New case studies illustrate transformational role of Professional Standards

New videos illustrating how the Professional Standards can underpin a change in the way that staff development takes place are now available to watch. They focus on work at four provider institutions – Guernsey College, Lincoln College, MoD Lyneham and Waltham Forest College – that has transformed the way that professional development takes place, moving away from top-down performance management to put responsibility into the hands of practitioners. While each provider’s starting point, circumstances and story are certainly different, the benefits of engaging with the Professional Standards experienced at each have some striking similarities.

At Guernsey College, the leadership team were aware of a wealth of research suggesting observation alone was not really an effective tool for improving teaching and learning, so they took stock and decided to make a bold decision not to continue with the same observations. Instead, practitioners were asked to review themselves against the 20 Professional Standards. That’s how Guernsey’s ‘One Thing’ professional development cycle started.

That approach has shifted the culture around professional development, highlighting that it is okay to look at research, try things out and talk about pedagogy in everyday college life. Practitioners now begin the year by self-assessing themselves against the Professional Standards to identify their priority for development and are then supported to address that need. The result is that staff have taken responsibility for their own development and become unafraid of taking risks they think will produce success with students.

Lincoln College Group’s story begins in a similar way. Previously, its strategy for observation and learning and teaching had been, as Managing Director Mark Locking acknowledges, quite hierarchical, top-down and traditional, with observers going in and telling staff how things should be done.

Those days are over, with Lincoln now asking teachers, trainers and assessors to take responsibility for their own development, using the Professional Standards as their core criteria. The college rebranded CPD to become CPL – Continuous Professional Learning – which is founded on staff self-assessing their development needs against the Professional Standards. From that self-assessment is derived a personalised action plan, which fits into the college’s PIC (Pedagogy, Industry, Core) ‘n’ Mix model. The new way of doing things has allowed staff to be frank about their strengths and weaknesses, because it is not linked to performance management and has encouraged them to move beyond their comfort zones.

The work has also seen much wider benefits, with the emergence of a research group that has brought together more than 50 practitioners to share what they are trying in classrooms and the creation of the industry element, which is taking staff back into industry settings for refresher visits and creating a bank of expert industry speakers who are coming in to talk to students.

Research has also played an important part in re-orienting staff development at Waltham Forest College, where staff self-assessing against the Professional Standards at the start of the year is also a foundation of what has been introduced. The college has created a framework that its departments use to ensure consistency, with the self assessment leading into the creation of practitioner-led action research projects that take place during the year, which are then followed up by a further self-assessment when the year is over.

Staff report that the Professional Standards have provided a benchmark and helped open up a dialogue in one-to-ones, allowing staff to identify areas for improvement and what is already strong about their practice. This has allowed them to be more open and created a much better understanding across departments of individuals’ strengths and weaknesses, which in turn has allowed for the creation of more personalised development plans and driven the development of practitioner-led action research.

At MoD Lyneham, embedding the Professional Standards has been an important aspect of developing the dual professionalism of its more than 400 trainers. Like Guernsey, Lincoln and Waltham Forest, Lyneham chooses not to use the standards as part of a traditional performance management arrangement. Instead they are seen as part of a framework that underpins development, providing a common standard against which individuals can reflect. This helps the trainers think about they do in the classroom and challenge their own thinking.

The results have been tangible, with trainers pointing to changes to the way that they develop and deliver their materials, the development of flipped learning approaches, greater stickability of knowledge with students, and positive feedback. Those results have been noticed. When Lyneham was inspected, the way it had used the Professional Standards to drive up standards was noted.

To find out more you can watch the videos on the ETF’s YouTube channel.

For further details of the Professional Standards and to download associated resources, visit the Professional Standards page on the ETF website.

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