While I’m a great advocate for ‘active learning’ techniques, I am still challenged by that notion and find it difficult to recognise that learning is taking place even when someone isn’t ‘actively contributing’.  But that’s where I need to be inclusive in my approaches and enable them to contribute in ways that suit them.

How SALT can help give you confidence and thwart the imposterism!

There are couple of opportunities that SALT facilitates that I’d encourage you to engage in and another that I’d encourage you to perhaps take a different view of.  Ones which are safe spaces where its OK to share vulnerabilities and possibly lack of knowledge and get support to address any uncertainties you might be feeling.

PG Cert teaching in HE

The first is the PG Cert teaching in HE programme[i].  The programme gently scaffolds participants in their teaching experience from micro-teach observations from peers, through regular peer observation of themselves and by themselves and for those that take it, an Advancing your Practice module that provides a safe space where participant’s slightly longer microteach experimenting using different approaches is recorded to enable playback.  These have SO much personal benefit for participants in strengthening their confidence.

Peer Observation as a Positive Collaborative Professional Development Opportunity

The peer observation process followed in the PG Cert programme uses the official forms and process adopted by the University (see the Peer Observation Policy and Template).  Because it is approached in a developmental and supported process, the lens of reflection and preparation shifts for all concerned from a perhaps punitive or reluctantly mandatory aspect of scrutinising one’s ‘performance’, to a constructive, collaborative endeavour where both party learns.  I’d encourage you to undertake your regular ‘peer observation’ in the same way and not ‘because it has to be done’ but because it will enable you to grow, both as the observer AND the person being observed.

Seminars to share effective practice and teaching tips

The other aspect that SALT facilitates is the range of CPD sessions – Effective Practice and this year’s Teaching Fundamentals programmes (  While we would encourage all to be as effective as you can be, don’t be daunted by the practices share by our presenters and facilitators and think ‘I can’t do that’.

Take time to reflect on what they share, embrace the safe space of these sessions, ask questions or follow up with the session facilitators, and consider how you can apply it in your context, discipline and particular teaching approach.  It might not work exactly how they’ve shared or indeed work at all for you and your subject. But by adopting a growth mind-set, we can smooth out our roller coaster of emotions of ‘not being good enough’.


[i] The PG Cert programme is usually mandatory for new or inexperienced staff, but it is open for those who wish to do it.  It is a two year, part-time course which starts each September.


These views are the view of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swansea Academy of Learning and Teaching

Continue reading “Imposter Syndrome – On that rollercoaster – AGAIN!”

Inspiration from others | Ysbrydoliaeth gan Eraill

shaking hands through a laptopI attended the University of Edinburgh Learning and Teaching conference on 15th June. They opened their first day to outsiders which was a nice taster of what was to come over the three-day event. Opened by their dignitaries, to be expected, which was interesting and heartening to hear the similarities in our institutions over the last year’s hard graft by staff and students. They too celebrated their HEA fellows and encouraged others to engage with their process.

The two keynote speakers that followed were excellent and generated lots of discussion on the webinar Q&A. The first was “Curriculum Considerations In Supercomplex Times” from Kerri-Lee Krause who is Provost and Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Avondale University College, Australia (UoE’s VP is from Australia so there was a connection). This was a very interesting discussion and sharing of her research into transforming the curriculum. She posed 4 questions: Q1 What is Curriculum Transformation? Q2 Why bother about is Curriculum Transformation? Q3 Who is leading Curriculum Transformation? And Q4 How will you engage with Curriculum Transformation? She encouraged us all to answer them either in the chat or just on paper. I tweeted the questions and then added my personal response. I thought that it would be interesting for us as a team to respond, even without listening to @kerrileekrause presentation I think it would be an excellent exercise for us all to consider as we are all academic developers. You can find my tweets @mandyjjack the direct links to each question tweets are above.

The second keynote Rowena Arshad, Professor Emerita and Personal Chair of Multicultural and Anti-Racist Education, University of Edinburgh, “Diversity in Learning and Teaching: Is Inclusion Truly Available?” This was a very powerful address where Rowena discussed a more holistic approach. The key points she discussed:

  1. Inclusive – and the need to considers the diversity of learners, the ethos of the space, the language, curriculum content, and pedagogic approaches.
  2. Antiracist – the challenges of it, the values and structures that perpetuate systematic racism.
  3. Decolonising the curriculum – and the need to critically examine the power and the history. That it isn’t simply adding a varied range of sources in our reading lists. It is not just about adding diversity, but learning from different perspectives, and about a different, more collective vision.

