I’m touched and a little overwhelmed by the response to my talk at last night’s PressED Conference. I was stupidly nervous before hand, I always am when I’m taking about something a little more personal, and I was terrified my crappy home broadband was going to keel over mid tweet. It didn’t, thank the lord. My experience of surviving precarity and rebuilding an academic identity through open practice and the awesomeness that is WordPress and Reclaim Hosting seemed to touch a cord. There was also a lot of interest in using ALT’s CMALT accreditation as formal recognition of skills that are often built up informally and in an ad hoc manner. I’m now in the very fortunate position that my employer, the University of Edinburgh, supported me through CMALT accreditation, but if anyone is out there wondering it they can do CMALT without institutional support the answer is absolutely yes! ALT provides an enormous amount of support and resources for candidates and there is an active and entirely voluntary CMALT community online who are incredibly supportive and generous with their time and experience.
Back in the day I would have used Storify to archive the conversation around my “talk” but, because I’ve learned *that* lesson the hard way, I’m going to archive some of them here instead. On WordPress. The sensible way.
Huge thanks once again to Natalie Lafferty and Pat Lockley for making this amazing event happen. You’re stars. Both of you.
*pours wine & waits in anticipation*
— louisedrumm (@louisedrumm) March 29, 2018
— Teresa MacKinnon (@WarwickLanguage) March 29, 2018
it is so important to have a place where you can just think out loud, which is what I try to use my blog for #pressedconf18
— Fearghal O'Brien (@fearghalobrien) March 29, 2018
I find wordpress to be intuitive, for someone like me who has minimalistic ideas on what I want to do, it does it all relatively easily so long as I keep it fairly simple, and without needing copious amounts of knowledge unless I want to get fancy!
— Fearghal O'Brien (@fearghalobrien) March 29, 2018
— P Stylianoudaki (@Stylianoudaki) March 29, 2018
"Maintaining Identity & Sharing" The #IndieWeb POSSE in academic action. The connecting of various tubes is one of the most exciting things about blogging/RSS etc.
— john johnston (@johnjohnston) March 29, 2018
You were great! As someone who's been such a passionate advocate of OEP and encouraged so many of us to become champions of open practice so pleased you were able to share your journey with us at #pressedconf18
— Natalie Lafferty (@nlafferty) March 29, 2018
— Simon Thomson (@digisim) March 29, 2018
Thank you @LornaMCampbell I have been in a similar situation to you. Starting to think about registering for CMALT and WordPress would be the perfect platform to host my portfolio #pressedconf18 https://t.co/ZHwd1Bjm6o
— Helen Booth (@trixieBooth) March 29, 2018
— ryanseslow (@ryanseslow) March 29, 2018
— Louise Grove (@drlouisegrove) March 29, 2018
This is wonderful. I had to miss the "live" show yesterday, this version is terrific to catch up with. Thank you.
— Mags Amond (@magsamond) March 30, 2018
Great presentation Lorna. My next steps are clear that now I'm operating #outwith an institution, in addition to working on getting my PhD work published, I need to use my WP site to make my academic work more rounded & widely accessible. https://t.co/QBA0kA1WvX
— louisedrumm (@louisedrumm) March 29, 2018
I think this is something we should discuss more widely in ISG as part of professional development
— Claire Knowles (@cgknowles) March 30, 2018
Congratulations and thank you for sharing!
— Suzanne Faulkner (@SFaulknerPandO) March 30, 2018
— Catherine Cronin (@catherinecronin) March 30, 2018
There was also a lot of love and appreciation for Kenneth White.
— Andrei Branea (@iab_uk) March 29, 2018
just a lovely choice.
— john johnston (@johnjohnston) March 29, 2018
This is beautiful .. touches my walks home in #novascotia
— Grant Potter (@grantpotter) March 29, 2018
And some interesting suggestions for my OER18 keynote :}
compared to a keynote
— PressED Conf – A tweeting WordPress conference (@pressedconf) March 29, 2018
for the keynote just put up the URL to your blog with the tweets, drop the mic, and walk away.
— Jim Luke really needs a new longer name (@econproph) March 29, 2018
Or do a flipped keynote: we have to read your blog before we come to the session, and then we all tweet during the keynote time while you walk around encouraging us.
