Recently I was accredited as a Certified Member of ALT (find out more here) and the key component of the scheme is a peer-reviewed portfolio. You can build your portfolio in almost any format provided that it is accessible to assessors and follows the required structure.
I chose to build mine using Google Apps for Education (GAFE) and here I’d like to reflect briefly on the experience:
Why use GAFE? My main reasons were that it is free to use, I am already familiar with the tools available, there is storage and authoring tools all on one place and most importantly it works long terms as I will retain access to the files or at least be able to download them easily if needed. A further advantage for me was the ability to organise all the different types of content including supplementary evidence and images into different folders and make them easily accessible to the assessors.
What did I use? I focused my portfolio around a Google Doc. I decided early on that I wanted to illustrate my portfolio and the format I was after was linear – I wanted to build a narrative. I included screenshots, images and links and where appropriate filed these into folders on Google Drive. I also used a Google Sheet to help collect a lot of the evidence in the early stages, mainly to have a record of the various locations and links. I think that may be something I keep using as an ongoing record of my CPD activities.
What does this look like long term? Now that I have achieved CMALT the portfolio will have to be reviewed every 3 years. In that time period I’ll likely accumulate a lot of evidence of my professional development and my intention is to log it in a Google sheet, link to it where appropriate, and build up my folders of visual evidence as I go along. Then, when the time comes to review and update the main document or add to it, I should be able to draw on the information I already have. It’ll also make it easier to reflect on what I have done.
Any drawbacks? From my perspective there was no functionality that was missing and the auto-save and offline working capabilities made it fuss-free for me. Because you can share content without requiring others to have an account but you are still able to limit access I found GAFE was a useful tool indeed. Another plus was that I could share early drafts for comment and others could add to and comment on specific paragraphs.
Open practice? If you are curious to have a look or indeed find inspiration for your own CMALT portfolio you can access my portfolio folder via this link https://goo.gl/44I4Bd . I have added a Creative Commons Licence so that you can access it and re-use for example the images I have included. The specialist area I have written about in my portfolio is open practice in a leadership role. Sharing my portfolio openly is part of the work I do and I am grateful for all the encouragement and feedback I have had from my colleagues throughout this process.
This is the time of year for reviewing personal and professional development, for reflecting on achievements and set goals for the following year. In short, it’s time for my annual appraisal process.
This will be my fourth in a leadership position and each year the process has evolved depending on the needs of the organisation and myself. What we have found works consistently:
360 degree feedback: that includes everyone who reports to me, those whom I report to, colleagues whom I work with and external reviewers;
Clear assessment of goals set and progress made, milestones reached and key deliverables – in my case that encompasses most of what the organisation does or doesn’t do as my role carries overall responsibility for strategy and operations. This is where individual appraisals for others feed into my own which is really helpful;
Reflection on personal and professional development, often in relationship to what we had planned 12 and 6 months ago, but also anything else that has developed in response to changes in circumstance;
Written feedback and face to face conversation. My appraisal process is a blended process which involves a distributed group of individuals and culminates in a face to face meeting, led by the current Chair of the organisation I serve which changes annually.
Variations from year to year:
Emphasis on performance, support, development… depends on the context and provides some flexibility in a process which can at times become a long list of colour coded milestones;
Openness also varies. Some years have been very open and I have shared many parts of my appraisal feedback with colleagues, while some years are more personal and less easy to share;
Scale and perspective, from the proverbial helicopter view to the detailed analysis of a specific situation. That again seems to change from year to year.
As I am compiling this year’s appraisal documents I find that now in its fourth year I have more expectations, a clearer idea of what I’d like to get out of the process. And one of my aims for this year is to use the process as a way to continue my open practice. In my experience colleagues in leadership roles can find it difficult to get effective feedback and appraisals. For some, it becomes about performance management and if there are no concerns, then it’s just a formality. Others focus on providing feedback and thus get little in return. Some colleagues feel that at a certain level of seniority you should be able to do without, to reflect sufficiently on your own. And to some degree I agree with all of these perspectives. But there are some reasons why I really value taking a more in depth approach to my own appraisal:
Giving constructive negative feedback takes time and focus. I value honest praise but I feel it’s important to give opportunities for negative feedback, too;
Ongoing reflection is an essential part of my practice, but when a period of time is particularly busy I can still loose perspective. Being forced to take a step back and collect a whole year together in one place gives me an annual perspective that opens up new vistas;
Having a deadline makes me do things like (finally) submitting my CMALT portfolio, write a submission or review an article;
Writing my appraisal is a chance to not only set achievable goals, but to dream up new visions of the future and what that may hold.
All in all I think you can see why I feel this is such a valuable process. Particularly in a leadership role I think it’s a privilege to hear from others what they feel you could do better, how you might achieve more.
Throughout January you can participate in the online conversation about Learning Technology in FE either on Twitter using the hastag #FELTAG or by visiting the online conversation.
You can also still read my article in FE News on how institutions are taking on learning on a massive scale, or browse any of my other recent columns on technology and basic maths, building new cultures of learning and celebrating suceess.