Hopwood Hall College is an FE vocational college, situated across two campuses, Rochdale and Middleton, in the UK. The college offers a huge range of courses from pre-entry level through to foundation degrees.
Just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the college embarked on a series of initiatives to bolster quality improvements across the organisation. These initiatives included expanding an already established focus on teaching and learning. An entirely new dedicated role was created which saw the appointment of two Advanced Practitioners (APs) responsible for key TLA activities including induction, observations, CPD training, teaching and learning groups and departmental reviews.
The college was searching for a new quality assurance model that would offer organisation-wide accessibility and promote a more learner-centred, autonomous approach to TLA. With 24⁄7 access to over 160 step-by-step guides to evidence-based teaching techniques plus a range of social learning tools to promote shared, community-driven learning, the HOW2 platform offered the scalable, comprehensive solution that the college was looking for.
When introduced to the HOW2 app, AP and Early Years Lecturer Alison Loughnane could see immediately, as both an AP and a teacher, that it would give her a different way of doing things. She said;
“Although I was familiar with some of the teaching strategies on the app, it offered clear and concise steps to follow plus additional tweaks that I hadn’t previously come across. After just a brief insight into the platform, I could tell that the HOW2s would offer usable techniques that would require minimal forethought or planning.”
The Challenge; Introducing the HOW2s During a Pandemic
To get started with the app, Alison, as the HOW2 Lead, identified a range of different areas that the college wanted to improve upon. With the help of the HOW2 team, she created a specific HOW2 set to launch the platform. The set included a range of techniques that would support the craft of teaching in a variety of ways.
Using the platform’s community notice feature, Alison launched the HOW2 set inviting teachers to put the techniques into practice and ‘set their status’ using the HOW2 skills exchange — a key feature which allows staff to build their own library of expertise and quickly see who is considering, working on, or has already embedded a particular technique.
Introducing the platform amidst Covid restrictions came with its challenges as very soon after launch, the college went into lockdown. The HOW2 team responded quickly delivering an extensive range of techniques designed to work in online teaching environments. Alison said:
The HOW2s are now an embedded feature within Hopwood Hall’s ETFAP Connect Project, designed to build stretch and challenge for all learners across the college, with some powerful student outcomes. The TLCs are part of this project and continue to drive the platform within their own departments.
According to Alison, students who would usually get a pass and the occasional merit, are starting to achieve higher grades in their assignments. HOW2 techniques like Graphic Organisers and the Fishbone Planner have been particularly popular with practical step-by-step solutions to help students to organise their thoughts, think about the use of command verbs, pull together evidence and write conclusions.
Alison goes on to share some recent feedback from a Hopwood Hall tutor on Pilot & Navigator, a HOW2 technique designed to help students clarify and find phrases to express their understanding of a process in the correct sequence.
According to Alison, techniques such as iTransform Online and Online Entry Routines became popular very quickly. Before long, statuses on the HOW2 skills exchange were changing and more teachers started to use the platform.
HOW2 of the Month and Teaching and Learning Champions
Building on its early successes with the platform, driving its uptake within the college is a top priority for the APs at Hopwood Hall who have established a team of Teaching and Learning Champions (TLCs) within the college — tutors who voluntarily assist with TLA activities and trialling the HOW2s.
The TLC’s try out a specific HOW2 technique for a few weeks and then provide feedback on how effective it has been and what their learners thought about it. This information is collated into a ‘HOW2 of the Month’ poster. All teachers are then asked to try this HOW2 for the following month.
Using the platform’s notes feature, TLCs have been able to share their experiences of using the HOW2s with other members of staff. Alison added: “There’s even a Teaching and Learning Collaboration Board in each department staff room now which lists all staff mentors and the HOW2 of the month. It also records staff feedback on the HOW2s.”
Although it’s still early days for Hopwood Hall, the uptake of the HOW2s is increasing daily. Every department has its own set of HOW2 techniques and the platform is now firmly established as an integral part of the college’s core TLA activities.
Supporting Hopwood Hall’s Stretch and Challenge Philosophy
Hopwood Hall offers a broad range of vocational courses and although students attend the college to gain qualifications in their chosen vocational subject, achieving a grade 4 in Maths or English means having to continue with these subjects. Alison said:
The Hopwood Hall tutor used the technique in his functional skills maths class with students preparing for an exam. Learners worked together to guide each other through different exam questions. One learner would explain to another how to successfully complete the maths problem, by explaining the steps needed, whilst the other completed the maths in the question using the instructions. They would then change roles on different questions depending on who had the ‘expertise’ with that particular maths topic. The tutor said;
“The technique was quite powerful as there was very little ‘teacher instruction’ and learners were left to explore the learning independently. It was great for me to stand back and assess how much learners had taken in over the year so far and how well they could articulate and explain the maths to another learner. It was great for their confidence and a great tool for exam practice as they won’t have me in the exam to help them!”
When asked about how students responded to the technique, the tutor explained that the students had really enjoyed it. The feedback they gave was that they found lessons like this useful and they enjoyed working together to solve problems. He added:
“It gave them a real confidence boost when they realised they understood the Maths well enough to give somebody else instructions on how to solve the questions.”
The HOW2 platform has delivered a valuable management tool for Hopwood Hall College’s Senior Leadership Team (SLT), providing an ‘at-a-glance’ view of the variety and volume of HOW2s being used in the classroom, workshop and practical sessions.
Alongside attendance and planning, the HOW2s have been established as part of the college’s core review and appraisal processes. Programme Managers and Centre Directors reflect on particular techniques with staff and ask them to use specific HOW2s to address a particular teaching or learning need. Using the platform and keeping their HOW2 status updated, is now a key requirement for all teaching staff at the college.