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My route to Principal Teaching Fellow: Dr Jane Simmonds

The clinical specialist physiotherapist on creativity in teaching, her pride in the amazing careers of former students, and how she made a case for promotion using the UCL Academic Career Framework

Dr Jane Simmonds

5 November 2018

You’ve just been promoted to Principal Teaching Fellow. What is your role?

I am the Programme Lead for MSc/ PGDip/ PGCert Advanced Paediatric Physiotherapy and Paediatric Physiotherapy Studies within the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health (GOSICH) which means that I oversee the day to day running of the programme.

I work closely with the Director of Physiotherapy Programmes, Professor Eleanor Main; the other programme leads within our Physiotherapy provision Dr Harriet Shannon (Cardiorespiratory Physiotherapy)  and Sally Davenport (Neurophysiotherapy); module teaching and the administration team to ensure the programme is current, is of high quality and provides best possible student experience.

I lead on several modules within the post graduate Physiotherapy framework including;

  • Paediatric Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy
  • Paediatric and Adolescent Sport 
  • Performing Arts Injury Management
  • Clinical Exercise and Physical Activity

and I co lead a fabulous new module with Naomi Winfield which we are running for the first time this year entitled Work Based Learning in Health.

I also supervise MSc and PhD research and mentor and examine student on clinical placements and lead a selection of short courses, taster courses and masterclasses.

On a wider level, I am a member the UCL Programmes and Module Approval Panel, where we review and advise and on new modules, programmes and major programme and modular amendments.

I am a member of the Arena Assessor Panel for Higher Education Academic (HEA) accreditation fellowships. 

I am also a member of the Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health (GOSICH) Education Committee as the Careers Champion and am delighted to have recently become the Institute’s Departmental Graduate Tutor for Taught Programmes.

What are the challenges?

The main challenge for me is juggling time for my professional work with my wonderful family, my friends and other interests.

Beyond my work at the UCL I continue to work as a clinical specialist Physiotherapist on a part time basis, contribute to Physiotherapy professional groups and undertake a considerable amount of charity work within my specialist area of Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and Hypermobility Spectrum Disorders.

I am also a fine artist, having completed an MA at Central St Martins College of Art and Design and I continue to create and exhibit my work. I believe these creative interests and additional professional activities enhance my work as an educator and researcher UCL.

What’s the best thing about your job?

There are many things that I Iove about my job, all of which centre on trying to provide the best possible student experience and ultimately the delivery of excellent patient care.

We have an outstanding teaching team and I particularly love the creative elements of designing curricula and teaching activities in order to engage and inspire learners. This involves discussion with colleagues and students about how best we can develop, deliver and assess our courses.

For me teaching and student learning has to be fun as well as challenging, therefore I spend a lot of time thinking, planning and developing teaching resources and methods.

I also very much enjoy mentoring students and colleagues. It is a great pleasure and privilege to be part of someone else’s professional journey. I feel immensely proud when I meet up or hear from alumni and teaching colleagues about their amazing careers and how they are contributing to the Physiotherapy profession.

What do you think of the new Academic Career Framework?

The new academic framework has been a huge step forward in enabling staff to find a meaningful professional development path.

The framework is clear and well-structured and helpful for those seeking to develop and gain promotion. In particular I think the flexibility within each area of professional work allows for the wide variation of professional expertise, skills and practice.

The framework allowed to me to firstly map out my case for promotion and to discuss with senior colleagues at UCL and my external mentors how to best construct my application.

What are your thoughts on the status of teaching at UCL?

Since re-joining UCL in 2014 after a time away working in other universities I have been impressed by UCL’s commitment to advancing the status of teaching and to lead on research-based education.

While I am sure that translation of research and knowledge has always been an important part of academic practice at UCL, the development of the Arena Centre for those facilitation for those wishing to gain accreditation fellowships with the Higher Education Academy (HEA) alongside teaching awards and the newly established professorial pathway will inspire those primarily interested in teaching to strive for excellence and help them to feel valued.

There is still more work to be done by those who lead on teaching and learning across the UCL to ensure the teaching and assessment quality standards are met and to ensure educational programmes are resourced in terms of teacher staff, equipment and administration.

What other achievements helped you to make a case for promotion?

I became a Senior Fellow of the HEA in January 2017 which gave me the confidence to start to consider applying for promotion.

A significant part of my case for promotion was based on curriculum development and innovative methods of teaching and assessment.

Since joining UCL I have worked with the Director of Physiotherapy and the teaching team to develop new pathways and modules.

I have also implemented a novel teaching method using vodcasts to enhance clinical skill development which I presented at an international health education conference at the University of Cambridge in September 2017.

I have also designed and implemented a new approach to feedback and feedforward processes within some modules in the Physiotherapy programme.

I completed my Professional Doctorate in 2010 which focussed on advancing practice in Hypermobility and Osteoporosis. This programme of research and educational work enabled me to become a national and international leader in education and research within the field of Ehlers Danlos Syndromes, Hypermobility Spectrum Disorders and to some extent for Osteoporosis.

I have authored 6 book chapters, 50 peer reviewed research and educational articles and created numerous clinical teaching videos. I have delivered more than 80 national and international lectures, workshops and masterclasses to health professional on these topic areas.

My broader professional work undoubtedly strengthens my teaching and leadership roles at UCL.

I am currently the Chair of the International EDS Physiotherapy consortium working group and a member of the Medical and Scientific Board of the international Ehlers Danlos Society. My involvement in this charity work has led to a very important publication of the evidence based physiotherapy management of Hypermobile Ehlers Danlos Syndrome which was published in 2017 in the American Journal of Medical Genetics.

Within the area of osteoporosis I was a member of the Steering Committee for the largest physiotherapy NIHR randomised control trial for the physiotherapy management of spinal fractures based at Oxford University between 2012 and 2017. This involvement alongside my clinical work and research has enabled me to deliver translational research based education on the prevention and management of osteoporosis within the UCL teaching provision and at national and international level.

Other relevant external work includes external examiner roles at other UK higher education institutions including Queen Mary, University of London, Bournemouth University and Bradford University. These activities involve ensuring academic quality and being a critical friend to teaching teams. The exchange of knowledge, ideas and approaches to health education has been one of the most enjoyable aspects of the work and I have no doubt that this has enhanced my own teaching methods.