A Brief History of PGCAPP Training for Technicians in FET

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Patrick Thornhill
Technical Manager: Learning Support Team.
FET Technical Services

We are a team of technical instructors supporting the use and application of software and associated hardware across the faculty. My own speciality is instructing computer aided design within the Architecture and Built Environment department.

PGCAPP Module One

As part of our commitment to the development of technicians within FET Technical Services, over the last few years we have been encouraging technicians to participate in the first module of the PGCAPP. At the moment we are focussing on new starters to technical services that have elements of student instruction within their role, and those existing technical staff members that express an interest in furthering their pedagogic practice.

The Post Graduate Certificate in Academic Professional Practice (PGCAPP) is a course run by the Academic Practice Directorate. https://intranet.uwe.ac.uk/tasks-guides/Guide/academic-professional-programme
Completion of Module One achieves Associate Fellowship to the Higher Education Academy (HEA).

Background to the PGCAPP initiative within FET Technical Services

I was given the opportunity to study on the Academic Development Programme (ADP) in 2014 prior to becoming a technical manager. At the time this was seen as a trial to understand the appropriateness of a technician undertaking the ADP course which was primarily designed for new academics.I made great use of the opportunity to do a 20 credit research module, in which I focussed on the viability of using Virtual Reality (VR) in teaching architectural technology, using the recently released Oculus DK1.

At the time the conclusion was “still very nascent, do-able but would be tricky to support for anything more than individual student projects”. Luckily the technology has come on a long way since then and we have been able to incorporate VR technology meaningfully into several modules within FET. The opportunity to research this back in 2014 gave us a useful baseline understanding to build on.

The more challenging aspect of putting a technician through the ADP was the requirement to develop lesson plans and deliver a module, to enable tutor review and reflection. I was fortunately in a position to work with Professor Lamine Mahdjoubi within our new BIM MSc programme, and to be able to run the module I was already supporting.

The understanding gained from my experience within the ADP programme allowed us to open the course to other technicians, initially from within the Learning Support Team, who studied on the Foundations for Teaching and Learning module, which latterly became Module 1 of the PGCAPP programme.

Module one of the PGCAPP is most relevant to technicians, giving the learner an understanding of teaching theory, examples of best practice, an understanding of the lexicon of pedagogy and H.E., and allowing the learner to be reflective of their own teaching and instruction techniques within a peer assessment process.

The recently updated PGCAPP module one is very accommodating to the variety of practices and activities within the teaching and support environment, opening the assessable teaching element to many forms of instruction, such as small and large group teaching, webinars, one-to-ones, asynchronous e-learning materials, workshops and demonstrations.

Engaging with the PGCAPP training has been very successful and has given the whole team a number of useful tools to reflectively evaluate our support materials and lesson formats, allowing us to collaboratively develop new ways to instruct the students, making the classes varied and fun, and so improving engagement and hopefully the student’s results.

Tom Garne is a member of the Learning Support Team, and completed PGCAPP Module 1 in 2020

“I found the first module of the PGCAPP very useful. It was a great opportunity to practice and reflect on how I teach, critically looking at what I do and how effective it is at engaging different students. Getting constructive feedback from peers and academics was particularly useful, giving me confidence in my own abilities.

The opportunity to reciprocate and observe others highlighted how small changes can improve a class.

Going forward with a more solid foundation to my teaching I will be able to take more responsibility for how I teach. Recognising that I should be experimenting with techniques rather than replicating my own experience, or those of my technical and academic colleagues, which may no longer be the best methods for me and the students I teach.

As a technician, the PGCAPP has given me a greater understanding of what academics are trying to achieve in their sessions, enabling me to align my teaching with theirs. It also provided an awareness of common teaching techniques and language which will be helpful when communicating with academics in the future.

The module highlighted my responsibility to accept students as I find them. Rather than expecting students to adapt to my teaching style. I need to make sure that my approach is flexible and varied enough to include as many learning styles as I can, reflecting their diverse personalities and prior experience of learning, as well as the roles they may end up choosing when they graduate.

It was great to have an opportunity to improve my teaching skills and have that recognised with a qualification.”

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