Assignments, marking and feedback

It’s amazing how little things about teaching give you a boost. I think it’s all of the firsts you experience and how important a milestone each one becomes. It’s all about taking responsibility, developing professionalism, being trusted with the learner’s success and future really.

Each step consolidates that feeling of being a teacher.

It’s quite a transition really from whatever we were before to what we are now, it’s a step by step, little by little process and it builds up all of the layers which are essential to be set free fully fledged and ready to take on your own full time role.

As the assignments for the courses we teach are more or less written in stone and IV’d before the course begins I  didn’t think I’d get chance to influence a piece of work essential to passing the unit.  But a few weeks ago I got to write an assignment for an element of a unit I’m delivering and it was an interesting experience. Reading into the spec and working out how best to demonstrate the required learning had taken place, considering differentiation and coming up with something work based and interesting too. I managed to create an assignment which embedded some of the other essentials too, using a variety of software, literacy and numeracy (depending on how far learners want to challenge and extend themselves), employability, E&D and sustainability. So there was added value in there too. I appreciate that I had more time to spend on this than I would if I was in post and so I relished that time to fine tune the necessary skills.

I took the lead from my PGCE tutor and included a writing frame which was commented on as a good idea by my mentor. I’ve been involved in a few conversations about writing frames this week and the conclusion is that it’s better to write one frame and put it out there than to repeat a million times what you expect to see included in an essay or report. It’s not like it has to be followed, it’s not like it’s spoon feeding. The only information you are giving is the advice and guidance you would give anyway either as a group or to individual learners. So they can be useful  in the interests of saving time and repetition as well as allowing learners to have your guidance accessible to them at all times and in all places… on the go teaching and support. I guess that’s what it’s all about in this modern world,  it’s not just about what happens in the classroom for students who are used to information on the go, easily accessible any time, any place.

Just a bit of digression here but I just want to say that it’s important what you learn from each other as a peer group of student teachers, it’s important what you learn from observing your mentor, it’s important what you learn from self reflection but don’t forget that there are expert teachers who are also teaching you every week and you shouldn’t forget to watch them and see what tips you can pick up and that’s not just in the classroom but in the way they prepare and feedback on assignments, the way they share information with students and the whole package. There is a tendancy to forget that the very people teaching us are a bigger part of the journey for us, watch how they manage a class of chatterbox adults, think about how they make you feel when you are in their class. It’s the best (and for some of us last) chance we get to see things from the student perspective for real, without just imagining what it’s all like. Be critical too, if you don’t like something or think it would never work with your students that’s as important to keep in mind as the things which you feel would work well and the things you do like.

So of course the assignment… that’s what I was talking about. It had to go to IV but because I was doing this outside of the usual time frame (assignments would usually be cast in stone by now as I said) and that takes time I had to let the learners start working on the draft. I was pleased when I opened the upload slot today and they started dropping in completed assignments and a quick look showed me that they seem to have grasped the task well. I can’t wait to start marking them now and have my first real shot at marking and feedback. I’ve done some already but nothing as formal as this is going to be. Again, it’s a small step to have my own marking pile (even though that is virtual these days and it’s more of a small stack) but step by step and it all builds the full picture as I said at the beginning, these little milestones are important.

It was a good day today I think we have to build up trust in the students so they come to us and ask for help and advice, it’s not something that flows from the beginning, they are a little tentative with us and loyal to their regular teacher.  That’s another gradual process when you’re on a placement and something which probably isn’t much different with your own ‘real’ class as it does take time to build that relationship. So to arrive at that point where the students come to find you in the staff room for a bit of help and where the phone rings and it’s you who is asked for by the voice on the other end are just more of those little steps towards becoming a real teacher and feeling that sense of professionalism develop inside yourself.

At the end of my morning and afternoon sessions I had a straggler who wanted to ask a question and for a bit of help with an assignment and I kind of like that, I like that they have that trust in me now to feel able to do that.

Little by little and eventually you get there. So for my next trick I will practice and learn the art of constructive feedback and how to deal with the fall out from that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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