Core elements of PATS
Our suggestion is that the core elements required for a contemporary PATS design include:
- Planning (project activities, milestones, deliverables)
- Peer Engagement
- Goal Setting (SMART – includes timeframe, measured output)
- Professional development
- Reporting (plans and outcomes)
Developing a PATS design
- Specific issues or opportunities that the PATS variation is addressing
- Stakeholders (students, teaching staff, administrative staff)
- Audience (University, Faculty, Associate Dean, Learning and Teaching)
- Scale of influence – related to scope (individual, teaching team, Learning and Teaching community)
If the Purpose includes Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, then an additional activity of developing an evaluation-research design supported by ethics approval is necessary.
There are ten key components to consider in PATS:
- Type of Quality Enhancement
- Type of Peer-Relationships
- PATS Activities
A downloadable checklist template is available to help formulate your PATS variation
The local context is a major driver for varying and adapting PATS. In particular, it is useful to identify the extent of your ability to influence individual academics to participate in PATS or academic leaders to support its implementation as an institutional program. An academic in charge of a unit may have less authoritative influence than the coordinator of a degree program. An Associate Dean may decree participation in PATS for units with low student satisfaction scores.
- What is your capacity to exercise influence?
- What kind of influence will you want to (be able to) exercise? (persuasive/authoritative)
- What is your leadership role and responsibilities?
- What are the characteristics of staff employees you want to participate? (individual teacher; teaching team (including professional staff); tutors; sessional staff; PhD candidates)
- What is the scope in terms of curriculum you intend to cover in the PATS activities? (single unit; selected or all units in a degree program; all courses in a Faculty; university wide program)
- What support can be offered to participants?
A central tenet of classic PATS is goal-directed activities. Contemporary PATS maintains a commitment to “SMART” goals for each PATS variation.
- What is the goal of a PATS program for your context?
- Is your goal (or goals):
- Specific and Strategic to course improvements and student satisfaction.
- Measureable throughout, and at the end of, PATS by easily obtainable and highly valued data.
- Attainable and Achievable by the end of the PATS process.
- Relevant and Results-orientated in relation to the key focus areas of educator course, assessment, learning activities, resources administration and students.
- Timely and Time-bound allowing for clear direction of time and energy by PATS partners. (Ross et al. forthcoming).
Type of Peer Relationships
Classic PATS has flexible peer partnership models to provide skilful, knowledgeable support to an individual teacher. The most common partnership is where an experienced and successful teacher will agree to mentor a peer through a process to fix a known problem. This relationship is short-term, focused on a specific project and follows a structured program. Alternatives include one-on-one internal or external mentor, peer-to-peer, peer-to-team and reciprocal relationship. Peer relationships can be informed by Communities of Practice theory (Wenger 1998) or by a shared/distributed leadership model (Jones et al 2014, Pearce 1994).
- What peer partnership model would suit/help achieve the goals?
- What level of commitment should be described for mentors and PATS participants?
- What reward needs to be communicated for participation in a peer-partnership?
Participants in a PATS program can be anyone whose role has an effect on the teaching, curriculum or learning of students.
- Who will be recruited to participate? (teaching team, tutors, sessional staff, PhD students)
- How will they be recruited? (invitation; role requirement)
- How will participation be recorded and reported?
‘Classic’ PATS provides a tightly structured framework of connected activities completed within a specified time. The PATS workbook provides seven activities (see Figure 1) for participants to complete. Three of these activities occur before semester starts, two during semester, and two after the semester are completed. Activities 1 ‘Meet and Greet’ and 2 ‘Break down the Barriers’ are used to establish the partnership and focus on the barriers participants perceive are standing in the way of making improvements. In Activity 3, ‘Goals for Improvement’, participants are asked to set goals and strategies to reinvigorate their teaching practice. Participants are asked to gather informal student feedback in Activity 4 ‘Informal Student Feedback’ and complete a peer observation of teaching in Activity 5 ‘Peer Review’. Activity 6, ‘Critical Reflection’, asks that mentees critically reflect on their teaching and course. In the final task, ‘Performance Planning’, participants are required to capture both the qualitative and quantitative changes in their performance as it relates to teaching improvement, educational leadership and education standing.
