Posted in LAT

Re-thinking Learner Induction

Transition

The transition from school to college is one of the most challenging events in a learner’s life and getting this right can often make the difference between successful completion of their course and early withdrawal from studies.

The advantages of a positive student induction should not be underestimated. If we can scaffold and facilitate the transition from school to college approaches to learning at the very start, then not only will the first year experience be positive but learning and teaching outcomes will improve.

Research suggests that that when students are engaged in their courses and have been supported in creating networks and friendships with their peers, the more likely it is that the retention rates will improve (Crosling, 2008). Learners need to feel loved from the outset, that sense of belonging. It is important that learners are made aware of the rules and regulations; however we must not forget that humanistic approach during induction. For a person to grow they need an environment that provides them with genuineness, acceptance, positive regard and empathy (Rogers, 1983).

Welcome Week?

Students need time to learn how to learn, we must enable them to slowly adjust to college life and we must explicitly teach the skills and aptitudes required of them, not assume that these grow naturally (Bromley, 2016). Induction should be recognised as those first 6 weeks and beyond, not making snap judgements after a week of induction. Could we even consider losing the term induction week and replacing this with ‘Welcome Week?’  What can we do as pre-arrival induction activities to limit the duplication of information that often happens during induction?

Ideas Please!

I have recently set up a Padlet Ideas Wall (https://padlet.com/gknox2/gth92wcjykvf) on what staff at the Lincoln College Group want to see during induction. Some key themes have emerged:

  • Students need to move from being passive ‘recipients’ during induction to being partners in planning and organising the process
  • Information provided on a need to know basis rather than all in one go, learners given time to socialise without the tutor in the room, learners grouped into new dynamics regularly throughout the week
  • A session / good quality information to get students set up and using the College IT systems. This will include connecting to any College information / social media platforms / groups; and give students a purpose to engage in these by posting key information, news, fun items and importantly interactive activities to help build a community

One Size Does Not Fit All…

It would be futile to suggest that all courses must run the exact same induction programme. However, we must consider alternative and innovative approaches to learning, teachings and assessment during induction.  Again the Padlet has suggested some great ideas:

  • Big QR Codes at entrances to buildings with links to the information as to what goes on each building
  • Social elements – Campus activities in induction week that all students can attend. For example a sport event in Deans, competition in the Common Room, opening up all departments for tours, performance in Knights
  • A project for learners to go straight in at the deep end. Nothing too scary though. Include elements that require induction for practical workshops, group work and team building, library, opportunities for baseline assessment of skills, introduction to the standard and the style of working needed to be successful

Much work will be taking place over the next few months to equip teachers with some fresh ideas and resources for induction. As we approach the final few weeks of the academic year, take some time to reflect on your induction with your students and critically reflect your course induction programme. There is no knowledge of the world that is not knowledge of our own experience of it and in relationship to it (Gouldner, 1970). Taking that time to reflect and evolve can improve the future of your learners.

Gavin Knox

Posted in LAT

It’s ‘just’ really great learning

We are already well underway in the final term of the academic year, usually the most manic and stressful period for learners and staff alike. You might be seeing your classroom change before your very eyes from the previous calm and serenity into a total madhouse! This is the worst possible time to arrange a Developmental Observation of Learning right? Wrong!

We often hear concerns that learners at this stage of the year are ‘just’ finishing off assignments or ‘just’ revising so there isn’t much ‘to see’ but nothing could be further from the truth! So if you haven’t yet had the conversation with your managers about arranging your DoL, now is a great opportunity to engage in this professional development.

The following article is an abridged version of a recent article on this very topic, so as ever have a read and let us know your thoughts via the Workplace comments facility:

There isn’t a wind down to the FE year is there? Let’s face it, the last couple of months are very much about supporting students to finish, preparing them for their next steps, and planning and dealing with next year and beyond!

When asked to consider possible sessions for a DoL, one of the big worries for teachers is: ‘There isn’t much teaching going on’. It’s an understandable concern, as often the teaching and learning sessions have turned into something else that might not feel like teaching. But one thing’s for sure, they can be a lot of learning going on! These workshops, revision sessions etc are ripe with learning opportunities!

Let’s start with visualising the scene. Learners are in a classroom perhaps… maybe there are computers around the sides or forming columns up and down the room. Maybe they have assignment work to complete. You can visualise this easily as they’re your students, right?

