Guest blog from Sue Lloyd, Quality Improvement Co-ordinator, Phil Whitehead, e Learning Ambassador and Paul Boucher, Lecturer, Sport & Unformed Services/Quality Improvement Coach at North Lindsey College.
For everyone involved in coordinating teaching, learning and assessment at North Lindsey College, coming on board with video-based CPD provider, IRIS Connect, felt like a crucial step in further supporting and developing teaching and learning.
The online platform made sense, the system was easy to use, and it wasn’t difficult to envision areas that it could enhance our staff development practices.
We knew there would be apprehension amongst our teaching staff initially about using IRIS Connect to record themselves teaching. It was clear that we would have to effect a change in our teachers’ mindset towards the system in order to achieve the impact we knew we could.
Their primary concern, apart from a little embarrassment about watching themselves teach, was who could access their reflections once recorded. They feared that their reflections might get into the wrong hands and compromise safeguarding, that the SLT would have master accounts to view them without consent, or that IRIS Connect was simply a way to make performance management easier for their superiors.
Overcoming staff concerns and fears
We have developed a healthy culture of trust at our college, but introducing something as significant and potentially transformative as IRIS Connect was clearly daunting for some of our teachers. IRIS Connect provided training for some of our teaching staff shortly after we came on board, which helped allay many of their fears. On finding that they had full control of their own reflections and who could view them, and that IRIS Connect wasn’t designed or intended, nor could it be used, to manage performance, their collective confidence in the system rose enough to encourage their first forays into recording practice.
Through assigning an ‘IRIS Champion’ for each department, pockets of activity slowly started to develop throughout the college. Small groups of teachers would share their practice and feedback, fostering collaborative discussions on subject-specific challenges and strategies. These cases were relatively isolated to begin with, but at that point we were happy to see uptake and hear positive feedback from their first experiences.
Slowly but surely, an understanding of the value of the system spread throughout our other departments, where IRIS Connect started serving a diverse range of purposes. These varied from supporting Level 3 Award in Education & Training /PGCE/Cert Ed candidates as well as our new staff, with contextualised feedback and examples of best practice, to recording our curriculum and standardisation meetings to make sure everyone was up to speed.
Adapting our approach to increase collective confidence
It was fantastic to hear our staff sharing our belief in the opportunities that IRIS Connect creates, but there was still room to adapt our approach. We recognised that by scheduling meetings between each ‘IRIS Champion’ and their respective department only once each month, staff weren’t always able to attend and some departments were considerably more advanced than others in using IRIS Connect to share practice and feedback. We devised a new strategy for making sure every department was moving forward with IRIS.
A staff training day helped convince a few of our sceptical teachers and Paul (as a teaching practitioner) began attending departmental meetings to provide short training sessions and discuss progress with using the system. We explained the importance of each teacher taking control and ownership of their own development, by creating, watching and sharing their reflections from the security of their own private space on the platform. Whereas the ‘IRIS Champions’ were responsible for promoting its use in each department, each teacher now had more individual responsibility over how they could make use of the system.
Some of our more apprehensive teachers started to see how it could support them in their personal aims for professional development. It increased their trust in IRIS Connect resulting in success for users.
Spreading the word and success further
One thing we especially pride ourselves on at North Lindsey is our Teachblend platform, which collates digital learning resources for teaching staff from various online sources like YouTube and Twitter.
Phil, our eLearning Ambassador began using Teachblend to further spread the word of the value and impact of IRIS Connect, using case studies from their website and testimonials from some of our own teachers.
To this date, these resources discussing IRIS Connect have been the most viewed on Teachblend so far, and it gives us a huge sense of optimism going forward to know, despite initial challenges, that many of our teachers now have faith in IRIS Connect for supporting their professional development.