In the October issue of CPD Update we published a version of the bridging assignment designed to convert work done on NPQH into Masters level credit.
The assignment arose from discussion and agreement between the National College for School Leadership (NCSL) and the Universities’ Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET). This month we go on to publish a version of the later agreement between the NCSL and UCET to facilitate a similar conversion from Leading from the Middle (LftM) into Masters level credit. As the leader of CPD you might also wish to know that a similar arrangement exists for the Leadership Programme for Serving Headteachers (LPSH).
What follows has been addressed directly to participants on the LftM programme so that if you wish you can simply photocopy it in order to make it available to any colleagues taking part. The essential idea is that accompanying the LftM programme with a postgraduate piece of work multiplies the effect of the professional learning.
If you are undertaking or planning to undertake the Leading from the Middle programme you may wish to take advantage of the skills, knowledge, understanding and experience that you have gained or developed in order to obtain some postgraduate credit within a Masters framework.
The benefits to you as a professional include: – credit towards a Masters degree – evidence of impact to support career development – evidence of impact to support inspection – evidence of impact to support performance management;
– evidence of impact to support membership of the GTCE’s Teacher Learning Academy (see www.gtce.org.uk/tplf)
– access to professionally useful research – links into other professional networks
– opportunity to critically reflect with support.
The benefits to your school include: – informed dissemination of what has been learned from your participation in the LftM programme – the insights to be gained from professionally focused research and critical reflection, including research into and reflection on factors influencing pupil learning – evidence for an effective school CPD policy and opportunity to build CPD capacity
– demonstrable strategic leadership and management.
There is more than one way to gain academic credit for undertaking the Leading from the Middle programme. You can: – assemble evidence for a claim for the accreditation of prior learning/ experiential learning (APL/APEL) – register for a postgraduate award from the outset, thereby obtaining further support while undertaking LftM
– incorporate your learning from the LftM programme in your E-Portfolio (see www.teachernet.gov.uk).
They each involve the completion of a critical commentary supported by evidence (Portfolio of Evidence for Impact) that allows you to set Leading from the Middle in your personal professional context and to critically reflect upon your own learning from the programme.
The credit rating for the critical commentary is between 20 and 40 postgraduate points. Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) will differ slightly in the amount of credit they are able to give.
Guidance on compiling a critical commentary upon participation in Leading from the Middle and a supporting portfolio of evidence for impact
A. The critical commentary
What follows is a structure or framework for the assembly of a critical commentary upon the learning that you have achieved while (and possibly subsequent to) undertaking the Leading from the Middle programme. Like all such structures it is designed to support and not constrain. It is possible that the HEI that you contact will arrange with you to emphasise different parts of the commentary or, in addition, to link it to other aspects of your professional life.
The framework for this critical commentary has been designed to help you demonstrate what you have learned from participation on the LftM programme. You will need to keep in mind the kind of audiences for whom you are writing. They include: – fellow professionals who can benefit from the story of what you have learned – the HEI to which you have chosen to submit an AP(E)L claim or register from the outset of the programme for an award
– yourself, because this critical commentary can be a stepping stone for further professional learning.
If you have registered with an HEI you will find that they will have guidance on writing and literature that will be very useful.
Assignments for postgraduate awards usually carry a word tariff. AP(E)L claims can be supported by documents of almost any length. The best advice for this submission is to aim at between four and five thousand words for the critical commentary but to impose no limit, except common sense, on what items of evidence you compile for the portfolio of evidence for impact. Clearly you will be selecting and de-selecting items as you proceed and will be aware when you have too much or too little to support what you want to say in the commentary. The key to supporting evidence is that it should be pertinent, not a wheelbarrow full of as much evidence as you can find. If advice from an HEI is available to you on the number of words then it would be wise to take it.
Framework 1. Professional context and purpose
It is important to begin with a description of the professional context within which you work and your reasons for undertaking the LftM programme. When embarking upon any programme of continuing professional development it is possible that you will also be meeting needs determined by central government, an LEA, your school and yourself. Begin your commentary, therefore, with something that tells your readers that you are aware of what lies behind your decision to start the programme; was it, for example, in response to overall school plans? Combine this with some sense of your intended professional outcomes: the skills, knowledge, understanding and experience that you hoped to acquire or develop during the programme. It will be useful if you relate some of your intended professional outcomes to their potential impact upon the learning experience of pupils. Remember also that when you explain your purpose you are also saying something about your professional values. (You can support this by including in the supporting portfolio of evidence for impact that accompanies the critical commentary items such as relevant performance management targets and school development or action plans).
