Position statement example - University of East London

This student applied for credit towards a Postgraduate Certificate
in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education. She had several
years of previous teaching experience, but no formal qualifications
in teaching. In this personal statement, she describes her learning
journey and explains and illustrates the relevant knowledge and
skills that she has acquired. We have provided some notes and
comments to help you to identify the features that a successful
position statement should include.
Position statement example
(word count 1,643 + references)
This position statement is a reflective account of my knowledge, skills
and qualities acquired both from previous qualifications and learning that have
contributed to my personal and professional development. I would like my
learning derived from my experiences to be counted for academic credit
towards my degree.
I grew up in a country where I was fortunate to have been educated in
good institutions which fostered a healthy, competitive and challenging
learning environment and offered a good balance of academic and extracurricular opportunities. Involvement in such activities helped mould me as a
motivated and resourceful individual who flourishes in situations where
imagination and initiative are called for. I obtained a degree in Fine Art and
was offered a full-time lecturing position immediately after graduation at the
same university. This marked the beginning of my teaching career; I was thus
given the opportunity to gain two years lecturing experience in higher
education teaching the following units: Visual Perception, Visual
Communication, Visual Studies, Art History, Art Theory, and Art, Man and
As this had been my first formal lecturing position, I was thrown at the
deep end and the learning curve was steep. These two years of teaching in a
prestigious institution enabled me to keep abreast of new developments in the
field, taught me to be certain and accurate of my factual knowledge and
challenged me to be more analytical and creative in my approach to learning
and teaching (Ramsden, 1992). In particular, I learnt how to encourage deep
learning as opposed to surface learning amongst my students (Marton and
Saljo, 1976). At the beginning of the semester, I immediately noticed that the
study patterns of many of my students were characterised by attempts to
cover content, find the ‘right’ answers and learn verbatim, in other words,
surface approach to learning. As a result, my initial aim for the students
quickly became to make them, if not passionate, then at least interested in the
subject; I did not want the weekly three hour session to be a waste of their
time and this seriously made me reflect on ways to make my sessions
interesting and effective (Gibbs et al, 1986). Over the course of teaching the
subject, I changed some formative assessment methods (Brown, 2001),
reviewed and changed questions for short quizzes, adopted exciting hands-on
activities that illustrated visually and in tactile form the topics in discussion,
gave pair and group work assignments, and revised the whole final
examination paper, focusing on essay questions that sought to bring out
students’ understanding of the topic. I strived to encourage the deep approach
to learning where emphasis is on the subject’s relevance and application,
rather than acquired facts, dates and names of movements they had
memorised. The deep approach seeks to make sense of what is learnt,
integrates knowledge and theoretical ideas to everyday experience, and is
characterised by the relation of and reflection on previous knowledge to new
knowledge. It is meaning-orientated; its aims include enhancing students’
abilities to use their powers of imagination, to be flexible, to adapt and transfer
skills, and to use this understanding in creative ways that are relevant to their
lives outside the academic environment (Marton and Saljo, 1976). As a direct
consequence, learning became fun and holistic (Jacques, 2000) and student
interest generally soared; many students achieved higher grades than
originally expected.
In 1991, I moved to England and started a Masters in Fine Art. I was
faced with a completely different system of Higher Education compared to that
which I had been accustomed. I therefore had to learn and understand this
new framework of thinking and the education system. The theoretical
discussions and debates I encountered at this level of education made me reevaluate my approach to learning. At this level of learning, I was able to
practise and improve my ability to communicate articulately, concisely and
clearly and learnt to put across my lessons well. I found that good
communication skills involve the ability to connect with the students in such a
way that makes the tutor aware of the students’ varying levels of
comprehension. I was also challenged to review my own teaching
methodology and adopt new practices as appropriate in order to meet
students’ learning needs (Gosling, 2003). The right context for this arose
when I was given a choice of electives on the Masters. I embarked on a
mentoring project in Life Drawing where I was given the chance to observe
students’ learning styles and needs as well as teach sessions within the
module. My involvement in this project gave me a more astute and keen
sense of the teaching practice. I was reminded how vital it is for tutors to be
aware that students start from a level specific to their previous experience and
background and their learning progress is contingent upon how the structure
of the module is channelled effectively towards the learner’s development
(Boud, 1989). In this particular context, I discovered that a one-to-one
approach is crucial to student progress. This enables the tutor to gain more
insight into the level of the student’s knowledge and struggles, technical and
otherwise, which affect their ability to grasp concepts and make real progress.
I believe that encouraging students to assess their progress regularly
develops their critical and practical skills as well as cultivates vicarious
learning. I implemented this approach on the mentoring project by giving the
students exercises that promoted self-assessment such as writing down,
addressing and finding solutions to the problems they encounter. Critically
assessing their own work during the various stages of the working process
and questioning whether they are applying theoretical learning in a more
innovative, speculative and investigative manner instead of a mere application
of formulae. Also interacting with other students to discuss measures of
In teaching, I make it my goal to draw out ideas from the students
instead of ‘spoon-feeding’ them. I endeavour to ask pertinent questions and
introduce activities geared towards reflective learning (Moon, 2001), learning
by practical application (Kolb, 1984) and learning by self-realisation. Students
need regular motivation. I find the use of creative visual aids, for example, the
use of MS Power Point in appropriate lectures, helpful for students to retain
facts and details. Small group discussions (Jacques, 2000) and workshops
(Brookes-Harris & Stock-Ward, 1999) provide a more effective atmosphere in
learning and encouraging student participation especially amongst the quiet
and shy ones. Collaboration and team activities make the subject more
interesting and help in sustaining students’ attention. A milieu that provides
opportunities for students to participate and get involved is paramount in the
process of learning.
