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CPD - Colleges in the frame for award

Angus, Langside and Clydebank are shortlisted for their impressive work in professional learning and enhancement

Angus, Langside and Clydebank are shortlisted for their impressive work in professional learning and enhancement

Three colleges have been shortlisted in the Professional Learning and Enhancement category of this year's Scotland's Colleges Awards - Angus College for its Skills for Schools development programme, Langside for a Curriculum for Excellence CPD week, and Clydebank for its teaching and learning advisers.

All lecturers at Langside College attended a CPD week in February, aimed at increasing understanding and engagement with Curriculum for Excellence.

"With the senior phase of Building the Curriculum 4 coming in, we felt we needed to focus more on this, so that our staff know what is current and what is expected," says Catherine Taylor, head of the faculty of community and business development. "We do a lot of lifelong learning with schools and want to be well ahead of them."

The week began with some reflective exercises, looking at how the four capacities relate to the college as an organisation. Staff took part in over 80 capacity-building workshops, presented by internal colleagues and external training agencies.

Other colleges were visited in order to view best practice elsewhere, and cross-curricular groups were set up to compare notes on what departments did similarly and differently.

"As with any organisation, there are people who know a bit and people who know a little," says Mrs Taylor. "All know something. We wanted to bring them up to date and reflect on the CfE capacities - how we could embed them and how much we have already embedded them."

At Angus College, the focus was on training staff in how best to work with young people. Over the past two years, the college has worked in close partnership with the local council to create a Skills for Schools development programme for staff delivering school links and Skills for Work.

A number of staff had identified this as an issue in their staff review. So ten workshop sessions were run and 11 lecturers achieved a Teaching Children and Young People qualification.

"We recognise that the school link has grown in colleges, and particularly the skills required for teaching young people," says Steven Taylor, director of faculty and human resources. "Staff have experience of teaching older learners but there is a real skills need for teaching younger students."

The key issues were behaviour management and understanding young people. One workshop looked at the teenage brain and how young people present themselves. "If you have spent ten years teaching older learners, it can be a bit of a culture shock," says Mr Taylor. Other sessions looked at co- operative learning, particularly developments happening in Angus schools.

For a lot of young people, the issue is learning about behaviour and rules - why there are rules and why certain behaviour is expected. For the more mature students, this is not something they question; it's something they have already learnt. Staff were helped to see why teenagers think the way they do.

Self-evaluation by lecturers has been important for all three colleges. Clydebank appointed two teaching and learning advisers in 2008 to be seconded for nine hours a week. Following intensive training at Stirling University, where they were trained in coaching - and in particular how to coach and not mentor - the two lecturers (one maths, one languages) started having regular meetings with staff.

"At first this consisted of professional dialogue at the end of the class, with the lecturer discussing aspects of the lesson with the adviser, but slowly it expanded to include class observations," says Cathy MacNab, head of quality and performance enhancement.

"It was a natural progression, and only done at the request of the lecturer," she says. "They found that they got more out of it and had much more to talk about."

The biggest impact has been that lecturers are now beginning to accept self-evaluation as part of the job. They no longer find it threatening, and are embracing it.

Staff at Langside College have been using informal self-evaluation. "It highlighted to them that they do more of the four capacities than they realise. At the same time, they gained ideas on filling in the gaps, and started to look at CfE differently" says Mrs Taylor.

Angus College has also started to make changes. "They identified in groups different ways to do things," says Mr Taylor. "It made them realise that it is not just the same as teaching mature students. There need to be more stimuli and it needs to be more interesting."

But rather than sit back and congratulate themselves, each of the three colleges has taken steps to ensure that permanent changes took place.

At Angus, feedback from staff was 100 per cent positive. "Prior to the training, staff were apprehensive," says Mr Taylor. "Now they are more comfortable teaching young people. Performance indicators have improved and the focus groups we have had with young learners have given positive feedback."

Plans are under way at Clydebank to extend the scheme by either rotating the people who act as advisers or increasing their number.

"The fact that we use lecturing staff, it stays close to home for the lecturer. It is someone they can speak to, who understands the issues of lecturing," says Mrs MacNab. "And most of the issues which have arisen have been practical - lack of wifi, or poor table layout in the classroom."

At Langside College there has been a change in attitude and a sharpening of practice in all departments.

"We have noticed the difference," says Mrs Taylor. "There is more awareness. It is very much embedded in the life and ethos of the college from corporate planning to operational planning. It is now very much involved at faculty levels, helping embed the senior phase."

The winner of the Professional Learning and Enhancement Award will be announced on November 23. Ray Harris, chief executive of Scotland's Colleges, says: "Colleges must keep pace with changes and developments in the curriculum, as well as new approaches to learning and teaching, such as Curriculum for Excellence. Investing in staff has always been a crucial focus. There is uncertainty around funding for further education, but we expect that CPD will remain high on the agenda for colleges - as an investment in their future."

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