HEA accreditation

So, after all the embroidery going on over the last week or so, I declared enough was enough and got out the sewing machine to finally quilt the patchwork.

Quilting the Patchwork

Quilting the Patchwork

As with all design processes I have ever undertaken, it was a good thing that a deadline was looming: the portfolio for HEA accreditation needed to be handed in at Staffordshire University yesterday. And while I had been going back and forth in my head about whether to actually hand in the quilt as part of it or not, I thought it would be nice to have the option. The actual quilting transformed this piece of work, making it look much more ‘finished’ (although it took way longer than I expected it to, I’m glad I did it on a non-work day, because I wouldn’t have been able to complete it in just one evening).

But what about the portfolio? While all the embroidery was going on, I was also busy writing my annotations and sorting out my references. And during a chat with a colleague of mine about the portfolio, he commented on how conversational my writing was and said that on reading the first bits he thought I was going down the interview route. Now, I am ashamed to admit, but this hadn’t really occured to me. It should have, as I do a lot of work with genre writing (lots of cream embroidery on my patchwork), but my initial plan had been to get all the information down (conversationally as I find that easy as a first draft) and thenn ‘academic it up’ with making it more formal. However, if the whole point of the portofolio was to represent my practice, then using a slightly alternative genre made sense.

The finished patchwork side of the quilt

The finished patchwork side of the quilt

So, inspired by the quilt itself,  I set about rewriting the whole thing, turning it into an interview with myself, trying to explain the quilt concept, why there was only going to be one side of it (for now), and trying to guess the questions that might come up while viewing this piece – and answering them. Of course that made me end up with a combination of the annotations and the reflective commentary (which might have gone slightly beyond the word count), but I think I ended up explaining the concept, how it relates to my portfolio of work, and how it is not only reflective practice in action, but also reflecting my practice.

When the time for the decision came, I decided to go with the quilt and interview, rather than just the ‘normal’ portfolio and annotation. And the HEA bag I had from the Storyville conference in May was just the perfect size…

It's in the bag

It’s in the bag

The work on the quilt as such is not finished. I am working on the other side – a map that locates my different practices in relation to each other – and am doing more embroidery on that. And I keep updating my Post-it Patchwork, as this has become a valuable working document that helps me plan future projects.

current state of embroidery on the 'map' side

current state of embroidery on the ‘map’ side

As to how the portfolio was received, I will let you know once I know more…

I have finished the ‘virtual’ patchworking and am working on fabric now – thanks to the lovely technicians at Staffordshire University who printed my file onto a quite substantial cotton.

The Patchwork printed onto fabric

The Patchwork printed onto fabric

The patches are all colour coded – so one purple is for the Tactile Academia stuff, blue for the Writing in Creative practice workshops, black for publications, grey for publications in the works, white for very early publication plans, green for teaching activities, red for administrative/uni stuff, orange for important outside influences and yellow for ‘old’ stuff, i.e. my PhD and things before that. And I am really pleased with how this turned out.

However, to add a bit more interest, I have decided that before I attempt the actual quilting, I am going to add some (very basic) embroidery, picking out the odd word or illustration. The way I choose these colours are based on the content – so really it is another layer of colour coding. I started with the content relating to the Tactile Academia booklets, mainly because there I already had colours picked out: blue for The Fishscale of Academicness, red for The Winning Hand of Independence, yellow for The Button Connection, cream for The Dress-up Doll of Formality (and all sorts of ways of playing with written genre), dark green for The Butterfly Challenge and light green for The Land- and Seascape of Academic Practice. Actually this last one I thought was very complex and deserved two colours really, so I used the light green for the islands as well as anything connected to object-based learning and introduced a pink for the ‘shallow’ waters – and anything connected with the ‘off-loading’ practices of craft (the pink inspired by the Pairings Project, which really should have been more magenta, but I decided to stick with the colours liberated from my grandmothers sewing box rather than buying new ones). You can find a very light blue representing The Underwater Iceberg (a book in  preparation), and orange representing my work on blogging (inspired by the colours of the blog on that which is now defunct).

Since then I have also added dark blue for the work with collage and reflective bookmaking, purple for the overall tactile academia ideas, a light brown for genre that is not written and olive for experiential learning (although I don’t seem to have a picture of that – oops!). I will post soon about the actual quilting of it…

And, just as with the whole process of putting this together, this work has allowed me time to reflect and analyse my work. I have been able to see how the things I do interconnect with each other – and how long I have already been on this journey of ‘Tactile Academia’ without knowing it. This has been particularly useful as I have also been in the process of putting together the portfolio for the accreditation to Senior Fellow of the HEA . Taking the time to work on the quilt has allowed me to see a lot of things more clearly – and it has given me an example with which I can visually and conceptually explain what I do in a learning and teaching context.