— Jim Luke really needs a new longer name (@econproph) March 29, 2018
talking is so passe
— PressED Conf – A tweeting WordPress conference (@pressedconf) March 29, 2018
These short film clip showcases the wide variety of career opportunities in the Borders and highlights the employment opportunities and associated skills development within the tourism industry.
The clip provides an ideal starting point for learner discussions on local labour market information, the development of employability skills and relevant qualifications alongside work-based learning.
Today myself and Jen Ross took part in the PressEd Twitter conference, brilliantly organised by Pat Lockley and Natalie Lafferty. They had the genius idea of re-mixing the Public Archaeology Twitter conference format and with much heroic cajoling succeeded pulled in over 40 presentations from … Continue reading Digital Education and WordPress: an historical romp for #pressedconf18
This is my presentation for the amazing PressED Conference #PressEdConf18, run by the equally amazing Pat Lockley @pgogy, and Natalie Lafferty @nlafferty. My “talk” is about surviving precarious employment and using WordPress to build an independent academic identity and support formal CPD through CMALT.
Hello, I’m Lorna & I work at the OER Service @OpenEdEdinburgh at @EdinburghUni. I’m also an independent open education practitioner. I’m going to talk about how you can use WordPress to support open education practice, personal academic identity & formal CPD #pressedconf18
Before joining @EdinburghUni I worked for the @Jisc Cetis service @UniStrathclyde for 15 years. Most of that time I was employed on a series of short term precarious contracts. In 2015 my dept was shut down & I was made compulsorily redundant. It wasn’t fun. #pressedconf18
After 15 years my prof. identity was tied up with the Uni & Cetis, extricating myself hard. 1st thing I did was set up a WordPress blog to reassemble evidence of my work & my career. It’s called Open World after a Kenneth White poem http://lornamcampbell.org/ #pressedconf18
Setting up my blog allowed me to take ownership of my academic identity, #outwith the constraints of the institution. This was an important positive step that helped me through a difficult period of transition and uncertainty. #pressedconf18
It was also reassuring and encouraging to gather evidence of my skills in one place, and my blog now hosts my cv, papers, presentations, history research. #pressedconf18
It’s also where I think out loud &, along with twitter, where I connect with my community & share my practice & personal politics with my peers. You can listen to me Shouting From The Heart about why blogging is so important to me #pressedconf18
Having reclaimed my professional academic identity, in 2016 I took the next logical step as an open practitioner, and moved my blog to Reclaim Hosting. The process couldn’t have been simpler and I can’t recommend the service highly enough. #pressedconf18
Anyone who has worked on short term or precarious contracts know’s how difficult it is to manage career progression & CPD, esp. in a domain as diverse & rapidly changing as learning technology. I wrote a blog post about this here: Thoughts on ALT’s CPD Rebooted #CMALT #pressedconf18
I’m now fortunate to work at @EdinburghUni which supports learning technologists to undertake CPD through @A_L_T’s #CMALT programme. In 2017 I started gathering evidence for my CMALT portfolio #pressedconf18
Because I had already gathered evidence of my professional practice on my blog, it was easy to find the information I needed. Choosing which evidence to use for my #CMALT portfolio was much harder! #pressedconf18
Being an open practitioner, I decided to practice what I preach & build my portfolio in the open on my existing WordPress blog http://lornamcampbell.org/cmalt/ I shared it with the #CMALT community on twitter and got lots of helpful advice & feedback. #pressedconf18
Developing my #CMALT portfolio in the open, & using WordPress, was a really positive experience for me & you can read my reflection on the process here: CMALT Reflection and Thanks #pressedconf18
I was delighted when my CMALT portfolio was approved on first submission with the peer assessor commenting on my commitment to open education and open practice. None of this would have been possible without my Open World blog. #pressedconf18
I still keep my Open World blog at & my OER blog posts are now pulled through to our Open.Ed blog enabling me to maintain my own academic identity & still share my practice with my colleagues. #pressedconf18
And last but not least….#pressedconf18
This is a summary of my presentation for PressED – A WordPress and Education, Pedagogy and Research Conference on Twitter. I’ve pasted the text from the tweets, without the conference hash tags below.
I am @johnjohnston a primary school teacher in Scotland. I acted as ‘Product Owner’ for Glow Blogs from 2014 to 2016 & continue the role on a part time basis.
