PDA. What is it and how can you do it?

November 5, 2021 - Jane Moore

The PDA in Teaching Practice in Scotland's Colleges at SCQF level 9 is intended for college lecturers currently working in Scotland who have subject specific expertise but no formal teaching qualifications.

It is designed to reflect the range of practical skills and knowledge required by college lecturers and is aligned to the Professional Standards for Lecturers in Scotland's Colleges

It is made up of 2 units:

  • Plan and Prepare the Learner Experience in Scotland’s Colleges.
  • Learning, Teaching and Assessment in Scotland’s Colleges.

It provides an opportunity to learn, develop and demonstrate a variety of specialist and high-level transferable skills including, setting suitably challenging learning goals, seeking feedback on learning and using feedback from learning and other available data to inform next steps for learning and to support improved learner attainment.

Use of effective formative and summative assessment strategies and technologies to support learning are also important components of the award. Candidates will develop and apply selected research-informed approaches and practices and evaluate their impact on student learning, supporting attainment and learner progression pathways. They will apply learning management strategies by creating positive environments for learning and will critically reflect on and evaluate their practice, identifying areas for personal development and improvement.

It's also a really good stepping stone to further study into the Teaching Qualification in Further Education (TQFE).


We want to take the opportunity to congratulate Ayrshire College staff for achieving the PDA qualification in the last year.

Arts and Humanities – Lydia Davidson and Alison Sinclair

Construction and Trades, Land and Motor Vehicle – Edward Coyle, Brian Deuchar, Fraser Doyle, Kenneth McLaughlin and Frank Toner

Early Years – Elizabeth Lyon

Engineering and Science – David Fulton, Paul Gilmour and Ania Sosnowska

Health and Social Care – Elaine Goldie

Hospitality – Sarah Davidson

Social Science – Elizabeth Brown

Sport and Fitness – Stephen Leckey

Congratulations all!! We caught up with staff who have completed the PDA to find out what the whole experience was like.

Liz Brown is a Social Science Lecturer teaching across disciplines but passionate about Sociology and Criminology in particular.

"I started the PDA during the pandemic and although that did fill me with some trepidation I needn’t have worried! I found the whole experience of being back in education, and a student again after some time away from learning, a hugely positive experience, it really helped me engage with some of my practices and gave me the space and time to consider new ways of doing things, which is of course always daunting but often very rewarding!

"When I look back on my experience of the PDA, the timing was absolutely perfect for me, despite my initial reservations, this was because we were all having to encounter new ways of working, due to the working from home imperative and so there were endless ways for me to reflect on my practice in this ‘new world’ and as a social scientist I was of course fascinated to have the opportunity to study the newly emerging patterns and trends that society was forced to embrace in the world of work, teaching and living more generally.

"The support I received from my tutor was exceptional, any concerns I had were handled empathetically and all feedback was truly constructive, I feel this is critical, after all, as lecturers we need to believe in ourselves as practitioners and without empathy and warmth receiving feedback can be unsettling. I found the opposite to be true, I built up an excellent rapport with my tutor and instead the experience was one of passionate educators sharing ideas and thoughts in a meaningful and supportive way!

"I was initially concerned about extra time I would need to find, in order to do the PDA justice but in the end, it didn’t really feel like extra work, it felt like an excellent opportunity to take time to invest in me whilst sharing the learning experience with others.

"I found the PDA to be a really refreshing experience and it absolutely prepared for the subsequent TQFE qualification which builds upon many of the principles and practices I encountered in the PDA. It felt empowering that I was being invested in, so that I can better inspire and support my students.”

Paul Gilmour is an Engineering and Science Lecturer.

"I found the PDA very interesting.  As an Engineer I am not used to writing essays, more so lab reports, but I found the support from the team to be very helpful and nothing but encouraging. The assignments were divided into manageable chunks, and so the perceived challenge of time and workload was not as bad as I thought.

"I expected this course to be a bit of a drag, but in fact it really helped me to develop my practice. I would recommend the PDA to everyone, as it will improve your teaching practice and the student experience."

Sarah Davidson is a Hospitality Lecturer.

"Having started the TQFE this year, I feel like the PDA has been a really good stepping stone. Doing the PDA got me back into the way of academic writing for example. Overall the experience was good.  The observations were really helpful and the lecturers were very supportive."

"I don’t come from a teaching background, my experience is industry based, so for me it confirmed that the work I’m doing with the students is right, which is very reassuring!  I’ve always wanted to teach, and I’ve had amazing opportunities at Ayrshire College since I started 6 years ago as an intern at the Salt and Barrel restaurant. It has been a privilege."

Alison Sinclair teaches Production Arts at Ayrshire College which involves the creative activities that go on behind the scenes in theatre.

"I graduated from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in 2007 majoring in scenic art, costume, and props. Little did I know that one day, I would move on to teach these subjects which I am passionate about.

"I have been with Ayrshire College for three years and have had the best time working alongside amazing colleagues and a diverse array of, equally amazing, students.

"Last year I was given the opportunity to do my PDA on teaching and learning which I successfully passed. I found it interesting and quiet thought provoking. While we all live such hectic lives with busy timetables, the PDA taught me to stop and reflect on my practice. What was I doing well and what could I improve on? I learned a great deal.

"All of this has put me in good stead to do the next part, the TQFE. I am at the start of this journey, but the PDA has given me the structure and knowledge to move on confidently with this.

"I really appreciate having been given this opportunity to improve on my teaching skills and engage better with our students."


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