LTA Workshop: Transitions into Higher Education

Attended the Learning and Teaching Academy’s workshop which was given by an external speaker, Dr Debbie Porteous from Northumbria University. The talk was around her research in how to support nursing students in their transitions first to students and then into professional practice, and how to maximise their potential for success.

She began by leading a discussion on how the student experience differs for new students in the 21st century – that study is often now only one of many commitments which can also include work and caring responsibilities, and that the relationship between students and institutions has changed as a result of funding changes which have resulted in students becoming customers, consumers and partners also.

From that position she moved on to how best to support students and ensure their success at University, which includes quality of teaching, clear career pathways, student support services, and, most importantly, the availability of staff at the key level 4 stage. This led to a discussion about how, in reality, that is often the point at which the core programme team are least directly involved with their students in favour of TAs and contract staff.

Debbie then talked about her research findings in which she has identified five themes in the journey of students’ first year of experience: uncertainty, the challenges of transition and developing coping strategies; expectations, how they match experience and, for us as educators, the need to set clear and realistic expectations of what support we can provide; learning to survive, in which resilience emerges and where peer support can be invaluable; seeking support, from academics, mentors and peers, as well as the student support services offered by the institution; and moving forward, at which point students have improved confidence, belief and efficacy. This was followed by an exercise in which we, in groups, tried to identify how students can be supported through each stage.

Finally, Debbie shared how at Northumbria they are using technology and learning analytics to engage with all students throughout their studies. This is going beyond targeting students who may be at risk to include positive message of support and encourage to students who seem to be doing well also.

HEA Scheme Writing Retreat

For gaining my PG Cert in Academic Practice last year, one of the assessments was to complete a portfolio of evidence to gain HEA Fellowship. From this, it was pointed out to me that a lot of the work I do and the decisions I make have an impact on the whole University, and therefore I could, with a little work, go for Senior Fellowship. That’s what this writing retreat was all about. A change from a portfolio, what I need to do now is make a written claim that comprises a reflective account of my practice and two case studies which demonstrate how my work has made a significant positive impact at the institution level. Around 6,000 words, which isn’t too intimidating these days.

PG Cert AP: Day 4

Two sessions today, delivered by two guest lecturers on different topics. The morning was devoted to peer observation and discussed the exercise in general terms, the balance which needs to be struck between institutional and individual focus, and between negotiated and imposed criteria, and then on how it works here at Sunderland specifically. Here there is a standardised form which is part of the academic quality handbook, and everyone has to be peer observed a couple of times every year. One of the assessments for this module is for me to be observed, conduct an observation and write a reflective piece on the experience.

This was followed by a discussion on various quality frameworks and their different purposes which we assessed on a scale of institutional / individual focus, and negotiated / imposed criteria:

  • UKPSF: About an individual’s professional teaching;
  • NSS: The National Students Survey about their experience;
  • TEF: The impending Teaching Excellent Framework which is designed to capture the performance and effectiveness of institutions;
  • DfE Teacher Standards: About the role and responsibilities of teachers;
  • Oftsed Observation Matrix: About the quality of learning as a result of teaching.

Our lecturer in the afternoon began with a discussion on different types of knowledge in practice, including research based evidence, tacit knowledge (from the work of Michael Polanyi who gives, as an example, the ability to ride a bicycle but difficulty in explaining how), and postmodernist approaches which argue that knowledge is socially constructed and thus particular to a given set of social and historic circumstances.

This was followed with reflective practice, the usual suspects, Gibbs and Schon, and a new one for me, Jan Fook, who writes about critical reflection and the need to unearth and examine the deeply held assumptions underlying our experiences.

Finally there was a discussion about his own research in auto-ethnography, a disciple which combines anthropology with biography to record the experience of being in a particular culture.

PG Cert AP: Day 0

Because one PG Cert isn’t enough, I am now doing two due to an unfortunate overlap with dates. I’m not going to lie though, this is the one that excites me more as this is for my teaching qualification and HEA Fellowship which has been long delayed. The programme is now called the PG Cert Academic Practice at the university, and all post relating to it here will be tagged ‘PGCertAP’ and can be found in the dedicated tag page. I have a feeling that these posts are going to take a different form from those related to the Leading from the Middle programme (LftM) as there is a great deal of reflective writing being done for the programme itself, outside of my own space; so shorter, more condensed summaries of what the sessions involved I think. I’m still debating on whether or not to openly publish a copy of my HEA Fellowship portfolio as well.

This introductory half day was just for induction and registration processes. There was a run through of the programme and module handbooks, with a particular focus on the assessments. The programme is composed of three modules, a core 40 point module with four assignments – Introduction to Academic Practice (tagged EDPM05) – and for me a 20 point module with one portfolio assignment – Assessment and Feedback for Learning (tagged EDPM06). The third module is Introduction to Digital Learning and Assessment (tagged EDPM08) which, interestingly, I’m going to be doing some teaching on, to give me something formal to reflect on for my assignments in the core module.

The main and most important assignment is to complete a portfolio form to apply for HEA Fellowship, a standalone thing in its own right, but to get the PG Cert I will also need to complete and pass all of the other work.

Session 7: Coaching at Work, Part 2

coaching_model

Day 2 of Coaching at Work was about filling out some of the principles introduced to us yesterday, followed by some practical application in a safe and supported environment.

Matt’s completed coaching model takes the form of an equation, Potential minus Interference (both internal and external) equals High Performance; add in Learning and Enjoyment for Sustainable High Performance.

Following a discussion on the purpose of coaching which served as a recap, the conclusion of which was that coaching aims to move people from vague desires to meaningful action, Matt gave us the ARROW model of questioning which consists of five steps, or categories of question:

  • Aims: What do you want?
  • Reality: What’s happening now?
  • Reflection: How big is the gap?
  • Options: What could you do?
  • Way Forward: What will you do?

For each of these steps Matt gave us around 6 to 8 example questions which break them down into more detail, and some advice. Possibly the most important being not to stick to the model literally, as people don’t think in a straight line and can jump around the steps in the model. Reality is the most important step according to Matt, as it can take people some time to work out what the situation is actually like, and also possibly the most tricky. We were warned about one question in particular from the examples in this section, namely ‘How does this make you feel?’, which has the potential to be upsetting for some in certain situations. For the Options section answers don’t have to be realistic or even necessarily desirable, the purpose here is to generate many and creative answers which are hashed out during the final step, the Way Forward. What all coaching questions need to have, and which the given examples have been designed to provide us, is the quality of compelling the person being coached to focus and provide more detailed answers than to ordinary questions in another context.

After our work on the ARROW model we broke up into groups of three and practiced coaching on each other, using some prepared live work issues we were asked to think about prior to these coaching days.

We ended the day by reflecting on the qualities of an effective coach and getting some more tips from Matt which included the three principles of coaching:

  • Awareness: The ability to focus and give your complete attention to the person being coached, and without passing judgement.
  • Responsibility: The person being coached needs to own their tasks, so don’t take anything away from them. Particularly important if you are the person’s line manager as well as coach.
  • Trust: The person being coached needs to have trust in the coach, the coaching process, and most importantly themselves.

Regarding awareness, we had an aside on active listening with advice which included showing an interest, avoiding interruptions, removing distractions and making good eye contact. All of which are designed to show that you are listening.

Next steps after today are to try and put it all into practice in our own teams before the final coaching day in around a month’s time, and to read some of the follow-up articles and documentation which Matt has provided.