As you know if you are following this blog regularly (or by checking out the ‘Quilt’ category if you don’t), one of the projects that I am currently working on is an alternative presentation of my CV/expertise/Learning and Teaching development in form of a patchwork quilt.

After an initial surge of working on it, this had gone through a more fallow period while I was dealing with other stuff, but over the summer I had set aside some more time to work on it. (Although it turned out that I had less time than I thought I would have. Isn’t that always the case?) However, I am happy to report that I not only updated my post-it version to reflect what had happened in the last few months (a great feeling of replacing some dark green post-its that show plans with some other coloured post-its which show things that have actually happened; and then adding more dark green ones!), but also set aside the August bank holiday weekend to do some ‘virtual quilting’. So I made a concerted effort to dig out the information I needed and put it together.

But how to visually ‘code’ this information? The transfer from post-its to representational ‘patch’ actually proved trickier than I had expected. Initially I had thought about finding as many photographic images as possible to represent my patches. But putting them together (virtually with the help of Powerpoint) made the whole thing incredibly busy – and ironically at the same time less interesting.

For a while I got excited by the tactile opportunities a physical patchwork would bring and started thinking about different fabrics, playing with textures. And while that would have worked very well for selected patches, I realised that they would have been only very few, so few they would have been distracting.

In the end I went back to thinking about the post-its. The post-its work as the ‘working version’ because they fit together easily (being all the same size and square) and exactly because they have very little visual information on them: they have black writing or basic sketches on them, while the background is a base colour from a very limited palette. That’s what makes the post-it version easy to read; so that is what I needed in the more elaborate (hopefully to be fabric one day) version as well.

I therefore decided to keep that aesthetic by using bits of text or simple drawings to go on the patches. Most of them set at a +/- 45 degree angle, these squares literally cut out of existing documents give a hint of their content, but also have a clean appearance with a stripey look as opposed to the clutter of visual information photographs would have provided. This also allowed me to set apart external inspirations and influences by again cutting squares from textual/published material, but not setting them at an angle.

In putting together these patches over a couple of evenings, I realised that most of my material can be drawn from a textual base – published articles, abstracts or words on slides, handouts and written notes, although there was also the opportunity to include the odd line drawing. I decided to set apart the ‘future plans’ / ‘in progress’ category by using sketches and hand-written rather than typed text.

By now I was working on Photoshop (a very slow process as I am not a graphic designer and have a very old and limited version of it – it was free, I shouldn’t complain) and it was time to come up with some ‘rules’ for the colour coding. I had decided quite early on to use negative images for externally published papers or events, the white text on black reminding me of so many black cotton conference bags with white logos I have collected. Initially I had thoughts that they would mostly represent logos, but then I realised that where exactly I had been was less important than that it was external and the content. (The ‘where’ could always be taken care of in a separate patch of the UK/world with little beads representing the places papers and workshops were delivered… there’s an idea to follow up on one day!)

So: talks at external conferences and published papers would be white text on a black background. In contrast the papers that are not quite there (written and submitted abstracts, for example, or ideas) I would leave black on white.

The rest of the patches would be coloured like post-its, with the help of the opacity function in Photoshop.

The Writing in Creative Practice workshops, mostly external events funded by the HEA, were very important in the development as a learning and teaching professional, as I was (co)organising most of them, presented my own research and networked with other interested parties. A major staff development activity. I decided to give each of them a separate patch rather than just doing one to represent all of them. As a colour I decided to go for HEA blue-ish.

For the Tactile Academia related things I am going with a purple/lavender colour inspired by this blog, while also being reminiscent of the different Tactile Academia booklets, which are printed black on different colours.

Other colours I needed were for Teaching Activities, External Inspirations/Influences, Responsibilities at university (often linked to admin type work) and important ideas that went back to my PhD research. After I spent a fun weekend playing around with different patches and colours I had come up with this:

a version of my coloured patchwork

a version of my coloured patchwork

I am going to slightly change this – and some patches are still missing – but I have to say I am quite happy with this as a rough version of the patchwork side of my quilt.

