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!”

Looking Back, Facing Forward – 2018 New Year Blog

[:en]Here in SALT, we thought we’d take a leaf out of PVC Stringer’s book and work on some New Year’s resolutions ourselves.  Kicking off the blog posts is one of our newer team members, Rhian Ellis with her reflections on 2017 and what she’s hoping to achieve in 2018.

What have I achieved?

Rhian Ellis
Rhian Ellis, Academic Developer, CPD Team

In September 2017, I was appointed to Swansea University’s Academy of Learning and Teaching as an Academic Developer, specialising in continued professional development. Getting to know my SALT colleagues and members of the wider University community has been a privilege, while settling into my new role. 2018 is going to be an exciting year! So, what have I learned since being here?

My career development in 2017 has encouraged me to reflect on my identity as a ‘learning teacher’ over a twenty-five year period of great change in education. Not only upon WHAT I have learned, but HOW I learned.  I find Jane Hart’s curated list of current ‘Top Tools for Learning’ most interesting for this. It can be seen here in the video of her keynote speech on ‘Modern Workplace Learning’ at the SALT conference in 2017.

Jane Hart image of tools
Image of tools taken from Jane Hart’s Conference Keynote 2017

I was surprised by how many tools I used daily (and encouraged my learners to use) for many years as a teacher, some of which were introduced in formal CPD sessions e.g. Prezi. I’m now discovering lots of new and useful ones on a weekly basis, often through my everyday interactions with colleagues and academic staff – another key characteristic of the ‘Modern Professional Learner’ celebrated by Jane Hart.  Learning in this more casual way illustrates how CPD is often informal in nature. For example, the tips we get from others and then pass on.

Jane Hart suggests we count how many tools we use regularly in our professional and/or personal life.

When I did this, I realised that I developed my use of digital tools for learning far more than I imagined – even ‘google’ counts!  Since September, I’m now using many more.

This reflection has encouraged me to be open-minded about trying out versatile tools such as ‘Padlet’, introduced to me by my SALT colleagues Debbie Baff and Mandy Jack in their September ‘TEL Month’ workshop. Here is a padlet I recently put together on ‘Feedback and Feedforward’ support.  Look out for workshops on this theme with myself and Suzie Pugh from SALT in 2018, by the way! You can even contribute to the padlet if you wish.

Twitter is another tool I’ve used more for professional reasons in 2017. It featured as the top learning tool in Jane Hart’s research for ten years, only recently being over taken by You Tube.  Twitter was created in 2006 by American founders Jack Dorsey, Noah Glass, Biz Stone and Evan Williams, and now features a lot more than people’s dinner photos… thankfully! Twitter has become a useful platform for endless CPD opportunities, and I’m now a regular Twitter user.

So what are the benefits?

Twitter alone has enabled me to build a ‘trusted professional network’ at, through and for work.  I now have a wealth of information at my fingertips. I have connected with world-leading experts who share current developments in higher education, including newly published research papers, topical issues, shared experience and thought provoking debate.

Using Tweetdeck allows me to coordinate and manage both my personal and SALT twitter accounts with ease.  I took part in my first monthly Tweet chat on it recently, a ‘Peer Coaching’ forum, hosted by I contributed my experience of ‘peer triads’, and in turn learned about other coaching practices in the UK. @rhianellis3      @susaltteam

Screenshot from Peer Coaching tweetchat
screenshot from Peer Coaching Tweetchat


A big thank you to my very own peer coaches, Louise Rees and Debbie Baff! Louise and Debbie introduced me to, a helpful community of practice (we form a great example of a ‘peer triad’ in action, by the way!). The tweet chat generated useful ideas for future CPD possibilities here at Swansea University.  I’m looking forward to the next chat on ‘Team Coaching’, January 26th 12-1pm.

I’ve also gained many new Twitter followers over recent months, mainly as a result of my retweets and comments. As a result I am developing my ‘on-line identity’, as well as contributing to a wider community of academic development.




Lots of academic staff at Swansea University share my enthusiasm for Twitter and its potential benefits. Connecting with you in this way has enabled me to get to know people’s specialisms, passions and questions. In turn, this can help inform CPD planning from SALT.

Now what…?

My intentions for further use of twitter include:-

  • Sharing expertise through more tweets
  • Refining the use of hashtags # to maximise engagement
  • Continuing to build my professional network
  • Applying my learning to CPD opportunities for academic staff at Swansea University
  • Promoting excellence in teaching and learning in 2018 and beyond

I also intend to devote a controlled amount of time to Twitter/Tweetdeck each week, flexing it around my priorities. One of the disadvantages of twitter is the risk of overspent time. As your profile increases in popularity, people may wish to interact with you more. Mobile devices also tempt frequent checking, so I have set myself strict boundaries.

My work in academic development in 2017 has definitely moved me even further along the ‘visitor-resident’ mode of engagement with digital learning tools, with lots of benefits.

My advice to anyone who may remain ‘on the fence’ about Twitter for CPD (as well digital teaching and learning tools) is to keep an open mind! There’s no obligation to ‘move in’, simply ‘visit’ whenever you choose and see if you find benefits too.

Happy tweeting in 2018 everyone! @rhianellis3 @susaltteam #CPD


Blog created using Rolfe et al’s (2001) Reflective Model.

