Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Cilip Event: Chartership and Beyond

Yesterday, I attended an afternoon seminar/workshop that looked at Chartership and specifically, at the portfolio element. Basically, there were two parts to the afternoon.

Part 1
The first was a presentation from a Cilip representative (his presentation slides are available on the Cilip website – http://www.cilip.org.uk/NR/rdonlyres/337A6104-A074-4A13-B4E7-433C36F5DCE4/0/charter05i.ppt. He looked at portfolios from three perspectives:
  • Why do we need them?
  • What should they contain?
  • How should they be organised?
Why do we need them?

The long and the short of this section was that it was a means of presenting evidence from the individual's potentially multiple jobs against the assessment criteria. He went on to present additional situations where it could be useful to have this portfolio (e.g. appraisals at work and job interviews).

What should they contain?
I was reassured to see that what we were told our application should contain matched very closely my diagram below in my entry from 16 March. Rather than list those components again, here are the additional remarks that I felt were worth capturing:
  • The contents table is really important and must be easily navigable
  • Your CV can be up to 4 sides of A4 and is a good opportunity to present those things that have had to be culled from the portfolio
  • The PPDP is submitted both early on in the process and as part of the application as it is a living document and things may have changed; it can be backdated and it might be worth carrying out a lifeline exercise to help highlight the key events and themes
  • The evaluative statement discusses the criteria and directs the evaluator to the relevant pieces of evidence in the portfolio; it should be evaluative and NOT descriptive
We then looked at what goes into the portfolio itself:
  • Certificates
  • Staff reviews
  • Articles you've written / published
  • Project briefs / reports (include your contribution only if it‘s a particularly large document)
  • Personal reports on contribution (e.g. meetings, events, visits)
  • Training (and evaluation of it's effectiveness)
  • Evidence of work-based learning (e.g. enquiry replies, publicity done, letters/memos, guidance notes, testimonies)
  • Relevant our of work experiences
  • Webpages
  • A/V materials
  • Skills audit
How should it be organised?

This section didn't take long to cover and was really a reminder of how they would like it to be presented. The key points that I picked out were:
  • Divided into clearly marked sections
  • Comb binding is preferred
  • Write in 12pt font
  • Submission must be in triplicate but one copy can be electronic (I'm not too sure how that would work without scanning in quite a few things and even then, sorting out the pagination would be quite a challenge)
The presentation concluded with a few "words to the wise", the most useful of which I felt was to "think evidence" and be ruthless keeping it in relation to the criteria.

Part 2
The second part of the session was a more interactive session where we were asked to think about a few different questions, discuss them with our colleagues and then share them with the rest of the group (your good old "think / pair / share" format). I won't record my responses because it was just meant to be a session to get you thinking about the process and how you would proceed in the short, medium and long terms:
  • What do I need to do right now to progress my application?
  • List 3 or 4 items to be used as evidence and how they meet the assessment criteria.
  • Consider the gaps in your skills and outline the plan for addressing them.
  • What areas does your work fall into? Consider whether these could be used as a structure for your application that could be x-referred to the criteria.

So that is about it. I had a mixed response to the session. Much of what was discussed in the first part covered aspects of the process that would apply to someone just starting out and as I'm 6 months into it and have submitted my PPDP already, those bits weren't very helpful (e.g. how to register and how to get a mentor). I attended a Starting out on Chartership event about 2 or 3 years ago when I originally registered for Chartership but then had to put it to one side for a while. It is recommended (in fact, I think it used to be required) that candidates attend one of these sessions and that one 2 or 3 years ago counted so I didn't look for another one. I wish that I had gone to a session like this when I picked it back up again, though, as a reminder – it would have saved me quite a lot of stress.

On the other hand, some of the sections made me feel a better about what I was doing (e.g. the contents of the application, as I mentioned above) but more importantly, when it came to discussing what goes into the portfolio, two things really sank in as being important and relevant to me:
  1. It's a lot of work and I need to get on with some of the aspects, like library visits.
  2. I need to focus on being more reflective in my different documents and less descriptive.
So on the whole, I guess those two lessons being pretty valuable ones made it a good use of my time and I now need to show that I have learned from them.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Metadata: document- versus content-level

We have now created and agreed a working model (for lack of a better term) of a metadata schema. This schema has been integrated into our workflow software and it is this way that the metadata will be gathered. Clearly, as we use it, tweaks will need to be made and the workflow software is flexible enough for us to do so.

We are also trying to introduce XML content-level metadata and to date, we have managed to get a series of templates agreed. These templates are tightly controlled in terms of their structure so introducing XML from a structural perspective should be straight forward and we’re evaluating a couple of tools for ensuring that the XML tags are correctly applied.