Now I just have to make some headway on the other side as well… and get it printed onto fabric… and actually quilt it…

Another fortnight, another get-together to talk about our portfolios for the HEA fellowship accreditation. This time we talked about A4 – Develop effective learning environments and approaches to student support and guidance.

At Fellow level we need to give evidence of our debelopment of a learning environment, for example

  • examples of an online environment
  • mentoring or tutoring plans and notes
  • photos of equipment, exhibitions, etc. in a relevant setting

At Senior Fellow level we need to give evidence of our managing the development of learning environments and support, for example

  • organising personal tutoring
  • setting up online environments
  • organising exhibitions, placements, etc.

We talked about how we support, set up and manage both online environments  for modules (and particularly the tools here that go beyond the mere information delivery of putting up lecture slides, for examples the use of discussion forums, blogs, wikis) and also resources (different ways of accessing our in-house research collection) as well as the ‘old-fashioned’ not quite as virtual environments we create – and why sometimes the one is more appropriate than the other. Actually we thought what would probably be an important factor in our annotation of our individual examples would be exactly this explanation – why did we choose to set it up this way, with reference to the content and skills we teach, and the type of students we interact with.

We ended by having a little chat about the references. Each of us needs to references, which should be provided by somebody who knows our teaching, so we thought about who we could ask.

Next time: A5 – Engaging in continuing professional development in subjects/disciplines and their pedagogy, incorporating research, scholarship and the evaluation of professional practices.


Today we talked about Area of Activity 3: Assess and give feedback to learners.

Suggested as evidence for the portfolios was at Fellow Level:

  • Anonymised assessment feedback
  • Evaluation of the impact of assessment feedback
  • Formative or summative assessment brief

at Senior Fellow Level:

  • Evidence of co-ordination toles in relation to student feedback, for example standardisation and moderation

When discussing what examples we could include into our individual portfolios, we were thinking not just about the written feedback the students get, but about the whole experience and how that is structured. For example, one of us explained the feedback procedure in her award area and how the students are provided with written feedback as preparation for a tutorial, which allows them time before the tutorial to reflect and actually prepare for the tutorial, so they can come up with specific questions they have. This is something that wouldn’t necessarily be apparent from the suggested examples, so we thought that it might be a good idea to put together a flow-chart of how the feedback process works – and how it is effectively turned into feed-forward.

We were talking about how to visually present the feedback to students, and I particularly mentioned a paper on this I heard at a conference in 2010 (which I highly recommend and can be found here), which I have based my current feedback sheets on.

We were then also thinking about ways to visually explain to students the weighting of different aspects, whether they be different parts of the module or different learning outcomes, as this is a problem that students often seem to have, not quite understanding that not every part is of equal importance when it comes to coming up with the final grade. We thought that it might be a nice idea to include a pie chart to show this to students.

Rather than getting distracted for days and then delaying the writing of this like last time, I’m doing it today – only one day after our meeting.

This session we wanted to look at the annotation that needs to be done for these portfolios. While we have to provide evidence as to the different Areas of Activities, we need to show the Core Knowledge and Professional Values through some sort of annotation of the included Area of Activity documents.

There are six areas of Core Knowldge:

  • K1 The subject material
  • K2 Appropriate methods for teaching and learning in the subject area and at the level of the academic programme
  • K3 How students learn, both generally and within their subject/disciplinary area(s)
  • K4 The use and value of appropriate learning technologies
  • K5 Methods for evaluating the effectiveness of teaching
  • K6 The implications of quality assurance and quality enhancement for academic and professional practice with a particular focus on teaching

and four areas of Professional Values:

  • V1 Respect individual learners and diverse learning communities
  • V2 Promote participation in higher education and equality of opportunity for learners
  • V3 Use evidence-informed approaches and the outcomes from research, scholarship and continuing professional development
  • V4 Acknowledge the wider context in which higher education operates recognising the implications for professional practice

For the different levels of accreditation, Associate Fellow candidates have to annotate the portfolio to demonstrate examples of at least K1 and K2 and each element of the Professional Values, Fellow and Senior Fellow candidates have to demonstrate at least two examples of all the Core Knowledge and Professional Values.

In order to get our heads around this, we had a look at an example of a successful document from a colleague at a different university. However, as this didn’t go down the portfolio route it was describing the evidence of the Areas of Activity rather than including them as examples. Even though the process is therefore a bit different from what we will have to do, it was really helpful to look at an actual example. We really liked how this clearly refered to each of the Knowledge and Values in brackets after the description (for example K1 and V4), and how it used the discussion of both of these dimensions of the UK Professional Standards Framework to fold in theory.