2. Critical features and factors
Under this subheading you should provide your readers with a clear description of the nature of the programme: the activities, the interaction with others, its relationship with professional life: what, in other words, happened. But then you need to add what you consider to have been the key factors affecting your successful completion of the programme. This should include mention of any blockages or limiting factors that got in the way of successful completion and what you did in response to them. (You may wish to include in your accompanying portfolio relevant materials from the programme).
3. Relevant literature It will help a reader of your commentary to know what kind of literature you made use of during the programme and possibly after as a consequence of successfully completing it. It will also be important for a reader to gain an understanding of your own responses to the literature. In other words, given your professional position, was any of the literature useful to you, did you gain any insights because of it, were there differences between authors, did some of it not stand up within a professional context?
You will find it helpful to divide literature into three types: = regulatory/official/inspection literature – this may include national standards, inspection frameworks and reports, examination specifications and reports – professional literature such as school policy documents
– academic/theoretical literature – this might relate directly to leadership and management. It might also relate to specific areas of your interest or responsibility, or to the fields of school effectiveness and improvement and institutional change. If you have decided to register for an academic award at the outset of the LftM programme you will be able to select your academic literature with the support of HE staff.
4. Different perspectives Using three different kinds of literature also provides three different perspectives. This will help you to achieve more effective and professionally useful critical reflection.
Remember that, although a reader will wish to see a description of what your chosen literature says, it is important to show that you have engaged with the literature. In other words, that you can show how and where it was useful to you and how and where it might not have been and, in some cases, the managerial implications of having to respond to it or implement what it required you to do. (Your list of sources at 9 below should include a bibliography.)
5. Significant evidence for impact and key concepts In this section you need to tell your reader something about the evidence that you have for what happened during or as a result of participating in the programme. When writing about evidence you should say something about its nature, its strength and its significance.
In terms of nature, evidence might be tangible and documented. It might also be intangible. In other words, you might feel more self-confident because of taking part in the LftM programme but the only way to explain this to a reader is to describe it convincingly with, perhaps, some illustrations of how this increased confidence has affected you.
In terms of strength, evidence can be strong or weak. Sometimes you can be very sure of evidence and sometimes less sure. Always let a reader know what you think about your evidence and why.
In terms of significance, evidence can be strong but of little significance. If, for example, you survey a thousand teachers with the question: ‘Would you like to have your pay doubled?’ you might receive the answer ‘Yes’ from each one of them. It would, however, be foolish to attach any significance to the responses. Likewise, evidence can be weak but might represent something of significance. You may not have the time or means to fully test its significance but before you reject evidence try to consider it fully.
Try also to think about the concepts represented by the evidence. Leadership and management provide us with plenty of concepts in addition to more normal educational concepts such as effectiveness, improvement, accountability, impact, learning, accessibility, inclusion, differentiation, assessment and evaluation. Nearly every concept introduced to education has had its meaning affected by the professional life of teachers so do not be diffident about saying what they mean to you. (Items of tangible evidence or descriptions of intangible evidence to which you wish to refer should be included in your accompanying portfolio).
6. Unexpected evidence for unintended outcomes
This is a critical commentary so it cannot be limited to a description, assessment and evaluation of how you achieved what you set out to do. It is necessary to consider any unexpected evidence for unintended professional outcomes. It is unlikely that everything happened according to plan and it is highly likely that you did things that you did not expect to do and learned from the process. Sometimes professionals experience a sense of failure when they do not achieve targets and forget to look closely at what they have learned. It could be that targets were badly formulated or doomed from the start through no fault of the individual. Also, it is often the case that what looks like a simple professional target, such as leading a team to write a school policy and then disseminating and implementing it, actually calls upon unforeseen high-order leadership, managerial, interpersonal and diplomatic skills and attributes. So, make sure to tell your reader about any unexpected evidence for unintended professional outcomes. Teachers who do not ask serious questions about how they are developing as professionals often run the risk of seriously undervaluing themselves. (Again, include such evidence in your portfolio.)
7. Professional outcomes
Now tell your reader what skills, knowledge, understanding and experience you believe that you have acquired and/or developed during or as a result of the programme. In a sense these are the findings for this period or aspect of your continuing professional development. Another way of looking at this is that you are making a claim for your own professional learning. But it must be a supported claim. This is why you looked so closely at evidence in sections 4 and 5 above. Remember that intangible evidence for professional self-esteem and self-confidence should not be neglected just because it might be more difficult to point to. (You and your readers will find it useful if you have made reference to the items of evidence that you have included in your portfolio.)
