Amidst the action-packed launch event of the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching back in September of last year was the announcement that Derby’s HEA CPD Scheme had been renamed Pathfinder. This is the well-established Scheme that provides the opportunity for ALL colleagues to get professional recognition for their learning and teaching practice by gaining Associate Fellowship, Fellowship or Senior Fellowship.
Pathfinder is not a name that was chosen lightly. Colleagues who know me no doubt suspect that the name reflects a not so subtle allusion to my academic background as a geographer … you know the green-covered Ordnance Survey Pathfinder book and maps – impossible to fold up again once they’ve been unfurled and with a guarantee that whatever your destination, it will always be along one of the creases!
Whilst I’m very proud of my academic background and more certain than ever of the contemporary value of Geography as an academic discipline, the truth is that the name Pathfinder has more significant meaning in two ways:
Firstly, it refers to the nature of the work that most colleagues who engage with Pathfinder undertake on a daily basis, i.e. helping our learners find their routes through University and beyond. As Gareth Hughes regularly observes in the ongoing training sessions for the newly configured Personal Academic Tutor Scheme – it is often the tutor’s role to help students find their ‘narrative direction’ with all the associated positive consequences for academic performance and personal wellbeing.
Secondly, it is a direct reference to the process of putting together a claim for any of the categories of Fellowship, a process that requires careful reflection on paths already traversed and a valuable opportunity to think about those to come. I’m often told by applicants of the confidence-building impacts of being pushed to ‘take stock’ of personal achievements as well as articulating their strengths as a supporter of learning. The name Pathfinder is an important reminder then that it’s always valuable to find a few minutes to turn around and look at the view, as well as checking the map and compass to see if we’re still heading in the direction that we want.
Irrespective of the name, the Scheme has therefore always been a valuable professional development opportunity. Now it’s been updated, strengthening further its CPD potential, including new opportunities to work with other colleagues making claims within the context of a new pattern of support sessions. And claims will look different too – gone, for example, is the portfolio approach to applications. Furthermore, coming soon, a new approach to making claims which combines a shorter written submission with a professional dialogue.
Author: Dr Chris Ribchester (Associate Professor in Learning and Teaching)