Building a teaching and learning community at the Centre for Open Learning

University of Edinburgh’s Access Programme photo

In this post, Kathryn Redpath, Director of Learning and Teaching for the Centre for Open Learning, describes how a School-wide CPD programme, and enhanced communication channels, are helping the Centre develop a sense of academic community…

The Centre for Open Learning (COL) offers a rich and diverse range of courses and programmes, including those in English Language Education, Short Courses, Languages for All, The International Foundation Programme, Seasonal Schools and the new Access Programme. COL teaching colleagues and students engage in an enormous range of types of teaching and learning practices every day.

However, while there is a great range of quality teaching practices within subject areas and programmes, and there are some excellent examples of embedding professional development for teaching within these, COL – the result of several mergers – has lacked a sense of shared, ‘whole school’ identity. Further, not aided by the fact that many of our colleagues are currently on guaranteed-hours contracts for a small number of hours, there has been little sense of academic community and little chance to share and celebrate practice across our programmes, courses and pedagogies to date.

We have recently turned our mind to improving this. First, we have implemented the beginnings of a School-wide CPD programme, which includes systems-related training as well as formal and informal opportunities to meet together and share and celebrate our practice across disciplinary boundaries. Last term, colleagues signed up for training in Learn as well as Media Hopper Replay training, for lecture recording and, on 27th March, colleagues attended our first sharing good practice event, which focused on Peer Observation.

It was appropriate that our first sharing practice event focused on Peer Observation, as a component of the COL CPD programme will be a Peer Observation Programme. The idea is that colleagues within and across traditional disciplinary boundaries at COL will be come together to learn from one another in their own classrooms, and what is learned can be shared widely through future CPD events. Dr Hazel Christie, from the Institute for Academic Development, spoke about the benefits of peer observation, and we had two COL colleagues, Phil Davies and John Gordon, speak about their positive experiences also. We got some great feedback colleagues attending the event on the type of Peer Observation Programme our colleagues would like to see, and we will feed it into the design. We hope to roll it out from September 2019.

To complement the CPD and Peer Observation Programme, we are also seeking to improve communication around teaching and learning at COL. As such, we have implemented a number of measures to improve this, such as a weekly ‘Teaching and Learning’ slot in the School newsletter, where news and excellent teaching and learning practices are shared, and a new SharePoint site for Learning and Teaching.

Although this is just the beginning, it is hoped that increasing communication and opportunities to share good practice in teaching and learning within the COL, and the wider University, will stimulate discussion, debate and celebration of good practice. The aim is to encourage and support all COL colleagues to feel a valued part of a vibrant teaching and learning community within COL and the University of Edinburgh. This will hopefully not only improve the staff experience but also the student experience, as COL colleagues reflect on and share their practice, trying new things and making new connections.

If you would like to hear more about what we are doing in learning and teaching at COL, please come and see our poster presentation at the upcoming University of Edinburgh Learning and Teaching Conference entitled: ‘Enhancing engagement and academic community among colleagues at the Centre for Open Learning’

Kathryn Redpath

Kathryn Redpath is Director of Learning and Teaching, Teaching Fellow in English Language Education, and School Academic Misconduct Officer at the Centre for Open Learning. In her Director of Learning and Teaching post since May 2018, Kathryn aims to increase and improve communication around learning and teaching, and to build a stronger sense of academic community within the Centre for Open Learning, particularly in terms of increasing the number of opportunities for colleagues to share good practice within and across disciplinary and pedagogical boundaries.

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