Time for collaboration
Parts of the OTLA programme were focused on professional conversations and the sharing of best practice: these included induction meetings, monthly meetings to share progress, discussions about issues and successes and two dissemination events, as well as CPD opportunities to develop academic writing skills.
Though organisations already knew that these were the requirements of taking part in the project it was often challenging to arrange mutually agreed times and dates for meetings, and it was sometimes impossible to avoid last minute issues such as covering for sickness. Further, although the project used digital approaches to overcome some of these issues, such as using Zoom for online meetings, the limited amount of time available in any one day remained an intractable issue for many.
The issues outlined above remain a constant in the sector. and support for managers to overcome them in professional development plans and opportunities would help to ensure maximum benefit but could also open up a conversation about a “Rhythm of CPD” (as also noted by Claire Collins in a speech during a dissemination event). If professional development is to be successful, training events need to be part of a continuum, not a one off.
Despite these issues, practitioners come away from training and sharing best practice events buzzing with ideas and motivation. This was especially notable at the final OTLA dissemination event, as shown by all the comments I have since received from participants such as “I have thoroughly enjoyed being a part of this” (BB); “Thanks everyone for your superb ideas” (BCC); “I have loved taking part in the project” (MC); “It has been an honour to take part in such a project” (SDC).
My research, separate from but spurred on by taking part in this project, sought to gain views from the sector about how training can be arranged most effectively to create an environment in which practitioners can develop professional expertise, develop a better understanding of student learning and the impact of different approaches, and ultimately support learners to master the skills they need to achieve in study, work and life.