Projects 2011-13

Volunteer Tutors

Sandra Rennie, Sequals - End date 31/08/2011, Report submitted to Consortium Steering Committee on 30/09/2011
Executive summary:
Project aims: To report on the take-up of the facility of volunteer tutors onto the University CertEd/PGCE provision at Consortium for PCET (CPCET) centres. To provide a survey of the perceptions of both the volunteer tutors and their teacher educators of their experience of the use of voluntary teaching practice on the Cert Ed/PGCE
Methodology and Process: A qualitative and quantitative study carried out by Sandra Rennie, consultant researcher with SEQUALS and Dr Denise Robinson, Director of the Consortium for PCET. The project received consultancy advice from Beryl Clarke, ITT Centre manager, Tameside College. The study included questionnaires and semi-structured interviews with ITT Centre managers, teacher educators and trainees undertaking unpaid teaching practice.

  • Outcomes:
    • All centres responded with details of volunteer tutor numbers and 46% of centre managers completed full questionnaires, 33% of centres responded to the teacher educator questionnaire and 31% of all volunteer tutors (35 individuals) responded to the questionnaire for trainees carrying out unpaid teaching practice.
    • A total of 22 individual recorded interviews were carried out consisting of: 12 with trainees who had carried out unpaid teaching practice (volunteer tutors), 7 with centre managers and team members and 3 with mentors of volunteer tutors.
    • A checklist to be circulated to centres in relation to the administrative practicalities of introducing internal voluntary teaching practice (appendix 5)
    • A checklist was produced for CPCET for administrative actions to improve equality of access and quality of mentoring (appendix 6)
    • Guidelines to be circulated for supporting volunteer tutors (appendix 7)
    • Frequently asked questions to be circulated for mentors and “responsible tutor/teacher” (appendix 8)
  • Findings
    • Economic perspectives, course planning and marketing issues

Training issues and the labour market situation in certain skills sectors have impacted on the opportunities to train as a teacher and to gain access to paid teaching practice in those industries. The present economic situation is a major part of but not the only reason, why ITT applicants choose to undertake unpaid teaching practice. A larger proportion of the volunteer tutors had a disability than in the general student population and this suggests that one way to increase the proportion of CPCET trainees to be more representative would be to promote the provision of voluntary teaching practice. Volunteer tutors tended to be younger and possibly less experienced than other trainees. There was no typical volunteer tutor, examples included: trainees employed full time, part time, self employed and unemployed. There was no typical teaching practice placement, examples included: placement in the college where the trainee was studying, placements in other colleges, placements with independent training providers and others.

    • Retention and success for trainees

The commitment and determination demonstrated by volunteer tutors in overcoming difficulties and obstacles (e.g. family responsibilities; other work; learning difficulties and disabilities) was impressive. There were reports however that some volunteer tutors did not fulfill their placement required hours, did not seem to be committed and, for example, did not turn up for classes. Some volunteer tutors were a ‘grow–your-own’ model who had been students or staff previously in the organization. A few teacher educators and mentors viewed volunteer tutors as prospective teachers taken on as trainees without payment with the hope of later gaining paid employment in the organisation. There were reports from one centre of a large proportion of volunteer tutors leaving the course before progressing to the second year however this was not the case in other centres. Flexibility in timetabling aids retention to ensure that volunteer tutors can access a variety of teaching experiences (to ensure fulfillment of course requirements) and to allow them to obtain and/or continue with some paid employment.

    • The full teacher role

Volunteer tutors had a range of experience which included, amongst other aspects of teaching, shadowing other teachers and assessing.  Guidance is to be provided to ensure that all volunteer tutors access as full a range of teaching opportunities as possible.

    • Mentor support

Mentoring was reported as varying widely in quality.  There was some confusion as to the role of the ‘responsible teacher’ in mentoring/supporting the volunteer tutor.  The role of the responsible teacher goes beyond that of the mentor.  There was a general recognition amongst teaching staff and centre managers that the support process could be improved if the responsible teachers and the mentoring process were to be more effectively planned and timetabled. Guidance will be provided to implement this.

