Developing SQA units in mental health awareness

Heather Miscandlon

Heather Miscandlon is an Early Years Lecturer at Glasgow Kelvin College, with over 20 years of teaching experience in Further Education.

Heather also works with the SQA as a Marker for Care, Senior Marker for Early Years and Deputy Principal Accessor for Care. Through this, she was approached to become part of the Quality Design Team, which took on a review of the mental health provision within qualifications at SQA. This opportunity allowed Heather to develop her own knowledge and skills, doing her professional learning on the job.


Watch Heather discuss her professional learning

Working within the Quality Design Team to identify where mental health provision already existed and developing new awards, Heather learned a lot about the way in which qualifications are structured. “Working within the Quality Design Team has given me insight into the intricacies of qualifications. You learn about descriptors and performance criteria,” explained Heather. “Having that insight has really helped me to focus my own teaching. It has helped me to ensure that the skills of the qualifications are really embedded in my practice.”

Understanding how qualifications are structured has helped Heather reflect on her practice and further develop herself as a lecturer. “Making sure that your standards are met when you are assessing learners is something I’ve really picked up on. It makes you look at your own teaching to ensure that learners are getting the most out of the course and that they will leave prepared for the workplace.”

Heather also found that the review gave her the knowledge and skills to help her students beyond classroom teaching. “I focused my attention much more on recognising triggers within my class and my awareness of the need to enable learners to develop resilience and coping strategies to deal with those triggers,” Heather said. “A significant proportion of my learners had mental health issues which required support. I worked closely with the support mechanisms within the college such as the referral system for advice/guidance/counselling. The college has initiatives such as the Together All mental health support online community, which is available 24/7. Being able to signpost learners to this is crucial in not only securing support for them but also being able to actively encourage them to engage in such a useful mental health resource.”

Heather has been able to share her knowledge and skills with colleagues on the internal quality design teams within Glasgow Kelvin College. “The teams meet on a weekly basis, and I can feedback to the Curriculum Manager about what has been happening within my work with the SQA. It really helps us to make sure that we are at the forefront of development and that we are aware of current design measures.”

Professional Standards for Lecturers in Scotland’s Colleges in action

1.1 Students at the centre – By keeping up with the latest information and ensuring that key skills are embedded in her teaching, Heather has ensured that her learners are at the heart of her teaching.

1.3.4 Embraces change and emerging practices and developments – While being an integral part of creating qualifications, Heather has also been able to learn about emerging changes through her work with SQA and ensured that this is shared with her colleagues and filters down to her learners.

3.3 Creates innovative curriculum design and learning and teaching – By keeping the college’s internal quality design teams informed, Heather is sharing her knowledge to the benefit of her colleagues and the wider college. This ensures that courses are up to date and that learners receive high-quality teaching.