Over 23+ years of facilitating learning I hear “I am only a nurse”; “I am only a [whatever] professional”. Using andragogy, described in the classic text of Burge (1998: 5) as “the art and science of helping adults learn” I strive to enable learners to believe in themselves; to translate learning from life and caring into a celebration and facilitation of learning with, and for, others.
As an example, I mentored an NHS educationalist through PGCertHE. Helen says:
“From the first day we met, he has gone over and above the call of duty. David allowed me to put the theory of teaching and learning into practice. […] He has been consistently persistent in encouraging me to do something I actually never thought I could do which was to become a teacher in a University [and apply for PhD]. Nothing has been too much trouble and […] I have learnt from the way he relates to his students. He quickly made himself available to support me when I had to supervise students undertaking project work for the first time.”
Similarly, Tina L, a Departmental colleague asked me to mentor her for SFHEA:
“Your approach is transformational and emancipatory. You demonstrate the exemplary behaviours of leadership (Kouzes and Posner 2010), acting as a positive role model who inspires me with your achievements and professional approach to work.”
Upon completing the EdD, I was asked to be second doctoral supervisor to a Departmental colleague, studying spirituality in mental health. I have since become first supervisor to three others, two that I personally recruited. The three sexual health masters students I supervised each gained MA “with distinction”. Kay Elmy won Sexual Health Professional of the Year at the UK Sexual Health Awards 2012 on the project I supervised for her Master’s degree.
On-going collaboration with my departmental teaching colleagues demonstrates how I influence wider support for student learning, contributing to us achieving an unusually high number of commendations at the October 2013 BSc(Hons) quinquennial review.
BSc(Hons) Sexual Health quinquennial review: Commendations
- Wide-ranging support for students, in many different ways, eg academic, personal, pastoral, professional
- Clear partnerships between students and teaching team; through building of networks with various Trusts and organisations
- Meeting clinical needs of learners, especially enhancing employability and career development
- “Trail blazing” Virtual Learning Environments (the e-learning Sexual Health Skills course [for the quality of my graphic design and multi-functional interactive e-learning potential]
- Clear evidence of research underpinning teaching and supporting clinical practice, especially demonstrated by the numbers of our graduates coming back to undertake the sexual health masters programme
I sent news of this achievement to students and stake-holders. Current student Roberto exclaimed: “Brilliant! Brilliant! Brilliant! Well done to all of you! I’m really proud to be a Greenwich University student ;)”. Baroness Gould commented “That is great news” and Deputy Chief Nurse for England, Professor David Foster (@DavidFosterDH), tweeted: “Wow! Congratulations to all involved, that’s a great achievement.” This is not an exercise in ‘name dropping’, but maintaining good working relationships with significant players in (sexual) health, a strategy which proves to have direct benefits for ‘opening doors’ to our students. Numbers of sexual health students will never be large across the UK, but the University maintains a gradual year-on-year increase of graduates, as shown in this figure from the Quinquennial review:
Underpinning the commendations and demonstrating my wider academic citizenship I regularly engage with national nursing, medical, governmental and voluntary organisations. In 2013, for example: I introduced the British Association for Sexual Health & HIV to our School as the first medical organisation having courses credit rated with us. Dr Penny Goold, Consultant GU Medicine and Chair of Education at BASHH said:
“It is very clear that you are passionate about academic education in sexual health and are prepared to go the extra mile to ensure that is accessible to as many people as possible.”
Promoting life-long learning, I encourage many (former) students to publish assignments. Sometimes this is simply advice; other times I co-author. Stephanie Enson started her journey with me on SHS; I encouraged her to complete our BSc(Hons). She published 4 of her assignments in the British Journal of School Nursing and is now studying with me on Contemporary Issues in Sexual Health, at the beginning of post graduate studies. The following 2 statistical charts show the success rates of students completing assignments for the e-courses I coordinate. Course feedback affirms that the results reflect support I am able to give, especially to those new to e-learning, with limited IT skills, with dyslexia or inexperienced with higher education academic requirements.
Sexual Health Skills (level 6) results 2009-2012
Contemporary Issues in Sexual Health (level 7) results 2009-2012
Examples of my endeavours to diversify learning include: co-organising two successful Sexual Health Research and Practice conferences, with our research and teaching teams (2010, 2012). I am currently developing a business proposal for a third, in 2015.
Along with Prof Kathryn Abel (Psychiatrist, University of Manchester) and Dr Roxane Agnew-Davies (Director, Domestic Violence training Ltd), we achieved ‘Finalist’ status in the 2012 UK Sexual Health Awards for the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) e-learning course, on Sexual and Reproductive Health for Mental Health professionals, we co-authored. This Department of Health funded initiative was commended to NHS England, Chief Nursing Officer’s Bulletin, January 2012.
Again in 2012, I organised, administered and ‘stage-managed’ inauguration events for Professor Anthony Pryce, visiting professor for sexual health. Part of this organisation included delicate negotiations to use an innovative and award-winning Women & Theatre drama group, performing sexually explicit research on “Talking Balls and Cervical Monologues”.
Professor Pryce says:
“David [is] an extremely talented teacher who aims to inspire students with his passion for his subject areas. David demonstrates innovation in the variety of his approaches to teaching / learning, and is a formidable force in the project of bringing scholarly values and knowledge to inform practice.”
In 2013, I received a number of unsolicited requests for authorship. When I submitted a commissioned CPD article for review the editor asked me to write another 3 in 2014. I requested co-authoring with students new to publishing; a request agreed without reservation.
Impact and engagement beyond my immediate role can be seen in various extra-curricular initiatives, advancing sexual health learning and learners.
Firstly, I successfully nominated Baroness Gould of Potternewton for a Doctorate honoris causa (HonDUniv) for her championing role in sexual health practice and education (University of Greenwich, 2011) (YouTube Eulogy & Acceptance Speech) . Similarly, I nominated Colin Roberts for a Fellowship of the Royal College of Nursing (FRCN) for his leadership in sexual health nursing, education and inter-professional advancement. Both of these advocates of sexual health routinely support our efforts at the University, for which we reap great rewards ranging from increased student numbers to career opportunities.
One further example of a transformative impact and leadership beyond the academy is some out-of-work-time encouragement I have given to a person on Twitter. Alice Hoyle (@SexEdUKation) has now formally acknowledged me in her Masters dissertation and given me feedback on my unofficial educational support.
“You have been an invaluable support to me. […] You have encouraged me when I have really been demoralised and struggling, and given me renewed confidence in my abilities as a fledgling academic (one who is a practitioner at heart and finds academia very inaccessible a lot of the time!)”