Glow is a service for to all schools & education establishments across Scotland.
Glow gives access to a number of different web services.
One of these services is Glow Blogs which runs on WordPress.
- Glow Blogs consist of 33 multisites
- Total number of blogs 219,834
- Total number of views in February 2018 1,600,074
- Number of blog users logging on in Feb 2018 243,199
All teachers and pupils in Scotland can have access to #GlowBlogs via a Single signon via RMUNIFY (shibboleth)
#GlowBlogs developed & maintained by Scottish Government considerable amount of work going into dev, testing, security and data protection. This differs from many edu #WordPress set ups as changes developed relatively slowly.
Major customisations include shibboleth signon, user roles & privacy. Teachers/Pupils have slightly different permissions.
Blogs can be public, private or “Glow Only”
There is also an e-Portfolio facility added via a plugin.
How the Blogs are used
Glow Blogs are currently used for School Websites, Class Blogs, Project Blogs, Trips, Libraries, eportfolios. Blogs By Learners, Blogs for Learners (Resources, revision ect), collaborations, aggregations.
ePortfolios supported by plugin, custom taxonomy. ‘Profiles’ print or export to PDF. Pupil portfolio blogs can have sparkly unicorns or black vampire styles but the profiles that come out look clean and neat.
Pupils can learn to be on the web but with <13 we have duty of care.
Pupils can create blogs. Cannot make blogs public.
A member of staff can make pupil’s blogs public. Pupils can be members of public blog and post publicly.
A collaboration https://blogs.glowscotland.org.uk/glowblogs/worldmustbecomingtoanend
A Blacksmith https://blogs.glowscotland.org.uk/st/scottishblacksmith
An aggregation https://blogs.glowscotland.org.uk/glowblogs/uodedushare
pupil projects: https://blogs.glowscotland.org.uk/ab/endeavour
Only scratched the surface of the potential of #WordPress the tools are in place, Scottish teachers and learners are exploring the possibilities but it is early days. We are tooled up for the future.
Last night I spoke to parents and carers at my school.
The text of what I said is here (more or less) and there is a video below:
Parental engagement event 28.3.17
Good evening and welcome, to everyone who has come here tonight…and also to those who may be watching after the event on video at a later date.
This evening is in three parts.
The first involves me talking and explaining some things about our school which I hope you will find interesting.
The second involves us having refreshments, a chat and a raffle…. but that bit only applies to those of us in the room.
And the third involves us watching a very powerful film with a strong message for our community. Fortunately viewers at home can see that part too as it is available online and the link will be shared.
My name is Lena Carter and I am the Head of Secondary Teaching and Learning here at Lochgilphead High School.
I think that most of you know me and, with the exception of some of the pupils in S6 who I never really got to teach or work with, I know your children well. I was stage head last year for the current S5 and I am stage head now for S3 and S4. Being Stage Head means that I have the overview of the year group, monitor their progress and help them through the key parts of the year. I also teach drama to all pupils in S1 and S2 and currently I also teach some French to S3. In my spare time, I am also directing this year’s school play.
My two children attend the High School.
I have been teaching for the best part of 25 years. I started my career in the south in London and Cambridgeshire, then moved north to Cumbria and the Outer Hebrides before coming to Argyll in 2013.
So, what does it actually mean to be head of Teaching and Learning and why did I want to take on the job?
First and foremost, it is about ensuring that what happens in our classrooms and our school enables your children to get the most out of their school experience as they possibly can and to be able to make a positive contribution to the world they live in.
The curriculum is the word that we use to describe the totality of learning experiences that our pupils experience; it is about what we teach, when we teach it and how we teach it or, in other words, what pupils learn, when they learn it and how they learn it. It is my job to work with staff to ensure that all of our pupils have curriculum opportunities through which they develop skills for learning, skills for life and skills for work and grow into the best possible versions of themselves.
Within this, it is not possible to have a one-size fits all approach; each one of our pupils is an individual on a personal pathway that needs to be right for them; we may have future tree-surgeons and brain-surgeons in the room, future musicians and future magicians and so there is no one learning journey that suits all. . Success for one pupil may look very different to success for another.
As a school we are judged partly through the assessments and exam results that we produce and there is no denying that these are important. Formal qualifications are the currency that allow our pupils to compete in a world where opportunities are sometimes hard to come by and it is for that reason that we want all of our pupils to leave school with the absolute best results that they can.