I couldn’t attend in the afternoon, but here is the link to their blog there are some interesting titles and some have useful links within their blurb that may be work a look. If the recording to the keynotes is distributed I’ll add it.


shaking hands through a laptopGwnes i fynychu cynhadledd Dysgu ac Addysgu Prifysgol Caeredin ar 15 Mehefin. Roedd y diwrnod cyntaf ar agor i bobl o’r tu allan a oedd yn rhagflas hyfryd o’r hyn a oedd i ddod yn ystod y digwyddiad dros dridiau. Agorwyd y gynhadledd gan eu pobl bwysig hwy, a oedd i’w ddisgwyl, ac roedd yn ddiddorol ac yn galonogol clywed y pethau tebyg yn ein sefydliadau dros y flwyddyn anodd ddiwethaf o waith caled gan staff a myfyrwyr. Roedden nhw hefyd yn dathlu eu Cymrodorion yr Academi Addysg Uwch gan annog eraill i gymryd rhan yn eu proses.

Roedd y ddau brif siaradwr a ddilynodd hyn yn rhagorol gan ysgogi llawer o drafodaeth yn y sesiwn holi ac ateb. Y cyflwyniad cyntaf oedd “Curriculum Considerations In Supercomplex Times” gan Kerri-Lee Krause sy’n Brofost ac yn Uwch Ddirprwy Is-ganghellor yng Ngholeg Prifysgol Avondale, Awstralia (daw Is-ganghellor Prifysgol Caeredin hefyd o Awstralia, felly roedd cysylltiad). Roedd hi’n drafodaeth hynod ddiddorol gan rannu ei hymchwil ym maes trawsnewid y cwricwlwm. Gofynnodd 4 cwestiwn: C1 Beth yw Trawsnewid y Cwricwlwm? C2 Pam mae eisiau Trawsnewid y Cwricwlwm? C3 Pwy sy’n arwain Trawsnewid y Cwricwlwm? A C4 Sut byddwch chi’n cyfranogi gyda Thrawsnewid y Cwricwlwm? Gwnaeth ein hannog ni i gyd i’w hateb naill ai yn y sgwrs neu ar bapur. Gwnes i drydaru’r cwestiynau ac yna ychwanegu fy ymatebion personol. Roeddwn yn meddwl y byddai’n ddiddorol i ni fel tîm ymateb, hyd yn oed heb wrando ar gyflwyniad @kerrileekrause, roeddwn yn meddwl y byddai’n ymarfer rhagorol i ni oll ei ystyried gan ein bod i gyd yn ddatblygwyr academaidd. Gallwch ddod o hyd i’m trydarau yn @mandyjjack, mae’r dolenni uniongyrchol i bob cwestiwn uchod.

Yr ail brif siaradwr oedd Rowena Arshad, Athro Emeritws a Chadair Bersonol Addysg Amlddiwylliannol a Gwrth-hiliol, Prifysgol Caeredin, “Diversity in Learning and Teaching: Is Inclusion Truly Available?” Roedd hwn yn anerchiad pwerus iawn lle bu Rowena’n trafod ymagwedd fwy cyfannol. Dyma’r prif bwyntiau allweddol y gwnaeth eu trafod:

  1. Cynhwysol – a’r angen i ystyried amrywiaeth dysgwyr, ethos gofod, yr iaith, cynnwys y cwricwlwm ac ymagweddau addysgegol
  2. Gwrth-hiliol – ei heriau, a gwerthoedd a strwythurau sy’n gadael i hiliaeth systematig barhau.
  3. Dad-drefedigaethu’r Cwricwlwm – a’r angen i archwilio pŵer a hanes yn feirniadol. Nid ychwanegu ystod amrywiol o ffynonellau at ein rhestrau darllen yn syml yw hyn. Nid ychwanegu amrywiaeth yw hyn chwaith ond dysgu o safbwyntiau gwahanol ac am weledigaeth wahanol ac y cyd.

Doeddwn i ddim yn gallu bod yn bresennol yn y pnawn, ond dyma ddolen i’w blog mae teitlau diddorol iawn a rhai dolenni hynod ddefnyddiol yn yr wybodaeth a allai fod o fudd ichi. Os bydd y recordiad o’r prif siaradwyr yn cael ei ddosbarthu, bydda i’n ei ychwanegu.[:]

[:en]Reflections of ALTc[:]


This September Debbie Baff, Simon Gibbon and I (Mandy Jack) attended this year’s annual ALT (Association for Learning Technology) conference which is the UK’s main learning technology conference. See our reflections on the SALT Blog.  This year the conference was held at the University of Warwick Campus and the theme was called: Connect, Collaborate, Create – the full programme can be found on ALTc website.

The opening keynote was from Josie Fraser, UK-based Social and Educational Technologist, with a talk called “In the Valley of the Trolls”. Josie looked at specific contexts of open practice – social and political, and “digital environmental factors that shape, restrict and enable collaboration and collection”.

