My ATS experience: Stacy Vipas

Stacy Vipas is Teaching and Learning Manager at Selby College. Stacy explains how the Advanced Teacher Status (ATS) process was about her learning in the first instance, and then putting that into practice and building it into a teaching and learning strategy for the rest of her organisation.

Listen to the full interview.

I always knew that I wanted to work in the lifelong learning sector, having had a great experience at college. I wanted to continue learning and developing as a teacher, and ultimately, this is what led me to do Qualified Teacher Learning Skills (QTLS) status, but more recently to do ATS as well.

After teaching PE for many years, I became an Advanced Practitioner at Doncaster College, helping others to develop their practice and learning. I then moved into teacher education, teaching BA in education and higher education, before moving more recently to Selby, where I teach PGCE courses and look after the learning and development of the staff.

What was it about ATS which made you want to apply?

ATS felt like the next natural step — I’d done QTLS almost as soon as I’d done my PGCE, so I was looking for another challenge. I had also completed a Master’s degree, but I didn’t feel that starting a PhD was going to be something that would really attract me — it was more about seeing what I could learn and develop as an individual.

With ATS, you’re not working to a qualification, you’re working to learn and develop as an individual and make progress in your own workplace and organisation, which really appealed to me. I also wanted to be one of the first people to gain it and to have that drive to see what it was all about. SET talked to me about how I might be able to shape the ATS process and develop it to make it a strong process moving forward, so that was also an attractive prospect.

The whole idea of gaining Chartered Teacher Status was also something that drew me to undertaking ATS, in the sense that it aligns FE teachers with the school sector and pulls us all together as professionals.

How did you find the ATS process?

I’m not going to pretend ATS was an easy journey, because it wasn’t — it can be hard and there’s lots to learn and develop, but when you get to the end you feel that euphoria of completing something and making a difference. Seeing the end product and sharing my left me with the feeling of: “Wow, I’ve done a lot and I’ve really made a difference”, so I know it was all worth it.

During the ATS process I shared the research behind my project with my colleagues, which meant I got to see how it benefited them in their practice and delivery. Whilst I was learning so much as an individual, I was also able to share and showcase this more widely across the organisation.

The research project that I undertook was about stabilising and developing a strategy for teaching and learning for the college. The ideas I investigated included metacognition, so I spent time looking at research from the Education Endowment Foundation. As I learnt more as an individual about these things, I was able to put packages together to help train and develop others. My research project led to me developing a strategy to incorporate some of the research that was surrounding the new Education Inspection Framework (EIF), along with things we felt that were missing in our organisation and ideas for how we wanted to develop and upskill staff.  

Delving into my research project

Initially I started off doing some research to see where the gaps were and what we could learn from them in order to develop a teaching and learning strategy for the college. We embedded the research into a strategy which we named the “Selby Way”, which has six strands and incorporated a selection of how-to guides which we built into a development platform for staff to access.

We looked the theories surrounding questioning and the research surrounding metacognition and cognitive load theory and we built this into the platform. Undertaking this research enabled me to learn and develop as an individual, and that learning allowed me to help others to develop as well.

Additionally, we had a mentoring and coaching strand built on an action learning set theory, which we included in the research. We added teaching tips where the themes around the research project looked at retrieval practice and ideas around cognitive psychology. We also had digital technology and digital learning platforms whereby every month we’d publish how-to guides based on the research. I also developed CPD sessions and ran live sessions and screencasts which focused on cognitive psychology and development.

How ATS has impacted my role and organisation as a whole

Undertaking ATS was a big project, and that’s why I felt it was challenging, but because it encompassed everything, it didn’t feel like it was additional work. It felt like it was part of my job and that I was pulling things together to develop my role and to make working in my organisation better for all of us.

My line manager was really proud of me for being awarded with ATS. They can see the benefits of not just me having the certificate and the status of ATS, but the impact it’s had in terms of the organisation and what we’ve been able to build and strive for as a result of that. It’s questionable whether my role would have gone in the same direction if I hadn’t been thinking about how I was going to complete my ATS status. I think it’s really opened eyes and opened hearts and minds to what the advantages of ATS could be.

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