Software Challenges
The biggest problem that we’re having with the software that will enable the move from templates in MS Word to XML encoded content is the fact that much of the writing is fulfilled by external suppliers and this raises licensing problems. They aren’t insurmountable but it will require a flexible software vendor, disciplined suppliers and fair bit of negotiation to agree something.

Document- and Content-level metadata: relationship
So if the XML metadata is focussed mainly on document structure (e.g. this content is the Introduction, this content is the Methodology, etc.) how does this relate to the document-level metadata which looks at subject, relational and bibliographic aspects of the document? The two are mutually exclusive to some extent but how relevant is the document-level metadata to the content? Should it be captured and accompany the content? I don’t really know the answers to this these questions and they’re the easier ones!

At the moment, I think that the best solution would be to include within the content-level metadata a reference to the document(s) of which it forms part. Someone could then move from content-level to document-level metadata if they wanted to see subject, relational, or bibliographic data. Of course, the minute you reuse some content, say a “Findings” paragraph in an “Introduction” paragraph, that structural element changes. So the structural element needs to exist within the context of a document of origin / reuse. But wait, because here is where it starts getting really tricky…

If we want to assign subject metadata at the content-level will we have to double our work? I can’t think of any other way...the subject of a particular paragraph will not be the same as that of the document as a whole.

Also, how do we manage bibliographic metadata at the content-level? For example, the first time a paragraph is written (probably as part of a larger document), the author associated with the paragraph and the document are one and the same and is probably pretty easy to establish. What do we do when the paragraph is combined with paragraphs that are also taken form other documents and ones that are new? I think that one can argue that the author of the individual paragraphs is clear but who is the author of the document?

Conclusion (resignedly)

The more I think about it, the more I think that we are just going to have to manage two levels of metadata. At the point of creation, the content- and document- level metadata are the same but as content is reused, two distinct and different levels of metadata emerge. To be honest, it would be a big step forward if we were to introduce structural metadata at the content-level and as this presents the fewest or simplest (not simple, mind you, simplest) challenges, I think we will pursue this objective and reassess where we go from there.

Friday, March 16, 2007

March mentoring meeting

Last night we had our monthly mentoring meeting. This was a bit of a regrouping and reassessing meeting having been focussed on finishing and submitting my PPDP.

Agreement review
The first thing we did was to review the mentoring agreement. As per our originally submitted agreement, we reviewed it at the six-month mark and agreed that it still reflected the way we were working and that we were both happy with the way it was going. This whole conversation took about 10 minutes but it was useful as a prompt to make sure that the relationship is working out from both perspectives.

PPDP submission acknowledgement
We then had a little chat about acknowledgement from CILIP on receipt of the PPDP. Not too long after Karen sent in the PPDP, I received a letter from CILIP acknowledging the PPDP and the mentoring agreement (which had been submitted some months earlier – I was a little surprised to see that in the same letter, but there you are!).

Library visits
With those two items on the agenda ticked off, it was on to the library visits that we had discussed. This was a slightly embarrassing topic for me as of all the actions agreed around these visits (identifying libraries, actually arranging and attending the visits) that remain outstanding are mine – [awkward/guilty feeling]. Reminded by Karen (and still feeling guilty), I committed to getting those all at least arranged by the next meeting.

Action: D – arrange library visits by 19/04/2007

Our final item was one that we both had put onto the agenda – the portfolio. I was keen to run through the different components of the portfolio and talk about formats. Karen was keen to discuss the contents and find out how I was doing with assembling materials. This one is a lightly less embarrassing topic for me as I have actually made some, albeit tentative, steps towards pulling things together. I have created a table of the different sections of the portfolio (which match the different sections of the PPDP) and started to record evidence items against each. The idea is to help me identify gaps early-on. I have created a file of course certificates and have set aside copies of relevant documents that I have created in my current role that I will include. Where I am overdue is on the review of materials from previous jobs. I have always kept copies of pieces of work that I was particularly proud so will be able to pull a few things together but there are some pretty minor things that might be a little more difficult.

There are a few items that I might have to go through archived emails from previous jobs to find (not entirely sure that I should have copies of these archives but let’s just move on!). For example, in my current role, I don’t take meeting minutes. In my previous role, I used to have my team rotate chair and minute-taker at our meetings and so had plenty of examples. Another is personnel reviews to show line management experience. At the moment, the one position that reports to me is filled by a temp so no personnel reviews. In my last role, I had five direct reports so had many personnel reviews to write. Hopefully, a deep trawl of the files that I do have from previous roles will turn up some good samples!