In her talk, she highlights key issues relating to online anonymity, trolling, and self-regulation that educational organisations, providers, and individuals need to be aware of and engaged with, in the context of supporting all educators and learners to work, share and learn openly online. She also referred to open educational practice, and how uncomfortable it is to share with people who don’t agree with you.

Here are Jodie’s notes from the keynote

Here are Mandy Jack’s favourite sessions

 ‘Welcome to the M-Assessment Quiz show’ with Lisa Donaldson from Dublin City University. Assessment is THE most impactful thing we can do for student learning (Black & Wiliam 98). It felt like a good call. This innovative workshop demonstrated how to easily make formative assessment an integral part of the learning process by creating technology rich experiences to engage learners. The session was hands on, the audience participated in a selection of online quiz and polling activities, which were interesting and versatile.  After a quick play, we evaluated eight assessment tools for the classroom. Of which my favourite was

We used Zeetings to vote on our preferred tool, participated in 3 quizzes with Kahoot, Mentimeter, and Quizizz and also reviewed a Zaption video quiz and vote via Plickers on a question set. Final three tools were posted to a Padlet Wall with supporting documentation. We then voted via Answergarden to crown a winner! Wow, a fabulous range of tools used in a fun way to allow us to try them out. Obviously, you wouldn’t use them all at once with students, but they are all worth a look. We used a selection TEd some in the IT month so check out the blog between September 8th to October 7th.

The next session that I particularly liked was ‘A Collaborative approach to assessment’ presented by  Sarah Sherman, and Leo Havemann from University of London

Sherman and Havemann began with a quote from Ferrell 2012 “Assessment and feedback lie at the heart of the learning experience, and forms a significant part of both academic and administrative workload. It remains, however, the single biggest source of student dissatisfaction with the higher education experience”.

Sherman and Havemann presented the argument that online assessment and feedback methods and processes are increasingly essential to the student experience and must be regarded as a priority for education institutions. In their session they considered the experiences of the members of the Bloomsbury Learning Environment (BLE) consortium (a group of geographically-close HE institutions based in London) in which there has been an increasing interest – and concern – in this area. The presentation describes how they assessed and evaluated appropriate technologies to support e-assessment across the consortium, producing documentation and case studies.

The pair shared their lessons learned and highlighted areas of good, innovative and interesting practice. They used the Jisc Transforming Assessment and feedback with technology guidance, which provides ideas and resources to help colleges and universities enhance the entire assessment and feedback lifecycle.

The next remarkable speaker came from the final Keynote of the first day, a lady called  Lia Commissar – Education and Neuroscience: Issues and Opportunities.  A match for our very own Phil Newton she talked about Neuromyths, where do they come from, are they a problem and what can we do about them. Listen for yourself.

Emma Purnell, Rebecca Vickerstaff, and Liz Mcgregor from Plymouth Uni presented an interesting paper called Evaluating Evaluation! This was described as a four tiered approach encapsulating evaluation techniques and methods in staff training and delivery, peer review, participant experience and formal feedback in Higher Education. They developed their research based on training and development needs of academic and non-academic staff in Higher Education, which are critical in ensuring continued digital literacy standards. Enhancing staff skills and awareness’s of digital technology is vital in creating engaging and innovative teaching materials for students (Courtney, 2013).
I was particularly interested as they asked how do we continue to ensure that the method in which we evaluate is appropriate and meeting learning outcomes in an increasing evolving educational field? Evaluation of training is a critical process in measuring the impact of learning and training provision in Higher Education and many institutions demonstrate and disseminate various ways of evaluation. So to help answer their question the team developed a 4 tiered approach to help bring consistency to their training programmes.


Courtney, K. (2013) ‘Adapting Higher Education through Changes in Academic Work’. Higher Education Quarterly, 67 (1). pp 40-55.

I went to the Jisc workshop entitled ‘What is Digital Capability’ I didn’t think that they particularly answered the question, and they didn’t particularly ask for our ideas either. Here is the diagram from their website which is rather helpful, and there are a range of tools and projects that can help with the understanding of this complex concept.


The activity they asjiscactivityked us to engage in however, was interesting. They asked us to plot the technology we used personally in each area of our lives. Here is my diagram, make of it what you will.

In another talk, later on in the day Kerry Pinny and Marcus Elliot suggested that, Creativity takes courage (and digital capabilities) . They used the Jisc framework to design their CPD workshop. They research began by asking ‘How do you convince the important people of the way forward, of what you want to do and how you intend doing it?’ They explained that it is crucial to get the stakeholders together; take of wellbeing was a keyword. So they began by sending an email asking How Digital Are You? along with a questionnaire. The other key development was departmental opportunities, where their Law department gave their staff a Digital week to explore their digital capabilities.

