Ofsted Grading for Quality of Teaching in Individual Lessons

I saw this article by R Vaughan on the TES website today Ofsted Scraps Grades for Individual Lessons and thought it may be worth sharing here. The relevant area of the Ofsted Inspection Handbook Revised July 2014 starts on page 57 of the PDF which clicking on that link will take you to.

It doesn’t mean that inspection of individual lessons will cease, as in observations of teaching and learning but the grade given for quality of teaching will not be based purely on such observations and will take into account a range of factors. I’m not sure what that will mean for teachers, I’ve heard teachers describe themselves as “Ofsted grade 1” or “Ofsted outstanding” I guess that might still stand but will be based on more than the classroom performance, on that time, at that date with those students in that room.

This is something I imagine will be welcomed by teachers as often there is a pressure to ensure that as many of the tick boxes as possible are checked during an observation when sometimes some of the tick boxes really don’t fit with what you’re trying to achieve. It’s almost like fitting pieces of the wrong jigsaw into a puzzle because you have to.

As a PGCE student having frequent observations there might be pressure to address development points from the last observation when really the lesson you would like to deliver (or would deliver if not being observed) doesn’t really allow for those development points to be addressed but you feel pressured to somehow make sure they are covered anyway. This kind of doing for doings sake might actually detract from the quality of the lesson as you sit planning stressing about how you can possibly fit in a small group activity when the lesson requires whole group participation or individual work as a more effective way of achieving your learning outcomes.

The other thing which the author points out is that this will be good news for teachers who have a bad day or for reasons beyond their control find their teaching graded at a 3 or 4 whilst not leaving space for poor quality teaching to slip under the radar.

If ever I become a career teacher (still no sign of the official pass with the PGCE) I think this might be good news and indicative of a more holistic view of the quality of teaching taking place.

An interesting and related article was published in The Guardian earlier this month by Jayne Stigger suggests that Replacing Ofsted would improve the quality of provision in colleges. It’s an interesting article which suggests that the schools inspection pro forma is not appropriate for FE and that a peer review system would be far more effective. In that it would be led by teachers who are familiar with subjects essentially observing how their subject is delivered in other institutions in a more longitudinal time frame rather than as a snapshot. They carry out such peer reviews in terms of health services within the NHS and they are quite effective in that the people inspecting are fully conversant with the specialism being inspected and are aware of potential challenges, pitfalls and opportunities. They are also able to identify good practice whilst developing a more realistic and holistic view of the current delivery and are better suited to developing, or assisting in the development of more realistic, useful recommendations for improvement. It also allows for best practice to be shared in a more constructive manner. To what extent it works in the NHS is open for dispute, I know I’ve recently seen an initiative I developed a number of years ago be approved for national roll out and the awareness of that initiative came from a peer review system so I can definitely see that it can work. So why not in teaching? If it is done well and with the best of wills and embraced as an opportunity to improve rather than seen as a negative, critical audit of what is already being done then maybe it could have legs.

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When is an NQT not an NQT? When they don’t have any evidence to prove they are.

It’s a little bit daunting chasing that first job as a newly qualified teacher. I thought I had it all in the bag, we were moving away (again) and I had registered with an agency who had me a placement ready (following a couple of interviews of course) for the end of June to the end of 2013/14 term with a view to starting on a more permanent basis in September. Then imageseverything changed and we are not moving (again), people say I should just force my son to switch schools in year 10 but I’m not going to do that, I would have been mortified if I’d had to switch then besides the schools we were looking at couldn’t even offer him the same GCSE’s and he’s already half way through the syllabus and predicted A’s or A*’s in everything so it just doesn’t make sense at the end of the day.

So I had to do what I had always wanted to avoid and start looking locally for my first teaching job. In a town with one FE college and a full quota of staff in the business department my chances of my ‘dream’ teaching job were not only slim, they were invisible. I had to think wider and broader than that and consider the other subjects I could teach and the other areas I could teach in, both in terms of subject area and geographically within easy commutable distance, even though FE is where I have always wanted to be since I started investigating teaching as a career 3 or 4 years ago. I figured any teaching experience anywhere in my first year will be a positive thing and this is perhaps a wise approach to take, especially if you do have a range of subjects which you could possibly teach.