Let’s turn them into something else by altering the picture’s perspective a little.  It’s all the same, but instead of being a classroom it’s a workplace and instead of being observed by you, it’s a potential employer watching. Consider for a moment what this employer might be looking for. It is possible the employer might witness a group of potential employees working productively, collaboratively, independently, using problem solving skills, demonstrating passion for their subject, resilience, respect, and a great work ethic…. or not.

Whilst working on assignments, learners should be developing knowledge and skills and importantly for our ‘employer’ visiting they should be demonstrating the extent of many of their employability skills, characteristics and traits. Also, we need to remember that the best assessment IS learning.  So to make sure that learners make the most of these types of sessions, learning, developing and displaying their skills, here are a few simple pointers to share:

Planning

 

  • Have website addresses, texts, aids on Moodle to refer to.
  • 
Have nominated experts in the group where appropriate so learners can ask for support from each other
  • 
Have a seating plan. Who will work best where and who with?
  • Rewards are great for this type of session but they should be intrinsic wherever possible and contribute to a positive atmosphere.

Delivery



  • Always have a purposeful start!
  • 

Ask learners to set themselves their own challenging targets for what they need to achieve, and get them to share and rationalise these – this can be done in an active way. Think of ways this can be done in sessions and share these with us!
  • Learners working independently, productively, and keenly are achievements themselves and shows they have developed the skills to do so.  Remind them that they are doing that and verbally compare it to when they started.
  • 

For some learners, setting a competitive tone might work (that doesn’t necessarily mean against each other. It could be to collectively produce / learn more than last session).
  • 

Learners supporting each other is also an important skill which is great to see them use (all parties should get something out of it though).
  • When facilitating, don’t be over eager to go in and support an individual just to show you are doing something, instead:
  1. Scan the room- where are you needed most?
  2. 
If more than one place, you could ask another learner to give support too
  3. Avoid having your back to the rest of the room when facilitating

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  • When supporting an individual working independently (or a small group), consider an 80/20 approach – get them to do 80% of the talking, with you asking the questions and teasing out information. Allow and embrace learner thinking time!
  • 

Keep referring them back to previous lessons and learning, take them there, give prompts, but let them find the answers

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  • If they still don’t know, show them how / where to find out.
  • Be sure to check with them what they have just learnt (not just what they will include in their assignment)

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  • Take regular intervals where peer assessment can happen – have learners check and critique each others work – if they aren’t used to doing this, provide a structure eg. What could x do better, what one thing would improve the work, what is the best thing about the work
  • Provide mark schemes and have them use them to mark each other and self
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  • Ensure learners self reflect!
  • Have learners use their IT skills purposefully to support digital literacy (rather than ‘just’ shoe-horning)
  • Where there is a key learning opportunity – perhaps someone has just thought of something important and you want others to benefit – take time to bring the class together to share and then ask them what they will do with it to help them

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  • Keep the tone productive, use timers, or use short blocks of activity for learners who get quickly distracted

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  • But remember it isn’t just the quantity of work they produce that’s important, encourage quality

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  • At the end, evaluate, evaluate, evaluate– no matter what!!! Ask them what they have learnt and how they will use it and ask them about what they need next, from themselves, each other, and you

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  • Always ask them to do at least one thing before the next session to improve the work they have just produced, and ask them what that will be.

How productive will your sessions be at this time of year and to what extent will your learners have developed and be showcasing their skills? If you can answer this positively with confidence, then stress less. It’s time to let your learners show what they’ve become.

Posted in LAT

Trusting the “neeeerrr” and the “aahh” – creativity in LAT.

James Wadsworth

Forgive me. It’s been a good few months since I’ve written a blog so my rhetoric may be a smidge rusty and my prose a little ponderous, but I’ll give it a go.

I thought I’d share some reflections and fusions on three pieces of work that have been rattling around in the dark recesses of my mind recently and endeavour to give them a little context to assist in our LAT. The three relate to the concept of creativity; not necessarily in an educational setting but all in general agreement that its possession is virtuous and desirable.

A hasty review of each piece…..

