Earning credit where it's due

17th September 2004 at 01:00
Blackboard can help teachers going for chartered status, write Myra Pearson and Angela Hamilton

Almost 250 teachers have embarked on the accreditation route to becoming chartered teachers over the past few months. This allows them to submit a claim for their prior learning, but preparing a submission can be daunting.

Many teachers who set out to become chartered teachers will have been teaching for more than 20 years. They will have undertaken a wide range of professional development and postgraduate programmes and other non-accredited activities over that time and have the expertise and experience to demonstrate that they have already attained and maintained the chartered teachers' standard.

However, the accreditation route focuses on teachers' recent, relevant experience, that is the key projects, developments and initiatives they have been implementing with their pupils and colleagues over the past five or six years. Professional development and postgraduate programmes they have completed can also be used to show how they have become the teachers they are.

Encouraging teachers to look holistically at their classroom practice seems a sensible approach that can help them to demonstrate that they have reached the standard for chartered teachers. It is this wealth of experience, expertise and training that teachers have to demonstrate that makes preparing and submitting a claim for chartered teacher status daunting, and raises the importance of sound guidance.

Teachers taking the accreditation route are spread across Scotland and it is not always possible for groups to meet and share their experiences or for them to receive individual advice. Technology can help: it can complement face-to-face meetings and ensure support is available when it is needed.

The General Teaching Council for Scotland decided that the Blackboard virtual learning environment could fulfil this role. Blackboard is a web-based course management system, available to everyone with a PC and internet connection, regardless of location. Blackboard is used by many course providers to support their chartered teacher programmes. It offers a one-stop solution by giving teachers access to a wide range of resources, the accreditation programme and communication with their programme adviser and the teaching council.

Within each accreditation programme there is detailed guidance on what is expected from teachers as they prepare their portfolio. This provides a basis for tutorial and online meetings as well as open learning materials to support individual study.

One of the advantages of Blackboard is the number of ways in which it enables advisers and teachers to communicate. Advisers can make announcements or send email messages, as well as use the discussion boards and the virtual classroom (a real-time environment). Meetings can take place online or off, so it is up to teachers and their advisers to decide which methods suit them.

The Blackboard site is still relatively new. The teaching council is evaluating feedback from the first group of teachers and advisers to use the site, and their views and ideas are being used to improve it. However, the indications are that it already provides an effective means of offering online help to complement the type of support most of us are already comfortable with, the kind where we sit and talk face-to-face with someone.

Myra Pearson is depute registrar (education) and Angela Hamilton is web services manager at the General Teaching Council for Scotland

SETT Chartered Teachers: using Blackboard to Support Teachers on the Accreditation Route, by Myra Pearson and Angela Hamilton, Wednesday, 4.30pm

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