I decided ultimately to study my masters and to supply teach, in either teaching or support roles. I’d become a little disillusioned with the local college as I’d spent hours completing application forms for posts which were then all lumped into a recruitment fair event which I couldn’t attend as I was out of town at an all day selection event. I wondered about the validity of the posts offered in the usual application process and was told that the recruitment fair was only offering casual posts images (1)when the advertisement offered a range of temporary, permanent, fractional and casual positions. It was all very conflicting and to be honest it was off putting and I felt I was wasting my time spending hours tailoring each application for positions which I doubted the existence of. I’m not saying they didn’t exist I’m just saying that the process was very unsettling, I’m not one for unnecessary shifting goal posts and recruitment is often the first face that an organisation presents to potential staff and if that process is uncomfortable it can give a poor impression. When I’ve been responsible for recruitment I’ve considered this as a priority and ensured processes were smooth, welcoming and reassuring, presenting a good first impression to attract good quality candidates.

So, back in May when I was offered the position I first mentioned it was of course on the proviso that I successfully achieved my PGCE and provided necessary certification as evidence of qualifications, the aged O’level and A’level certificates, the OCR’s and RSA’s the University awards and all of the traceable accredited training certificates that I could lay my  hands on. Never in my life have I had to prove that I possess O and A levels and after 15 house moves in my adult life certificates had become lost and so I applied to AQA’s really useful and easy to use online service to gather in a few copies. As the cost is £25 for a search and an additional £15 for each document and as my O and A levels and my IT qualifications were all sat images (2)with no less than 7 different exam boards this was a costly exercise… very costly. Advice: never lose your certificates no matter how old you get and how irrelevant they seem, protect them with your life. Make lots of copies too and leave some with parents, siblings, in safe deposit boxes, scan them into clouds. Don’t lose them it’s expensive.

That process takes 28 days at least so if you’re in need of gathering together some ancient certification give yourself plenty of time. I’ve had a couple of employers who have said that “as long as the evidence is produced before start of term that’s OK” so it’s not that urgent a requirement and there is some lee way depending on who you speak to.

Where lee way is not granted however is with evidence of the teaching qualification, at least in my experience. Without this I downloadcan not start a job. Without this I can not even be considered for some jobs and can’t even register sincerely with some agencies until I have some tangible evidence i.e a certificate or some official document. I studied my PGCE in 2013/14 so I should be able to lay my hands on it right? Wrong. In all truth I don’t even know with 100% surety if I’ve achieved the qualification. For sure all of my grades were up there safely in the pass mark zone and my feedback was great. I achieved ‘outstanding teacher’ status and in terms of undergraduate degree classification (if that’s how PGCE was graded) I would have been safely in the 2.1 zone which was better than I had set out to achieve but none of this is cast in stone of course until the exam board has sat and all awards are rubber stamped and the official notification of achievement has arrived in my hands.

I had no re-sits, no late submissions, no extensions, there is nothing more for me to do but wait. I believe I’ve achieved, I have all faith that I should by now be the proud owner of a shiny new PGCE but I can not  prove that to a soul and this is not useful when you want somebody to employ you as a teacher, not useful at all. It’s as bad as not being able to prove you have a clear DBS check, maybe worse. The two things are hand in hand the most important documents for a wannabe new teacher to have in his or her possession. I have one, not the other. I’m not even an NQT, even though that’s what I call myself. Until I have that document I am not one, I’m an imposter (please have a sense of humour when reading that, it’s meant in the spirit of the tone of this post, tongue in cheek, jest, you know… trying to see the funny side so I don’t lose  my will to live). 

waitingTime is drawing on, a couple of emails have been exchanged, I don’t understand the delays, my entire cohort awaits with baited breath. Some aren’t bothered, they don’t want to teach at the moment so have no sense of urgency about it and some have jobs already with employers who are trusting that they have achieved (mainly within the institution where we studied by all accounts) but some, like me for instance, are finding progress very difficult. The new term starts in just 10 days or so. I’ve been offered another position but have to accept by tomorrow and part of that acceptance is providing the documentary evidence of my having achieved a teaching qualification. I’m not hopeful. Another one looks likely to bite the dust.