The first, an experimental piece by Kelsey Medeiros and colleagues, challenged empirically, the commonly held view that creativity is all about boundless freedom or a blank canvas the size of a house side to find and express your inner answers. This study took a bunch of students and set them a marketing task but limited a differing number of task objectives factors, such as a budget. A natural reaction here maybe to think that if constraints are applied creativity decreases, surely. Well, yes and no according to this study. Medeiros et al.’s findings suggested that when multiple constraints were applied, then yes, the creative problem solving displayed by the students decreased but when a single or small number of constraints were enforced, creative problem solving actually increased. Hmmm, who’d have thought?

The second article, theoretical in its approach, was penned by the wonderful Dean Keith Simonton in 2009 and appears to propose that creativity is domain regressive in its nature. Erm, in English that means…? Boiling the theory down, Simonton essentially suggested that generally the physical sciences are innately less creative than the social sciences, which in turn are less creative than the arts. He further suggested that, for example, if a physical scientist wanted or needed to be creative for some reason, they should regress into the social science space to find inspiration and be creative. Following on social scientists should regress into the arts space and artists should, as the most creative domain by default, should have sufficient space anyway (or in some unfortunate cases, regress into potential mental ill health to find creative space).

Finally, I had the great pleasure of attending a conference last year which included a memorial lecture (to the late Anna Craft) from Professor Guy Claxton on the subject of visceral creativity.

(I know there are only 25 hours in each of the 8 days in the FE week, but if you can spare 57 minutes, all at once, or in nibble sized morsels, or even just the last 5 minutes, it will be time well spent watching this clever, profound, thought provoking and witty lecture. https://youtu.be/2wFGVVFMmyI )

So, what can be taken from the lecture? In reality, a huge array of insight but a couple of highlights….

Firstly, the fascinating comparative made between western and eastern thinking about the creative process (and the Winnie the Pooh analogy J) which illustrated that we, the west, tend to go looking for creativity rather than, in the eastern cultures, the mind is prepared to receive it. We tend to view it as almost a commodity to be sought rather, in the east, than a gift to be absorbed.

The second is the use of non-intellectual decision making; the lecture talks at length about visceral creativity, that is, using the whole body to be creative and feel creativity not just your brain. The best bit of the whole lecture, in my opinion, is when Prof Claxton describes that feeling when a creative thought or idea is not just quite right as the “neeeerrr” moment (and conversely when it does feel right as “aahh”) – that feeling inside that is just telling to do it or not, despite the sharp focus on the numbers perhaps telling you differently.

So, what can be gleaned from these pieces in terms of our LAT practice?

Developing creativity is for us as much as it is for our learners. We should conceive creativity as symbiosis between the tutor and the learner; a tutor needs to be creative in their thinking when preparing and delivering sessions to ensure that a learner exposed to creative opportunities and hence develop their creative thinking. The creativity then shown by the learners could spark further ideas for the tutor which then leads them to think more creatively again…and so on.

It’s easy to say to yourself, a colleague or a learner (usually with a gleefully clichéd set of jazz hands) “let’s be creative today folks!”, shove all the desks back to the wall and adorn the walls with flip chart paper and hope that the Nobel winning alternative to the internet will shortly be created. Hope is not a strategy. What is a strategy, however, is to manage a physical and temporal space to be creative; get people (including yourself) to realise that creativity can be absorbed from the world around you and from domains not in the slightest bit related to your own; get people to appreciate creative space but put some limiters on it to give focus (or even get people to devise their own limiters) and get people to listen to how they feel about an idea, not at the expense of intellectual consideration, but certainly letting intuition be the greater influence.

Finally, creativity and being creative is daunting, scary and, realistically, time consuming. I’m sure you’ve heard the words “I haven’t got a creative bone in my body” or “what if I create something that goes wrong or isn’t right” or “I’ve got no time to get through even the basics of this subject”….and as I sit here, I can’t disagree with them (well, the “bone in the body” bit isn’t a growth mind set so I would challenge that one). But what I would say is that not making space for it at all is doing a disservice to our learners, as to be happy and successful, however you may define it, needs an element of creativity as a personal attribute to deal with the ever changing world around us. It’s also doing a disservice to ourselves, if we are indeed to be enabled and liberated in our lives.    

JW

Just in case you want to hear more of my ramblings on this topic, have a look at my project blog https://jamesw76.wordpress.com/

References

Claxton, G. (2016) Anna Craft memorial lecture 2016. Visceral creativity: embodiment, ethics and the creative process. [Video]: Available from https://youtu.be/2wFGVVFMmyI [Accessed on 13th March 2017].