    • Practical management and administrative issues

In internal college voluntary teaching there was continual negotiation throughout the teaching practice around roles and responsibilities amongst mentors, “responsible tutor/teachers”, line managers and volunteer tutors. To ensure equal opportunities for all participants there should be a written policy stating the roles and responsibilities of all the participants in a voluntary teaching practice in centres to ensure they know this is an addition to the University policy. The involvement and consultation of human resources managers, heads of department, centre managers, course tutors, teacher educators, mentors and the volunteer tutors themselves is essential to avoid administrative and practical difficulties. Where internal volunteer placements had been recently introduced, timetabling and planning of volunteer placements was reported to be an issue during the previous year and an increased administration load was reported by centre managers.         

  •       Conclusions:

There is reason to expect that there will be proportionately more CPCET trainees undertaking unpaid teaching practice in the next few years as knowledge spreads of this facility and in the face of an economic recession. This voluntary teaching practice may take place within the same college where the CPCET centre is located, in other colleges or with other training providers. This is a yet uncharted area of work for CPCET though it is common practice in the provision of many providers nationally.  It has the potential of widening access and equal opportunities for teacher education and yet carries the risk of compromising quality and consistency of provision if approached in an ad hoc manner. The research uncovered some examples of enterprising and innovative practice and some examples of committed managers, mentors and volunteer tutors who had made these placements a success. Where there were occasions for dissatisfaction or problems with retention these issues could be tackled by using a team approach to supporting and developing volunteer tutors and providing clear policies and operational guidelines for all participants. Examples of guidelines and checklists informed by the work of the centres can be found in the appendices and there is scope for adding to this guidance with further training and information sharing.

  • Recommendations
    • The University to consider extending the part time pre-service course as this allows trainees to work in paid employment while they study.
    • Colleges to offer a formal induction course for volunteer tutors into their institution (as opposed to the induction for the CertEd/PGCE course) and advised to include a subsidised or free level 3 PTLLS as part of this induction.  This would act as a preliminary to the PTLLS incorporated into the CertEd/PGCE at level 4.
    • CPCET should provide guidance on the requirements of the additional support processes for volunteer tutors and advice on how to plan and timetable these processes.
    • Colleges to have a written policy that states the responsibilities of each of the participants in the internal college voluntary teaching practice placements.  This would be in addition to and supplement the University policy.
    • Checklists and guidance produced by the volunteer tutors research project to be circulated to all centres

Initial Teacher Training in the Lifelong Learning Sector: a Comparative study of University and awarding body programmes

Martyn Walker, University of Huddersfield – End date 01/12/2011, Paper included in HUDCETT Journal Volume 4, Issue 2 Autumn 2012
This paper focuses on initial teacher training (ITT) for the lifelong learning sector in England. Based on research with teachers and teacher educators at four different lifelong learning sites, it explores the ‘relative value’ of different forms of ITT, offered by higher education institutions (HEIs) and alternative awarding bodies. It shows that, whilst the majority of respondents regard awarding body courses as adequate, most perceive HEI programmes to be superior to other forms of teacher training – both in terms of labour market currency and the quality of learning provided.  
                Despite the perceived strengths of university-led programmes, we argue that there are serious threats to their future viability. Changes to the ITT qualification structure, the greatly increased cost of university courses and the shift back to voluntarism signalled by recent policy initiatives poses a serious threat to HEI-led ITT for the lifelong learning sector.                 

ITT an E-learning Approach to a Community of Practice

Julie Garrigan, Accrington & Rossendale College - End Date 01/12/2011, Report submitted to Consortium Steering Committee 30/09/11
Project Outline:

  • The VLE has begun to be populated with tasks and activities, including Vokis, interactive tasks and resources
  • We had to review some of the content when the level moved from 3 to 4 and we changed awarding body (Edexcel to Ascentis)
  • We have a prospective cohort of NHS staff who are interested in undertaking the course
  • It is anticipated that this first cohort will begin in January 2012 when we are certain it is fully operational and ready to go live
  • The team have been working hard on setting up the course on the College VLE with support from experts in e-programme development

A recognition of academic activity: an anthology of subject specialist conference papers

