Fresh thinking from new CollectivED Fellows
As these transitions occur it is critical to acknowledge the work of teacher educators, mentors, coaches and professional developers in both formal and less formal roles, and to welcome the wisdom and experience of those who have trodden similar paths in supporting those new in post. Our new CollectivED Fellows are worthy of this acknowledgement and are part of a growing international and inter-sectoral community of educators engaging as an empowering and enabling network.
Collaborative conversations are at the heart of CollectivED Fellows’ practice and research, because as Cath Proffitt says they ‘support professional wide learning’. Her work at The Halifax Academy has built a community of teachers supporting each other. She describes this as a ‘dialogic platform’ and explains how ‘subject leads and classroom teachers embrace the opportunity to deliver CPD and NQTs to SLT taking part in teaching and learning conversations, igniting critical thinking and unlocking practitioner potential’. Cath recognises that to sustain this some normal working practices and assumptions have to be challenged. She explains that ‘breaking down barriers to CPD has been shaped by a non-hierarchical, dialogic and collaborative system of coaching’, and identifies how ‘The coaching four’ – focus, findings, feedback, forward’ supports sustained CPD that continues to shape clarity around research informed approaches’.
Such coaching conversations can happen across boundaries and borders, as demonstrated by Jasen Booton and has worked both in person and online with educators in New Zealand, Doha and Venezuela as well as England. In a range of past and present roles Jasen has supported students and early career teachers ‘to become reflective practitioners with a strong sense of teacher agency’. Like Cath, Jasen sees the cumulative impact of coaching, and also the privilege of being a coach, saying that he has ‘been fortunate to collaborate with teams of talented and dedicated colleagues, where together we have made a positive difference to school communities, supporting both teachers and their pupils to flourish and achieve’. Coaching is not about directing or instructing but has enabled him to ‘facilitate participatory decision-making processes and have collaborated with colleagues to resolve issues and find solutions’.
For many school leaders, like Julia Skinner, a coaching approach emerges as an intuitive way of working with colleagues, as was illustrated in her Fellows application in which she admitted that ‘my interest in coaching has been with me for a long time, although I did not recognise it!’ Julia is a former headteacher who adopted a mantra of ‘recognise potential & release it’. This belief continues in her work as a governor and as a council member of the Chartered College of Teaching. Most recently during lockdown she has offered a ‘listening ear in a safe space with some blue sky thinking for leaders and future leaders drawing on mentoring and coaching strategies’ which she characterises as ‘gentle conversations’ which she writes about in her working paper.
Angie Brown is also a former headteacher who understands the power of coaching first hand. She wrote in her application of her experience of working ‘with a wonderful leadership coach who had experience in education leadership and it changed everything’. She now focuses much of her work on supporting women and marginalised colleagues in the workplace, including BAME leaders. She reflects on her ‘somewhat fierce engagement with the relationship between professional wellbeing and the opportunities to engage in professional learning and receive support’. Angie has created a unique approach ‘of encouraging and enabling collaborative conversations which create powerful professional learning I have been curating a body of work within Nourished Collective’. As a previous participant in one of these I can testify to their value. As Angie writes, ‘these community projects give women an opportunity to talk about their roles and their and although they don’t necessarily talk specifically to professional development, they offer an alternative lens through which many of the participants have really grown’.
Our last two new Fellows have both completed Masters’ degrees which gave them fresh opportunities to focus on mentoring and coaching. Jodie Lomax drew on her passion for ‘the power of mentoring and coaching’ when deciding on her research focus. She recognises ‘that education is constantly evolving and changing’ which she believes presents ‘enormous opportunity to coach or mentor teachers and school leaders through the complexities of these changes’. As the research lead in her school Jodie is using her own and others’ research as an evidence base to support better mentoring practice and hope to make a critical difference to success and retention in early career teachers and also to ‘raise the profile of mentoring and coaching alike’.
Charis Hart states that as a senior mentor, working with Early Career Teachers ‘saw on a daily basis the importance of collaboration and empowerment in helping to support the professional development and wellbeing of all teachers’. She also acknowledged ‘the impact of a lack of status and recognition for mentors on both mentors and ECTs’ It was this realisation that led her to undertake a Masters because she ‘wanted to be in a position to better support both mentors and ECTs through engaging with research and being part of a community of enquiring minds’. A really significant part of the impact of this was what Charis describes as having ‘re-discovered myself as a co-learner with my ECT colleagues and viewed every mistake and experimental approach as a learning experience’. This also led her to ‘examine my own positioning as a mentor and put ECTs at the heart of our mentoring programme so that we created a more developmental approach’.
All of our new CollectivED Fellows are engaging as reflective practitioners; and in their own contexts and with their specific skills are part of an essential ecology of support for others in the education landscape. Their fresh thinking, informed by their experience and research, is just what we need. 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.
Jasen Booton @JasenBooton CollectivED Issue 11
Angie Brown @nourishedcollective CollectivED Issue 11
Charis Hart CollectivED Issue 11
Jodie Lomax @researchleadjo CollectivED Issue 11
Cath Proffitt @ProffittCath CollectivED Issue 11
Julia Skinner @theheadsoffice CollectivED Issue 11
You can read about other CollectivED Fellows in earlier blog posts.
Rachel Lofthouse is Professor of Teacher Education in the Carnegie School of Education. She has a specific research interest in professional learning, exploring how teachers learn and how they can be supported to put that learning into practice.