Medeiros, K.E., Partlow, P.J. and Mumford, M.D. (2014) Not too much, not too little: The influence of constraints on creative problem solving. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 8(2) 198-210.

Simonton, D. K. (2009). Varieties of (Scientific) Creativity A Hierarchical Model of Domain-Specific Disposition, Development, and Achievement. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 4 (5) 441-452.

Posted in LAT

An extraordinary lesson can start at the door….

by Gavin Knox

As a new recruit to the AP team I felt it was important to greet you with an entry into the LAT Blog!

The first few minutes of a lesson are crucial. With a positive start to the lesson, you have every chance of having an extraordinary lesson.  How can we make those first minutes of our lessons a positive experience?

Gav

Intervene at the door. Meet and greet every student at the door.

Why?

Make your students feel valued, appreciated and let them recognise the significance they have in today’s lesson. This must happen for every student, even the ones that might grind your gears! It is often those students that welcome this more than others.

Smile, shake hands, high five or whatever your style maybe of every student that walks through the door! A teacher in the US has devised his own unique handshake for each of his students.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4184184/Amazing-teacher-unique-handshake-student.html

How?

Show that you are pleased to see them. Ask how they are, how was your weekend?, how was your evening? This short intervention of your energy injects enthusiasm, belonging and keenness into every student that walks in, consequently this will have a real impact on learners approach to the lesson. Not only is this just a nice way to start the lesson it is also a leading first intervention in behaviour management. By greeting at the door you can quickly address issues such as headphones, drinks, phones with a gentle reminder that they are now entering ‘your territory’ and a learning environment.

Often we let students into a room before the teacher. What this might do is to give ownership to the students as they are already settled into ‘their’ territory which might mean we have to spend the start of the lesson addressing issues we might have addressed at the door.

Paul Dix, a leading behaviour specialist is a huge advocate of this simple but effective routine. He has produced a short helpful video:

https://youtu.be/Gc3h2eJl7nY

So why not give it a try and let us know via the comments boxes how this works out for you!

I hope to be able to meet and greet as many of you in my new role as an AP!

Posted in Uncategorized

Action Research

You may have heard the term ‘action research’ used in your staff rooms, team meetings or on Workplace. This blog entry aims to explain precisely what is meant by this and to hopefully inspire you to get involved!

teacher-lesson-plan

What is action research?

Teachers are problem solvers. We reflect upon our sessions throughout their delivery and then afterwards so as to ensure that we meet the diverse needs of our learners. Indeed:

Every learning environment is a gold mine of useful data. Each day a learner attends a course, they may be engaged or distracted, interact productively with peers or experience difficulties in social situations, complete assignments proficiently or poorly, and express enthusiasm or disinterest for the material being covered. As educators, we notice these small bites of data, but how often do we systematically collect this data in order to assess our own methods?

Action research refers to the process of doing just that – setting a focused research question that could allow us to understand our learners and our own teaching even better, to diagnose problems, to solve problems or maybe to trial a new methodology in our classrooms.

Why do it?

  • Reflective practice (in line with the ETF standards)
  • Problem Diagnosing
  • Problem Solving
  • Trying out something new
  • CPD – personal and professional development
  • Challenge

How does it work?

Select a topic or question. Some examples of projects currently underway at the college are:

  • Does altering the physical appearance of a learning environment positively enhance the motivation levels of sports students’ within a General Further Education College?
  • An investigation to review the Digital Fluency Levels of Teachers within a General Further Education College.
  • An investigation to reflect on the changing motivations, aspirations and confidence levels of sport students throughout an academic year.

Gather baseline data and approval –  a simple Survey Monkey will allow you to gather information from your learners before commencing the study. Be sure to get permission forms signed by all participants (templates available).

Set the timeframe –  6 weeks or 1 half-term is a perfect target timeframe for an action research process, although this can of course be extended or reduced according to the demands of your project.

Collect the information – this can be done through a range of typical techniques such as surveys, observation, learner interviews and SWIVL technology.

Analyse the data – in comparison with the baseline and your expectations for the project. Excel can help you produce some graphs, charts and tables.

