In this post, Deborah Holt and Paul Kelly from the Moray House School of Education and Sport, tell us about the Practice Worth Sharing initiative that brings staff together to discuss innovative and interesting work taking place across the school. Deborah, Paul and colleagues regularly share the fruits of these discussions in the Spotlight on Practice Worth Sharing series…
The Moray House School of Education and Sport (MHSES), Practice Worth Sharing initiative was born from awareness that much successful, innovative and interesting work was quietly being done across the School. Colleagues on specific courses or programmes seemed to have found effective or imaginative solutions to problems that colleagues elsewhere were still grappling with. We are not very good at singing our own praises.
We very deliberately chose not to call this ‘Sharing Good Practice’ as that suggests an expert: learner scenario. Whereas we were aiming to build a supportive community of practice in which we could learn from each other and explore solutions to challenges together. We agreed on fortnightly short lunchtime sessions with a format that offers 15 minutes to a main speaker and 15 minutes of discussion on the subject, with the opportunity to stay for up to an hour. The regular but short time-commitment made sessions accessible.
Each fortnight in term, a reasonably small, ever-changing group of staff (academic and professional services) meet to listen, talk, think and learn within a range of issues. Lead presenters bring an area about which they are passionate and experienced, or they bring a problem seeking solutions. Through these sessions, we have identified areas that challenge us and shared ideas and strategies to address them. We have learned about specific initiatives (e.g. working with international students) and had time to discuss what we could learn from that for our own practice. One of the greatest benefits has been building relationships with colleagues we might not have otherwise met, identifying similarities in interest or experience. There is agreement from those who attend that being part of this growing professional learning community is a benefit in itself, aside from any content explored:
I felt the sessions created a space for mutual support and guidance, a form of collaborative mentoring which is often difficult to create and sustain in the busy routines of academic life. It felt like a safe space which can support professional innovation but also the formation of a reflective and collaborative culture. I found the sessions to be a wonderful opportunity to share ideas with colleagues and engage in supportive, collegiate and meaningful conversations about a range of professional experiences and questions.
Sessions “bring together like-minded colleagues and provide a forum for discussion beyond course teams”. Despite the fluid nature of membership, the sessions still feel like “an opportunity to share ideas and thoughts in a non-threatening environment.” In fact, sessions help increase confidence: Being with other staff who were willing to discuss issues in their practice was reassuring- I’m not the only one who hasn’t got everything sorted!
How is this staff development?
We learn together, gain skills and enhance our practice. As the participants say:
I always leave the sessions with new ideas or ways of doing things.
Although not a teaching staff member, it is a great opportunity for me to get a flavour of the student and teaching staff experience. I need this insight in my own role.
Having opportunity to share and lead discussion helped focus my own professional development with the discussion inspiring me to try further things in my own practice.
I’m staying up to date about the scholarship of learning and teaching. (non-teaching colleague)
The breadth of topics covered gave me real insight into different modes and methods of teaching. I have since used some of these in my own teaching.
We continue to build and grow as a community. What comes next and how we do it will be determined by the participants, (all welcome) and the ongoing demands of our teaching lives. Join us next year?
For more information on the discussions taking place, have a look at our ‘Spotlight on Practice Worth Sharing’ blog posts.