I’ve said before that I believe to fully embrace the PGCE course and placement experience you need to really, really, really want to be a teacher so that you get the most out of it and so that you can put the most into it. Well, again I’ll say that if you can cope with this whole process of application, shifting goal posts, rejection, awaiting evidence, even knowing that you ARE a teacher you have to really, really, really, really want to be a teacher because there could be obsimages (3)tacles at every point in this journey. Some are put there by yourself, confidence issues, self doubt, being poorly organised and not coping with workloads, taking on too much, misconceptions, a lack of understanding of what your qualification is and what it means to you as a future teacher but some are put there by external forces beyond your control, poor information, misinformation, delays, to register or not to register, shifting professional bodies, archaic application processes. This all has to be navigated if you want to get to your end goal. I’m not saying that I’ve experienced all of the above but definitely some and they all make you question if this is the path for you. Maybe that’s a good thing, maybe it weeds out people who don’t really really really really want to be teachers. I’ve no doubt that for some the transition from student teacher to actual teacher is much smoother.

canstock15272709On the flip side you hear that good teachers are in high demand and that gives you hope, that one day all of your efforts during your PGCE and before it which earned you an outstanding stamp on your forehead will be worth it.

Irony

I find it so refreshing to hear about educators embracing a new approach to teaching and learning like this (see article link below)  but a shame that it’s not happening here and I get what this article says about the buy in and take up and standards blah blah blah and I know that a blank canvas is an easier place to start but what an irony that we’re sending teams over to help educators in India implement systems we don’t have the courage to implement ourselves?

I know that’s a very simplistic view but I’m sure that helps to make my point all the more clear. We are going to find ourselves left behind as this approach is adopted in more and more developing nations, which is good for them but not so good for us be that student, teacher or nation.

Have a read: Guardian FE Colleges can learn from India article

Tips on using social media for teachers

I saw this a few days ago and thought it shared some useful advice. So in the interests of information sharing here’s the link: social media tips for teachers link

Socrative as teaching and learning software – seminar paper

Sharing some thoughts on a piece of freebie software I found really useful in teaching and learning. This is part of a seminar paper written for a teacher trainee conference in May 2014.

Title of Paper

Socrative: using smart student software as a learning and assessment tool for business students

Abstract

This paper outlines the use of smart software Socrative as part of innovative practice in the teaching of Business BTEC at level 3. It contextualises the use of ILT in the teaching of the business disciplines and in the FE setting of the LLS. Furthermore it explains how the use of the resource has enhanced engagement and improved classroom management with two groups of students. This paper also demonstrates how Socrative has proved to be a useful and reliable tool for assessing teaching and learning whilst simultaneously introducing students to software relevant for use in a range of business settings. A critique of the method is offered within the conclusion.

Introduction

Before demonstrating the use of Socrative and how it has impacted on teaching and learning some background context will be given as well as consideration of its appropriateness in teaching business. A brief background of the author will be presented initially and this paper will conclude with a critical evaluation.

Coming from a background in industry I have an appreciation of technological skills required in a range of business settings. These range from data collection and sharing to analysis of financial and other data, from assessment tools in training settings and polling media in conference and consultation situations as well as the more traditionally used software such as the Office Suite. I have had a long history in business and have seen the changes which technology has brought, how it has helped to streamline procedures, cut back on man hours and facilitate information sharing, data storage and retrieval. More recently I have become aware of how technology can be used interactively to allow staff and customers to engage with an organisation and share their thoughts and views and to give feedback and appraisal of services or products.

I currently teach business BTEC level 3 in years one and two within the Further Education (FE) sector of the wider Lifelong Learning Sector (LLS) and predominantly teach two classes. The first is a year one class of 16-17 year olds which is a very enthusiastic group with no behavioural problems and a general keenness to participate and to learn. This group is very ‘tight knit’, students are very supportive of one another. The second year group is made up of mainly 18 year olds and has one student for whom English is not the first language. The group has a number of cliques which can cause conflicts and behavioural issues. The group is more fragmented and although class participation is good, group working activities can prove challenging in that students are reluctant to work with others outside of their friendship circle.

Rationale

I feel that currently the use of IT is lacking in the teaching of the business disciplines within FE. Besides the traditional Office Suite of software there is little to no use made of other types of software, a wealth of which exists to enhance learning and engagement and this seems to be at odds with the way businesses operate. I fully empathise with Freeman (2013) when he asks “Business is about innovation so why do we teach it in the same old way?” (Freeman 2013 online).

I also relate to Thompson (2009) who argues that didactic styles of transmitting information are dated and goes on to suggest that technology presents opportunities to teach in more innovative and creative ways. He suggests that when considering teaching creatively teachers should not only think of the traditional resources such as art and craft materials but also include technology as a resource as it provides opportunities for innovation in teaching a wide range of subjects (Thompson 2009).

