Virtual Advisory Service

We have been exploring the development of a Virtual Advisory service with LTS. LTS are responding to requests from teachers and local authorities for some sort of personnel resource to replicate the subject advisory service of old. Subject advisers were traditionally employed to develop their subject in local authority schools. This model had much to commend and many outstanding Scottish educators have been subject advisers who have had a significant impact upon their curricular area.

There are two models being considered:

The first model tries to aligne itself with the traditional model of subject expert.  In this form the teacher would post a question on a website and await a response from a subject expert employed by LTS.  In due course the advice would be dispensed and the teacher would have their answer. For example a teacher might have particular query about how to teach an aspect of maths to P6 pupils.

The second model builds upon the practice which is emerging through the Exc-el experience. Here a group of teachers are asked to keep a blog and focus on a subject area – both at primary and secondary level. In the first instance this would create a community of learners who could share their practice and support each other. The ‘subject expert’ adopts a very different role from the first model in that they do not attempt to dispense advice but point people towards those who are tackling the same problem. The ‘expert’ asks questions, points toward resources, identifies emerging practice. In some ways this does pick up on one of the strengths of the old subject adviser system who often helped to develop very strong and successful networks of professionals dedicated to developing their subject.

So which model do I prefer – well that’s probably fairly obvious given my less than impartial description of the two. But If we take Craig Stebbing’s work as an example of what can be done in a subject liike maths – which is not known for creative approaches towards teaching and learning (apologies all maths teachers) – then I think we gain an insight on the future. 

My key point is that we don’t want to create a dependency culture where people’s problems will be ‘sorted’ by someone who  supposedly knows more than they do.  In some ways this just reaffirms the traditional approach we sometimes see in the classroom where learners all too often adopt an essentially passive role.

What do you think? – is there a need for subject expertise to be presented in the form of the first model? Should we try to develop the second model? Or are there combinations of the two models we might consider?

8 thoughts on “Virtual Advisory Service

  1. We maths teachers are now in a collective huff :wink

    Seriously, how could anyone prefer the first option? The fact is that the second option is what will happen, whether or not LTS choose to support it.

    Support from LTS will make a big difference though, if only because it will give an official seal of approval, which does matter to some people. It will give everyone permission to go down the line of option 2, in the same way that your blogging has given teachers in East Lothian permission to blog. You should not underestimate the influence that you have had 🙂

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  3. The second option for me is also the way forward. Interestingly in the Geography world we sort out all of our problems and have got advice on-line for years. We do this in Stafordshire! Strange isn’t it. The Staffordshire Learning Net Geography Forum is the most successful forum of its kind for geography teachers it has received over 38562 separate posts in the few years of its existence where as the math thread as received under 50 posts in the same amount of time. I’m not sure why there is such a contrast, but the support, advice and ideas that I get from the forum are invaluable.

  4. I’m all for the second option. It makes sense.

    I would also like to say thank you for your comments on Stebblog. However it has not been all my own work. The people that have really made it happen are the students. They see that collaboration is the way forward and have embraced the idea of helping each other where they can. Long may it continue.

  5. The Virtual Advisory Service is not an either/or option. Nor is it an exercise in turning the clock back to some mythical bygone better age. The aim of this project is to combine the best of the traditional and the modern; to blend the superb access afforded us by advances in technology with the availability of direct contact with high quality, experienced and credible practitioners to provide advice and support. These aspects are not mutually exclusive. The First Phase Pilot of the Virtual Advisory Service, which is scheduled to begin in February 2007, aims to explore the range of support needs of practitioners in 5 authorities across science, numeracy and literacy in the first instance. The longer term aim is for LTS to provide a forward looking support network that is tailored to the needs and learning preferences of educational professionals. I am looking forward to working with the teachers who will help us develop and improve the service.

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