Shrewsbury College is a medium sized General Further Education (GFE) College in rural Shropshire, the College is developing a reputation for its innovative approaches to embedding the Professional Standards so the Foundation’s Paul Kessell-Holland recently visited the College to take a closer look at their approach.
The Standards were launched to the College’s teaching team at their annual Conference in September 2014. Teachers were involved in an activity identifying the key support they would value from the College to further the professionalism agenda. Responses were grouped into themes and informed the focus of development work with teachers, which is predominantly undertaken through an effective arrangement of Professional Learning Communities. The Communities are formed by groups of teachers, facilitated by a Learning Coach. They meet regularly to support each other's development, share ideas and support improvement. Ofsted recently observed that the communities at Shrewsbury had “contributed to developing the craft of teaching.” A key feature of the Communities are they set their own agenda, pace and crucially, do not involve the College management. In considering the application of the Standards, the Communities have developed a new Peer Review Process.
Led by Jane Martin, the College’s Professional Development Manager, the Peer Review process further promotes teacher ownership and autonomy of their professional development through collaboration with colleagues across the College. This strategy also provides an opportunity to embed a coaching approach to professional dialogue, using the Professional Standards as a point of reference.
Other interesting ways the College has responded to embedding the Standards, include the decision to move away from its very formal appraisal process and toward Professional Guided Conversations. During these, managers and teachers collaboratively set a structure for their conversation with only key points of the discussion recorded by the teacher, along with objectives. Their development needs are then agreed for the year ahead. The Standards are utilised as the basis for the structure. Early indications are that more value is placed on the conversation, with the tick-box form and performance indicator analysis eliminated from the process. This means that far more meaningful discussions are taking place.
The standards are also evident in the College recruitment process, where candidates applying for teaching posts are expected to demonstrate evidence of the Standards in action in their work.
So is it making a difference? The College has undertaken impact analysis on a number of strategies developed by teachers in the Learning Communities and how they are used with students. The results are very positive with clear indications that the opportunity to discuss areas for development in a supportive environment encourages willingness to experiment and innovate.
The College is enjoying improved retention and success and a growing student population in a declining demographic, estimating to have grown its market share of students by at least 5 per cent.
The College is keen to build on its experiences and share and develop its practice so would be pleased to hear from other organisations interested in collaboration. Please contact Donna Lucas, Assistant Principal. at firstname.lastname@example.org