PACTing with my professional development: Element 2

This post follows on my commitment to the professional development (PD) experience proposed by the PACT National Forum digital badge, which I explained and commenced in my previous post.  In Element 2, the course goes on to propose us to explore and reflect on the Professional Development Framework for all that Teach in the Irish Higher Education sector, which was published by the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in 2016. The framework provides guidance for the PD of individuals and gives direction to other stakeholders (e.g. institutions, higher education networks, educational/academic developers, policy makers and student body representatives) for planning, developing and engaging in professional development activities.


The framework incorporates five overarching domains, each expanded through a series of elements. The development of an individual’s engagement with the scholarship of teaching and learning is an integral component of each domain.


The framework is underpinned by a number of values i.e. inclusivity, authenticity, scholarship, learner-centeredness and collaboration. These guide the personal and professional development processes used by individual staff, academic departments and institutions to recognise, inform, enhance and sustain professional development, and resonate, to a great extent, with the SEDA values:

  1. Developing understanding of how people learn
  2. Practising in ways that are scholarly, professional and ethical
  3. Working with and developing learning communities
  4. Valuing diversity and promoting inclusivity
  5. Continually reflecting on practice to develop ourselves, others and processes

One of the most useful contributions of the PDF in my opinion is the typology of the PD opportunities, which includes both accredited, collaborative, structured and non-structured non-accredited activities.

forms of PD

This provides an huge degree of openness and wide mindedness about the ways that we learn in an increasingly complex world, from a lifelong and, in Norman Jackson’s wordslifewide perspective.  The challenge comes however to transfer this openness  into practice in real ways in academic environments that impose fairly rigid expectations on CPD. Practical implementation of the PDF is a challenge when there is no CPD strategy in our institutions, like it is the case in UL. As a start, I made a first attempt at flagging the PDF in my seminar offerings, by classifying them according to this typology, but I decided to pull back as I felt that we need a deeper and more coherent conversation about it.

The self-domain

The uniqueness that each individual brings to their teaching is acknowledged by placing ‘the self’ (Domain 1 Personal Development) at the centre of all professional development activity. This domain emphasises the personal values, perspectives and emotions that individuals bring to their teaching, including self-awareness, confidence, life experience and the affective aspects associated with teaching; and plays an important role in declaring a teaching philosophy and approach. Element 2b of the PACT material invites us to reflect on the PDF from the self in the first place, which I find challenging I must confess.

reflect on the self

While reviewing the videos of what pilot study participants on this badge said, I was delighted to recognise a number of my UL colleagues, and reminded myself of the nurturing academic community that I have the privilege to work with and the importance of something that is very alive in me lately:  carving new relationships based on true collegiality. The call in this domain for  recognising the importance of wellbeing, authenticity and genuine connection in relation to my teaching and learning roles resonates with me in this direction as I struggle to make sense of the hidden politics and agendas of the academic environment, but also to let my voice being heard in it. Also, I remind myself that being dogmatic, self-righteous and intolerant are some unhealthy traits that can become self-defeating patterns for me as I relate to others.

In order to help us through this maze, the PACT material proposes a series of prompts around what is at the core of my educational developer role, this is, my teaching. In this sense, it is important to contextualise that my specialism revolves around technology-enhanced learning (TEL), and this brings many distinctive dynamics around the learner’s self-perceived digital efficacy that I need to be careful with. When teaching, I try to portray myself as a peer and I often say that, technically, I am only one step ahead of the rest of the class, and that I do learn from conversations as much as those sitting opposite to me, and often more! I always approach a learner by first asking about previous experience and current expectations, raising the question what’s in for you? Rarely ‘teaching’, the conversation becomes an interactive dialogue where I try to guide their journey. I try to ‘let go’ of the hand-holding dependency model, recognising that when it comes to TEL, people learn much (and probably better) from their own colleagues, and also that there is no ‘silver bullet’ when it comes to TEL. I am also mindful that those that approach TEL from the first time need to understand its advantages, challenges and dangers. In this sense, I try promote an incremental approach to change which I think is realistic and feasible, rather than evangelical and uncritical, such as advocated by Puentedura’s (Romrell et al. 2014): educators can start making significant changes through substitution and augmentation of current practice, later to allow for modification and redefinition. The way I teach is influenced  by my tendency to reflect and to remain in control of my impulses, so I embed some controlled sense of humour but usually are no ‘fireworks’ displays going on. Instead, I prepare a lot and tend to ‘guide’ learners through carefully thought activities that are unlikely to ‘backfire’, but are intended to get a point across. And most importantly, as much as possible, I try to bring to the surface the ‘practice what you preach’ moto and engage in a level of what I am talking about  (e.g. showcasing a flipped classroom approach when talking about blended learning, teaching in a distance programme in a different university for no pay apart the joy of learning, engaging with open pedagogy by sharing my materials openly in the web or writing this blog, etc)… this is my way to understand and practice authenticity.

