Sharing joy and knowledge from an ordinary life

A Close Encounter of the Welsh Kind

‘The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.’

Jon Krakauer, Into The Wild

Last term, we made a visit across to Coleg Sir Gar after seeing that they had been nominated for a Teaching and Learning initiative at the #tesfeawards. Here are some notes from the day.

Raising aspirations is crucial and being the College of choice is their mission. Commercialism is worked into every job description they have at the College and it really shows in the commercial partners and ventures they have expanded into.

IMG_5240The Innovate Project
The Innovate project was a ‘supported experiments’ initiative to counter the plateau teachers may experience. The aim of the project was to make teaching & learning the focus of all staff. The projects were designed to encourage reflection that would lead to professional discussions. They were aiming to enhance their already collaborative and supportive culture in order to further raise learner standards and outcomes. Deliberate practice and experimentation would take place in order to develop teaching skill. The staff owned their individual project themselves and they selected an area of focus that would be of most benefit to their learners.

As a result of the project, T&L became the focus of meetings as reflections and project developments were shared. The projects were reinforced and supported from the top but not imposed. It was important that a strong message came from the top that this would be a valuable and beneficial experience for staff and students alike and this was shared initially via introductory videos sent to each site.

In the initial stages of the project, volunteers came forward who wanted to deliver short sessions on evidence-based teaching methods to their colleagues. These staff were trained in coaching methods so that they could effectively work with colleagues. The attendees were asked to identify a problem within their practice: a range of areas they could consider that were personal to them or their team. They then went through a process of story-boarding the problem through to their ideal position and the project emerged from the journey they had plotted out. The staff went off to complete their trial of the method with their learners in their classrooms and returned a few months later to reflect and after being introduced to further evidence based teaching methods, perhaps considered a change or an addition as a result.

The volunteer facilitators were tasked with supporting the projects throughout and spotting the projects that were working well so they could share these more widely. In the summer, the projects were shared over two days via workshops and presentations. There was also a learning fair for staff who weren’t presenting so that they could still showcase their projects to colleagues.

CPD was offered to staff on a morning so that lecturers who needed help with their own English skills could drop-in. Basic skills tutors delivered the sessions as they knew the learners and the staff alike so everyone was made to feel comfortable and confident.

There was a need across the College to ensure feedback and targets were robust enough to ensure learners’ progress. A marking code was established right across the College and can be found in learners’ workbooks and folders for both the learner and teacher to use for marking.

A list of targets was created so that staff needed to tick the targets that were relevant to each learner. The learners then had space to comment periodically on the progress with these targets.

Other great things
The learners study Welsh alongside and in addition to their other qualifications!

Their sports department is something to admire, with their truly impressive wall of fame.


Their Engineering department, with the corridors filled with employers’ names is something to aspire towards.

They have a well-designed social space in their new entrance area and coaches and mentors are situated in rooms off the main space so they are close to learners, which makes contact and communication easier.

The College has an Innovation Group who meet regularly in order to discuss potential innovations for the College. They’re a range of passionate staff. Both teaching and support services are represented within this group.

Staff awards are held every year to give recognition to individuals and teams who’ve made a difference.

Final thoughts
The College is set within the most beautiful grounds with the most fantastic views and upon arrival, you got the sense that you were arriving into a warm and welcoming environment. The escape for this day trip was significant and held one of those rare opportunities to take stock, reflect and consider next steps. I loved that the Welsh equivalent of Ofsted actively encourages and promotes opportunities for Colleges to work together, visit and assess one another. The chances for best practice to be shared and the chances to reflect and evaluate your own practice are increased.

Our learning takeaways
Hold a staff awards ceremony!

Use Flickr or Instagram for marketing to share College photographs.

Progress with our plans for more teacher enquiry next academic year as part of our development programme.

Develop a cross-College language to the marking of English.

No single person, team, or organisation holds all the answers and there’s no better way of seeking new answers than seeing how someone else does things.

‘The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.’

Jon Krakauer, Into The Wild

My writing commitment: I’m learning to honour my thoughts. I’m learning that my words can be shared before I’ve connected all the dots or learned everything there is to know. My writing can be a snapshot of a single moment in continually-evolving time.

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