Between April and July, a number of The Sheffield College staff volunteered to participate in a project that would help us to trial what will become the Big Learning Project from September 2016 (read more about its launch here).
The original motivation for developing this project was to address the need for CPD that would be more relevant and meaningful to each of the professionals who chose to participate in it. The Mini Learning Project presented opportunities for collaboration and discussion. It encouraged creativity and experimentation, as well as reflection and evaluation. It made a move away from ‘traditional’ CPD by being:
- Open to all staff, no matter what their role
- Aligned to the needs of the students/ customers/ staff
- Relevant to the participants’ experiences
- Impact focused
- A collaborative and reflective process
- A sharing of learning experiences
Staff chose to engage with this pilot for a range of reasons and these are just a few of them:
‘I am always keen to find ways in which I can make better use of my skills and improve the service I provide for students. I like to understand how others work and make practical suggestions for ways in which their working practices could be more efficient.’
‘To have the opportunity to develop my own practice and share experiences with other colleagues. I think it is important to continually reflect and evaluate your own practice in order to improve/keep up to date with learning pedagogies and drive up standards.’
‘I see it as an opportunity to make observations, develop/share ideas/experiments and try them out to help make things happen – ultimately to improve the experiences of both our internal and external customers.’
‘The opportunity to discuss and work with staff from other depts as when otherwise do we have the time? And to challenge my thinking, and to refresh my approaches to teaching.’
There were four phases to the project:
Learning Lens was a two week phase of the project provided participants with valuable reflection time.
Thinking Out Loud was a series of breakfast sessions that enabled conversation and collaboration.
Learning Journey was where participants had a chance to experiment back in their contexts.
Sharing Learning is the contents of this publication (click the image to view).
I was pleased that staff had engaged well with the project, especially given the challenge of engaging in CPD at that time of the year. Feedback so far indicates that staff greatly valued the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues; even if this was just recognising one another’s contexts and the similarities/differences between their areas of work. The experiments had various levels of success and a greater emphasis on their measuring of impact would have been beneficial. I’ve had to give thought to how I’ll create an online community as well as face-to-face one and generate more flexibility throughout the year for project start and end dates.
I’m pleased that all staff had the chance to explore an area of their work or practice most meaningful to them; the whole advantage of running CPD in this way.
Well, I’ve learnt from the pilot and the Big Learning Project will commence with six phases from September 2016, heightening the focus on engaging with existing evidence/thinking/practice as well as later explorations of impact. Staff can register their interest between now and September and the first project-eers will commence their learning in late September.