Teachers helping teachers – the benefits of developing an online network

Image of Facebook being accessed on tablet

As Psychology Subject Officer for WJEC Eduqas, an important part of my role is to support the teachers who are teaching my specifications. I do this in a variety of ways: offering face-to-face CPD; answering emails and phone calls; developing resources for the classroom etc. However, a British Psychological Society (BPS) survey of psychology teachers, undertaken in 2012, found that 43.2% of respondents said that they found support from within their school or college to be most supportive way of making progress in their teaching. Having been a teacher for 18 years this rings true to my own experience; however, the BPS[1] highlights the fact that ‘a worrying feature often unique to A-level Psychology teaching, is the number of staff in single, standalone departments who have no one in their school to discuss psychological issues with.’

Removing the barrier of teacher isolation

This started me thinking about what I could do to help remove the barrier of teacher isolation. I wanted to develop a learning-team model of professional development for all my teachers whether they were a single teacher in a centre or part of a bigger teaching team. Nicola Slawson[2] highlighted that ‘social media, love it or loathe it, has changed the way teachers work – particularly when it comes to their continued professional development (CPD).’ I felt that creating an online platform would enable us to establish a collaborative online environment for teachers. After looking at the variety of platforms available we decided that Facebook gave us the functionality we wanted.  Members would be able to:

  • Easily share links with each other
  • Upload files of teaching resources
  • Engage in conversations with other members.

We created a closed group for privacy reasons and I act as admin in order to add new members and to monitor the group. From the start we made it clear that we encourage teachers to share resources, advice, and subject-related news to help fellow group members, whilst noting that content uploaded is not endorsed by WJEC and WJEC Eduqas and remains the responsibility of the group member. Also, while we encourage members to share openly in the group, any negative or defamatory comments may be deleted without warning if necessary. Thankfully, this has been an extremely rare occurrence.

The success of the network group

We launched the group last year and it wasn’t long before the members realised that the page was most useful in gathering ideas and suggestions from other teachers rather than just from me. At this moment in time the network groups has 267 members who have posted 1897 times and shared 66 photos, 70 videos, 152 files for teaching, 1100 links to useful research and articles, 657 statuses, 2200 reactions, 1600 comments, and 6 events.

I’m completely overwhelmed by the high level of engagement of my teachers, even more so because a survey found that 50% of respondents checked the page every day with the other 50% checking it at least once a week. I’ve found that they used the network for a variety of reasons:

Table showing how teachers use group

What this demonstrates is that psychology teachers:

  • Want to help each other
  • Are eager to get their teaching right
  • Have a passion for their subject
  • …And get a lot from bouncing ideas off each other.

When we asked teachers what they liked about the network, they said:

“The frank discussions and helpful resources.”

“Accessibility – ability to ask questions and get timely responses.”

“Interaction with other teachers. I am the only psychology teacher in my area, so having this network really helps me.”

“Wow, thanks so much for sharing this! We have been revising component 1 this week and students asked for something exactly like this and I was about to start creating! Really grateful for you sharing.”

Link sharing has become a major feature of the group, so I produce a monthly shared links document for teachers under the heading of the specifications.  I also place these on the WJEC and Eduqas webpages for the teachers who have chosen not to have access to the Facebook page.

This has become a useful flipped classroom resource which has allowed our teachers to share articles or videos with their students to read or watch prior to their next lesson.

The page has become an important part of the support that we offer in psychology.  Teachers often find it easier to engage with this platform compared to emails and talking on the phone.  I believe it has become a positive extension to our CPD provision where teachers continue to network each other throughout the academic year.  It also has become a part of CPD provision that is owned by our teachers, and what an amazing bunch they are!

What has been your best experience of support for the new A Levels?

Dr Rachel Dodge is the Psychology Subject Officer at WJEC Eduqas.

Interested WJEC and Eduqas are invited to join the network on Facebook.

References

[1] British Psychological Society (2013) Briefing paper – The Future of A-level Psychology, accessed here.

[2] Slawson. N (2016) How teachers can use social media to boost their CPD – live chat The Guardian 21 February 2016, accessed here.

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