From left: Jon Vincent, Principal, Glasgow Clyde College; Emily Black, Learning Inclusion Advisor; Jim Metcalfe, CEO, CDN and Mary Black, Qualifications Manager, SQA

Emily Black is the first candidate to complete the revised PDA Advancing Equality and Diversity. Here, she tells us about the experience.

Why did you apply for the PDA Advancing Equality and Diversity through Inclusiveness?

I wanted to complete a recognised and pertinent course which complimented and informed my practice in my new role as a Learning Inclusion Adviser. In addition, I wanted to undertake a course which would formally acknowledge the key duties of my role.

How did you hear about the PDA?

This PDA (or preceding similar courses) is completed by the other Learning Inclusion Advisers who I work with at Glasgow Clyde College (GCC). It is a standard course which all Learning Inclusion Advisers are encouraged to undertake. This reflects GCC policy to provide relevant training to its support staff, which in turn feeds into providing a high standard of extended learning support by the college. I was encouraged by my line manager at GCC to complete the course, she provided me with information and contacts about it.

What did you enjoy about the PDA?

There were several aspects of the course which made it enjoyable. The delivery of the course was very good, this had a substantial impact on a) achieving within the course and b) enjoying the course as I progressed through it. Having a variety of lecturing and support staff contacts was further positive aspect of the course delivery. Each of these lecturers were well informed (experts?) in their topics and always provided both practical and knowledgeable feedback on the area they were delivering on.

The technical advice and overall online set up was very helpful.  It was easy to contact technical support which alleviated any concerns about the course being delivered online.

All lecturers made the online sessions feel relaxed and encouraged the students to engage in the sessions. This was facilitated by the group work tasks and the pre session tasks we were asked to complete. This meant that instead of just sitting and listening for two hours we actually got to participate within the ‘class’.

The tasks and assessments we had to complete to pass the course were clearly outlined at the start of the course. Information in this was provided not only in resources such as course handbook but were also discussed in the online sessions. Again, alleviating concerns about the course requirements.

The set up and delivery of the mentoring phase was well organised. My mentor (Julie Grant) provided clear, concise and useful feedback with in a good turnaround time.  There was always acknowledgement of her receiving emails and a proposed date when I could expect to receive feedback.

I have moved on to complete another online course in a Post Grad Masters in Dyslexia at the University of Birmingham, as a result I feel I can provide an object and comparative viewpoint of the course delivery. Overall I prefer the delivery of the PDA for the reasons outlined above.

What did you think about the way in which the PDA was delivered?

The lecturers and other CDN staff were always friendly, approachable and always informative.  Multiple contacts, each to the correct person, again was helpful. The time scales for completion of tasks and coursework allowed for the expectation of the student to be working. The workload and content was appropriate and again allowed for the expectation that the student to be working.

Due to the clear and concise way in which the course was delivered, I felt I knew exactly what I had to do to complete the course. There were no unexpected surprises, which may influence the achievability of the course.

What do you regard as being the benefits of this qualification?

The content covered in each section of the course is directly relevant to the role and practice of a Learning Inclusion Adviser. As a result it informs and guides the work carried out by a Learning Inclusion Adviser.  For example, the contextual analysis was interesting as it provided information on the wider context and role of the college with in its setting. The AT portfolio covered applicable practical information. In addition, the flexibility to compile your own portfolio meant you could investigate AT that is used with in your own workplace, again reinforcing the relevance to the role.  The mentoring lead NAR portfolio was specifically useful for understanding the DSA application process.

Having completed the PDA and having a positive experience with the course encouraged me to apply for a further online course.  Without the experience and knowledge of completing the PDA online I may have felt less confident in applying for further study. This is an experience I hope other staff within the learning inclusion team would also share and so also may move on to further study to support their practice as a Learning Inclusion Adviser.

How has it impacted on your practice?

I feel it has improved my confidence in the decisions I make as a Learning Inclusion Adviser. It has also gave me a better understanding of the expected role and responsibilities of the Learning Inclusion Adviser. Completing the course has helped me feel more able and confident in my communication with other staff such as teaching staff, specifically in communicating the overarching aims and ethos of learning inclusion team. This then provides the teaching staff with a better understanding of what to expect from the department and extended learning support. As a result support staff and teaching staff can work closer together to promote an inclusive learning environment. As part of my contextual analysis I spent some time discussing the college with the Equality and Diversity officer, this again demonstrates the opportunity to communicate with other staff within the college. In addition, it was helpful to be able to draw on the experience of other staff and learn from them.

Has it enhanced your career prospects, if so how?

Formal qualifications for support staff are becoming more common. I think this is a positive aspect as it standardises and progresses the work we do. This progression is based on legislation and seminal evidence based research. I now feel I have developed my understanding and practical knowledge of inclusive education. I am aware that this knowledge is a prerequisite for most learning inclusion adviser roles in any FE/HE setting.

Would you recommend studying the PDA?

I would recommend studying for the PDA. It is achievable whilst working as a Learning Inclusion Adviser. This is mainly due to the appropriateness of the workload in the course and also because the mentoring phase is inherently linked to the work completed on a daily basis by the Learning Inclusion Adviser.  

What is your opinion of the PDA?

The course very much facilitates and feeds into the duties and responsibilities of a Learning Inclusion Adviser. It provides the opportunity to expand your knowledge of learning inclusion support, whilst developing practical AT skills.  The mentoring phase, I feel, is essential for developing an understanding of the DSA application process.  The course organisation, set up, delivery and communication is a very high standard, all of these factors are imperative in order to make the course achievable for students who are also working.


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