Hoffman and Blake (2003) describe how students engage with learning in two ways, formal and informal, explaining that formal is what they have to know and informal is what they want to know. They point out that most informal learning uses IT and they believe that this means of learning has to be capitalised on and blended into formal learning.  They suggest that IT should be used to deliver formal learning as well as informal learning using similar platforms and modes of delivery (Hoffman and Blake 2003).

When considering innovation in teaching with both groups I was mindful of what innovation is and felt that Eraut’s (1975) description, although offered in 1975 still holds true in the contemporary teaching arena. He described innovation as “a planned change in response to perceived problems rather than the introduction of some new method or technique” (Eraut 1975:13).

One of the issues with innovation is argued by Rosebrough and Leverett (2011) to be teachers’ lack of awareness of the world changing around them and this could explain why innovation in teaching in terms of embracing IT as a valuable resource has been slow.  They argue that “Many teachers have the tendency to put their heads down, noses on grindstone and plow straight ahead through what it is they think they are supposed to be teaching. Suddenly they look up to see that not only had the subject matter changed almost overnight, but that students themselves have changed” (Rosebrough and Leverett 2011; Kindle Edition). One of those key changes, considering Hoffman and Blake’s (2003) thoughts is the way students learn using IT.

Eraut (1975) also explains constraints on innovation as being an absence of dissatisfaction with the current situation; an ‘if it isn’t broken don’t fix it’ philosophy with no institutional value placed on innovation and therefore rewards are intrinsic to the practitioner with innovation under-resourced. (Eraut 1975).

Again it is of note that Eraut was writing in 1975 and these same constraints still exist today and some teaching practices are very much still based on didactic approaches of chalk and board with little alternative (Peris-Ortiz et al 2014).

When considering teaching business innovatively it is often seen as a set of dry topics with little scope for using creativity and even less for innovation and yet a 2008 Cabinet Office document, Realising Britain’s Potential recognised that equipping young people for work in the modern environment required “creative and innovative responses in education and training” (Cabinet Office 2008:3-4) suggesting that the way students are educated should prepare them for positions in business.

This is very much supported within teaching business related topics as Sternberg (2008) points out, children should be taught to be social citizens able to use technology in ways useful to business (Sternberg 2008). This is furthermore supported by Minch and Tabor (2003) who feel that one of the key areas of demand within the job market is for workers who have skills to equip them to work within the e-commerce field. Whilst this also requires traditional skills of communication and organisation, it is essential to equip business students with skills and knowledge to be able to apply IT to a range of business functions (Minch and Tabor 2003). It is of note that Minch and Tabor were commenting in 2003 and 11 years on their sentiments are ever more poignant as e-commerce continues to expand rapidly not only among new start-ups but with long standing traditional businesses of every type from retail to banking engaging in e-commerce (Smith 2010).

Whilst it is considered that most students regardless of what they study will work within businesses eventually, it is perhaps  prudent to assume that students of business itself are more likely to pursue management and leadership roles within a business setting and are perhaps more likely to be engaged as innovators and pioneers within business.

When choosing an innovative resource  I decided to consider technology I had used not only to enhance the teaching and learning of business topics but also to example how smart technology might be used in a business setting. I chose Socrative because it satisfied this rationale, it allows demonstration of application to all of the business topics but also it is software which can be used in a business setting for a number of purposes which will be discussed later.

Before discussing Socrative and how I have applied it, it is worth giving some thought to Ezziane (2007) who felt that the embedding of a range of IT skills while students are still in their basic formal education is paramount to equipping the businesses of tomorrow with suitably skilled people (Ezziane 2007) and furthermore Chong  (1997) adds that there are two goals for integrating technology into teaching,  that is to prepare students for work and to enhance their learning, Socrative achieves both of these when teaching BTEC Business within the FE setting.

Alexander and McKenzie (1998) state that in addition to the two goals proposed by Chong (1997) there are two more; to enhance institutional reputation and to improve productivity  for students and teachers, suggesting not only benefits for the students’ learning and employability but also efficiency savings in terms of teachers’ time and institutional costs. These are considered very briefly in the summary at the end of this paper.