Stephanie Codd, North Lindsey College, End date 01/11/2011 – Report submitted to Consortium Steering Committee 30/09/11
Executive summary:
The Process
The project culminated in a successful launch of the anthology on Thursday 23rd February 2012.  A total of fifteen papers were included in the anthology.  The original proposal indicated that a panel would be set up in order to identify appropriate papers but it was decided to include all that had been submitted.  The Specialist Conference had provided the students with such a positive experience that the inclusion in the anthology seemed to be a natural and fitting conclusion to the process.  All felt that they had a contribution to make to current methods of teaching and learning and the panel agreed.  The contributors were a mixture of PGCE and Certificate in Education students and covered a wide range of subjects.  The students also represented a variety of educational organisations: Adult Education, a hairdressing academy, a local 6th form college, the NHS, private training organisations as well as North Lindsey College.
The papers were read by Dr Peter Shinner, a historian with a professional interest in Education and author of peer reviewed articles. Dr Shinner reviewed the papers and a meeting was arranged in order to discuss how they could be developed further.  It was agreed that the essence of the papers should be retained and any attempt to elevate them to a level fit for publication would be very time consuming but would also mean that the nature of the content would be lost.  However, the team: Dr Shinner, Stephanie Codd and Glenys Richardson did work with the contributors in order to standardise the papers and bring them up to an acceptable standard.  Contributors were also asked to include a ‘pen portrait’ of themselves and many wrote of the impact that PCET and the Specialist Conference has had on their professional and personal lives.  The project funding meant that the printing could be done to high standard and that multiple copies could be distributed to contributors, line managers and senior managers.  This ensured that the research contained in the papers could be disseminated across a number of organisations and institutions.
The meeting was also used in order to discuss the launch of the anthology. The contributors were acknowledged as being central to the process and were encouraged to take ownership of the project.  A number felt that their Subject Specialist tutors had been such a positive influence on their work that they should also be invited.  This was duly done. 
The Event
The launch was held on Thursday 23rd February 2012 and Dr Denise Robinson gave an appropriate and relevant keynote speech; ‘Scholars in FE, Realising the Potential’. 
Steve Johnstone, the Associate Director of HE, spoke about ‘Silent Scholars’.  The idea for the project was based on his recognition of students contributing to current research through the writing of conference papers but then being ‘shelved’.  The Anthology was able to showcase their work and illustrate to managers and employers the work that was being undertaken in a variety of organisations across the region. 
Two contributors, Ian Staples and Alan Rayment, also put themselves forward to speak.  Ian is a Motor Vehicle tutor and spoke about the process of writing the paper and the impact on his practice.  Alan works in the Sports department and talked about the impact of the course and his subsequent role as an Olympic sports maker.  Alan is involved in Paralympic sport and charity fundraising and has recently been awarded an Honorary doctorate from the University of York St John for his work. Ian and Alan proved to be very inspirational speakers and the impact that the course and the conference had had on their teaching practice and their personal confidence was clear to see.  All the Year 1 and 2 students who attended the event were inspired by the speakers. One Year 1 student who was present said that he was so impressed by Ian Staples as Motor Vehicle tutor standing up to speak so well in such a setting that his ambition was now to be a speaker at the equivalent event when he completes his course.
Other members of the audience included fellow contributors, family members and friends, employers and managers, present PCET students, the Director and Associate Director of HE, and the Associate Director QA and Staff Development.  One of the project objectives was to ‘promote the importance and relevance of current research’ to mentors, curriculum area managers, employers and senior management and the launch event and the anthology itself has clearly met those objectives.
The funding from the Consortium has allowed this to happen.
Stephanie Codd
March 2012

‘I’m confused’:  supporting the fragile learner

Heather Lister, Ellen Schofield, Jane Brooke, Selby College – End date 31/05/2012, Report submitted to Consortium Steering Committee 28/09/2012
Executive summary:
The project aimed to consider two questions:  first, what level of literacy and language support do trainee teachers require to complete a Certificate/Professional Graduate Certificate in Education (Cert Ed/PGCE); second, what level of support is appropriate for the level of the qualification? A qualitative and quantitative approach was used to explore these issues.  Given the richness of data and feedback, a storytelling approach has been adopted.  The structure of the report allows the tutors and trainers to tell the story in their own words.
The idea for this research and, indeed, the title for the project, arose from an email from a trainee with the subject “I’m”.  In a different email, referred to in the report, another trainee vents his frustrations about not understanding a reading task.  These incidents, together  with how we have sometimes found ourselves  ‘walking on egg shells’  when incidental comments have been misinterpreted  by trainees (Brookfield, 1998) or feedback on their work  has caused offence as it has ‘come across as a little bit sarcastic’ (see p9 below) could be interpreted as fragility by some trainees.   However, we do not wish to label trainees ‘fragile’:  like Eccelstone (2008), we recognise that such labelling might exacerbate trainees’ perceived barriers to academic study, so that support becomes focused on ‘emotional well-being’ (Ecclestone, 2008: no page), rather than on fostering independent learning in the spirit of higher education (HE).  The report aims to decipher this perception of fragility from both trainee and tutor perspectives, in order to identify what support should be provided for trainees who have signed up for the HE experience. 