In terms of components to the portfolio, I wanted to be clear in my mind what they were so here is the list with which we came up:
  • Portfolio Table of Contents
  • Evaluative statement (<1000 words, check formatting requirements)
  • Detailed CV
  • Organisational charts from all previous jobs
  • Personal Professional Development Plan
  • Personal Professional Development Log
  • Weblog
  • Portfolio evidence:
    • from first job (1999 to 2003)
    • from second job (2003 to 2006)
    • from third/current job (2006 to present)
  • Evidence of participation in mentoring scheme
    • x-references to blog entries
    • copy of mentoring agreement
    • copy of scheme evaluation
I will also need to submit alongside my portfolio:
  • An application form (must request this from CILIP in late August)
  • Mentoring scheme evaluation form
I think that what I will do is base the submission on the sections identified in the PPDP and for each of these, provide the PPDP parts, the PPDL parts and the evidence. At the beginning of this ‘book’, I will have a ToC, followed by the evaluative statement, the CV and the org charts and at the end, I will have the evidence of participation in a mentoring scheme section.

So that’s it. For the sake of a challenge, I’m going to try to create a diagram to represent the contents and see if I can upload it to the blog…hopefully there is a diagram below!

Hmm - having some trouble with that...I think that worked...did that work? It would seem so!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Copyright statements

Currently, all of the publications that our Research and Development team publish carry a copyright statement that allows readers to reproduce the publication free of charge as long as it’s for research, private study or internal circulation within an organisation. It goes on to stipulate that the subject needs to be reproduced and referenced accurately and that it must acknowledge the company before finishing by directing enquiries for any other uses to the Head of R&D.

I’d quite like this copyright notice to be on the web as well and it is proving quite a struggle to get it hosted there. Within the metadata structure that we are implementing, there is a copyright element and I would like this to have to contain nothing more than a URL but there is resistance and I can’t get anyone to articulate why – I think that it just hasn’t been done before and the reason for doing so isn’t sufficiently obvious. One option for getting around this point is to go down the route of a Creative Commons (CC) licence . Doing so would enable us to mark our publications, record our CC licence in the metadata and be able to point to it on the Web. The question is, though, what is the difference between using a CC licence to protect our IP and the copyright statement that we currently use? Surely what I have described above would be defined as ‘some rights reserved’ rather than ‘all rights reserved’…? In fact, a quick bit of surfing leads me to believe that what we are after is a ‘Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License’.

I think that a little more investigation is probably required and probably a quick call to our solicitors to verify things before we commit to making this change but to be honest, the threat of pushing for a CC licence might be so much change that ‘they’ concede on the hosting of the existing notice and that would at least get me where I want to be.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Receipt of PPDP and Mentoring Agreement

A little more than six months after the date I registered my mentoring relationship with CILIP, I have received confirmation of receipt of the mentoring relationship form and my PPDP - I guess the PPDP submission stimulated that letter. The good news is that I won't need to chase it up with CILIP.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Modular Railway Induction

When I had my interview for this role, I made it clear that I had no knowledge of the railway industry beyond that acquired as a consumer. This, I was assured, was not going to be a problem. Aside from speaking to relevant people, I requested, and was registered onto, an industry familiarisation course at the end of November (2006). This turned out to be a two-day course aimed at giving participants an introduction to the different aspects of the rail industry and how they work (and the terms used to describe them). The course consisted of the following sections:
  1. The Structure and Operations of the British Rail industry
  2. Railway Documentation
  3. Permanent Way
  4. Structures & Clearances
  5. Signalling & Telecommunications
  6. Overhead Line Equipment & Third Rail Electrification
  7. On-Track Plant
  8. Planning Engineering Work and Line Blockages
  9. Railway Safety Legislation
In addition, we were given a glossary of railway terminology. I was sorry that it didn’t include a section on Rolling Stock (along with its associated topics such as Vehicle/Track Interaction, etc.) as this would have rounded out the course to provide a complete introduction. Having said that, I think it would have to have been a three-day course if it were to include Rolling Stock because, as it was, we ended up running short of time and having to skip the On-Track Plant section.

The course consisted of a great deal of lecturing at the beginning and to be honest, I don’t really know what other way there is for covering those first two topics. I found the next four sections really interesting (sections 3 to 6), but then I have always been interested in how things work. Our instructor had set up at the front of the room a pretty large and comprehensive working model and we used this to illustrate the rest of the sections.

On the whole, it was a really good course and it was certainly very useful. I understand a lot more about the company’s role in the industry and how it relates to the rest of the industry organisations. I also understand the content of our research a great deal more and know what most of the terms and acronyms that are used mean (and for those that I don’t know, the glossary is proving pretty useful.)