Socrative Applied

Business classes were observed to be taught using mainly didactic methods with some scenario based team work with the main ITL resources being the Office Suite.  An attempt to forge a blend between what Hoffman and Blake (2003) earlier described as formal and informal learning had already been made by introducing the use of Prezi as a more dynamic presentation tool and the interactive use of whiteboards and software such as PoppletPadlet and Twiddla for joint whiteboard activities such as compiling mood boards for marketing and for mind mapping when considering retail functions and then Socrative was introduced as smart interactive polling software.

Considering Hoffman and Blake’s (2003) thoughts again it was felt that students access the majority of their information via their mobile devices, such as smart phones, tablets and lap tops and Socrative can be used with these devices in an attempt to bring the formal learning to the student via an informal media. It allows for students to learn and respond with the click of a button and from a device that is accessible to them, from which they can work on an individual basis or collaboratively with other students who may not even be in the same room as them or who may well be sitting next to them. This was felt to mirror how young people communicate with one another and how they access that informal learning willingly in their own time.

In the business setting a wide range of methods are used to gather, interpret and report information there are boundless opportunities for the use of software which engages individuals and allows for opinions to be shared and for knowledge to be assessed and tested (Brassington and Pettitt 2010; Mullins 2010; Palmer 2010). Some of these are depicted in Figure 1 below. (Apologies for this not transferring well into blog format)

soc

Increasingly, as markets become more competitive, being able to gather, analyse and respond to opinions of customers and staff quickly and efficiently is of paramount importance and software such as Socrative can be used for that purpose. By using it as a teaching tool it not only enhances teaching and learning but allows for students to see the type of software in action and to consider business applications which they may take into the workplace and in that sense it has a twofold benefit as a teaching resource as previously described as essential in teaching by Minch and Tabor (2003).

Socrative uses mobile software which is increasing in popularity as smart phones become the hub of organising lives. They are used for scheduling, a source of entertainment , a means of shopping and booking anything from flights to theatre tickets to name but a few of their uses besides traditional communication. As such to use smart phones as a learning device fits with the way young people conduct their lives, allowing them to access information on the go if they wish, in short sharp delivery which is convenient to them. It allows for safe engagement on a one to one basis between student and teacher outside of teaching sessions in extension activities which can be completed ‘on the go’. Teaching and learning can be taking place when the student is absent from the classroom and whilst it should not be a substitute for attendance it allows for students to engage in activities if they are absent from a session for a legitimate reason but well enough to participate.

How it Works (screen shot illustrations are contained in the attached presentation handout)

Socrative allows a teacher to open a free, secure, online account and to have a unique ID which students can use to log into the virtual classroom via a website to which they do not need to subscribe or open an account, thereby protecting their anonymity and personal data.

The teacher can set quizzes using material to be taught or which has already been taught if they chose to recap or asses prior learning. Once the teacher sets a quiz running students can respond via their smartphones or internet enabled device. Their real time progress can be viewed by the teacher on screen. Activities can consist of one question or multiple questions and can be used as one off responses to a teacher’s question in class or could be used as extension or homework activities.

Students can participate individually or have random groups assigned by computer which allows for students to work with peers they may not normally work with.

Students can be posed a question and contribute responses by entering them in the same way a text message would be written and those answers can be displayed on an interactive whiteboard. Students can then further be invited to vote on which of the responses they feel was the most accurate answer to the original question asked and this can be useful for prompting discussions and debates and allows for higher level questioning.

Results are displayed in an Excel spreadsheet which is emailed to the teacher and to any other email address they wish to email it to. They are easy to analyse and are able to be translated into graphs and charts commensurate with the Excel software functionality, engaging the students in this analysis further embeds the use of such information in a business setting.

Within business teaching it has been used for those reasons outlined in Figure 1 above, to embed learning and to assess prior knowledge and also to recap and check objectives have been met at the end of sessions and at the beginning of subsequent sessions.

It has been repeated at the end of a taught session and at the beginning of the subsequent session and this repetition allows for embedding of information particularly useful in business when teaching models and frameworks, laws and formulae as described above.

Besides teaching the business topics other effects include the development of teams and contribution to improved classroom management with students ready to commence a Socrative quiz as soon as they arrive in class, this allows for immediate settling to work and shifting into a learning frame of mind.

Students have used it to post questions to peers giving them an opportunity to answer rather than the teacher and they have also used it to conduct market research when carrying out marketing assignments. This has enabled them to control the software as they might in a work place situation.

