A real boost
I received the news of my Associate Fellowship at the end of the first week in January – just at the time when the reality of starting a new semester kicks in. After three years living in the UK (two of them in the pandemic), it gave me a real boost and furthered my motivation to get cracking with the new academic year. To me, this fellowship is an acknowledgement not only of my performance in my institution, but also a recognition of all the skills, knowledge and experience that I have acquired in other higher education institutions outside the UK for 10 years, which sometimes might be overlooked. This makes me feel part of a community of educators, researchers and teaching professionals with similar values and experiences. In turn, it makes me feel more enthusiastic about my work and confident about my own experience.
Making sense of my teaching career
Reflecting on my practice as part of the Fellowship application made me recollect and organise my teaching experience from a different perspective. Prior to coming to the UK, I taught at all levels in HE in Mexico, with some additional teaching in Spain, Germany and the US. While these are different systems, the pedagogical objectives are very similar. In the process of gathering evidence to support learning practices, I revisited some of the most successful strategies that I implemented years ago and that are still useful today, like prioritising visual information over text, adapting research to the local context and including a feedback task in every session/lecture to ensure that learning outcomes are being met. The process of applying for Associate Fellowship offers an invaluable opportunity to reflect on your past experiences with the aim of improving your practice for the future.
With a little help from my friends
Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) offers a series of opportunities for applicants such as the Queen’s Merit Award program, which offers orientation, advice workshops, and online resources with state-of-the-art literature. In this sense, the institutional support provided by QUB has been a crucial factor in the success of my application. I applied for the Associate Fellowship on the suggestion of the Director of Undergraduate Education at the School of Psychology, Dr Paul Wilson. I also received invaluable support from my mentor, Dr Elida Cena, and my line supervisor, Dr Gary McKeown.
Think globally, act locally
This reflective process also made me reflect on how HE has changed over the last 10 years and what challenges lie ahead for learning and assessment. We live in a different world now, largely shaped by technology and automated processes. For instance, the online transition during the pandemic lockdowns was not a total surprise because - to a certain extent - we were already using online platforms and tools before the pandemic. However, when new platforms like ChatGPT are presented on the educational stage, the protocol to follow is unclear, and we need to think of scenarios and solutions for the local context while keeping an eye on global practices.
At the same time, we now have great potential to increase experiential learning with virtual reality technology, and prepare students for the metaverse, which is predicted to transform the way in which teaching and learning occur. In any case, and in preparation for any scenario, we need to focus on our local contexts while keeping up to date with global trends.
Dr Salvador Alvidrez is Teaching Fellow (and now Associate Fellow) at the School of Psychology, Queen’s University Belfast. You can find out more about his teaching and research profile here.