In this new world of Professional Update and its attendant fresh focus on the role of Professional Review meetings, many colleagues are trying to get their heads around the problem of “evidencing”. Now that we are strengthening the link between what teachers undertake as learning, and what the effect is on their learners, we have inevitably run into the challenge of evidencing this.
This should certainly ring some alarm bells; where there is a need for evidencing in schools, we have a professional reflex to gather a portfolio of documentary evidence. We might grab course attendance certificates, PRD course requests, Handouts from courses, notes of relevant reading, samples of learners’ work and other paper based reassurances that we have complied with requirements! When West Dunbartonshire Council was recently verified by GTCS as part of the Professional Update pilot, they set a different (and professionally challenging) tone for us in terms of the evidence that they explored. We, true to our Education Service DNA, produced a folder of evidence, and a timeline of events. They true to their focus on learning outcomes and not documentary process talked to our teachers, middle and senior leaders, central staff, and without excessive reference to our documents, proceeded to check our shared sense of commitment to Professional Update. They checked that our underpinning values and commitment were sound, that our communication had been two-way and that schools had similar understanding to central leaders. They checked that we knew our own story, with our successes, weaknesses and aspirations clearly highlighted. I think I would best summarise what they did as checking our integrity, not our paperwork.
That should be a good signpost for our teachers as they consider evidencing their learning in the lead-up to achieving professional re-accreditation; it is not about folders of paperwork, it is about telling your learning story. It is about showing you have a plan, however flexible, linked to your learner’s needs, which you can explain and reflect upon in terms of what has been useful, what had to be rethought and what is still to be learned. Telling your story in a way that demonstrates you are working actively at improving your professional effectiveness, with reasons-for and reflections-on your practice shows integrity as a learning-professional. The main organising ideas for this are simple:
- Why did you undertake this learning?
- What were the changes or outcomes you hoped for or expected?
- What were the critical points in your learning that either reinforced your view that you were making a positive change, or caused you to rethink what you were doing?
- How did you get other perspectives on your practice? Who else provided feedback? (E.g. learners, co-op teaching colleagues, senior colleagues, external study data etc.)
- What are your next steps and how do they link to what you have learned?
- What (if any) documentary evidence do I have that is an important part of my story. (Hint: Course attendance certificate is probably not important; the questionnaire that you undertook with your class to check their view of what you have been putting into practice as a result would be very relevant).
Responsibility for evidencing professional update lies ultimately with individual teachers. Much of the evidence will be clear in your impact on the school to your reviewing manager, however, filling in the blanks and producing other relevant evidence is all down to your own learning story; tell it with confidence and integrity please!
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