The case stories of PATS adaptations show that the specifics of goal, timeline, milestones, resources and expected outcomes for a quality enhancement activity can vary from classic PATS, however each PATS activity needs to include those elements.
- What is your goal?
- What tasks will support achieving your goal?
- Classic PATS core tasks: briefing meetings; project plan (goal-setting, milestones, resourcing, timeline, report); professional development workshops; peer partner meetings.
- PATS variation tasks: project plan, research plan with ethics application (publication outputs), publication plan, communication mechanisms (online; blended; face-to-face), professional development (online; blended; face-to-face); peer partnership plan;
The theoretical foundations of classic PATS are social learning theory (Vygotsky, 1978), situated learning theory (Lave, 1988), distributed leadership (Jones et al 2014), peer mentoring (Dawson, 2014), critical self-reflection (Brookfield, 1995) and communities of practice theory (Wenger, 1998). These theories informed decision on the structure, processes and relational elements embedded in the PATS program. For example, Vygotsky’s theoretical framework claims that social interaction plays a fundamental role in the development of cognition. It uses the idea of ‘zone of proximal development’ (ZPD) to infer that the range of skills that one can develop with a ‘knowledgeable other’ exceeds what can be attained alone. In the case of PATS the knowledgeable other is a peer who has received an award for their teaching or has an outstanding reputation as a teacher. Lave (1988) also argues that learning is constructed in social situations but takes place in an authentic context. As people engage in discussion and activities extensively over time and share an area of interest, a “community of practice” is formed (Lave 2009). Newcomers become a part of community of practice when they move toward full participation in social cultural practices of a community. This is called “legitimate peripheral participation” (Lave and Wenger, 1991).
The case stories include PATS variation designs that drew on additional theoretical perspectives, for example distributed leadership to inform adaptations for teaching team contexts. Three lenses in particular have been used by Contemporary PATS variations: mentoring, agency and professional identity and distributed leadership and organisational change. The lenses were useful to investigate questions such as, ‘What does good mentoring look like?’ (mentoring lens); ‘To what extent does PATS empower participants to make decisions and innovate compared with other forms of professional development available to them?’ (agency); ‘To what extent do casual academics engaging in the PATS process feel that they have an increased ‘academic voice’ and professional identity)?’ (identity) and ‘what were common barriers to enabling leadership capability and how were they overcome?’ (leadership).
- What theoretical perspectives might/will inform your PATS design?
- What theories will help you interpret the outcomes and judge the achievement of your goals?
It is possible to implement a classic PATS program without any institutional support by arranging your own mentor and using the resources on the PATS website: www.monash.edu/pats
- What existing infrastructure and organisational systems are available to support your PATS variation?
- What infrastructure and organisational systems need to be in place to support your PATS variation?
A corollary of the need for institutional infrastructure is the requirement to have stakeholder buy-in, in particular management commitment to ensure PATS is embedded in a sustainable way.
- Who will be likely staff members participating in PATS and who are likely staff members supporting a PATS program?
- Who are the gate-keepers and institutional stakeholders that you need to engage to achieve a sustainable PATS program?
- What information needs to be communicated?
- What are the potential challenges/barriers that you need to address?
PATS is inherently an evidence-based program and has produced a solid body of research publications demonstrating its utility and benefits. It is also important to establish measurable goals for a PATS variation and to collect data that can be analysed to evaluate the outcomes of its implementation.
- What will be the reporting requirements to stakeholders (what evidence will you need to collect? What metrics will you use to measure the effectiveness and impact of implementing PATS?)
- How will I evaluate the extent to which the PATS variation is achieving its goals?
- What data would I need to collect? How?
Type of Quality Enhancement
Contemporary PATS can be designed to address one or more outcome. A key principle is to set up a PATS program or approach that will provide an evidence base to inform or enable at least one of the following outcomes:
- Identifying and acting on opportunities for quality improvement (QI+)
- Monitoring for poor performance and instituting remediation (QI-)
- Reporting against internal and external quality standards (QA)
- Analysing data related to impact and effectiveness for scholarly purposes (SOTL)
Our taxonomy for quality enhancement activities highlights different measurement orientations and intended outcomes.
What is the primary outcome you intend to achieve?