My name is Inês Mendes and I’m a Teaching Focused Lecturer teaching on the MSc in Clinical Psychology at Royal Holloway, University of London. I am also an accredited Clinical Psychologist by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), and a researcher in the field of applied Clinical Psychology. Being a clinician, a teacher and a researcher has been challenging at times, particularly in building a professional path that integrates all of these facets. The process of becoming a Higher Education Academy (HEA) Fellow allowed me to develop my future professional path as a lecturer, integrating my knowledge as a clinical psychologist and as a researcher.
CAPITAL – the process of becoming a Fellow of the HEA
At Royal Holloway, University of London, the route to HEA fellowship is supported by their Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice in Teaching and Learning (CAPITAL). CAPITAL is available to early career academics, as well as to experienced academics relatively new to UK Higher Education. I had four years of experience lecturing in Higher Education before I came to the UK in 2016. However, the English HE system was very new to me, presenting different challenges and opportunities. Therefore, I was invited and encouraged to complete CAPITAL.
The CAPITAL program gave me an increased understanding of the pedagogic principles underlying teaching, learning and assessment in Higher Education. I attended several workshops with very useful tips to improve my lectures, and which increased my awareness of the pedagogy behind the various teaching strategies I employ. This knowledge helped me to use evidence-based approaches, and make informed decisions and choices. I also appreciated learning about the use of new technology to promote students’ engagement and learning experience. The assessments involved having our teaching observed by other colleagues. These observations not only allowed me to have immediate feedback on my teaching practice, but it also facilitated a process of meta-reflection on my teaching.
Developing and improving clinical skills of MSc psychology students.
The final assignment of CAPITAL involved a reflective essay regarding a topic that could be equally meaningful to my clinical practice work, as well as to the academic community.
My experience as a therapist and as a clinical placement supervisor allowed to me have increased awareness of Clinical Psychology students’ needs when learning about clinical skills and practice. Therefore, I was interested in combining my clinical knowledge with my newly acquired pedagogic knowledge to develop and improve the clinical skills of MSc psychology students.
Clinical skills constitute a core learning outcome for postgraduate students in Clinical Psychology. However, there has been a major difficulty in reconstructing significant and realistic mental health scenarios and clinical cases for students to practice. Students usually say that they feel disconnected and struggle to apply clinical concepts into a real-life clinical setting. As such, the final assignment of CAPITAL constituted an opportunity to reflect on innovative approaches that could enhance clinical skills development by 1) allowing the creation of more realistic practice scenarios, and 2) promoting a safe environment in which patient safety is not threatened and where students can challenge themselves.
My main learning experience involved a deeper understanding and awareness of the impact meta-reflection has over my teaching approaches. I believe I am more aware and considerate of how I am able to enhance students learning experience, their achievement of learning outcomes, as well as promoting their employability. An additional learning outcome was on the future career path I want to pursue for my continuing professional development.
The opportunity for meta-reflection and pedagogical research fostered by CAPITAL helped to bridge my experience as a lecturer and as clinical psychologist, allowing me to develop and improve students’ learning experiences. Becoming a Fellow has helped me to develop my future professional path, and this was crucial in my recent, and successful, application for a permanent position at Royal Holloway.
To find out more about becoming an HEA Fellow please click here.