The Edinburgh Teaching Award (EdTA) is a self-reflective route to gaining recognition for teaching experience acquired in an academic context, while developing a better insight of one’s teaching skills and methods. It is offered by the University’s Institute of Academic Development. EdTA is accredited by the Higher Education Academy (HEA), meaning that successful completion also leads to HEA accreditation (Levels 1-4).
Following some tutoring experience that I gained at the School while being a PhD student, I felt that taking the EdTA would be a great opportunity to reflect on my teaching and think of ways to improve it, but also receive HEA Level 1 (Associate Fellow) accreditation, which is well regarded from academic employers in the UK. Despite the fact that my teaching experience at that point was relatively limited, I felt that it was diverse enough to provide me with ideas to reflect on (tutoring in a flipped-classroom format, tutoring in a computer lab, essay marking, research report marking, etc.).
I chose to take the EdTA, as it was flexible enough to fit around my busy schedule at the time (it does not require physical attendance, apart from one or two meetings with the allocated mentor). The Introduction to Academic Practice (IntroAP) course is an alternative route to HEA accreditation but requires physical attendance for three full days. In addition, IntroAP requires at least two semesters of teaching experience prior to starting the programme, which is not a requirement for the EdTA.
As part of the EdTA, I had to maintain an online blog, where I described my teaching experience, and demonstrated my knowledge of the subject material, as well as of appropriate teaching methods. I also wrote three blog posts, describing the importance of core professional values and how these were reflected on my teaching approach. Furthermore, I asked from two academic staff members to provide references, commenting on my tutoring performance. Throughout the process, I was allocated a mentor, who was there to offer support when needed.
The experience of writing the blog was very positive, as I had the chance to think about my teaching methods and their effectiveness in a more elaborate way, develop ways to further improve it in the future and make links with theories of learning and teaching from the academic literature. Although my initial reflections on the blog seemed a bit uninspiring and superficial, they considerably improved over time and became more eloquent. I found that drafting different versions of the same post elevated the overall quality of the submission.
The guidance provided by the EdTA handbook was useful to form an idea of how the blog should look like, but also broad enough to encompass a range of concepts. I used the reflective elements of the blog to discuss my experiences of trying to build a supportive learning environment for the students during the tutorials, providing equal opportunities for learning, embracing critical thinking as part of the learning process and preparing students for a competitive job market.
My EdTA mentor was keen to meet with me, discuss ideas about what to include in the blog and comment on it before the final submission. I certainly found the mentor’s input really helpful and the overall EdTA experience highly beneficial and rewarding.
You can find more information about the Edinburgh Teaching Award here: https://www.ed.ac.uk/institute-academic-development/learning-teaching/cpd/teaching-award