I have done lots of qualifications in the past, including a PGCE and Master’s, and I wanted to do something else that was situated within my context, and that had more of a practical angle. I wanted something that was still academic but useful to those teaching and working in Further Education.
I did a research project that investigated the impact of video observation and reflective conversations on supporting teachers to lead on their own development. I learnt that reflective conversations can really help to tease out the strength in someone’s practice and what they want to be working on. Riverside College decided to roll out video observation as a cross-college initiative, so the teachers in my college are now all participating with video observation as a CPD opportunity for them.
We’re using the video observation as a quality improvement mechanism – not a quality assurance mechanism – so it gives teachers the freedom to investigate their practice by watching themselves without a third party watching them. They also have the opportunity to share their video with a peer, while some prefer to just share their reflections rather than the actual video observation. It’s been quite a leap of faith for our organisation. We only rolled out this initiative to all staff in December 2021, but so far the feedback has been really positive.
Additionally, since I undertook ATS we have funded several of our colleagues to do ATS, as it’s seen as a great CPD opportunity for our teachers. And for experienced teachers where there’s perhaps no progression routes for them in colleges, ATS provides another way of rewarding them for all their efforts.
When you’ve been a teacher for a long time you find your own little formula of how you like to teach, but it's good to look again at your practice. ATS encourages you to do that in conjunction with the ETF’s Professional Standards and makes you think “are there any standards that I'm not doing as well as I could?” One of my targets was to engage more with evidence-based research, which got me back reading more current material. So that's brought what you would call ‘clean water’ into the organisation again, so that's been a good result.
I found it challenging but it’s rewarding as well. You have to be self-sufficient and use the resources that are there to help you and just get on with it independently. You can’t rely on somebody bailing you out and giving you all the answers – you’ve got to be self-reliant. The webinars were brilliant too. They really helped and are a must-watch to help you self-assess, formulate your action plan, and move forward from there.
My advice is to manage your time really carefully. I’d also advise making use of the holidays and block time out to concentrate on ATS, because I used to make quite a lot of headway during this time. We work in a sector that has these huge peaks, so don't worry if you're not concentrating on ATS while you're in the middle of a peak.
Look for all the naturally occurring opportunities that are within your organisation. You need to speak to with other people so you’re not working in a silo and liaise with other people in your organisation who might be able to help you with evidence or provide useful opportunities. Networking is key!