Students have been able to identify where Socrative may be useful in the workplace and have suggested such as:

  • surveys and consultations projects
  • polling at meetings and conferences
  • questioning or testing of interview candidates or at selection centres
  • for staff to anonymously submit suggestions for improvements
  • to ascertain a need for training in a particular area or for a refresher of training
  • to assess knowledge of company policy or vision and value or company objectives
  • training

This fulfils the dual purpose mentioned earlier of not only teaching using technology but also preparing for working life using technology (Chong 1997).

Perceived Benefits of Socrative

Socrative has proven very useful in that it engages students in learning about a range of business topics and it reinforces and embeds learning. It allows for assessment of learning and assessment of teaching and as such is a useful reflective tool and fits with Petty (2004) and Cowley’s (2013) thoughts that innovative ways are required to differentiate and engage all students.

It has assisted in bringing students together to work in groups they would not normally work in so it takes them outside of the norm and encourages more collaborative working outside of their usual comfort zone which adds to building relationships within the group but also assists in a richer sharing of ideas and opinions.

It allows for different learning styles to be catered for if a student is a visual learner it can incorporate photos and video and as it requires some physical engagement could satisfy kinaesthetic learners as well as read write learners and auditory learners (Rhys 2012).

It helps to identify any areas where teaching may have been ineffective or for any individual who may be struggling with a concept and allows for the teacher to recap or to target a student on a one to one basis.

It allows for a range of questioning to be used pitching at different levels from closed questions followed by a more probing question as well as open questions and allows for questions to be simple true or false knowledge responses or to be more analytical and evaluative particularly when combined with discussion and voting as discussed previously (Gershon 2013).

Socrative reduces paper intensive activities such as quizzes and gapped handouts and also saves teacher’s time after the initial quizzes have been set they can be reused for other classes and are stored permanently in the online quiz bank for retrieval and future use. There is no time spent marking and analysing data is quick and efficient in line with the benefits of using innovative technology already discussed (Alexander and McKenzie 1998).

Evaluation

“When new approaches to teaching are adopted, evaluation is particularly important and although it has often been an ‘afterthought’ in the past, evaluation is increasingly viewed as part of any new project” (Jones et al 2000:64-65). Bearing this in mind it is important to not only evaluate the introduction of Socrative from a positive perspective but to consider where its downfalls might be.

  • Teachers may be techno phobic and resistant to use new technologies with which they are unfamiliar (Whitaker and Coste 2002).
  • Wainright and Arnold (2004) point out that IT departments take responsibility for software purchasing and operation when it should be up to faculty teachers to advise what is relevant in their areas of specialism and IT departments should just make sure it works (Wainright and Arnold 2004). It could prove difficult to alter this culture.
  • Students may not have the technology to be able to study in this way or may be embarrassed by not having the latest model of phone or tablet although this could be countered by providing tablets or laptops for use in class.
  • Technology might not function appropriately and if a large section of the lesson or learning was given to using Socrative or a lesson’s outcomes depended on its use this could be problematic

Peers at the conference concurred with these issues adding that buy in from SMT’s to widespread use of innovative software was something which might be  problematic.

Summary & Conclusion

There is still some reluctance to embrace innovation in teaching. Using IT in different and new ways has its share of that reluctance for whatever reason, even if that is a lack of confidence or competence in teaching professionals. It should not be forgotten that traditional teaching methods are still valid in today’s world but should be blended with the types of technology which are to be used in the business world of tomorrow. Students being taught about the dynamic corporate world should be taught using dynamic methods and prepared for the hi-tech business environments that they will inevitably work in. To fully embrace innovative teaching with technology will require significant culture shifts and investment and buy in from FE colleges at an SMT level. (Note: There are similar and improved versions available online since this report was written and some of these have been shared elsewhere in this blog. This goes to show the fast pace of change and the importance of selecting software which best meets needs and taking advantage of free updates)

A theory based reflection on observation of teaching and learning

I’ve been sorting though all my old files and thought it might be useful to include a couple of things I’ve written for my course for anyone interested who might find them useful.

It was a course requirement to submit reflections on observations on blogs. For my blog I made un-referenced less formal posts than the actual reflections I submitted but I thought I’d share one or two of those I did submit. They received some fab feedback for showing links to theory, links to ILP targets and links to previous observation comments and I think that’s one of the keys to getting a high grade for a reflection on OTLs feedback.

