One of my privileges over the last twenty years has been to work with educators from a wide range of sectors. Having gained ten years’ experience of working in secondary schools my first role in higher education was a PGCE tutor. As such I maintained a strong foothold in the subject teaching community through supporting the professional learning of aspiring teachers and enjoyed the opportunity to work with mentors in departments in many Geography departments. This is where I felt most at home.
As my time as a teacher educator extended the chances to work outside of this comfort zone kept growing, teaching on the Masters’ courses meant working with teachers and school leaders at different stages of their career from primary and secondary settings, and beyond. One cohort studying enquiry-based learning brought students together with the usual breath of professional experience and in this instance included a palliative care consultant who taught that specialism to fifth year medical students with a primary school middle leader. As discussions emerged through the module, we explored principles and practices of Philosophy for Children (P4C), which the some of the primary teachers were familiar with but the medic was not. His interest was peaked however and when we returned for the next teaching session he talked about how he was now redesigning parts of his teaching to take on the practices of Philosophy for Children, and when I assessed his assignment several months later he was able to trace the impact on his medical students of these changes right back to those initial discussions with the primary teachers. It wasn’t just the knowledge that P4C existed, it was the chance to listen to, pose questions of and make sense of other practitioners’ insights that had made the difference.
This was a really significant learning experience for me as a teacher educator too. It genuinely opened my eyes to the potential of learning alongside others from different settings, who experience different but relatable challenges and from whom opportunities for productive cross-sector or cross-phase conversations can be rare. This is one of the reasons that we have built CollectivED, our research and practice centre as we have, and our CollectivED Fellows are an important part of our cross-phase and sector community.
The rest of this blog post is dedicated to welcoming our newest CollectivED Fellows, who will join the community of educators from early years, primary, secondary, special education and alternative provision, from UK and international schools, from FE and HE settings, who themselves are joined by coaches and consultants and doctoral students. Many of our Fellows wear multiple professional hats or have spanned several contexts during their careers. Our online Fellows’ meetings have given them a chance to share stories and priorities, make connections and be inspired by each other. That will no doubt continue as our new Fellows join in.
Nicholas McKie has significant experience of working in international educational contexts and developed international teacher training at the University of Warwick, UK. He specialises in leadership and transition coaching and coach training practice and his recent work has taken in Kuwait, Russia, Cyprus, Thailand and Singapore. He also sees the value of connections and says he works ‘to ensure educators are connected across the contrasting contexts in which I work to ensure professional learning networks can enhance educational practice worldwide by the sharing of good practice’. Victoria Wasner works in an international school in Switzerland and has recently completed a part-time doctorate at Durham University. It was my pleasure to be one of her examiners and it is wonderful to welcome her to our CollectivED community. Victoria’s EdD included a year-long, practitioner-based, participatory inquiry through which she created a framework for a ‘Pedagogy of CARE’. Victoria explains this as a ‘set of interrelated pedagogical principles and personal attributes for ethical, collaborative practice in education [where the] acronym CARE stands for a process and stance of Consciousness, Action, Responsibility and Experimentation [which] represents my beliefs in the need for dialogic, reciprocal, non-hierarchical relationships that allow knowledge to be co-created by different actors in different spaces’.
Carolyn Hughan has a similar drive to build professional learning through collaboration and is currently achieving this as Director of ETC Teaching School Alliance which has 31 cross phase partners. The strapline for the Alliance is ‘real improvement comes from within’ and Carolyn explains that her ‘vision has been to transform teacher learning using purposeful, authentic collaboration which changes practice’. Carolyn has also built a legacy as a coach and advocate for coaching. Over ten years ago she established an entitlement for coaching for all new headteachers in Hampshire. She is rightly proud of the ‘legacy of this entitlement is that it is offered to this day, funded by the LA - such was the power of the process and the strength of leaders’ voices about their professional well-being’. Sarah Jones is a school leader who can testify to the impact of coaching, stating in her Fellowship application that ‘I have found working with a professional coach the only piece of CPD that has really changed me. I found it genuinely transformative in terms of the way I approach my working relationships, the balance I attempt to strike between my career and family, and my own development.’ In her current role leading a new alternative provision setting she is ‘trying to encourage, enable and embed collaborative working practices, so that we work together towards the changes that are required, and so that staff feel part of and are involved in the direction of change’. Sarah believes in the ‘importance of autonomy and kindness in a professional environment, which she feels are more likely to lead to actual, meaningful change’.
Clare Dutton is a primary practitioner and current part-time doctoral student at the Carnegie School of Education. She reflects that ‘my commitment to building capacity and empowering educators to create contexts for powerful and sustainable forms of professional development is what has led me to undertake my Doctorate research into teachers’ experiences of agency’. Clare has often promoted learning opportunities to others as well as seeking them out for herself. She was the co-founder and host of Doncaster’s first Teach Meet; has introduced colleagues to both the Chartered College of Teaching and the Chartered Teacher program; and, in her role as an SLE, has presented workshops to support newly qualified teachers. She sees mentoring and coaching as a privilege and is currently volunteering as a mentor for a trainee-teacher through the EduMentoring initiative. Kevin Merry is also committed to supporting others to develop as practitioners. He works at De Montford University in Leicester where he leads a strategic project called ‘Developing and Recognising Effective Teaching (D&RET)’ which has provided a support and development framework for all staff involved in supporting student learning at the university. An example of this is Universal Design for Learning (UDL) training which Kevin explains is ‘focusses on developing the social and emotional aspects of learning, supporting the construction of compassionate learning communities in which students and staff feel safe, valued, and have a sense of belonging to the learning environment’.
A common thread illustrated in the commitments and work of these six new CollectivED Fellows is the recognition of professional learning as a site of care. The opportunities that Fellows create for others to connect, to share and to have their own needs met in the complexity of the educational sectors that they work in are crucial for their wellbeing as well as their capacity. As we head towards the end of an extraordinary and exhausting academic year in schools and colleges both in the UK and globally this matters more than ever.
You can find out more about our Fellows through the twitter hashtag #CollectivEdFellows or by following @CollectivEDFel1. We will work to support the Fellowship community to sustain positive impacts on the lives of educators and outcomes for learners and we will invite Fellows to be proactive in developing approaches to this. You can read more about the work of our new CollectivED Fellows through the working papers that they have contributed to following the hyperlinks below. You can find out more about becoming a CollectivED Fellow at our website
You can read about other CollectivED Fellows in two earlier blog posts.