Virtual CPD: enhancing mentoring skills online

Can you learn how to mentor online? The suggestion that people can learn important interpersonal skills, such as those involved in the mentor/mentee relationship, through an online course appears, on the surface at least, to be doubtful. We asked participants on the SHOOC to rate the kinds of professional learning that they have found useful and to comment on what works for them.

Amanda  suggests: ‘It is really important for me to be able to reflect on what effect this will have on my ability to mentor and lead across both mentees but also across school.’. (Amanda Woods, Stocksbridge Junior School). Mark makes the case for CPD that has to be specific to the area that it is addressing and should involve collaboration and learning discussions’ (Mark Avis, Aspire Educational Trust). Whether the effort is worth it is important for Fiona: ‘Would it bring a benefit to my existing role? Improve efficiencies or encourage better approaches which improve pupils learning? Would it deepen my understanding of teaching and learning?’ (Fiona Heath, Sheffield South East Learning Partnership). How can we learn from this?

What have we learned about enhancing mentoring online? Running the SHOOC for the two runs in 2017 so far we have had over 500 people register with 338 workbooks completed and 338 digital badges have been awarded. 59 participants have completed all five workbooks and 59 digital certificates of completion awarded. This level of participation is in line with practice elsewhere in open online courses – there were just over 15% completion of the SHOOC which is above average for this type of delivery. Evaluations of the course showed excellent effect (23%), or very good effect (73%), overall on participants’ mentoring practice. What was interesting in the second run of the SHOOC (July 2017) was that the webinars were recorded (they were the ones we run in January) and the Tweetchats were not live. This does not appear to have affected the level of participation (although there may be an effect on the sense of a learning community – we are currently researching this). What people said they liked was the examples and case studies of actual practice (thank you to our partner schools for these!).

How are we putting lessons learned into practice in the SHOOC?  The practicalities of taking part in an online course mean that we are again aiming to help participants study in their own time, at a pace and place that is convenient for them. Therefore in the third run of the SHOOC, starting on Monday 2nd October, we are allowing people to register on a rolling programme. This means that people will start and finish the course at varying times between now and when the course closes on 15th January 2018. For this to work all of the five workbooks must be available at the same time. rather than being released one at a time, owing to the logistics of mananging this flexible approach. We hope the course continues to be useful and of benefit to our mentoring practices.

Richard Pountney, SHOOC Leader.

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