8. Discussion and conclusion
Having looked at, analysed, weighed, claimed and argued about what you have been learning while undertaking LftM you now have the opportunity to go back to your original purpose and make an overall judgement on what the programme has meant for you and for your school. Has there been, directly or indirectly, any significant impact upon the learning experience of pupils? Whether there has or has not, what have you learned regarding it? Try to explain any differences between what you set out to do and what you achieved. Try to point out some things that you might do differently if you were starting again and why. Say something about your professional values: have they changed or remained the same?
9. Future action It is always useful to complete a section like this. The professional learning loop is never quite round or closed because it should lead somewhere: it is more like a spiral. Among the items or plans you could refer to here are: – further supported study (there are numerous opportunities to build on what you have done here both in terms of further NCSL awards and academic credit) – developing a career or professional development plan that blends NCSL programmes, other initiatives such as the national strategies or the Teacher Learning Academy and the research insights to be gained from registration for academic awards (most HEIs will be keen to talk to professionals or groups of professionals who have ideas like this) – the E-portfolio which will provide a sense-making framework for the compilation of evidence of professional development
– setting up a group of fellow professionals to undertake action research useful on both an individual and a school basis.
Even if you already have a Masters degree your future career can be enhanced by smaller amounts of credit that recognise and acknowledge what you have achieved. For example, a teacher who has gained a Masters or even a doctorate early in their career might, later on, demonstrate that they have maintained their professional proficiency by the achievement of a postgraduate certificate, rather in the way that a doctor, dentist or solicitor who, having gained their major qualification, continues to demonstrate that they are still developing as a professional. Even if you do not feel the need for such awards you may wish to encourage others by setting up groups of professional teachers who wish to engage in supported action research.
10. List of sources
It is important to remember the main point of book lists, sources of information and bibliographies is that a reader should be able to see and check what you have used to support your arguments, claims etc. So try to give a clear indication of your sources, including those listed as items in your portfolio. See the ‘please remember’ note below.
B. Portfolio of evidence for impact This portfolio is like a set of appendices containing evidence to which you have referred in your commentary. It will help readers if items are listed both at 10 above and in a contents page at the start of the portfolio. Try to separate items clearly with letters or numbers, titles and a brief paragraph or so of explanation. While writing the commentary you will be selecting and deselecting items. A good portfolio is one in which the evidence is clearly presented and in which a reader can see why it has been included. In order to demonstrate that you have related your critical commentary to the pupil learning experience you will find it helpful to include in your portfolio indicated sections on: – improved performance – increased motivation – greater ability/opportunity to learn cooperatively and independently
– improved social skills, including behaviour.
Please remember, however, that HE is not looking for absolute, incontestable evidence that your participation on the programme has brought about such improvements. What it is interested in is what you have learned about the factors affecting such targets.
Useful reading on professional portfolios: – Field, K (2003) Portfolio of Professional Development: Structuring and Recording Teachers’ Career Progress, London: Optimus Publishing.
– Frost, D and Durrant, J (2003) Teacher-Led Development Work: Guidance and Support, London: David Fulton Publishers.
C. Assessment criteria (sometimes called generic outcomes) Note 1: Both of these terms are used to describe the kind of skills, knowledge and understanding HEIs are looking for in an assignment or an AP(E)L claim for credit. Note 2: What follows may be different in each HEI. They have been chosen to broadly represent the kind of instruments that HEIs will use to examine a piece of work and to provide you with a checklist to self-assess your work before it is submitted. No grading is involved here, but you may find that if you have registered for an award rather than taken the AP(E)L route the assessment criteria will be: 1. Systematic understanding of relevant knowledge. 2. Critical awareness of and insight into the current professional environment. 3. Critical use of academic techniques of enquiry, including an awareness of their limitations. 4. Analysis and discussion of the nature and significance of evidence. 5. Communication of well grounded conclusions to an appropriate audience.
6. Independent learning and potential for further development.
If you wish to take advantage of the potential for converting work done on LftM or LPSH (or NPQH) into Masters level credit and would like to know more see the contact details of HEIs at www.ucet.ac.uk When you get there look on the right hand side and click on ‘members’. You could also phone UCET on 0207 580 8000 and give them your contact details to pass on to HEIs that provide accreditation.