My ATS experience: Katie Wilden

Katie Wilden is the Professional Learning Manager at West Suffolk College. She has worked in the FE sector since 2007 and teaches in the teacher training department. Katie explains how she believes she wouldn’t be doing the job she is doing now if it wasn’t for achieving Advanced Teacher Status (ATS).

The reason I decided to gain my ATS was because I am passionate about professional learning and professional development and how I can use it in my teaching practice. I think it is really important for teachers to be a good role models to our students. By being a learner again, it can help you to reflect, while also helping your learners with their own aspirations. 

How we train teachers in the FE sector

As part of my ATS, I decided to focus on how we train teachers in the FE sector. One day a teacher can be working in the industry, and then within a week, they can find themselves in the classroom with a group of students – I wanted to look into how we can support them with that transition. I started by focusing my research on identity, along with ‘Imposter Syndrome’, which some FE teachers will still find themselves suffering from. For example, whether they identify themselves as still as their trade or their industry, or whether they can identify themselves as a teacher or a dual professional. When I started reading about Imposter Syndrome, it led to me looking into cultural changes and tribe behaviour and reflecting on the large size of the college, with its various campuses and subject areas.

As teachers, we are often so busy in our own department with our students and colleagues that we forget to look at what is going on in other departments. I started to go into other areas and do observations, speaking to staff and immersing myself in other areas to find out what was going on. I wanted to uncover good practice that we could use and share, and talk to staff members about their experience, attitudes, behaviours and beliefs. This enabled me to start thinking about the quality side and professional learning as a whole, which I firmly believe should happen all the time; whether it’s reading, reflecting on our practice, talking to colleagues or taking part in professional learning days. I started to have conversations in the college about how we could support new staff members with their teaching practice successfully so they can develop a dual professionalism and dual identity.

Investing in professional learning with new roles

I was lucky in that by doing my ATS, it enabled me to have more of these conversations. This allowed me to talk to the correct people who were able to make organisational changes. As a result, new positions were developed within the college called ‘Innovation Coaches’, and I decided to become one myself. By being an innovation coach, we would go to new staff and existing staff members and support them in the teaching and learning of the college. Part of our role was to support them for the first six months of their career, putting on different training events throughout the week and being responsible for professional learning days. 

The college decided to invest more in our professional learning with the development of a new role – the Professional Learning Manager, which I went for and was successful in getting. I feel that if I hadn’t done ATS this wouldn't have happened, and I find it amazing that I’ve been able to use a lot of my ATS work and put it into practice.

Undertaking ATS to make a change in your practice and organisation

The research I undertook for my ATS enabled me to develop a starting point of professional learning at the college. It had been a while since I had stopped to think about what I wanted to do in my career, and I think the ATS portfolio makes you stop and really think about what you want to do, what interests you, what still excites you about the sector; it gave me a new enthusiasm for the sector again, how I can make a change to myself, my students and my organisation, and how can we continue to develop ourselves as practitioners. It was hard work and challenging and I involved my colleagues lots to help me find evidence to share ideas, so I felt they also came on the journey with me!

If it wasn’t for doing ATS, I wouldn’t have remembered many of the reasons I went into teaching in the first place. I would recommend doing ATS to anyone who is interested in doing it – it will be hard work and you need to have a support network around you, but it will give you the opportunity to see how you can make a change to yourself and your students.  You will talk to different people in your departments and your organisation, and it will help you focus on what you are passionate about.

Colin Shaw, Principal of West Suffolk College

"Katie is passionate about teaching, Further Education, Continued Professional Learning for staff and the positive impact this has on students. Through ATS, Katie has been able to drive the quality of Teaching and Learning within the College and has developed a network of support for teachers. We are proud of Katie for what she has accomplish and recognise how achieving ATS has impacted this," says Colin.

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