Rolfe, G. Freshwater, D., Jasper, M. (2001) Critical reflection in nursing and the helping professions: a user’s guide. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Other useful references:

Beginners guide to using twitter for educational professional development on You Tube[:]

[:en]Learning through Games – reflections on the SALT Conference 2017[:]


Image: CC0 Public domain courtesy of

The SALT Conference 2017 was yesterday and we’re still on a high after the excellent range of posters, presentation and workshops.  We’re encouraging you whether you participated, presented or Chaired a session to reflect on the sessions you were at and identify how your practice might be changed?  What new learning did you gain? What will you do differently in the coming year?  What one thing will you have a go at? Will you tell us how you did, so we can build up our Case studies?

Here’s Louise Rees’ reflection (using the simple Add New>Reflection template in Pebblepad) on attending the two sessions by Helen Hodges (@hodges_hr, Abstract on using Kipling) and Pete King (@SU_MACS_MADATP, Playfulness Abstract) outlining how the learning environment has been adjusted to be more active and student engaging by involving ‘games’ and ‘playfulness’ .[:]

“If I build it, will he come?” Would they want to find out more on Pebble+?

Along with Kevin Costner in the film Field of Dreams, I wondered if I’d get anybody coming to the SALT Training room for last Tuesday’s practical session on creating webfolios, workspaces and tools to support reflection available in Pebble+.  We had a really interesting introduction to what Pebble+ could do to kick-start the month..I hoped so.

I’m glad to say that several did turn up, and others didn’t not because they weren’t interested, but there was a clash.  Phew! Beforehand, I asked what particular aspects of the Pebble+ features they were interested in. I’d not done any ‘live’ creation of blogposts, grouping them in the Collection feature and also generating all the features possible, so I made sure, like any good Blue Peter presenter, that I had one I’d prepared earlier to showcase.

The webfolio example drew on Jo Berry’s example, but this time the ‘project topic’ was on the range of ice cream families and establishments in South Wales, including how to add pictures and each student doing a blog on their reflections.  If blog posts are effectively tagged, you can use them not just a modular level (which would be specific to a module in Blackboard), but by theme or year, so that as a student they can reflect on your knowledge over time.  It also means, using the Collection feature, students can customise an electronic webfolio ‘CV’ according to the nature of the job they are applying for.

borton-300x249There are many preset Reflection templates in Pebble+ that students can use.  Templates vary in the depth of detail about the activity that they are reflecting on, so it depends on your personal preference on which to use. However, I also explored how you could establish a specific template which specific fields if you wanted students to submit a more structured reflection on their activities. Its also a useful tool for recording your own CPD.

Hopefully some might give it a go in their own teaching (or for themselves) in the coming year.  Do let us know how you get on:

[:en]What Pebble+ can do to enhance student learning[:]

[:en]SALT’s IT Month kicked off with two contrasting uses of some of the features of Pebble+ to enhance student learning.  Pebble+ is available directly from the University’s portal for staff or is a tool inbuilt in Blackboard, the virtual learning environment.

Joanne Berry from Arts and Humanities showed how she addressed increased variety and authenticity in her assessment approach by getting students to work in groups and create webfolios showcasing their research on aspects of Pompeii as well as blogging about their reflection on the groupwork and task.

Image of man at computer with the words Web design behind it
Students thought webfolios meant creating websites and were scared at the thought of this.

Many students were scared at the thought of creating websites and a very small number dropped the module when it dawned on them the nature of the assessment.  However, some of the amazing outcomes of this approach is that many of the webfolios are to a very high standard with amazing creativity – some are worthy of actual publishing on the web to share with others.  (One of the advantages of using webfolios in Pebble+ is that such material can be created but not shared on the Internet unless agreed to by the student developing it).

The regularly submitted personal blogs as part of the webfolio enabled Jo to monitor how the groups  were functioning and to intervene.  In sharing some of the students’ comments, it revealed how many had grown in confidence (after initially being apprehensive) and also had developed great employability skills from this task.  The impact on student learning was amazing! Jo presented her findings (via recorded presentation at the recent PebbleBash conference.)

As a complete contrast in using the features of Pebble+, Steve Beale from English Language Training Services shared his growing pains of trialling what would be a suitable way of enabling their students to upload electronic versions of their marked mark, addressing a pressing space limitation issue within the department.  Steve shared some noteworthy tips on the differences between webfolios (more creativity and freedom) with the Workbook feature (more control and standardised responses) and how in particular he had to create additional guides and videos on using Pebble+ for those students who weren’t as computer literate as others.  Getting students used to this feature of uploading their work and progress grades was a first step.  The next step is to encourage the students to reflect on their progress and review their strengths and weaknesses.  Templates within Pebble+ will enable them to do this.

This was a great session to kick off IT month, with lots of questions and interest from those attending to have a go… would any turn up for the more practical session the next week on how to build the webfolio and use the reflective tools?  Find out in my next post.[:]

[:en]Flipping classroom! Another small step to trying something new[:]


FlippedIn my (hopefully) improving skills in supporting learning and teaching of staff at Swansea, I decided to try something else new this week.  I had a go at recording part of my presentation for participants to review before the class so that we could discuss the topic briefly at the teaching session; this would also free up more time for the practical activity which was the whole point of the session.

In essence, I attempted to Flip the Classroom and also implement Flipped Learning (see this website for a definition of the two).

Find out how I get on my reading my blog.  I challenge you to have a go yourself.  Did you do what I should have done first before starting???[:]