During a discussion with some of SERC’s teaching staff on Tuesday at Newtownards campus, Matthias made a very interesting point. Matthias explained that over the years their college often responded to challenges by investing in teaching resources but when they gathered feedback from the students it actually wasn’t the teaching resources which had a major influence on student retention and learning.: They found it was the relationships between teachers and students which impacted the learner’s journey the most. The college then shifted their attention from teaching resources to building the capacity of their staff and engaging in regular discussion and professional development with them.
Later in the week we looked at a unique approach to CPD within SERC. This approach is called the ILT (Information and Learning Technology) and Pedagogy Mentoring and embeds the professional development of teachers in classroom based, peer observed sessions, exposing the teacher to new pedagogical practices and technology enhanced learning strategies. There is definitely a connection between investing in staff development to create richer more active learning environments and the relationships which can be enjoyed between teachers and learners as the environment moves away from a didactic teacher-led approach. Technology can facilitate and compliment more modern approaches to teaching, learning and assessment. What’s more bringing more technology into the classroom activities can hugely support the development of 21st century skills required in the workplace.
ILT and Pedagogy mentoring – On Thursday we met with Barbara Judge who is an Interactive Learning Technology and Pedagogy Mentor. All participants were very much engaged in the discussion with Barbara and intrigued by the college’s approach to continuing professional development. The system operates through peer support, demonstration lessons, team teaching, observations and sharing. This peer support is immersed in the teacher’s environment as it takes into account the teacher’s specialism, student cohort, access to devices and software, etc. Teachers are not forced to take part in the upskilling but can volunteer or be recommended to do so.
SERC began this initiative with a project to enhance learning strategies through integrating technology into pedagogical practices. A shift from didactic teaching approaches to active learning environments is centric to the strategy. They also felt it was important that the professional development sessions took place in the teacher’s local environment and paid complete attention to the needs of the teacher and their learners.
SERC now fully supports the ILT and Pedagogy Mentoring program themselves and have enjoyed positive feedback from both teachers and students. Given the costs involved, SERC have seen that value of this approach which is stimulating communication and sharing between staff across their campuses. Teachers are now wondering what is happening in different classrooms and where other teachers learned to do new things. This type of CPD is refreshing and speaks to SERCs investment in their greatest asset, their staff.
From a little internet browsing, I found a case study on the ILT Pedagogy Mentoring available by clicking here.
There are certainly elements of the ILT and Pedagogy scheme which could be adopted into other organisations:
- Create awareness of the importance of using technology to support pedagogical practices. Teachers shouldn’t feel they must use technology for technology’s sake, it must be seen to add value and enrich the learning environment. Staff should be encouraged to explore incorporating technology into the classroom and to leverage this in order to create active learning environments.
- Encourage peer support across the college or a network of colleges. This includes identifying the challenges with designing lessons to encourage active learning and communicating efforts, ideas and solutions to resolve these.
- Create a shared space accessible across the organisation where staff are encouraged to share ideas, tips and tricks they are using in their classroom to enrich the learning environment. In SERC this is the form or webinars which are added to a video library; videos are typically no longer than 15 minutes. (Moodle Mondays and Webinar Wednesdays)
- Peer observations are an excellent way to reflect on the learning and have fresh eyes give some advise on where technology could have enhanced the teaching and learning. Staff could be asked to team up and open the door to allow others observe their approaches and practices in the classroom.
- Student feedback around the impact of technology used in the learning process should be used to inform the teacher for future planning and lesson design. Find out what aspects of using technology helped the learners and where more could be used.
Has anyone else ideas on how you could incorporate elements of this type of CPD into your organisation ?