This post describes the DRIVE model that I’ve developed to help individuals write about their teaching and learning experiences when submitting applications for reward and recognition of their educational practices.
Over the past six years or so, I’ve been lucky to have the opportunity to support colleagues to write about their educational practice. In particular, I’ve supported individuals to apply to reward and recognition schemes, through promotion applications, applications for fellowship of the HEA (Advance HE), and for National Teaching Fellowships (NTFS). I’ve really enjoyed mentoring and supporting colleagues across City and in the wider sector, and learning more about their educational experiences innovations and practices.
At the same time, I’ve also been involved in many of the panels and committees that assess such applications, sitting on promotions panels, the RISES panel, and as a reviewer for the NTFS. Along the way, it’s become apparent to me that people find it hard to write about their educational practices in a way that will give them the best chance of success with committees and panels. Taking together my experiences of mentoring and assessing, I’ve identified some common issues that can arise.
Difficulties in writing for educational reward and recognition
Many find the kind of writing required unfamiliar, partly because it is rooted in reflective writing, which is not used universally across disciplines. One option that can help to guide individuals to get started is to provide a structure to support reflections. Dr. Jessica Hancock has written a wonderful guide to reflective writing, where she outlines what reflective writing is, the differences to other forms of academic writing, and some of the most popular models which can provide this much needed structure. These models are an excellent starting point for those writing about their educational practices for reward and recognition.
However, even once people feel more comfortable with reflective writing, applications for reward and recognition will also require demonstration of impact. Whilst impact is also increasingly important in research (see for example the Research Excellence Framework and the VICTOR tool) it can be hard to know what constitutes impact in education. Furthermore, neither is external impact necessarily a feature of reflective writing, where the impact is often focussed on the experience of the writer. Again however, existing resources can help people to demonstrate their educational impact. Publications from AdvanceHE, such as Making Evidence Count provide different perspectives, such as considering the scope of activity (including curriculum development or student engagement), and the sphere of influence (such as local or international influence).
The third and final perspective in Making Evidence Count is the ‘source of evidence’. The most common schemes for reward and recognition all expect the inclusion of evidence. For example, all the descriptors of the UKPSF state that – “individuals should be able to provide evidence” of the various aspects of activities, knowledge and values. Similarly, City’s Academic Promotions Policy (p.4, City login required) states that applicants should provide “quantitative and qualitative evidence of their contribution”, and winners of a National Teaching Fellowship must “demonstrate evidence of” individual excellence, raising the profile of excellence, and developing excellence in learning and teaching. However, in my experience, individuals might initially leave out this crucial aspect, and therefore miss opportunities to strengthen their claims.
The facets of DRIVE
In response to the difficulties of writing for educational reword and recognition, I’ve developed a flexible model to provide structure to the process and help writers to evidence educational impact. I first introduced the DRIVE model at a Continuing Professional Development workshop in the School of Health Sciences in 2018, and recently we have also included it in promotions workshops. It aims to help individuals structure their writing about education, in much the same way as models of reflective writing, but with additional facets that ensure evidencing of impact is given enough weight to meet the criteria of panels which assess applications for reward and recognition.
For each aspect of a claim, writers are invited to:
D Describe your activities or initiatives. What did you do? Give just enough context for those reviewing the application or claim to understand.
R Provide a Rationale for the actions or initiative. What were you trying to achieve? In some circumstances you could also provide support from the literature.
I State the Impact of your activities. What changed as a result? This could relate to the impact for students, colleagues, or more broadly in the discipline.
V/E Provide Verification or Evidence for the impact. How do we know what changed? There are many sources of evidence, including, for example, module evaluation, peer-supported review of education, unsolicited feedback, and external examiner comments.
As a very brief example, using the DRIVE model, we could write:
(D) I introduced an audience response system into my teaching (R) to promote active learning, and address some common misunderstandings of factual material by using polls. (I) Students found the activities engaging, (V/E) with quotes from module evaluations including “I love the in-class quizzes, really help me to stay interested”, and (I) marks in the summative MCT increased (V/E) by 17% for those topics which had been addressed using polling in class.
The DRIVE model is flexible, as the order of the items doesn’t have to be followed precisely, which can give more variety to an application and ensure writing doesn’t feel formulaic if the model is used in successive paragraphs. For example, Rationale and Description can easily swap positions. The Description can be modified according to audience and word count, and Rationale can be supported by literature if appropriate. Similarly, several examples of impact, verification and evidence can be included to support a single point, if these are available. These could cover different spheres of influence including students, colleagues and your disciplinary community. The model can also be expanded (to DRIVERN) by including a second R to cover a more standard self-Reflection, and an N to encourage the writer to plan their Next steps, in situations where these would be appropriate.
Next Steps for DRIVE
I’ve been using the DRIVE model informally for a while now, and have found it useful when supporting colleagues. I hope it might continue to prove useful to those writing applications or claims for reward and recognition in education. I’d be pleased to hear about your experiences using it in your own writing or to support colleagues, and would love to hear any suggestions you might have to adapt it for increased utility across disciplines and contexts.
If you’d like to explore further aspects of writing for reward and recognition, you might like to visit the following resources:
- Dr. Jessica Hancock’s guide to reflective writing
- AdvanceHE’s Making Evidence Count
- Information about the Professors in Preparation network, supporting those with an education focus
- The Moodle page for the RISES programme (City, University of London login required)