Reflection on OTLS April 2014:

“I really enjoyed this session. I feel that I am coming into my own now as a teacher, I feel very confident with the class and very confident in delivery although I am mindful of not becoming complacent. I appreciate that what works well with one class on one day may not work so well with the same class on another day let alone with a different class on a different day. As Meador (2014) states “an effective teacher strives to be better. A teacher who has grown complacent in what they do is the most ineffective kind of teacher… no matter how long you have taught you should always want to grow as a teacher” (Meador 2014 online).  This is one of the reasons why I value reflective practice. I also feel this attitude contributes to my ability to identify easily with what has been noted in my observation as points for improvement agreeing with Gibbs (1998) who suggests that “It is not sufficient simply to have an experience in order to learn. Without reflecting upon this experience it may quickly be forgotten, or its learning potential lost” (Gibbs 1988 cited in Watton et al 1991:4).

I feel this observation demonstrated that my flexibility as a teacher is improving and that my command of the classroom is also improving as I grow in confidence. I do feel that without a doubt my rapport with the students is paramount to my small successes and to my feeling comfortable in the teaching role. This concurs with academic thought offered by  Martinez and Munday (1998) on the impact of the student teacher relationship with the engagement of students in FE .  However I know this did not happen by accident and that I contribute in some way to students feeling comfortable and supported in my classes. I concur with the concept of giving something of ourselves when we teach as Meador (2014) and Moon (1999) suggest and I feel that my students feel my genuine interest in their development and success as young adults and that this is one of the reasons I am able to quickly develop a good rapport with all of the classes I teach.

I appreciate the value in a comment about my teaching linking back to previous learning and forward to planned learning as I feel this contextualises learning for the students. This was something that the students had told me they felt was missing as they were taught units and lessons in isolation often presented as chunks of information which they were unable to form links between or to identify relevancies to the workplace. I feel that the more I make those links obvious the more students seem to become enthused about their learning. I also feel that it helps to ensure that tasks and activities are work based for these same purposes a thought concurred with by Kolodner (1997) who felt that teaching using analogies and work based scenarios has a greater impact on developing confidence and embedding learning.

I managed the three boys who are were not paying attention well today by bringing them out of the corner and making one of them a project manager for one of the tasks. This had a two-fold effect in that I did not have to try to negotiate the melee of chair legs and student bags around the room to be able to engage with these students and see what they were actually doing, but it also brought them into the group as they had begun to isolate themselves. It worked very well in that the group although resistant at first began to communicate well with the others. All students fully enjoyed the task and all were fully engaged  and suitably challenged. I have used this technique before to encourage peer tutoring as admonished by Topping (1996) after it was suggested to me by a tutor at my first observation. I have found it to be a very useful tool for engaging students who are less willing to participate.

It was refreshing to see the boys more lively today and engaged  instead of slumping behind computers and even though the environment was not the best for this task it really did have a big impact on engagement and consequently on learning. I feel that the tasks achieved a lot in terms of differentiation in that all students were able to participate in both tasks and this is essential to ensure that they feel challenged yet comfortable with the pitch of the lesson. I feel that I have developed in terms of understanding that “Differentiated instruction is not a strategy. It is a total way of thinking about learners, teaching and learning” (Tomlinson, 2000) and I feel that sometimes it is better to be flexible and develop different ways of delivering content rather than doing what Joyce (2002) points out a lot of teachers do and taking a safe approach which works and using it for everything and being totally inflexible and failing to achieve differentiation as a result.

This teaching session was relatively straight forward with minimal challenges. The students were a little subdued perhaps after a long Easter break and needed some coaxing to remember previous teaching. This was an introductory lesson to a new unit but it brought together a significant amount of prior learning and I feel I was able to form links to that learning and refresh it to further embed it during this session which helped to recap on previous learning. Some opportunities to do this were planned others I took advantage of as they arose by seizing the moment as admonished by Reuben (1997) and Eraut (1975). This ability to seize the moment has been noted by tutors and mentors in observations throughout my course with comments on it being a sign of a very experienced teacher. I am naturally encouraged by such comments and pleased that I am comfortable with this flexible style of teaching. I feel that it stems from a natural humanistic approach to teaching and learning where lessons are more organic in the way that they flow but is also underpinned by that ability to form a good rapport with students mentioned earlier, this leads to an understanding of what appeals to them, what they are interested in and how they learn best.