Learning and Skills Research Network (LSRN) Yorkshire and Humberside regional conference supported by the Consortium for PCET (one day event) to be held in the early spring at the University of Huddersfield

Dr Kevin Orr, University of Huddersfield – End date 01/04/2012, Report submitted to Consortium Steering Committee 25/05/2012
Project summary:
After a hiatus of several years, the Yorkshire and Humberside region of the Learning and Skills Research Network held a conference on 3 May 2012 at the University of Huddersfield, funded by the Consortium for PCET. Thirty people attended from colleges, universities and work-based learning providers from throughout the region and beyond to engage in sessions on subjects ranging from the ethical dilemmas of researching in further education (FE) colleges to the use of video in teaching; and from research on the support of vulnerable students to approaches to higher education in a FE setting. The great majority of these sessions were run by colleagues in Consortium colleges, many of whom were presenting for the first time. At the other more experienced end of the scale, professor James Avis finished the day off with a fascinating lecture  entitled, Workplace learning, vocational pedagogy and the transformation of practice. Avis critiqued many of the current accounts of work-based learning, and especially their appeal to social justice.
The event was a great success, especially in mixing experienced and new researchers and in providing a space for research in the sector to be discussed. We are grateful to the Consortium for the financial support which permitted this event to take place.
Another such event is planned for the autumn.
                                                                                                                        Kevin Orr
LSRN Yorkshire and Humberside convenor

Tablets for teacher educators: a phenomenographic study of teacher educators’ use of iPad and Galaxy Tabs in the UK Lifelong Learning Sector

Denise Robinson & Shailesh Appukuttan, University of Huddersfield – End date 15/02/13, Paper presented at the ATEE Winter Conference, University of Genoa, March 2013
The partnership between one university in the north of England and 24 further education (FE) colleges in delivering a teaching qualification specifically for the lifelong learning sector has invested heavily in the provision of equipment to support teaching and learning. Over the last 10 years the focus of the expenditure has shifted from laptops and ‘smart-boards’ to the latest technological developments of tablet PCs. A limited number of tablet PCs were made available in every partner college to pilot the opportunities that such technology might offer teacher educators both in terms of their own teaching and in supporting the pedagogical developments associated with the incorporation of information technology (IT). Furthermore, it is argued (Lunenberg et al, 2007) that teacher educators should model effective teaching themselves and this should include the use of IT. A survey had been undertaken to evaluate the use of the various pieces of IT equipment that had been distributed across the partnership. From this, the deployment of the tablet PCs and their comparison to laptops were considered to be pertinent to inform future purchases and to evaluate the effectiveness of these for teacher educators and their trainees.
The study used a phenomenographic approach; this identifies the similarities and the differences between the ways people experience or see a phenomenon. The object of our attention was the experiences and conceptions of teacher educators who were involved in the deployment of equipment. This study evaluated the use of tablet PCs among the partner colleges and critically looked at how their experiences of using tablet PCs were similar or different in relation to their current use of laptops in their practice. In particular, we were concerned that the prospects of using technology appropriately were being captivated in a dialogue around technological determinism (Oliver, 2011), whereby approaches to the incorporation of technology is viewed as the central driving feature of all developments.
The initial qualitative email survey of partner colleges asked for an evaluative report from each centre teacher educator/manager. The main themes arising from these reports formed the basis for further development of the interview questions.
The initial analysis of the reports revealed varied conceptions of use of tablet PCs and laptops with trainees as well as use as teacher educators. The outcomes of the study revealed a clear distinction in the use of the technology that seemed to be related to understanding of the advantages and limitations rather than the actual facilities. These ranged from those who responded to the challenges of technology and were able to harness it; those who were interested in using the technology but needed considerable support; those who used the technology for personal use only; and those who were overwhelmed by the actual or perceived barriers and resigned themselves to non-use.
The emerging conclusions from this study point to the need to consider the standpoints of teacher educators and how these may be aligned to the teaching and learning requirements of their trainees as well as the teacher educators themselves. 

Last updated Wednesday 16 October 2013
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