Introduction

Those who tutor in Mathematics Learning Support (MLS) on the island of Ireland may avail of initial training based on materials developed by the IMLSN and other materials developed by sigma. In the past the tutors did not typically gain any formal recognition for this training. To address this a four competences model of MLS tutor training has been developed. This MLS tutor training model aligns with National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning In Higher Education in Ireland professional development domains.

The Local MLS Coordinator[1] plays a key role in providing the professional development opportunities for MLS tutors in the MLS four competence training model. At the heart of any successful mathematics and statistics learning support in an institution is the MLS co-ordinator as they will understand and be able to articulate the key needs of both the students accessing the service and the tutors providing it. As a result, the local MLS co-ordinator is naturally best placed to oversee the learning associated with MLS tutor training opportunities. The first purpose of this webpage is to try to give responses to queries that the local MLS co-ordinator may have about the model and their role in facilitating a tutor successfully participating in the four competences model of MLS tutor training. The second purpose is to provide information to the local MLS coordinator regarding training materials and ideas for each of the four components of the model.

If there are any queries about the role of the local MLS coordinator in the four competences model of MLS tutor training that aren’t addressed in this webpage please email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Frequently Asked Questions

Why four competences?

In developing the competences model of MLS tutor training, the project team[2] (in consultation with IMLSN community) identified key competences that MLS tutors should acquire as part of any training. To align this tutor training model with National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning In Higher Education (NF) professional development domains, the project team partitioned the training into four competences MLS Knowledge and Skills; Communication/Dialogue skills; Professional Identity Development; Digital Capacity. The project team also felt that splitting the training in this way would also provide a granularity which would enable the training to be done in a flexible way that would suit the rhythm of providing MLS through an academic year.  Finally, it was felt that this partitioning would make it easier to award the tutors recognition for the competence achieved in a timely and easy to communicate manner. These four competences can be visualised as a set of competences that align to give an overall MLS tutor development award. It is envisaged that on completion off all four Hs the tutor can apply for an overall NF endorsed MLS Tutor digital badge.

Badges To Overall Graphic

Why use digital badges?

It was decided to award digital badges (micro-credentials) as the mechanism to give the tutors recognition for the competence achieved as they can be distributed to tutors in a timely manner, are easy for tutors to display on professional platforms (such as learning portfolios or LinkedIn etc.). Thus, it is easy to communicate the learning achieved and also resonate with NF approaches to recognising professional development in higher education. Each of these four competences and their associated digital badges is framed in such a way that allows them to be mapped directly to the NF framework for PD (Ireland) in the first instance to enable easy comparison. However, they could also be mapped to other professional standards such as the UK Professional Standards Framework.

What is in a digital badge?

Each digital badge contains several items in its meta-data. Each has a title with an associated digital badge graphic that is used for display on social media platforms by the tutor. Also, there are a set of tags (key words) which are useful for digital searching purposes. There is a Description section that gives an overview of the purpose of the digital badge. The last section is entitled Criteria. This section states in two connected lists what the tutor is expected to be able to do as a result of the learning associated with this competence and what the tutor has done to demonstrate that this learning has been achieved). Each of the digital badges have been assigned a suggested value of ECTS credits at level 9/level 10. Two ECTS credits is suggested for the MLS Knowledge and Skills digital badge and 1 ECTS credit for each of the other three; note that 1 ECTS credit is equivalent to 25 learner effort hours.

Why are there suggested ECTS values for each digital badge?

The allocation of suggested ECTS values for each digital badge and learner effort hours should assist in making the learning achieved more amenable to formal accreditation. The intention is that for MLS tutor who completes all four digital badges will have the structure and associated evidence to present to their institution to seek 5 ECTS credits via a Recognised Prior Learning mechanism as part of their studies, if they so desire. Tutors will be advised, when they are emailed with a link to their digital badge, that they should keep a copy of any of the work they have submitted locally to their MLS coordinator in case they ever need to present it as evidence in a process for claiming ECTS credit.

Do digital badges allow for local variances?

Every institution is different and the needs of both students and tutors will vary. So although there are set Criteria in each digital badge it is also important to note that in all cases the digital badges have been phrased to allow for local variances which will be recorded in an "Evidence Log".

What is an "Evidence Log"?

An "Evidence Log" is a set of documents in which the MLS co-ordinator keeps a record of the work for a particular digital badge that has been completed and submitted by a tutor. It is important to note that the log templates allow for local variances to enable the local MLS coordinator to customise digital badges appropriately whilst still clearly documenting what equivalent customisation has taken place.

What does a tutor need to do to complete a digital badge?

