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Education Fellowships

Leading in learning and teaching

11 June 2024

In this blog, Jennifer Pike, Senior Fellow and Head of School at the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences reflects on Leading in Learning and Teaching. 

Last year I completed the Cardiff University Education Senior Fellowship Program, which took me on a reflective journey through my career.  I found it really challenging to be asked to consider my journey in this way at the beginning and explore what had shaped me as an educator.  However, once I had allowed myself to really think about this, it opened a whole new language and tools.  It helped me understand the pedagogy that underpins my philosophy and approach, and how I can use it to support and lead others in learning and teaching. 

Leading in learning and teaching is not a solo effort (Covey 1999).  We are a very busy team of experts pulled in several directions. For me, the most effective leadership style recognises the team’s expertise and channels their skills to achieve common goals. During the 2020-2021 pandemic, we all had to respond to unprecedented change.  As Director of Learning and Teaching at the time I had many decisions to make – how could I support my colleagues to deliver for our students? 

Time poverty was one of our biggest challenges (Giurge et al. 2020) and, as a leader, often the most valuable gift you can give colleagues is time.  I chose to scaffold our approach in social learning (Wood et al. 1976; Vygotsky 1978; Lyons and Berge 2012), scheduling online meetings and inviting those with existing experience in digital learning and software platforms to share their experiences.  Learning from each other was an efficient and effective way to achieve the changes of approach needed – at the speed they were needed – because learning together and from each other gave people back time. 

Leadership is also about changing mindsets (Dweck 2017) and supporting the development of intrinsic motivation – the desire to change (Ryan and Deci 2000).  This is particularly true when considering inclusive education (Thomas and May 2010) and the Senior Fellow highlighted this. In Earth and environmental sciences, fieldwork provides a core mystery element to our learning ecosystem (Thomas 2010), immersing learners in awe-inspiring and unexpected places.  But fieldwork is not renowned for its inclusion!  There are many barriers – physical, socio-economic, and cultural to name a few.  It was comfortable to exclude.  Following the pandemic, the development of quality virtual fieldwork activities that supported key outcomes of problem-based learning and exploration was a major step forward for inclusion. We could offer a virtual alternative to in-person fieldwork, providing opportunities for those who were unable to get into the field.  However, two-years ago we welcomed a student who used a wheelchair into our School, who wanted to get into the field and experience for themselves that mystery element and place.  Delivering that opportunity required another change of mindset, multiple leaders, social learning, and time.  As a leader you must challenge people to think differently, plan differently, and change the plan, if required, to be inclusive – and then give them the time to achieve it.  You must recognise your first followers and deploy all your leaders! 

I really enjoyed the Senior Fellow development programme.  I do not think that it necessarily changed my approach, but it provided me an understanding of what I do, why it is effective, and offered me alternative approaches to think about when leading in education. 

Visit the Fellowships intranet page or get in touch with the team on to find out more about the Fellowship programmes offered at Cardiff University. 


Covey, S.  1999.  The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Leaders.  Simon and Schuster UK 

Dweck, C. S.  2017.  Mindset (6th Edition).  London, Robinson. 

Giurge, L. M., Whillans, A.V. and West, C.  2020.  Why time poverty matters for individuals, organisations and nations.  Nature Human Behaviour 4, 993–1003. 

Lyons, S. D. and Berge, Z. L.  2012.  Social Learning Theory.  In:  Seel, N. M. (editor) Encyclopedia of the Sciences of Learning.  Boston, MA, Springer, 3116–3118. 

Ryan, R. M. and Deci, E. L.  2000.  Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being.  The American Psychologist 55, 68–78. 

Thomas, H.  2010.  Learning spaces, learning environments and the dis‘placement’ of learning.  British Journal of Educational Technology 41, 502-511. 

Thomas L. and May, H.  2010.  Inclusive Learning and Teaching in Higher Education.  York, Higher Education Academy. 

Vygotsky, L. S.  1978.  Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processes. Massachusetts, Harvard University Press. 

Wood, D. J., Bruner, J. S., & Ross, G.  1976.  The role of tutoring in problem solving. Journal of Child Psychiatry and Psychology 17, 89-100.