But being the absolute best is about more than just qualifications.
In our Learn to Learn and PSE classes and our assemblies, we focus a great deal on the idea of being reflective learners and of using all situations, both in and out of school, as learning opportunities. The successes and mistakes. The highs and the lows.
Our pupils know that being the best is also about being helpful, being loving, being understanding and being a good human being.
So, my job is hugely exciting and I consider myself very lucky to have it.
This year we have undertaken a major review of our curriculum to ensure that we build on the strengths of our existing curriculum and make improvements where they are need.
The pupils have played a big part in this and we have used number of opportunities to ask them for their ideas on how to make things better:
In the autumn, all pupils in S3 and S4 completed anonymous surveys relating to their experiences of school and learning. The responses were incredibly helpful to us and have already resulted in improvement activities; for example, a number of pupils told us that they would like more personal individualised feedback on their work and so we have shared this with staff and asked them to make it happen.
Over the last 2 terms, all pupils in S1 have been interviewed about their experience of school and their feedback has also helped us to address the issues important to them; in particular, they have helped us to address issues around ensuring that respect is at the heart of all interactions in school.
We have also established a pupil voice group this year where pupil representatives have met face to face with a group of staff to discuss the ways in which pupils’ voices can be made even stronger moving forward. They have made proposals for a new pupil council group which will be established next year.
They have told us about how they want us to support them with their mental health.
They have told us that they want better information and support around equalities and LGBT issues.
And they have also made strong representation that we should have some mechanism for pupils having an opportunity to meet with the same key adult every day, perhaps through a tutor group registration system. We are currently exploring ways to implement this in the new timetable.
All S2 pupils and their parents have been involved in and anonymous consultation around how we tackle bullying behaviours in school and the responses to that are being collated and reviewed to help us make sure that find the right ways to help pupils have positive relationships with others.
Finally this year, we have introduced an Options system that has made the pupils the starting point; rather than asking them to fit into a pre-determined set of option blocks, we have tried to create the option blocks around what they need and want. Early indications show that this will lead to increased pupil satisfaction and more pupil needs being met. The final conversations and decisions about options will take place after Easter.
And why then, did I want to talk to you tonight?
I am now going to say something controversial.
Parents are the main educators in their children’s lives.
As such, it is vital to measure and understand parents’ and families’ influence on children’s outcomes. A range of international evidence has shown that children and young people who have at least one parent or carer engaged in their education achieve better exam results, higher retention rates and smoother transitions between nursery, primary and secondary schools. They are also more likely to:
• attend school more regularly;
• have better social skills;
• have improved behaviour;
• adapt better to school and engage more in school work;
• have better networks of supportive relationships;
• have a better sense of personal competence; and
• be more likely to go on to further or higher education.
Source: Scottish Government
This is not about schools trying to shirk responsibility. It is not about us saying that our role in your child’s education is not crucial because it is. But it is saying that we have to work together and ensure that we communicate clearly, effectively and efficiently with one another if we are to do the best for our children.
And this is something we know we need to do better at.
We have worked really hard on improving communication in here over the last year.
We have asked you all to sign up for our messenger communications system which allows us to send texts, emails and letters to you.
If at all possible, we have encouraged you to download the Xpressions app to your device as this enables us to send you short messages for free which, in times of tights budgets, is really helpful.
If you don’t have the app, we send you text messages with key information.
If we need to send you a letter, we now do this via email (which again saves money and the environment), or for the approximately 32 parents and carers amongst you who do not have email, we still post out letters.
We have hugely improved our website and update it regularly with key information, as well as a weekly news blog from Ann Devine, our Campus Principal.
We have a Joint Campus Facebook page which has proven hugely popular amongst many of you.
But communication is a two way process. It is not just about us telling you things.
The next part of our task is to work out how we can get more of you communicating with us in a way that you feel comfortable with and in a way that will help our children.
Because, in the same way as we have listened to our pupils over the last year to move things forward, we need to find ways of making sure that you are heard too.
Of course it is fantastic and hugely encouraging to see so many of you here tonight. Thank you.
We also have a hugely supportive but small parent council who meet with us regularly to help hear your voices.
But to those of you who are not here tonight, I want to ask you why?
Is that you had a prior engagement?
