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'Why new standards will help Scottish colleges excel'

Outstanding teaching is key to the great success stories in FE, writes CDN's Jim Metcalfe

teacher standards lecturer FE scotland

Outstanding teaching is key to the great success stories in FE, writes CDN's Jim Metcalfe

Reminders of just how good teaching in Scotland’s colleges is can come in the strangest of places.

I had one such reminder earlier this month, wandering around the cavernous halls of the NEC in Birmingham. I was amid 85,000 visitors and fans at WorldSkills UK Live, the UK's largest skills event, there to support excellent college students and apprentices competing for honours in a range of skills and vocational disciplines.

As ever, Scottish colleges were punching well above and beyond their weight (I mean, there were six of them on the top 10 leaderboard for the whole of the UK). Winners of the national finals are in with a shot at representing their communities and colleges at European and world levels in the years ahead.

I bumped into a Scottish lecturer I know, a WorldSkills UK expert and long-time judge. I asked him what made his students so successful in these competitions – did they get special training, extra investment? Were they hot-housed?

Importance of good teaching

Categorically, he said "no". While other places might do that, his college prospered by teaching their students well, expecting a high standard, and creating a supportive culture. It’s all about really, really good and committed lecturing.

The College Development Network's multi-decade role in supporting lecturers across Scotland is to work with colleges to provide training and professional development opportunities. Colleges are education providers, but they are also continuously learning organisations. Working with the colleges, we’ve trained thousands of our lecturers in every corner of the country over recent years, in everything from lesson planning and student inclusion to mental health first aid.

And CDN has also been helping over the last year to modernise the Professional Standards for Lecturers. This is the key guide to what excellent college lecturing is about, that informs all of the training and development programmes in the sector. They launched online yesterday -  after a nationwide consultation.

Content and clarity

The biggest change is greater content and clarity around what digital teaching and the use of technology require of colleges and our lecturers. With more demand from learners and employers for a digital skills emphasis, this is a really welcome and important set of changes.

The new standards are developed around three interlocking elements:

  1. Professional Values 
  2. Professional Knowledge and Understanding 
  3. Professional Practice.

The work of Mhairi Harrington, chair of the Review of Professional Standards Steering Group and CDN Fellow and that of the entire group means that we have a set of Professional Standards that will endure and help shape practice into the future.

They will be used for a range of purposes including:

  • Underpinning professional teaching qualifications for lecturers in Scotland’s colleges
  • Developing critically reflective and evaluative practitioners
  • Supporting professional dialogue and collegiate working
  • Supporting professional development.

CDN is proud to have worked with lots of partners, including Ken Muir and his team at GTCS, to deliver an excellent, modernised and user-friendly set of standards that are fit for the needs of college lecturers and students today, and into the future. Hopefully, they will help to keep Scottish lecturing on top of the pile for many years to come.

Jim Metcalfe is chief executive of the College Development Network

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