Strength in diversity

Sarah Cornelius, University of Aberdeen, UK

February 2nd 2021

Strength in diversity

The PROMISE team at the University of Aberdeen have worked together over many years to deliver the Teaching Qualification in Further Education (TQFE). This is the professional teaching qualification for Lecturers in Scotland’s Colleges, and diversity is something we deal with on a daily basis. We work with Lecturers across a very wide range of disciplines – there is probably one for every letter of the alphabet (accountancy, beauty therapy, construction, digital skills … even zoo management) - and from a wide range of academic backgrounds (vocational qualifications to PhDs). Accommodating such diversity can be a challenge, but within the team we see diversity as a strength – we each bring different professional and personal experiences, perspectives and ideas to our work.


The University of Aberdeen PROMISE team: (L-R) Aileen Ackland, Steph Thomson, Mary Stephen, Sarah Cornelius, Chris Aldred

Diversity is also a strength of the PROMISE project. When we joined the partnership it was sometimes difficult to see how we fitted in, and what we could offer to a group which mostly represented organisations involved with the training and professional development of school teachers. However, working and learning together about the different national and professional contexts represented in the project has been a tremendous learning experience. We have been prompted to reflect on our own practice, learn about other perspectives and work together across the diversity of the partnership to create new understandings, ideas and products. We have adapted innovations from the project to our own context and they have benefited our courses and students. Within the partnership every perspective is valued and there has been genuine knowledge exchange between partners.

The experience is one we try to replicate for our students in an ‘international activity’. You can find more detail about this in the PROMISE toolkit. For the activity we ask our students to identify a dilemma or challenge in their own practice, and using online tools, support them to engage in discussion and debate with peers from across Scotland. This is supplemented by a live online question and answer session with a panel of international experts from Europe and beyond. The activity provides opportunities to identify similarities and differences in vocational education across countries and encourages students to take on board new perspectives on their own challenges. 

PROMISE colleagues have provided valuable feedback and ideas to help us develop the international activity, and their collaboration is timely and welcome. We are looking forward to being able to visit our partners again soon as there is nothing more rewarding than learning about a different context through the experience of being there. In the meantime we continue to enjoy our multinational online meetings and the diversity of ideas and opinions that surface in our discussions.