We thought that it might be useful to physically organise this annotation (and also the editing of the portfolio) by collecting our possible evidence and using different coloured sticky-notes to remind us of what Knowledge and Value descriptors would be shown by these examples. That would make it easier to later on decide which examples to best include (briefness always being a virtue in portfolios) and would also make the writing-up of the annotations much easier.

We also thought about possibly keeping a grid to show what Areas of Activity could cover what Knowledge and which Values, to allow us each an overview to make the editing process easier. A grid of the submitted pieces of evidence could then also be submitted to give the reviewers that same overview.

And then we had some fun thinking about different ways of presenting these annotations. As we will have documents as evidence, we could signpost good practice much more directly than our colleague could in one long written piece. So we were thinking of using post-its to refer to the Knowledge and Values – and even where appropriate to point towards theory – or maybe luggage tags. Maybe the Knowledge needs to be represented by something other than the Values, so we could possibly have both? Or will that just become confusing?

As I am still thinking about at least somehow including a quilt (although whether I will have an appropriate one ready by then remains to be seen), I was also thinking of attaching things with safety pins, putting in looped (or sewn on straight) labels, or maybe even showing how things are being held together through Knowledge and Values by differently coloured thread. Yes, it would be way more complicated, but so much more fun than a boring collection of printed WordDocuments…

Yes, we had a second meeting, but I haven’t had time to blog about it until now…

This time we were concentrating on the area of Activity 2 – Teach and/or support learning.

The examples that are listed in our portfolio suggestions are at Fellow level:

  • Teaching aid (e.g. visual aid, handout)
  • Explanation of a teaching activity used in a relevant setting
  • Evaluation of teaching/learning sessions
  • Your reflection on National Student Survey results for your area

and at Senior Fellow level

  • Evidence of providing mentoring or development opportunities for staff who are teaching or supporting learning
  • Your strategic response to National Student Survey results for your area.

At Associate and Fellow level, we felt that this was an easier activity to provide evidence for than A1 – as we are all teaching, and that it was great to have the option to explain a teaching activity if teaching aids were inappropriate to include (or would be needed to back up a handout). so people who are demonstrating or giving tutorials a lot could still find evidence for this area or activity.

We spent a bit longer taling about what evidence we could provide at Senior Fellow level. on reflection (and in discussion) we were able to come up with examples how the people interested in that level of fellowship do mentor other mentors of staff, whether that be through sessions as part of a PgC, workshops offered through staff development, contributing to conferences and unconferences, just helping out colleagues or indeed this blog.

Next session: Annotating the Evidence – how to show Core Knowledge and Professional Values (as this session is scheduled during the Easter break, there might be only a few people coming, but we might do another session later in the term)

Let me first say: apologies to all readers who this really doesn’t apply to. Because this is only tangentially tactileacademia related, and some of the lingo is probably very Staffs specific…

Part of the university plan at Staffordshire University is that everybody should be HEA accredited within 5 years, so a small group of people from my award group have decided to get together regularly to have a chat about the things we need to for our individual portfolios. As inevitably not everybody can make it to these sessions, I promised to put a short summary on this blog, which also will allow exchange of ideas. I will put them into a new category called ‘HEA accreditation’. Who knows, maybe we will even get some virtual group members from other universities…?

So today we focused on Area of Activity 1: Design and plan learning activities and/or programmes of study

This seemed really straight-forward. For our portfolio we need at least one piece of evidence that shows we design and plan learning activities. Suggested on the tick-list for Fellow were:

  • module handbook developed by you
  • session plan
  • evidence of involvement in a validation panel
  • learning resource pack
  • plans to integrate the Staffordshire Graduate attributes

Suggested on the tick-list for Senior Fellow were:

  • Award or module handbook developed by you
  • Award monitoring form completed by you
  • Evidence of driving forward the Staffordshire Graduate agenda within your area

In our discussion we wondered how old the evidence could be. Some of us have recently had a significant change in our module leadership duties due to a restructuring on the awards, so things have changed quite a bit. We figured that as long as not all the evidence was ancient it would probably be ok to put in something that showed good practice but wasn’t current at the moment – and obviously that could be mentioned as part of the annotation/overview.

We decided to all think about examples we could include in our portfolio (to be edited down at a later stage), and to bring them to the next session, so that we could use these get-togethers to share good practice as well as just put together our own portfolios.

Next session: A2: Teach and/or support learning (moved from 12 to 1)