If you are applying for academic promotion, fellowship of AdvanceHE or an external teaching award, you will need to provide evidence to support your application. However, it can be difficult to identify what counts as evidence in a teaching context, particularly if you have recently switched from a more research focussed career. I do a lot of mentoring, and the advice I most often keep returning to is the importance of gathering and presenting evidence to back up claims in an application. This post summarises advice I have received and found useful in my own career.
I have constructed the framework below as a helpful tool to think about evidence collection. It is designed to be an easy-to-use way of organising your evidence, and identifying any gaps. (NB A version of the framework presented as a table is available at the end of this post if the image is unavailable or inaccessible)
The first dimension is who was the audience for your work? I think there are three main audiences; students, institutional colleagues and the wider external community. Most educators start by focussing on student facing activity, but it is important that your work leaves your own lecture theatre and has a wider audience. This might start by through sharing your work at an institutional teaching and learning conference, or sitting on a departmental, faculty or institutional committee or working group. As you become more confident, you should also consider how to disseminate your work outside your own institution, thereby building up an external profile. This could be through teaching and learning conferences, publications, a well maintained and active blog, invited talks etc. I don’t start a new project without establishing a dissemination plan, which results in much more efficient use of my own time.
The second dimension of the framework is what are you actually evidencing? The most common weakness I see in applications is a focus on evidence of activity (I did X) or excellence (I did a very good job of X), rather than evidence of impact (Y changed because I did X). It is evidence of impact that makes for a really compelling case, so I would focus your energies there. This will probably take some additional effort to collect, as it needs you to go back to things you have done and follow them up. I email people directly and ask them ‘What has changed as result of my activity?’ – this might be current and former colleagues, students who have graduated, people who attended events I run. It doesn’t matter whether the impact was on students or staff, but you need to show that there was impact.
To populate the evidence grid, you need to collect both quantitative and qualitative evidence of impact. Examples of these include:
- Quantitative: Student feedback scores, recruitment statistics, National Student Survey (NSS) results, YouTube channel hits, numbers of people who have engaged with widening participation activities, citation counts etc.
- Qualitative: Supportive quotes from students, testimonials from colleagues, free-text comments in feedback questionnaires etc. [Note: make sure you anonymise quotes from students/members of the public]
In order to gather this evidence, it is important to cultivate professional friends! Trusted colleagues who can provide you with testimonial quotes to support an application are invaluable. It always comes across as more impressive when someone else is praising your work, so building your network is key here. You should try and make contacts with immediate colleages, colleagues in other departments and colleagues at other institutions so you can demonstrate the breadth of your work.
The final piece of advice I’d give is to make sure the evidence is clearly presented in your application paperwork – don’t require the reader to go to your GoogleScholar page or trawl through a long CV. Write your document as if you were writing a paper – for each claim you make there should be something provided as evidence alongside it in the text. A good application will be full of evidence from the start. In the interests of transparency, you might find it useful to see how I did this in my National Teaching Fellowship application.
I hope this is a helpful framework in thinking about your career development. You could use it to review your current activities, and see if there are any gaps in what you are doing. Or you could use it in preparing applications to ensure that you have gathered all the evidence you require. In either case, keep thinking about impact – this is the key to success in an education focussed career.
|Evidence of Activity||Evidence of Excellence||Evidence of Impact|
|Student Facing Activity||Quantitative & Qualitative|
|Institution Facing Activity|
|External Facing Activity|
Evidencing Teaching Excellence presentation including the framework, given at HUBS meeting in Feb 2021