My ATS experience: James Foster

What motivated you to undertake Advanced Teacher Status (ATS)? 

I was awarded Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills (QTLS) status back in 2012 and an opportunity came up to complete ATS. Nobody else in our organisation had been awarded it so as part of our quality role, me and a colleague decided that we would undertake it.  

Another idea behind it was that if anybody else in our organisation wanted to undertake ATS in the future, my colleague and I could then mentor them through it. To have the support of someone who's got mentoring skills and who has been awarded ATS gives it a bit of kudos; you know that they’re not only a professional within their field, but they've also been recognised as an advanced practitioner. 

James foster head shot

Can you tell us more about the research project that you undertook as part of ATS? 

My research project was about the impact of Covid-19 on our learners and teachers. It focused on upskilling and getting lecturers to use technology. When we went into lockdown, everybody had to upskill really quickly, and we were seeing mixed abilities on technology use across the board in terms of online learning. Some lecturers would just use email, some would use Microsoft Teams, some would use Zoom, and I wanted to know what the experience was like for them and what the experience was like for the students. 

As part of my research I undertook some digital learning walks to see what tools lecturers were using within the classroom. When I saw something that wasn’t being used particularly well, I used it to inform further training with the lecturers. For the students, I wanted to focus on whether they were engaged in the lesson. I found that a lot of our students didn't have their camera on, so sometimes the teacher would just be staring at a list of initials which created some issues.  

Our organisation uses Microsoft Teams and Google Classroom as a sort of hybrid, so our students have not only upskilled on Teams and Microsoft products, which they could take into their future job roles, but they also became competent with Google Classroom. 


How did you find the ATS process? 

I initially thought that it wouldn't be as challenging or as much work. When I first enquired about it I was probably a bit naïve, and then as I got into it, I found out that it is quite demanding! 

I had to put time aside to do it and fit it into my working life. I found the reflection to be really good and I enjoyed the project, but I just didn’t expect it to be as demanding. During the process I would sometimes think to myself “why am I doing this?”, but then at the end when I finished the process and I got the award, it felt amazing and brilliant. 


What impact has ATS had on your role and your organisation? 

I still deliver a lot of training which I did before being awarded ATS, but in terms of teacher training, my colleague will be delivering a Diploma in Education and Training from September 2023. For years we've been trying to get our teaching qualifications as one of our flagships and for some reason it just hasn't happened or didn't work out. But now my colleague will be delivering it! I think it will be great because she has ATS and does all the mentoring, so our trainee teachers are being taught by people who are at the top of their profession. 

In terms of the impact ATS has had on my role, it’s made me look into different technologies, and encouraged me to join different collaborations. I joined the EdTech Demonstrators, who deliver training on things like NearPod, and brought back my learnings into my institution. As a result, we’ll be using NearPod next year to deliver our tutorials, so we’re totally rewriting our curriculum based on things I’ve learnt from the EdTech Demonstrators, but also on things I suggested within my research project to move the college forward. 


How has your teaching practice changed as a result of ATS? 

I do less teaching now and I don't teach my specialist subjects anymore, which are law and politics, because I just don't have the time. The only teaching I do to is to staff and my tutor group.  

But as for teaching to staff, ATS has definitely helped me in terms of technology. I also think I’m able to add more to rewriting and overhauling the tutorial curriculum when I've got the Professional Standards in mind, and I can use my ATS to help me with that. 


Do you have any advice to anyone considering undertaking ATS? 

I think you really need to go into it with your eyes wide open. Do your research and find out exactly what you're going to have to do. I would get a good mentor and make sure that you're communicating well with your mentor and your mentees, and make sure you have a good relationship with them. You need to plan your time and you need to think about the whole process. 

My top tip is to work on your portfolio consistently. Don't leave it all until the end because you’ll never do it, so spread the work evenly throughout the year.  


Finally, please can you tell us a fun fact about yourself? 

In 2017 I raised £10,000 pounds overnight for my sick dog to have a heart operation. I started off crowdfunding and then the Daily Mail picked up the story because it was groundbreaking surgery that required a human heart surgeon. My dog had her operation and was absolutely fine the next day. She’s almost eight now. 


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