Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Reflection in action: thoughts from the PGCert ISAS

One of the highlights of my nearly 15 years at UKCISA was right at the start, teaching the final cohort of the UKCISA/University of Nottingham MA for International Education Professionals, so I have been really looking forward to this weekend when we finally launched 'grandchild of MA IEP' aka the Postgraduate Certificate International Student Advice and Support (PG Cert ISAS).

It has been an intense and exhausting weekend but incredibly rewarding. We have a fantastically committed and engaged cohort of 17 students from across the UK, working in a range of roles and institution-types. Although the commonest shared emotion at the start seemed to have been fear - it's never easy to go back to HE after a long gap or to dive into postgraduate study without a first degree - everyone settled in quickly and contributed an excellent range of experiences and insights, thanks in large part to course leader, Belinda Harris's welcoming and inclusive style (the cup cakes seemed to help too).

The theme of this first module has been cross-cultural theory and its application to the adviser's role. As you might expect this led to reflections on all aspects of support for international students and how this is affected by the wider context - and Tier 4 in particular. Discussions really showed the benefit of having space for critical and reflective thought, on everything from how individual communication styles impact on professional approaches, to the impact on students, advisers and institutions of the creeping compliance culture in institutions. 

While this module has focused on the influence of culture, its introduction of the idea of the 'reflective practitioner' has meant that themes are already beginning to appear that link us forward to the subsequent modules on advice skills, legal frameworks and managing complexity. 

Thanks to all the students, and my fellow tutors Belinda, Qing, Zhen and Joanna for a thought-provoking weekend.  I shall look forward to many more.

The next cohort of the PG Cert ISAS will begin in February 2014.  More details on the University of Nottingham's website.

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