As part of the Jisc Digital Leadership Programme pilot I delivered two workshops sessions on Working with Governors. The motivation for this workshop came (as so much in the last year has) from the recommendations from the FELTAG report. Throughout the report there is emphasis on the need for increased understanding of technology from the leaders within the FE and Skills sector in order to progress its use:
‘It is critical that our policy-makers, teachers, governors, and managers fully understand these technological developments and their implications for teaching, learning and assessment in vocational and adult education.’ (FELTAG Recommendations, 2014, p.4 http://feltag.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/FELTAG-REPORT-FINAL.pdf )
The government responded favourably to the recommendations in the FELTAG report and backed the emphasis on the need for Governors and leaders to improve their digital understanding. As part of the government response to the report they gave the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) in conjunction with Jisc the task of providing guidance and resources to the FE and Skills sector to support the digital upskilling of governors and leaders.
It is important to emphasise that while the recommendations came from the English focused FELTAG report it is widely accepted that the recommendations, particularly around leadership and governance, are as relevant to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. As a result of these recommendations ETF set about funding a series of projects from within the FES sector, a selection of which focused on improving the digital understanding of Governors and developing mechanisms to engage with Governors and move digital to the top of their agendas. Jisc and the ETF are now working together to share these resources and ensure their sustainability.
The workshop I delivered was in two parts. The first part provided an overview of the resources available and was designed as an introduction to the sort of resources available and ultimately as an activity to save time for those attending by exploring the resources on their behalf.
The presentation provides an overview of each resource and brief ideas of how each could be used. The slide deck itself is designed so that it can be understood without additional context from a presenter and can be used by individuals when trying to find appropriate guidance and tools for working with governors.
The second part of the workshop was an opportunity for those attending to discuss their current practice of engaging with governors, comparing approaches and developing ideas of how they might improve this in the future. There was a mixture of approaches by different institutions when it came to engaging with Governors. Some had very little opportunity to directly engage while some were able to have direct access to Governors meetings. It was also useful to have attendees from different areas of their institutions at the workshop as we got to hear from ILT leads, and IT managers and approaches covered infrastructure solutions as well as engagement.
There were some common themes that emerged from the conversations. All identified that infrastructure and time were potential barriers to governors being more digitally engaged. It was felt that the principal of a college needed to lead by example and promote the use of digital technology within governors meetings. One college was working to create a paperless experience for its governors by providing devices and software for accessing board papers. This was calculated to be saving money both in terms of paper and printing as well as staff time. One way of encouraging the use of dedicated devices was to make board ‘papers’ more interactive, allowing them to do things that traditional papers could not.
Another college had employed the student voice as a way of engaging with its board of Governors. One of its student governors collaborate with peers and then presented directly to the board to outline the issues students faced and the sort of support and resource they required.
All the workshop participants agreed that a key aspect to engaging with governors on the subject of digital technology was to tie it to a relevant concern. Suggestions were agendas such as assessment, safeguarding and the area-based reviews. Another approach that could also be used was to have a digital champion on the board of governors to take a lead on matters around digital technology. An industry based governor could potentially bring a fresh perspective on technology opportunities. Finally all attendees agreed that the key to successful engagement was to value the time of the governors and therefore to make any engagement relevant with a clear focus on the end result and the benefits to the institution and most importantly to the learners.