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You need hard evidence

It will take a strong and well presented case to win accreditation for prior learning. Eleanor Caldwell reports

By the end of this month, teachers applying to enter the chartered teacher programme in August will have completed their application forms and prepared their professional development portfolios. The portfolio should record the teacher's involvement in CPD over the years, with concise documentation of activities and supporting evidence of their impact in the classroom.

Once teachers are accepted on to the programme and have completed the mandatory self-evaluation module, many will look to gain accreditation of prior learning (APL) as a means to fast-track through the programme, completing fewer than the 12 statutory modules.

The document in support of APL can reflect a teacher's formal learning, such as modules within Masters degree programmes, and experiential learning, such as all aspects of professional development work that have had a tangible effect on their practice in the classroom.

There is, as yet, no set format. However, the criteria are strict and clearly in line with the evidence-based Standard for Chartered Teacher.

For experienced teachers ready to embark on the programme it is time to take stock of all aspects of personal development throughout their career and devise an effective portfolio claim for APL.

In anticipation of the first cohort of claims, the Department of Educational Studies at Moray House is running a series of short courses on portfolio preparation. A pilot version of the course, which runs over three two-and-a-half hour evening sessions, is currently underway for 25 teachers.

Head of department and course leader John Landon says people on the course come predominantly from two groups of experienced teachers: those who have completed or are nearing completion of a Masters degreee and those who are looking to compile a claim on the basis of experience.

The course aims to guide teachers in the discipline of keeping accurate and pertinent records of all aspects of their professional development and encourages them to "evidence their practices" by keeping notes of how it has benefited them and their pupils.

Mr Landon advises teachers to consider all areas of their prior formal and experiential learning. On a step-by-step basis they should then consider the experience on the basis of the Standard for Chartered Teacher.

Supporting evidence is critical. For example, a teacher might want to cite a new method of teaching reading as an example of their experiential learning. However, a bald statement of the method will not be enough, says Mr Landon. The course shows teachers how to make the new method into an effective element of an APL claim.

The course teaches how to present evidence of source literature or material, evidence of the effectiveness of the method in the classroom and evidence of further positive impact in the school.

The key notion is flexibility, with emphasis on group work, peer observation and exploration.

Moray House's CPD and marketing officer, Allan Shanks, has found that teachers on the pilot course are very positive about it. "The sense of industry among students on the course is palpable," he says.

He says they have been particularly inspired by presentations given by two induction teachers who explained their thinking and practice when preparing their induction portfolios. Another teacher, currently studying for the Scottish Qualification for Headship, has impressed them with the thoroughness of her approach to self-evaluation.

Preparing Your Portfolio courses are planned for September and February. The courses cost pound;90. Teachers can obtain further information from the Moray House Chartered Teacher Helpline, tel 0131 651 6305 and

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