Is that you felt intimidated about coming into school?
Is it that school was a bad experience for you?
Is it that you don’t feel heard by the school and that there’s no point in trying?
Is that you don’t feel that you are the sort of parent who come to things like this?
Is it that you were worried you might have to speak to people, or be judged?
Is it that you are happy with the way things are?
Is that you would rather watch the video?
I can’t answer for those who aren’t here but what I do know is that we need the answers to some of these questions
In school, we do the absolute best we can with the resources we have to support our children. We don’t always get it 100% and we can only know that we aren’t if you tell us.
But we also need to know that they experience a life that is fair, safe and full of opportunity when they are outside of our environment.
We know that this will not be the case if they are out drinking alcohol from a young age.
We know that this will not be the case if they are taking drugs.
We know that this will not be the case if they are engaging in inappropriate sexual activity.
We know that this will not be the case if they do not have clear boundaries.
If we as adults and parents cannot define the safe boundaries for our children then we need to be honest about it and ask for help.
There is no shame in this. We end up in this parenting role with very little preparation and if we are lucky enough to have had good role models in our families, then we probably do a good enough job.
But if we are struggling to get it right, we need to be honest and say so.
As a school leader, I don’t want you as parents to feel that you need to struggle alone. We need you to be honest and work with us so that we can create the environment both in and out of school that will allow our children to thrive.
I have heard parents say that they don’t want to share ‘personal’ information with school and that stuff that happens at home is none of school’s business. But everything I have learnt in my twenty plus years of teaching shows that pupils achieve best when information is shared that may help us to support children.
If your family dog has died and your child comes into school upset, it helps us to care for them if we know.
If you are under pressure because of a sick relative and family life is difficult, it helps for us to care for your child if we know.
If you can’t afford school shoes until after payday, it helps for us to care for your child if we know.
If you struggle to read the letters that come home about your child, it helps for us to care for your child if we know.
If you struggle to get up in the morning and face the day, it helps for us to care for your child if we know.
It takes a village to raise a child. But we will only raise that child well if the adults in the village are honest, willing to work together and able to ask for help when they need it.
So, to return to what I said before.
We have to work together and ensure that we communicate clearly, effectively and efficiently with one another as adults if we are to do the best for our children.
After tonight I would like to invite all of you to take part in a short online survey that helps us to understand what you think we are doing well and how we can engage better with more of you.
The link will be sent out via Messenger and put on the school website with a copy of this presentation.
The next part of tonight relates to our ongoing work in school to tackle bullying behaviour and promote respect.
Bullying is an issue that occurs not just in schools but in wider society and we know that it often involves an inability by one person to accept difference in another.
This year we have done a huge amount of work around anti- bullying including an intensive campaign during anti-bullying week involving a range of our partner agencies, curricular work such as the study of the text ‘Wonder’ in S1 English, followed up by a cinema trip to see the film and the work in S2 drama that I previously mentioned.
What we know is that the most effective way to tackle bullying is to involve everyone in the community and to create a culture where everyone the chance to speak out when they know that something is wrong.
We know that 99% of our children know that they should speak out when unkind things happen to others. We also know that peer pressure and fear stop them from doing so. If you came to my talk about teenagers, you will know that peer massive is very real for teenagers but that they CAN resist it if they are given the right messages by adults who they trust.
Recent research into stopping bullying talks about the power of the bystander and the film that you are going to see tonight gives a clear message about this.
I Am Me tells the story of Charlie, a young man with autism living in his community.
As this week is Wold Autism week, it is a particularly important film to be showing just now
It was developed by a community group , also called I Am Me. They are an winning community charity which works in partnership with Police Scotland to raise awareness of Disability Hate Crime (recognised as one of the most under report crimes in the UK).
The project aims to raise awareness with local young people and disability groups through the power of drama and film aimed at challenging attitudes and behaviours towards disabled people. Since the launch in September 2013, a live performance was delivered to over 10,000 people, including High schools, disability groups, staff groups, the police training college and the Scottish Parliament. A softer version, designed for primary school children was delivered to around 8,000 children in Renfrewshire.
The project also has an initiative called Keep Safe. Keep Safe works in partnership with Police Scotland and a network of local businesses to create ‘Keep Safe’ places for disabled, vulnerable, and elderly people when out and about in the community. People can access these premises to seek assistance and help if they feel lost, confused, scared, in danger, or have been the victim of a crime.
