CfESEND blog: Derby College shares its thoughts on how an online community of practice makes a difference

Blog by Sarah Le-Good, Inclusion Director and CfESEND Curriculum Project Lead at Derby College Group (DCG), for the Centres for Excellence in SEND programme.

The words motivation, and more recently, resilience have gained more and more importance at all stages of education and at every level in our organisations. These words have also become synonymous with Covid-19, lockdown and remote working, as we have all swiftly adapted to different ways of working, learning and communicating. Not only professionally, but often with those in our lives that mean the most! I now maintain my love for my nieces, nephew and family animals through FaceTime and Microsoft Teams family meetings! Never before have learners, teachers, educators and leaders needed to drill down into their own personal and emotional resources like we have since March 2020.

Answer: motivation and resilience, and the proactive sector wide maintenance of both.

In Grit: the Power of Passion and Perseverance (Duckworth, 2016), Duckworth discusses what motivates individuals, what sustains motivation and what leads to success. Her findings can be summarised in four principles:

1. Develop a fascination
2. Recognise daily improvement
3. Have a greater purpose
4. Follow a growth mindset.

Reading these principles, it is easy to link to our principles of an inclusive curriculum:

1. Recognise and embed an individual’s special interest
2. Recognise and record progress in an individualistic way
3. Identify long-term outcomes, including aspirations for life and work
4. Remove barriers, including restrictive perspectives re: aspirations.

But an inclusive curriculum requires inclusive practitioners, working in inclusive organisations, following inclusive processes and delivering inclusive practice in a flexible and adaptable way at the point of delivery at all stages, at all levels and at all times. This does not just require resilience, but also motivation and bravery.

In Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (Pink, 2010) Pink identifies three key elements required to facilitate self-motivation in individuals:

  • Autonomy
  • Mastery
  • Purpose.

Again, this is easy to link to inclusive management and an inclusive curriculum offer. Learners and staff need to feel enabled and trusted to make choices; to be able to take educated risks and learn from mistakes; and to understand why they are doing what they are doing and how what they are doing fits in with their long-term targets, even if this is now remote or virtual.

Organisations want motivated and resilient staff who can manage change and who are dynamic in their approach to learners. We also want these staff to exemplify the characteristics of motivation, resilience and personal bravery when working with learners. Role modelling is our most powerful tool in any role.

Developing motivation and resilience in staff and learners is not the difficult part. Maintaining motivation and resilience is, especially during a global pandemic and whilst national restrictions regarding our interactions are in place. Why? Because, for most of us, the maintenance of motivation and resilience involves our relationships with other people. It is with other trusted individuals that we share our concerns, our frustrations and our barriers. It is also with these trusted individuals that we explore solutions, opportunities and possibilities in a safe and non-judgmental environment. A problem shared is a problem halved, as the aphorism goes.

To feel listened to, recognised and advised gives us the confidence to take the educated risks for change to happen and – when the landscape is unpredictable and changeable but the journey is necessary – taking risks is required. There has never been a more important time for education and never a more changeable time for education.

So, in our current circumstances, how do we maintain motivation and resilience in ourselves, our colleagues and our learners? Well, that is a complex challenge and, when challenges are complex, the solutions need to be simple.

One solution is to come together in alternative and dynamic ways and, where the pandemic has created barriers for collaborative working, digital platforms have stepped up to create opportunities that enable us to overcome these barriers.

At the Centre for Excellence in SEND (curriculum) at Derby College Group, we have taken this opportunity to develop, maintain and grow our Microsoft Teams Community of Practice and our monthly informal Swap and Support sessions. In both environments people can ask questions, offer and take advice and share effective practice. To be able to do this on a national level with leaders and practitioners is of immense value and a privilege to be involved in.

In conclusion, “pressure makes diamonds!” – an inclusive and collaborative community will create a context for all people to grow and shine.

If you want to join us and shine together, then please email cfesend@derby-college.ac.uk.

To join one of the Monthly Swap and Support sessions, please book on here: Monthly effective practice share and support sessions in creating an inclusive curriculum – Community of Practice in SEND Curriculum | ETF Booking (etfoundation.co.uk)

The DCG CfE in SEND (Curriculum) team,
Sarah, Pete, Ben, Bene & Helen

References:
Duckworth, A. (2016) Grit: the Power of Passion and Perseverance. London: Vermillion, 2016.
Pink, D.H., (2010) Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Edinburgh: Canongate, 2010
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