My ATS experience: Molli Bennion

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

It was towards the end of the 2019–20 academic year and we were just headed into lockdown. Because of the lockdown restrictions I thought it was the perfect opportunity to undertake ATS and do some sort of programme that would help me and my learners. I’ve been working as a teacher now for nine years and I thought it was about time to get upskilling and to do something that challenged me – and ATS was definitely a challenge!

Molli Bennion headshot

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

When I was teaching in college, I never really used or embraced technology. But as soon as we went into lockdown you didn't have a choice! So, I decided to do a project that incorporated technology because everything was going in that direction in the sector. 

My project was about assessing if Microsoft Forms was an effective blended learning tool for improving participation, because a lot of the students were just not engaging with online learning. They weren't participating or talking and joining in; they might have been on the call, but they never spoke, so I didn't actually know if they were there or not.  

The project included doing assessments on Microsoft Forms where you didn’t have to say anything out loud in front of other students because maths anxiety was a massive issue. These students really struggled with speaking in front of each other. The project was about getting them to answer the questions through an online learning platform which I could then assess, look at their work and see how they were doing. It was a bit more of an interactive assessment for them.  

Participation went up by 33% so it definitely started to improve things. It meant that as a teacher, it made it easier for me to monitor to see who was making progress and who was not. It’s been such a great success that we still use it in maths classes now that we’re back to teaching face-to-face, and engagement and participation is still very high.  

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

A massive impact! My level of confidence has got so much better, especially with academic writing. My academic writing was not my strong point and I’m not very good at English because I'm dyslexic, so I’ve struggled with it in the past.  

Doing ATS also made me be a better researcher. Actively researching things for ATS made me realise how much it can help me develop my practice and teaching techniques. And I’m shocked at how much I'm embracing technology. I cannot believe where I am now, compared to who I was! 

Since being awarded ATS I’ve been given more responsibilities; I’m getting PGCE students to mentor and I do a lot more cross-college working than I did before. Doing ATS has made me feel more confident to get my face out there and network with people in and out of the college. And it’s made me feel proud that I'm good at my job.  


How did you find the ATS process? 

The hardest programme I’ve ever done in my life. But in an amazing way! It was really challenging because it made you look closely at your teaching and analyse it.  

Teachers do a lot of self-reflection, but ATS made you do more than just self-reflection – it made it made you get everyone's opinion. You’d ask your students about your teaching, you’d ask your colleagues about observations; and I think it was a really good opportunity to make me stop and look at everything I was doing to ask why I did it that way and what the impact on my learners and organisation was. It was a challenge, but a really good challenge. 


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

I’m embracing technology more. I’m even using phones in class for learning activities! Using technology has helped connect with my students too, as a lot of them would be constantly on their phones, but now we use them for educational purposes. 

I’m also embracing change and not being afraid to reflect on change. ATS has made me more reflective and willing to look back on a bad situation and figure out how to make it better. 


Did you find the participant webinars and SET support helpful? 

They were really helpful. Just make sure you go to them ready and armed with your questions because that is a good place to get all of your answers. You can ask Andrew and Berta questions about if you’re going in the right direction and if you’re doing things correctly. 


Do you have any advice to anyone considering undertaking ATS? 

Breathe! Ask for mountains of support and advice. Speak to peers on the programme; we had a little WhatsApp group for a few of us who were on the programme. Speak with your mentor and your students, and constantly be in communication with other people to talk about how you’re doing, which way you're heading, and to bounce ideas off. 

Stick to the timeline but if you don’t, that's okay too. Speak to your mentor for advice and don’t bury your head and panic on your own. 

ATS is a journey and it's a process and everyone's journey is different. Embrace change and enjoy it. I had a ball! It was hard but I loved it.  


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

I have ADHD and I will always make a song out of anything! I also know a little bit of sign language. 


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