This is one of a series of guides collating evidence and learning from the 23 projects within the JISC Building Capacity programme (2010/11). Each is focused on a common institutional strategic aim, describing how projects built their capacity to meet that aim and how what worked in their context, could work in yours. The guides are written to be “just enough to get started” rather than all-encompassing.
This guide addresses one aspect of the broad area of continuing professional development, using PebblePad to facilitate personal learning and for staff to record, reflect and represent their staff development activities.
The University of Worcester Building Capacity project built on the experience of the University of Cumbria Flourish project to implement PebblePad for CPD. Another of these guides indicates a further usage case for PebblePad in tracing and recording postgraduate and supervisor interactions.
What are the takeaway ideas you could use in your context?
PebblePad, a personal learning system, has been identified by more than one institution as a suitable system to give individuals a space in which to record their own development, whilst keeping this development aligned to the institutional strategy. Both the Flourish project and a BECTA report on the impact of e-Portfolios noted that challenging attitudes and ways of working are amongst the more difficult aspects of getting staff to engage with an e-Portfolio system.
“So, processes to support reflective practice have become an essential feature of effective professional development and e-portfolios provide a powerful on-line tool”
(Professor Liz Beaty, Director of Strategic Academic Practice and Partnership, University of Cumbria)
Raising awareness about the potential benefits of using a personal learning system for CPD at the University was addressed through liaison with senior management in Personnel, Educational Development, and the registrar, as well as promotion to line managers across the institution. Three training events and two lunchtime support sessions were held; a further workshop specifically for staff on the University’s Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education was held to highlight the affordances of the system to engage in or record informal development, to plan work and research, and to create a portfolio of practice and to publish work to others.
A number of documents were also produced at Worcester, including an “FAQ” for staff on the use of PebblePad at the University. A research project was also carried out, interviewing staff across the institution using PebblePad in formal and informal ways as part of their development, which will result in a peer reviewed paper.
What benefits can be gained by using these ideas?
There are a number of stakeholder groups for whom the University of Cumbria and the University of Worcester have noted impacts arising from the introduction of PebblePad for CPD:
Staff on formal CPD courses (e.g. PG Cert in Learning and Teaching in HE):
- have been supported to use the system for both formal and informal development;
- have raised the issue of engaging in a planned approached to development activity outside of the course context.
For academic and support staff:
- New resources have been made available alongside training and guidance for using the system to engage in professional development.
“I use an e-portfolio on a regular basis. it allows me to store thoughts whilst I am at meetings which I can then develop… this allows me to capture moments of informal learning… a vital component of staff development.”
(Dr Ian Scott, Head of Academic Development and Practice, University of Worcester)
For the University strategy:
- it has supported the implementation of the University’s Staff Development Framework;
- enhanced benefits have been realised from extending the use of an existing investment in propriety software.
The projects have also resulted in research outputs reflecting the use of a personal learning system to support CPD activity at a HEI for the broader sector.
Both of the institutions highlighted here report that the benefits to the individual are yet to be resolved (i.e. at the University of Worcester it was felt that currently the benefits for personal learning and development outside of formal contexts may have been overestimated); however, a strong lead from senior management linked to a clear strategy and an expression of expectations that exist in terms of staff engaging with their own development has resulted in a closer alignment of CPD offer to current capabilities and institutional strategy.
“The [paper] portfolio, you put it away, you put it in the cupboard, you forget about it for a while. But actually with this [PebblePad] it’s accessible wherever.”
(Academic, professional field, University of Worcester)
“The important thing for me is that I see them [my team] being interested in doing something, whereas before, you mention CPD you get a total blank…but I am hoping…that by them seeing me engaging in CPD that would rub off, and it is rubbing off.”
(Team Leader, University of Worcester)
How can you implement the ideas to realise the benefits?
The University of Cumbria outlined the advantages from the institutional perspective to implementing PebblePad in this way to include the streamlining of staff appraisal, reward and recognition schemes and the capacity to align the provision of staff development with the overall institutional strategy.
Worcester found that a key factor in success was the extent to which their audience recognised the need for change that the project was trying to address. Equally senior and line management need to set out the expectations that exist for staff in terms of engaging in their own development, and recording it.
In terms of enhancing the use of PebblePad for CPD, the institutions who have been implementing it have taken a variety of simple strategies, such as:
- incorporating guidance into induction packs
- running workshops and awareness raising to demonstrate its utility and benefits
- involving its use in reward and recognition processes
“The use of PebblePad was important in introducing a wider range of staff to the concept of recording and reflection. Academic staff are more familiar with the process because of their involvement with students reflecting on learning, and requirements of professional bodies to record CPD activity. The support staff (admin, technical, operational, professional services) have engaged with the process and PebblePad has been important in stimulating this.”
(Gill Slater, Director of Personnel, University of Worcester)
- Flourish(University of Cumbria, 2009) – includes a range of resources that will be of use for staff considering using an e-portfolio or Personal Learning System for CPD, including,
- Blossom videos: Short videos of practitioners from across the HE sector, talking about how they intend to encourage e-portfolio use for staff CPD.
- Flourish animations: These animations give the audience a concise overview of what an e-portfolio is, and the benefits they bring to lecturers and senior managers. Available through www.youtube.com
- Effective practice with e-portfolios (JISC, 2008)
- JISC e-portfolio infokit (JISC InfoNet, 2008)
- BECTA Impact study of e-portfolios on learning (2007)