Children and parents here often talk about the fact they don’t want to appears as ‘grasses’ by giving information about others who have done wrong.
I urge you, the adults, to challenge this and work with us and the police to ensure that everyone in our community is happy and safe.
I hope you enjoy the film.
Further and Higher Education Minister Shirley-Anne Somerville has said that Abertay University’s early introduction of access thresholds for students from disadvantaged backgrounds should be seen “as an example” for other institutions.
Great to welcome @S_A_Somerville to discuss #wideningaccess and to meet students who have benefited from Abertay’s ongoing commitment to reducing inequalities in #HE https://t.co/fXtwLreqA9 pic.twitter.com/JavwtEaXyT
— Abertay University (@AbertayUni) March 28, 2018
On a visit to Abertay University today to discuss their implementation of access thresholds, Ms Somerville said:
“This Government firmly believes that access thresholds have the potential to make a significant contribution to reducing inequalities in higher education. There is extensive evidence that universities get the best students by taking into account the social and educational background of an applicant in its admissions process, which is why access thresholds have an important role to play.
“This is a view supported by the Commission on Widening Access, who recommended that all universities introduce access thresholds by 2019.
“So I welcome the opportunity to hear from Abertay University about how they have already implemented access thresholds, in time for the 2017 academic year. The initial findings are encouraging, with the number of entrants who received an adjusted offer doubling in 2017-18.
“This sits alongside Abertay University’s approach to take into account individual student’s level of preparedness for university and ensure the right support is available for those coming through the contextualised admissions process. The speed with which Abertay University has introduced access thresholds is to be commended and should be seen as an example that many other institutions across the country can learn from.”
Professor Nigel Seaton, Principal of Abertay University, added:
“We look forward to introducing the Minister to Abertay University’s new approach to supporting students from disadvantaged backgrounds. This involves making offers of admission at an ‘access threshold’, with a much lower academic requirement than previously.”
The post Minister praises introduction of access thresholds at Abertay University appeared first on Engage for Education.
There were a mix of activities available. A sharing-table, where attendees put a book or resource that had particularly helped inform their own practice; a series of learning conversations around different aspects of practice; the opportunity for everyone to share some of their practice that had helped them and their learners, with names pulled out of a hat and a time limit of two minutes. Plus, of course, the opportunity to mix and chat with colleagues at break and lunch times to explore motivations and share more insights and experiences. I love events like this, because they have that 'Buzz' that Tracey Ezzard talks about in her book of the same title. Everyone was there because they wanted to be, and we all sought to get the most from each activity, especially as they were giving up their own precious time to attend.
I spoke to a lot of people at the event, and more since via Twitter. The most common adjective used by them all is 'inspired'. They were seeking to be inspired by what they saw and heard, and the event seems to have worked on that level for most of the attendees, which I am sure all the organisers and contributors will be pleased to hear. Everyone, organisers, attendees, presenters, and particularly the pie and cake maker, deserve respect for their contributions. Some people came with colleagues, but I am particularly in awe of those who had made their own way individually seeking to have their professional development nourished in a way that perhaps their current context did not allow.
I had been asked to lead one conversation for forty five minutes. There were a range of these that teachers could sign up to over the day, and mine was to look at and explore some of our attitudes to professional development or learning. Here is what we covered.
To set the scene, I noted that I was sure we all understood that education and learning was complicated, with no easy answers to anything. Added to this complexity was the fact that education was riddled with dichotomies, where practitioner often set themselves up in one camp or another. Through social media and face to face, various members of different camps could be very strident in their defence of their position, and quite intolerant of those they saw as being in opposite camps. Some of the general dichotomies I had identified myself were; traditionalist or progressive, child-centred or teacher-led, play or structured learning, theory or practice, zero tolerance or acceptance of individuality, rote learning or discovery learning, research driven or data driven, academic subjects or the arts, teaching as a science or teaching as an art, summative assessment or formative assessment, knowledge or skills, leadership or management and finally revolution or evolution in terms of development? Phew! It had taken me about ten minutes to come up with these, and I have no doubt that there are more that I and yourselves could identify.
