“Education is a marathon and not a sprint”

This is what an ex-line manager in Secondary School said to me when I was a new teacher. Find out at the end of the post to see what else he said about a career in education.

As always, there’s such wisdom in an experienced educator and this was no different. I will come back to this at the end of the post, of what he said to my young colleagues and I.

As I reflect on 15 years in education today, I want to draw 10 brief lessons about education (15 would be too many!), drawing on the past, present and future, given to me by people I have had the pleasure of working with and things I have learnt, as recently as today. This post builds on my post from 2016, entitled ‘The beautiful game, by the greatest artists in Europe presented by the past masters‘. It also builds on a being a panellist at Future EdTech at Inmarsat, London, in a topic called ‘Teaching and Learning Transformed. 15 years in Ed Tech: Past, Present and Future Day”‘ on 11th June, where I touched on some of these issues (thank you Sophie Bailey, of EdTech Podcast for the invitation to be on this panel).

Today I learnt, a book chapter I wrote, on Academics Understanding of Learning Spaces: Attitudes, Practices and Outcomes Explored
through the Use of Social Media  in Social Media in Higher Education: Case Studies, Reflections and Analysis Edited by Chris Rowell | June 2019 has just been published and a PDF can be downloaded for free.

Lessons Learnt

1. Start with the Needs of the Educator

“Show them how your tool can save them time”

This was said to me by an ex-colleague in one of my university positions. Why does a staff member need you as an educator, academic development or educational developer? Get your audience and message right. Well planned is half done, as the saying goes. Have a look at this C@N DO workshop Google document from Northampton University, with needs on the left hand column.

2. Show Impact and Return on Investment

“It’s about impact and return on investment, if someone questions you, what do you do, you must have tangible evidence of impact”

This was said to me by ex-colleague in one of my university positions. How do we do this? A place to start is the Kirkpatrick Model (Kirkpatrick, 1954) but the Phillips ROI Methodology and the Brinkerhoff’s Success Case Method are other evaluation tools to gauge the impact of some training or development on staff. 

3. Always judge the educational organisation

“Schools are like mini-countries or prisons, there’s always a governor and people always want to leave”

This is what my PGCE tutor used to say to us (in between going to water his plants and leave us to peer teacher topics to each other, something more teachers should do more often, I have found over the years, new teachers, often over teach from the front of the class, I know, as I was like this too) and something others have said to, at it’s core, is it a top down or bottom up, is it stable or unstable, what’s the pace of change, slow or fast? You’ll quickly see if you fit in there or not.

4. Where does Academic Staff Development go?

“They never quite know where to put Academic Staff Development”

A colleague at Imperial College London said to me just before I left. True I thought and it links to No.2 and 3 above.

5. Learning Design improves quality at the design phase

It’s easy as ABC, 1, 2, 3, …

Haha, no-one said that to me, it’s just paying tribute to the UCL ABC Curriculum, which is a great engagement tool, it’s Learning Design Light, just Laurillard’s six activity types, nothing else. Many others too, including CoDesignS etc. They all have the Laurillard six activity types at their core. I came up with Pedagogy, Space, Technology at City, University of London (based on David Radcliffe’s model of the same name) I remember faciliating a Learning Design workshop as part of OULDI (2009), it was so complex, the staff switched off.

6. Technology and People

Technology is easy, it’s the People that are hard…

An ex-colleague, wise beyond her years said this to me in my previous work place. It’s true, managing people, is more difficult than managing projects in my humble opinion. Also, put the people before the technology and keep them on-board by involving them in the little or long time you have on a project. I have found Task and Finish Group, with set agendas for each meeting to be highly effective, keep the group small too, so you don’t get ‘a Camel is a Horse designed by a committee’ – another great quote from an ex-Professor colleague I worked with a Brunel.

7. Timely Academic Development is crucial, ask the staff when they want training

“Do Academic Staff Development in June”

An ex-Lecturer and colleague at Brunel once said to me, when asked when is a good time to do some large scale staff development. Often central teams put on staff development when they want to run it, not when the staff want to take it. It’s important to follow up and check in with staff and align the training to apprasial objectives. More on objectives next.

8. Measure What Matters

“I want to see tangible things we can come back to, make your objectives SMART”

This was said by several managers of mine and it’s something people don’t learn to do well. There’s a book I am currently reading called, Measure What Matter by John Doerr and his objectives and key results are a step by step approach to measuring any output and coming back and saying with a yes or no, have we met the objective by looking at the key result.

9. Health and Education

“You don’t pay a gym membership and then complain that you are not getting fitter, why do students think education is any different?”

This is a paraphrased quote from the late Professor Kenneth Darby-Dowman, who I heard speak to our PGCert in Higher Education students one afternoon at Brunel. This was just after the £3,000 fees came into effect and this phrase as always stayed with me. Education and Learning are difficult, just because you pay, it doesn’t mean you are guaranteed a “job ticket” as a Vice Chancellor at an institution I worked for used to say.

10.You live and learn

“We didn’t all go to University at Eighteen Years Old”

My MA dissertation supervisor at UCL once told me how he was a mature student. With portfolio careers, the fourth industrial revolution etc, learning and re-learning and reinvention will be the number one skill, as Yuval Noah Harari (author of Historian and bestselling author of Sapiens, Homo Deus and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century) and Microsoft say. My post for QMUL’s ADEPT blog post entitled ‘Where is Higher Education during the fourth industrial revolution from last September highlights some of the challenges of where higher education fits in with the fourth industrial revolution.

Returning to ‘Education is a marathon not a sprint’

As we all sat down in the office, a group of young teacher, all in our early 20s, my ex-line manager continued “You don’t want to get to my age and think, gosh, where did those years go?” He explained how no one ever says they wished the worked more and said if you are on this marathon then you better look after yourself first. Years later, this ex-line manager, was the Deputy Headteacher of a School I became a governor of for almost 10 years and he became the project manager (due to his experience) of a new School building. That School was Northwood School in North West London and as he said to me once “thank you for making a very old man happy, I always wanted to design a School”. It was rebuilt and cost £35 million. It’s one of the most modern Schools in the UK, with impressive facilities for the school and community. In Northwood School, I have seen how many of the lessons I have talked about have come together, with values, consistency, learning science, learning design, people before technology, linking staff development to appraisal and monitoring and above all, patience, that is this a long term vision and direction for a small school. It has gone from requires improvement to Oustanding the Ofsted 2018 Report.

The Journey Continues…

Thank you to all those great colleagues / ex-colleagues who have given me advice, encouragement, support, great quotes (or ‘war stories’ as one used to say) and for the passion and dedication you have shown over the years.

Here’s to the next leg of my journey and to all those hard working teacher from primary to higher education who #makeEDUbetter