I thought it might be apt to include some thought on my final observation.
I wish I had left observations more to the end of my placement as I feel so much more confident now and yet my last observation was back over a month ago and so I’m not too sure it gives the best final picture of my performance as a teacher and a full enough picture of my progress from start to end.
If I had a piece of advice for a prospective PGCE student who will embark on a similarly structured course it would be to schedule a final observation for as close to the end of the course as possible and one for as close to the beginning of independent teaching as possible to allow for a full picture of the progress made from tentative first steps to confident delivery.
Nevertheless I feel my final observation went well. One of the comments received was that I made good use of humour particularly when using probing questions and I feel this relates accurately to my attempts to revive the class from a long Easter break ‘slumber’ which they had not recovered from at this point. The class is usually very forthcoming with responses and quite animated and yet on this occasion they needed information I was pretty confident they already knew, prising from them and adding some humour to the questioning style helped to create a light atmosphere where they were more likely to contribute and less likely to become defensive or to feel inadequate if unsure of their responses. It might have been an idea to use an icebreaker activity at this point to revive them and prepare them for learning which is something I will do in the future following a break.
Another comment was that I developed good links back and forward to unit content and this is something I like to try to do as much as possible to ensure that links between the different business disciplines are embedded and to make prior and future learning more relevant and contextualised.
Within this lesson I featured two activities. For one I allowed the class to chose partners to work with and for the second I mixed up the class and moved some students out of their physical comfort zone of their usual seats into a place where I could better see what they were doing. To further allow me to ensure participation from those who are often less likely to engage in group work I appointed them as leaders. I made this appear to be quite random but I had planned exactly what I was going to do and who was going to be moved and who was going to be appointed leader.
It seemed that they accepted the apparently random nature of this re-organisation much better than I imagine they would have had I let them know it was contrived when I was planning the lesson. I feel that a more random approach works better with this class, they are less likely to be fussy about it whereas when they feel they are being grouped in a thought out way they begin to become suspicious and are less likely to engage willingly. I imagine this is because they feel more that there is a reason for the grouping and they begin to wonder what that reason is and become defensive, perhaps asking themselves questions “Why am I in this group? Am I weak? Does the teacher think I need to learn from my peers? Does the teacher think I’m not capable? Does the teacher think I should be leading?” and I feel that apparently random selection avoids some of this self questioning, self doubt and suspicion.
According to feedback I am getting better at moving around the room more although it is very difficult in the room that I have to teach in, but I am aware that I do this more now and I am also aware that depending on the style of teaching I do this more or less. For instance with didactic teaching I tend to stand nearer the front of the class but this has improved since I took advice and began to start using a clicker to progress slides. I love technology but am not really one for gadgets but at last I gave in and embraced the gadget.
I find that I move around a lot more when students are engaged in activities and sit with them to see what they are doing and how they are approaching a task as this allows me improved insight into their thought processes which will help me to design and deliver tasks in the future and when they are working on assignments I sit with them all individually and check that they are understanding a brief or that they are clear on what feedback means.
I feel that one of the reasons I tend to stand near the front is that I am used to presenting in a professional capacity at meetings and conferences where speakers are often restricted to podium or stage or tabled area and moving around is not an option. I have to work on this transition mentally from standing delivering a presentation and teaching a group of students. I definitely do not feel that I ‘present’ to students but the physical movement around the room is something I have yet to fully conquer but am working on it. It can be hard after years of presenting glued to the spot to suddenly feel at liberty to move around and I am confident that I’ll get there eventually. I also found that on my last observation which was more of a task based session it was commented that I do move around sufficiently so I definitely think it depends on the type of class being delivered and the observers opinion.
On reflection I think that I have always opted to teach in a more didactic manner interspersed with tasks and activities when being observed but now I feel I’m confident enough to have an assignment workshop observed where there is less didactic teaching and more one to one interaction with students but where learning most definitely takes place just in a very different way.
I felt the tasks I had designed for this session were very well received and worked very well too and find that scenario based tasks are very popular with this group. I feel that such tasks also help with embedding employability as it helps to set the learning into an applied business context and if students find themselves in such a situation, facing such a task in future in the workplace they will be better equipped and more confident in carrying it out. This relation of activity and teaching to the workplace is always commented on favourably and I do think it is important for business teachers to have had relevant experience in the workplace to bring the employability factor into lessons as well as to assist delivery of relevant teaching. I find that in my teaching I call far more upon my work place experiences of business and management roles than I do on my academic learning from my Business Management degree, although that underpins with theory. I can appreciate why relevant management experience is valued in business teachers, particularly when teaching the BTEC range of courses.
The second task I had used before for a microteach session with my peers and at that point one of my peers gave feedback that perhaps the task was too difficult for level 3 learners, something I disagreed with at the time but which I was able to test out during this lesson. It was reassuring to find that the students coped very well with the task, in fact they appeared to understand it and approach it in more engaging and enthusiastic ways than my peer group of trainee teachers did. This made me appreciate ever more the need to not underestimate students, to ensure that tasks and activities are differentiated so that everyone can be involved and to push the higher level learners more. This is something that has come up in observations before, that I need to challenge the higher level learners more and I understand that they are often underestimated in terms of their ability and I am mindful to not do that now.
It was unfortunate that the observer had to leave before we recapped the session and students were able to give feedback on the lesson and have their learning challenged.