The students engaged well towards the second half of the lesson and became more animated. I broke the lesson into short sections of around 10 minutes each in duration purposefully to keep their attention. I felt this worked well for this session particularly given that they were a little quieter than usual. This approach was raised in tutored learning sessions when reading on learning theory and differentiation and is recommended by experts in the education and cognitive function of teenagers who refer to studies indicating that teens have a short attention span when learning (Baars et al 2010; Romine and Reynolds 2005; Conklin et al 2004; Bransford et al 2000).

Questioning allowed all students to input to the lesson and have their views heard and allowed for lively discussion to take place. Some of the questioning was very basic and students struggled with it at first but later they were answering analytical and evaluative questions well. When it came to the second task they were able to apply learning and I felt this was an improvement against my ILP objective taken from my first observation of the course to better understand and implement Bloom’s taxonomy (Bloom et al 1956).”

 

Does Music Have a Place on the Schools Curriculum?

This is an interesting blog article which would suggest that it does Click here to read Unpacking Science article

I’ve long debated with people, in favour of its inclusion, who say that music should not be included on the school curriculum. I recently had a rather public debate with a former HE lecturer who felt that it should be classed as a hobby and thepiano_playing_childreby treated as such, believing parents should pay for their kids to learn an instrument or to sing or to participatedownload (2) in a choir if they want to do that kind of thing and resenting the drain on taxes to provide music as a subject to other people’s children. I argued that if we were to start doing that we would be opening up the floodgates for parents to claim they didn’t want to support a whole raft of the lessons taught in school… I could argue that because my children don’t paint I don’t want my taxes to support art classes or because I hated PE I don’t want my taxes to contribute towards PE classes. That part of her argument in short seemed absurd but was there a point to it? Is music a mere hobby and of no use academically and therefore should it have no place on the curriculum? The above article would strongly suggest that it does and that place should be more respected and better utilised.

I, as the mother of musical children of course support the inclusion and I also pay for my kids to have lessons and to buy them instruments and all manner of associated paraphernalia outside of scdownloadhool, I don’t expect the tax payer, of which I am of course one, to food the bill. My son as a gifted musician who is self taught at guitar and piano and who has been composing music and lyrics for several years now has ambitions to work in the music industry in some capacity when he’s older (sound production, instrument technician, music technologist of some kind are uppermost in his mind right now). Unfortunately his secondary school told us that he was ‘too intelligent to study music at GCSE’ and ‘it wasn’t an option open to his band’ (forgive the pun). His music teacher, recognising his aptitude and talent was most dismayed but his hands were tied.

I wonder ifppos-02-amplitude (and hope that) reading this and future research might free up a few minds to think a little more outside of the box and see that playing a musical instrument teaches so many skills and disciplines. It requires dedication and devotion, practice, repetition, interpretation of mood. Analysis of pitch, pressure, audio dynamics, sound transmission and distortion, frequency, timing, pattern and rhythm and as this piece points out, long strings of complex memorised information. It often requires the use of both hands simultaneously while reading (music is essentially a foreign language or code) and listening at the same time not only to your own instrument but to other instruments in the band or orchestra, takingband direction from a conductor, team and group work, literacy, numeracy not to mention other elements like interpretation of lyrics and language… just tons of skills which are transferable into other areas of life and more importantly transferable into learning.

Beside that I have noticed that as my son progresses through his teen years music is an outlet for his creativity but also for his emotions and his teen angst, he is a very calm, composed young man who makes beautiful sounds and strings of sounds and produces heart felt deep and meaningful lyrics which express his feelings and views of the world which don’t only provide a snapshot imagesof his life but a snapshot of teen culture and life in general in 2013/14 or whenever.

I’m not so sure that kids are encouraged enough to learn to play an instrument at school. I think all kids should be encouraged to do so not only those expressing an interest or for a select few. I spent my music classes tapping out rhythms or guessing the instrument watching the teacher enjoy playing the instruments longing to have a go myself.

I don’t see why music is so underestimated and really think there is a lot to learn about how muchA-major-scale-guitar-tabs-chords-2 it offers as a teaching tool. Everyone has their opinions of course, this is just mine.

 

Further reading:

Article on piano playing and brain function

Article on guitar playing and brain synchronisation

Article on advice to budding professional musicians… some excellent life advice for youngsters here

Article on the up to date situation with music and the national curriculum