The process is:

  1. Read the digital badge Criteria carefully. (This is two connected lists of what the tutor is expected to be able to do as a result of the learning associated with the competence and what the tutor has done to demonstrate that this learning has been achieved.) 
  2. Liaise with their local MLS co-ordinator as to how they will satisfy the Criteria for that competence.
  3. Provide the evidence that the criteria have been sent to the local MLS coordinator. (Tutors are advised to keep copies of this evidence in the event that they wish to present to their institution to seek ECTS credits via a Recognised Prior Learning mechanism as part of their studies.)
  4. Provide an email address to which the digital badge will be issued.

 What does the MLS local MLS co-ordinator need to do have a digital badge awarded?

The process is:

  1. Local MLS co-ordinator facilitates any necessary training (see Section 2 below). It is important to note that the digital badges allow for local variances in the Criteria to enable the local MLS coordinator customise for local needs.
  2. Accepts and checks the evidence that a tutor submits as evidence of completed tasks.
  3. MLS coordinator enters into a log a record of the evidence submitted. (Templates of an Evidence Log are available to aid with record keeping, including clearly documenting what equivalent local customisation may have taken place.)
  4. When the local MLS co-ordinator is satisfied that a tutor has completed a competence, they send the name of the digital badge completed and the name and email of the tutor to the IMLSN MLS Tutor Competences Co-ordinator at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
  5. The IMLSN MLS Tutor Competences Co-ordinator seeks confirmation from the local MLS co-ordinator that:
      • the recipients have completed the tasks required for the digital badge,
      • this work has been recorded in an Evidence Log
      • any physical evidence is stored for review as part of a possible audit proces.
  6. Finally, the IMLSN MLS Tutor Competences Co-ordinator issues the digital digital badge directly to the tutor.

 

Training Materials and Ideas

Training materials:

To support the MLS co-ordinator in facilitating the training aspect of work it is envisaged that maximum use be made existing MLS training materials and approaches. For example, workshop training materials for MLS Knowledge and Skills; Communication/Dialogue skills; Professional Identity Development digital badges exist and have been used by the IMLSN network (see table).

Digital badges   Suggested associated workshops
 MLS Knowledge and Skills  IMLSN workshop 1: Introduction to MLS
 MLS Knowledge and Skills   IMLSN workshop 2: Individual differences 
 Communication/Dialogue skills   IMLSN workshop 3: Explain/Listen/Questioning  
 Professional Identity Development   IMLSN workshop 4: Developing as a tutor.

 

For the MLS Digital Capacity digital badge a variety of online materials (including those developed as part of the All Aboard project) have been identified as being more suitable than traditional workshops used for the other competences. For details of these see the document Suggestions for Developing Digital Capacity in MLS Tutors.

Ideas and observations for individual digital badges:

This sub-section contains ideas and observations from local co-ordinators about approaches that they have found useful to use in helping their tutors in pursuing the digital badges.

  1. MLS Knowledge and Skills digital badge:
      1. For the Criterion aspect, "Providing evidence of completion of 10 hours MLS work in their institution", it is important that these hours are expected to be part of the workload for staff of an institution. For tutors who are undertaking postgraduate studies these are expected to be paid hours or hours which must be undertaken as part of their scheduled workload as outlined by their institution’s requirements for their postgraduate studies.
      2. For the Criterion aspect, "Showing evidence of preparation and/or facilitation of a small group tutoring session", part of the background work for this aspect could be achieved by undertaking the Presentation Skills digital badge.
      3. Also, when considering aspects of the workshop to support this digital badge it is important to consider issues relating to classroom management, for example practical things that people often don’t think about but make a big difference to communication in the classroom (e.g. hopping around the board when writing instead of just dividing the board into sections and keeping the board organised; speaking too fast; etc.).
  2. MLS Communication/Dialogue skills digital badge:
    For the Criterion aspect, "Find and review an academic paper on MLS", several approaches could be adopted. For example, the tutor might be asked to write a review of an academic paper on MLS for MSOR Connections journal or similar. Alternatively, the tutor might be asked to write a description on how they would use or are using (at least) one idea from the paper to address current issues in their MLS or in MLS in general. One other possible approach is that the tutor might be asked to give a short talk about a paper they have found and reviewed.
  3. MLS Professional Identity Development digital badge:
    No ideas or observations yet. If a local MLS coordinator has an idea or suggestion that they would like to share with others implementing the training for this digital badge please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. so it can be included in future versions of this webpage
  4. MLS Digital Capacity digital badge:
    No ideas or observations yet. If a local MLS coordinator an idea or suggestion that they would like to share with others implementing the training for this digital badge please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. so it can be included in future versions of this webpage.
References & Footnotes
  1. Local MLS Coordinator: The term local MLS co-ordinator refers to a MLS manager or director or similar who oversee MLS tutor development in an institution.
  2. Project team: Project lead Ciarán O’Sullivan TU Dublin, and initial project team members, Michael Grove University of Birmingham and Ciarán Mac an Bhaird MU. Kirsten Pfeiffer NUIG and Peter Mulligan MU subsequently joined the team, facilitated initial trials and contributed to the refinement of certain aspects of the model.