Whilst on the Masters, I applied for a part-time position in assisting
lecturers at my University and was offered the post which was to support the
university’s Dyslexia coordinator. This position introduced me to university
academic and administrative work pertinent to student development such as
the Year One Experience and student retention. Subsequent to this, I was
offered more work, this time working for the Learning Development Unit and
learnt more about widening access and participation initiatives and student
recruitment. Shortly thereafter, I was offered an advisory post in this unit and
thus my involvement in student support and advice began. I was trained on
the job, shadowing the Senior Adviser at many opportunities, and began
liaising with various members of staff across the university. Not long after
this, the senior adviser left the University for a position in another higher
education institution and I was offered his position as a result.
This position which I still hold currently has catapulted me into yet another
steep learning curve. I had to learn to work systematically and independently
as well as contribute actively as part of a team. I had to motivate myself and
set my own aims and targets and meet them. Additionally I needed to initiate
meetings and staff development with other members of staff and to think of
creative ways of developing new ideas and designing new methods of
teaching delivery.
Within a unique milieu where social and cultural diversity plays a
prominent factor in determining students’ learning needs, my teaching
experience has taught me to be more sensitive and able to adjust to the
varying levels and nature of students’ needs without sacrificing the quality
and standard of my work.
In all the above learning experiences in teaching, I have encouraged
personal and professional development in my students where they learn to
reflect and undertake self-assessment of their knowledge, skills and
achievements, where the opportunity to present what they have learnt and as
a result demonstrate what they can contribute to their present environment is
promoted, and where they are given the freedom to set their own learning
aims and professional career goals (Wailey & Simpson, 2000). Having
advised and supported numerous mature students from diverse socio-cultural
backgrounds coming in with an assortment of learning needs and learning
styles, I am more convinced and persuaded that personal and professional
development is at the heart of lifelong learning (Bailie & O’Hagan, 2000). In
light of this, I would like to engage more fully in teaching personal and
professional development and reflective practice and increase my
involvement in these processes within art-based programmes in Higher
Education. For my own personal and professional development, I believe that
obtaining a Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher
Education will foster understanding of theoretical knowledge and acquisition
of its practical application in the above-mentioned contexts and will be a
crucial stepping stone in furthering my career in teaching.
Writing this position statement has given me the opportunity to review
my previous learning and assess its relevance to my present position in life.
This process has in itself been a learning experience for me. I have
presented learning outcomes derived from my experiences that I would like to
be counted for academic credits towards my degree programme.
Bailie S. & O’Hagan C. (2000). APEL and Lifelong Learning. Belfast:
University of Ulster
Boud, D. (1989). Some Competing Traditions in Experiential Learning. In:
W.W. McGill, ed. Making Sense of Experiential Learning: Diversity in
Theory and Practice. Buckingham: SRHE and Open University Press.
Brooks-Harris J. & Stock-Ward S. (1999). Workshops: Designing and
Facilitating Experiential Learning. London: Sage Publications.
Brown, G. (2001). Assessment: a guide for lecturers. York: LTSN Generic
Centre Assessment Series 3
Gosling, D. (2003). Supporting student learning. In: H. FRY et al, eds. A
handbook for teaching and learning in higher education: enhancing
academic practice. London: Kogan Page
Jacques, D. (2000). Learning in Groups. 3rd ed. London: Kogan Page
Kolb, D. (1984). Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning
and Development. Englewood
Cliffs: Prentice Hall.
Marton, F. & Saljo, F. (1976). On qualitative differences in learning – 2:
Outcome as a function of the learner’s conception of the task. British
Journal of Educational Psychology. Vol. 46(2) 115-127
Moon, J. (1999). Reflection in Learning and Professional Development.
London: Kogan Page
Ramsden, P. (1992). Learning to Teach in Higher Education. Kent: Routledge.
Wailey, T. & Simpson, R. (2000). Walking not falling – waving not drowning –
dancing not stumbling: Managing guidance in higher education. In: D.
O’Reilly, ed. Research and Innovation in Learning and Teaching.
London: University of East London.
This position statement gives a very strong sense of the writer’s personal
journey through education, work and professional development – she tells us
very clearly what she has learned through her past experiences, what she is
doing now, and what she hopes to achieve in the future.
The writer’s description of her own career serves as a model of continuing
professional development. Her career never seems to ‘stand still’, as she is
constantly reflecting on her work, developing her practice, and encountering
new learning situations. In a way, her learning seems to proceed in cycles.
When she takes on a new challenge she reflects carefully on how to develop
new techniques and methods in order to improve her practice. These efforts
bring about improvements, both in her own performance and in that of the
people she works with. Then, when the writer takes on a new challenge,
such as studying for a new qualification or starting a new job role, the cycle
of learning, reflection, thinking and action start all over again.
It is interesting that the writer describes how she developed activities for her
students to encourage reflective and experiential learning. She references an
influential book by David A. Kolb, Experiential Learning: Experience as the
Source of Learning and Development (1984), which describes learning
through experience as a kind of cycle in which experience, reflection and
ideas feed into one another. This is indeed a useful concept for students
wishing to apply for AEL! You may find it useful to look at this book before
writing your own position statement.
Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle. (Illustration from www.learning-theories.com)