I then turned to dichotomies in professional development or learning. There was another straight away, and there were more. Teacher training or teacher education, 'things' or a process, teacher priorities or school priorities, school priorities of local authority priorities, local authority or national priorities, in school or away from school, individual or collaborative, compulsory or voluntary, recorded or un-recorded, personal or corporate, own time or school time? I then added some quotes on professional learning from some of the researchers and writers I most respect in this area.
'The networks or partnerships we envision must be powerful, focused on teams, and concerned with drilling down into deep continuous improvement.' Fullan and Hargreaves 2008
'Around the globe, every year, teachers routinely participate in hundreds of hours of professional development and training. The implicit assumption is that attending courses equates with professional learning and that by participating in such events somehow professional practice will change.' A Harris 2014
'Effective professional development is intensive, ongoing and connected to practice; focuses on the teaching and learning of specific academic content; is connected to other school initiatives and builds strong working relationships among teachers.' Darling-Hammond et al 2009
'It is no longer acceptable for professionals in school to do their individual best. rather it is expected that they will engage collectively with what is known to be effective in improving outcomes for students.' H Timperley 2011
'...moving from outside professional development to opportunities for communities of professional learning within and across schools, linked to teachers' work, needs and the experiences of their classroom contexts and students' priorities.' Lieberman, Campbell and Yashinka 2017
All of this was to stimulate thinking and dialogue amongst the mixed group of educators in my session. I then posed some questions for exploration and discussion.
My opener was straightforward enough, 'what professional learning activity/event has had the greatest impact on your identity as a teacher? Why?' I actually thought this might be difficult for some people to identify, but I was pleasantly surprised when every member of the group was able to say what it was that had had the greatest impact on them, and their practice. In fact, they were enthusiastic, as well as open, in their willingness to discuss and reflect on these in the group. There were some very honest and enlightening sharing that took place and I was blown away by the mix of experiences that had made all the difference for each of them. I do not propose to go into any details of what was said as to do so would betray the confidences shared, I will just share the main messages.
My next question was, 'who is professional learning for?' Another lively discussion ensued and responses tended to centre around the learner and the teacher. There seemed to be agreement amongst the group that professional learning should have benefits for learners, by better equipping teachers to develop their understandings and their practice. I asked, what about the school? Which led us to discuss those dichotomies that I had started with. We reached agreement that most of these are false dichotomies and that the best teachers adjust their practice, moving between many of the different 'camps' depending on the context and the needs of the learners in front of them.
I then asked, 'so, who should identify professional learning activities and needs?' Everyone agreed that this should usually be the individual teacher, based on their personal and professional context, but that there may well be times when there might be greater input from the school and its priorities. There was agreement that such activity should be a career-long commitment.
'What should professional learning look like?' This generated another lively debate, as we came to the conclusion that it could look like anything, and could happen anywhere. It may be formal and pre-planned, but it may also be informal or ad-hoc in nature. Any activity that helped teachers to explore and develop their thinking and practice is a professional learning activity, indeed many of the most powerful are spontaneous, as described by members of my group. Professional dialogue, that focuses on common issues, is a powerful way of moving thing and practice on. Teachers needed time and space for this to happen, and sometimes they needed to create that themselves with events such as this, or by developing collaborative networks on Twitter or elsewhere. My own view is that this should be part of a coherent process, but sometimes doing 'things' might be part of this process.
My final question was, 'how do we measure the impact of professional learning?' I had talked a little about Knud Illeris and his work on transformative learning and identity. The group generally agreed that for professional development to have had impact then an individual's personal and professional identity had to be changed positively. When this has happened there are benefits for learners and we should be able to see these, over time.
We had run out of time, but this was a fascinating exploration of some of the issues around professional learning and school development. As I said at the outset, there are no easy answers, just lots of questions that need exploring if we are to find our way forward as individuals and as a system. Dialogue, and learning cultures, where everyone sees themselves as a learner, and where the culture is supportive, collaborative and based on high degrees of professional trust, is the way forward. Keeping your head down, and leaving these questions for others to consider and answer, helps no-one, including yourself.
Thank you to Susan Ward and the other organisers of the event, and especially thanks to those who turned up for my conversation. There were others happening at the same time and I am sure all the facilitators, like myself, found the whole experience positive and affirming with regard to the profession and its future. I can hardly wait for the next one!
connected to other school initiatives and builds strong working relationships among teachers’ Darling-Hammond et al 2009