Formal certified learning: taking a MEd
Christine Calder, Academic Development Lead, Dundee and Angus College, has worked in the College world for 20 years in the areas of Sport and Fitness as well as Professional Learning. Her current role gives her the privilege of leading a team of passionate colleagues who support staff throughout the college with their initial teacher training as well as throughout their careers with their professional learning.
Christine undertook a Masters in Education (MEd) to increase her knowledge of educational theory and pedagogy, and make her more able to support colleagues as they participated in their own professional learning.
Her professional learning has enabled her to bring elements of what she learned into her daily work, which in turn has aided her colleagues as well as the college as a whole.
Why did you decide to engage in this professional learning?
In 2014 I moved from full time lecturing into a new role in Organisational Development (OD) where one of my duties would be leading the teacher training pathway within the college, working with both new start lecturers and those like myself, who had amassed substantial experience working in the College sector.
I had previously been considering doing a Masters and when I made the move into OD I realised that I needed to shift my thinking and diversify and update my pedagogical knowledge so I would be able to better support my colleagues as they undertook their teaching qualifications. I was also stepping into a role where I would be able to influence policy and practice within Dundee & Angus College.
So, by increasing my depth of knowledge around many aspects of pedagogy I hoped to be able to be a strong advocate of keeping the teaching element at the forefront of any college developments.
When I undertook my teacher training in the mid-90’s I always enjoyed the educational theory units, and this was a large part of my reasons for moving into the role in OD. After teaching in sport and fitness for many years, I began looking at how I could continue to progress my knowledge and understanding of educational theory.
I absolutely love sporting theory and its application but there was always a special draw towards pure educational theory. I started to look at courses that would extend not only my knowledge but would help me develop my criticality and give me the opportunity to brush off my academic writing skills. By developing these aspects, I believed that I would be better positioned to be as effective as possible in my role.
How did you plan for your professional learning?
I took my time to look at the different courses on offer from a variety of universities. In particular, I considered the mode of delivery, as I didn’t want to commit to travelling far at the weekends or in the evenings.
I ended up deciding on a Masters in Education (flexible) route which would allow me to sculpt the contents of the course to focus on my own interests and, in turn, my role. The flexible nature of the course also allowed me to contextualise the mandatory parts of the course towards the College Sector.
Additionally, I spoke to my line manager about undertaking an MEd as part of my development review. Working in OD I knew what support was available from the college for people undertaking substantial qualifications.
Discussing the time commitment, financial aspects, and the content of the course with my line manager (who was also undertaking a Masters), helped me to decide that I was in the right place in my personal and professional life to undertake a significant challenge.
What did the professional learning involve?
The course consisted of 180 credits at SCQF Level 11, these were split into 3 years of part-time study. The only mandatory modules in this course were Research Methods, Critical Approaches to Literature and of course the final dissertation/work-based project. Thereafter, due to the flexible nature of the course, I got to choose from a variety of modules. I chose a taught module in Professional Development which complemented my role in the college. I also opted for a 60 credit Accreditation of Prior Learning rather than a taught module as I found that my role is somewhat unique and I wanted the opportunity to explore my role and areas of interest further and to a greater depth than I had previously. The final dissertation is designed to allow each student to design and conduct their own research around an area that they have an interest in, all with the support of a supervisor who acts as their critical friend throughout the process.
How did your professional learning link with the Professional Standards for Lecturers in Scotland’s Colleges?
Undertaking this piece of large professional learning has allowed me to resituate my values in line with my ‘students’ who are also my colleagues.
1.1 and, indeed, the whole section on Professional Values within the Professional Standards for Lecturers in Scotland’s Colleges has been instrumental in supporting me to shift my thinking to not only consider the needs of modern lecturers in Scotland’s Colleges but crucially about my own approach to leading the learning around teacher education.
Reflection on my own professional identity as an educator and as a teacher educator has shown me that I feel the need to teach, to role model and, where appropriate, to be an advocate for experienced lecturers and teacher educators throughout the sector.
Professional Standards for Lecturers in Scotland’s Colleges in action
1.1 Students at the Centre
1.1.1 Understands student needs, the context in which they are living and studying, and the impact of these on learning.
1.1.2 Values the contribution students as learning partners can make individually and through systems of representation to the delivery and enhancement of the learning experience.
1.1.3 Develops learning relationships based on mutual respect and integrity.
1.1.4 Commits to equality and diversity, and promotes inclusiveness, trust and fairness.
1.1.5 Commits to the safety and wellbeing of all students.
What was the impact of your learning on you and your colleagues?
The content of the study has helped me to better consider what is needed for experienced lecturers, with regards to their professional learning.
There is much that could be identified for further enquiry, but one particular area is the use of action research within the college sector. I intend to speak to experienced lecturers and gather their thoughts and opinions on using action research as a method of professional enquiry with a view to supporting their Professional Update.
As a professional educator, I feel I am now incredibly well placed to undertake aspects of my job, such as supporting colleagues through their teaching qualifications, whether they are undertaking them at undergraduate or postgraduate level.
By undertaking a Masters in Education I have further developed skills such as criticality. This means that I am able to, and do, contribute to wider college projects, policy and practice which in turn feeds into my own professional identity.
I am in the process of turning my dissertation into an article with the view of publishing it.
As part of my role, I have regular conversations with lecturers about their professional and personal development. The information I gained during the course of the MEd informs these conversations and supports professional learning throughout the college.
Particularly with the knowledge I gained through completing the dissertation I feel that it is important to share these widely as there are findings that are relevant to the College Sector as well as for all lecturers, particularly those who have worked in a Scottish College for a significant period of time.
It has the potential to help those who have been through periods of substantial change understand how this has affected them by means of considering their professional identity and help understand the value that individuals such as these bring to the sector.
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