The digital domain

From my discussion above, the reader can see that I am naturally drawn towards the digital domain as one that defines and determines my role to a great extent. This domain emphasises the importance of personal and professional digital capacity and the application of digital skills and knowledge to professional practice, i.e., my ‘bread and butter’. The domain is underpinned by the National Digital Skills Framework for Education  that guided the work by the All Aboard project. I constantly engage with this domain through my practice and scholarship, share outputs and educational resources and in turn, adopt and reuse the open educational resources that came out of this project and many others. For example, I am currently using the digital confidence profile as an introduction to a hands-on workshop on the use of the virtual learning environment, and to inform the selection of participants for the Getting started with online teaching online course with we are currently piloting.

digital confidence profile

The All Aboard metro map, poses a beautiful metaphor of the digital skills journey, and is one that I often refer to in my teaching (jokingly adding that the metro is plagiarised from the Madrid underground map which I am very familiar with!).

metro mao.png

The lines of the metro map are based on the domain’s elements, which I find especially relevant since my role has significantly moved away from the ‘tools and technologies’ line in the last two years. From being overburdened with semi-technical queries on the virtual learning environment, I am not enjoying the space and scope to explore my other aspects. The structured unaccredited CPD I provide has moved away from this, and is ‘travelling’ more in the ‘teach and learn’ line. My accredited teaching focuses very much on the ‘communicate and collaborate’, and  ‘create and innovate’ lines. And I also have opportunities to experience the ‘identity and wellbeing’ route, through my engagement with the Limerick Lifelong Learning Festival, and my teaching in the distance masters programme in UNED. Another of the areas where I find a growing interest has to do with the importance of engaging with open access in the ‘find and use’ line. This involves the promotion and dissemination of my educational resources and scholar output beyond the classroom and traditional markers of publishing impact. This came about as a result from my work on a research project around Open Educational Resources  at national level. The research question posed us to investigate how digital learning resources could be shared at national level.  To that date, I had engaged in projects with the National Digital Learning Resources (NDRL), but I had not given detailed consideration to the complexities and ethical considerations around the open education movement. The reflections of one of the participants in our study resonated with me particularly:  ‘sharing is what teaching is about. My teaching is publicly funded and therefore I consider the results of all my work a common good which should be made available for free’. The seed was planted on me through that project, later grew through the work on the Take one step campaign, and are currently seeding the way to an Erasmus + proposal that I am really excited about.

Personal insights

To conclude, the PACT material invites us to complete the following two statements as a way to reflect our personal insights:

  • I have learnt the following about how to now plan for my PD for the future…

I suppose that I can say that my most recent projects and collaborations reflect my believe in collegiality, sharing expertise and success (but also stories of failure and private frustrations), because academic environments often promote dehumanising individuality and competition, which I find alienating.

  • I am going to use these planning tools in my practice and here is why…

The All Aboard metro map is a fantastic tool which I will keep using to guide my practice, as it provides me with a welcome open-mindedness about the diversity of the personal and professional digital capacity domain, and came to me as a breath of fresh air after having ‘been locked’ behind the closed doors of the VLE for so long.


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