Another interehuddersfieldcoursetitlessting presentation from Huddersfield Uni Flipping heck! Be careful what you wish for [1296]: Andrew Raistrick, and Steven Bentley. Their Academic developers ran a range of workshops like our September It month called Pick and Mix workshops. However, they used the flipped classroom approach. They used eStream to create a range of video resources that they expected staff to watch prior to attending the course. They reported that trainer fatigue was avoided by using the videos. The answer was not to replace the hands on with the video, but to have them as a supplementary resource.  Here are some of the courses Huddersfield have on offer; if there is anything here that you find interesting please contact SALT.


See Deb’s personal reflections below:

#altc September 2016 – My Highlights


Using Online Interactive Tools for Engagement


Questions & Quizzes

Using online tools for learning and teaching has been something that many of us have explored, or ignored, for years. You can waste many precious hours (and lose the will to live) testing and evaluating tools until you are so confused you don’t know which button to press next.

Debbie Baff and I (Mandy Jack) love them, and today we shared a selection of our favourites, which we have evaluated and tested in a range of ways so that you can just try them for size.

We began with Todaysmeet, which is a website that allows to you create an online space to ask, receive and answer questions. You just create a ‘room’, share the web address and begin asking and answering questions. It’s a great way to get a session started, or you can use it to pose questions as you teach

so that you can gain an insight to the level of understanding. You can also get students to ask questions and maybe even answer them too.


padletPadlet was the next tool we looked at. Padlet allows you to summarise a large amount of information and present it in visually pleasing ways. You can put in text, photos, graphs and other learning tools and share the image with students. You can use it to organise your lesson, including learning objectives, present information for exams or to stimulate a discussion. Padlet can also be used as an interactive questions board. Students can access a questions board 24/7 and anonymously post questions. The teacher can then read off and answer (and delete anything inappropriate) the questions each day.  It can also be effectively used as a Forum, where you might post a particular topic or issue, and students can post their opinions on the subject. Some great ideas for other uses here:


Zeetings was next. This tool allows you to add a fabulous range of interactive media into your sessions whether you use Powerpoint or not in your lectures and seminars. As a teacher, you create the web content and everyone participates from their own device, in person or remote, in real-time or in their own time. There is no need to download or install anything, just share the web address. I use this sometimes as I am building my lecture content, so I plan the questions and the media explanations that I think I will need. Other times I just add questions and polls as I go, if I feel the need to ascertain just how well something has been understood.

The final thing we shared was Polleverywhere, which is another online Live Audience Participation tool. Poll Everywhere is a simple application that works well for live audiences using mobile devices like phones or tablets, but you can us a PC if you accessing the poll remotely. People participate by visiting the web page you create, or by sending text messages or using Twitter. The poll will update in real time and the results can be shared in a range of interesting ways.

Like all the others we looked at today, Polleverywhere has quite a good free application that you can upgrade if you want more flexibility. We have managed with the free versions of all the applications that we have mentioned today.[:]

[:en]Group-work or working in a group?[:]

[:en]Here is Mandy Jack abseiling off the top of Kilvey Hall of residence, behind Fulton House. She was part of the ISS team Book drop fundraising for SOS Africa.

Video and images by Deb Baff

Not exactly the type of group work we would normally be writing about here in SALT.  However, it is a good example of being part of a group or team, contributing an individual piece of work for a project, a concept which is often confused or interchanged in teaching with group-work.  Work like this is purely an amalgamation of  individual pieces of work collected and presented as one, rather than a collaboration where individuals share ideas, skills and methods to accomplish a task or project.  The latter is much more difficult to manage, but has so much to offer especially in higher education. Kezar (2004) discusses how the external pressures and the known benefits of collaboration, drove many higher education institutions to develop more collaborative learning opportunities. She talks of higher education institutes trying to create learning communities, service and community-based learning, and interdisciplinary research and teaching and that 50% of them failed. The article was written twelve years ago, so how far have we come? Furthermore, can technology help to drive the initiative further and with more success?

After reading an interesting article on Mediashift a few months ago I was interested to find out what sort of innovative collaboration was happening here at Swansea using digital technology.  If you have any stories, successes or otherwise we would love to know. Please email

I also want to investigate the possibilities that interactive touchscreens and presentation technology might have in various settings. You might have attended  one of the demonstrations last month where the SALT Team had a range of Interactive Touch Screens (ITS) available to explore. If so, please let us know what you think? Again contact us:

We are hosting a session on Wednesday afternoon (June 22nd 2016) as part of the Learning Innovations Group (LIG)  project asking “Can technology enhance collaborative learning?”   It will be an opportunity to see the new SALT learning and teaching space and to test some collaborative, interactive tech over a spot of lunch. You will be asked to collaborate with colleagues and to share ideas about how you could embed such technology into your practice.  If you would like to attend please contact Mandy Jack at for details.[:]