Write up findings – this does not need to be as laborious as it may first seem! A common method of presentation is the academic poster, some examples of which are below:

Take action! – the critical final stage of any action research process. Use the findings to inform your future practice, share the results with your learners and colleagues and ensure that maximum impact can be felt in your classroom and beyond. The results may even inform your next proposal!

250px-Action_research.svg

What extra work does it involve?

Time is of course a highly precious commodity but the demands on time for action research are not as high as you might think. Choosing a topic that could have maximum impact on the learning experience and you might also enjoy doing will also add to the positive experience of an action research project. The key processes to work through would be: write a proposal, design a survey or data collection method, collect the data and write-up your findings.

You should allow one full term for this process and don’t forget you set your own deadlines!

What happens with the results?

Action research reports are due to be collated for inclusion in a college publication, will form the basis of our first ever annual Teach Meet in June 2017 and will also contribute to the discussion at future LAT meetings across the organisation. They may also inspire you to kick on and write your first book or academic article!

48x72 Horizontal Template

How do I get involved?

Contact us via the comments section below or on Workplace or email Dave Horsfield on dhorsfield@lincolncollege.ac.uk

As ever, we look forward to hearing from you!

Posted in Uncategorized

Improve your online SPaG – avoid embarrassing typos…

8462964938_48d7895759In this digital age, the question of how important spelling, punctuation and grammar are to modern communications reoccurs time and again.  This recent article in the TES news suggests that it is a major problem amongst teachers: https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-views/does-teaching-have-a-literacy-problem

No matter what your thoughts on this topic, there is no escaping the fundamental truth: language is, quite simply, about communication. Errors and mistakes make it harder to interpret what someone is trying to tell us and the meaning can be confused or lost completely. Clarity breeds understanding and we are all dotted somewhere along the murky spectrum of coherence. It is our job as educators to raise our students above the mist of ambiguity… But what message does it send if our own online SPaG is far from perfect?

Grammarly-logo

Fortunately, there is a superb new tool available to you – it is a browser add-on, and therefore does not require administrator rights in order to install it.  Unlike the standard spelling and grammar check in Word, Grammarly functions directly in your web browser, which means it performs very comprehensive spelling, punctuation and grammar checks on anything you write in a browser window – this includes online email, posts that you might write on Facebook or Workplace, assignment briefs you write in Moodle and even reports to parents that you write directly in ProMonitor!  If you write it in a browser window, Grammarly will check it.

At the moment, the free add-on of Grammarly supports Google Chrome, Safari and Firefox browsers – it does not function in Internet Explorer or Edge without paying for an account.  If you favour Google Chrome and you have a Google account that you sign into, the add-on will exist wherever you sign into your Google account.  Simply search for Grammarly in Google and click on the Free Browser Extension link in the results page.

Grammarly One

Then simply click on the ‘Add to Chrome’ button and within seconds the add-on will install itself and that’s it!

Grammarly Two.jpgOnce installed, you will spot that a green ‘G’ icon has appeared beside your URL bar.  Grammarly FourAll your online writing is now being checked for SPaG by one of the most comprehensive tools in the world.  The next time you are writing a comment for a student in ProMonitor, you will see the small green ‘G’ icon in the bottom right of the window; if the G turns to a number in red, you know there are some errors in what you have written, which will be highlighted by a red underline, similar to Word’s own spell-checker.

Grammarly Five

As soon as you hover over the potential error, Grammarly suggests the correction, and, unlike a lot of SPaG checkers, Grammarly also notices contextual errors.  Where a traditional spell-check function might be happy to leave desert in place of dessert, the context engine of Grammarly will point out the nonsense in your sentence which you can then choose to correct or not (depending on if that was the effect you were aiming for!)

Overall, it’s a neat little tool, that’s free and very handy at correcting silly errors in online posts.  If you regularly use the Chrome browser, it’s little to no effort to install it and gain the benefit of another pair of (digital) eyes scanning over what you are writing.  Though Grammarly’s grammar engine will not transform you into Charles Dickens or William Wordsworth and no digital SPaG tool can truly replace a thorough proofreading, in the fast-paced world that we all inhabit today; it’s a great time and potential embarrassment saver!

Why not give it a try and let us know if it helps?

Posted in Uncategorized

Managing Your Workload

A recent survey has brought something we all knew already to a much wider audience – educators work incredibly hard. The headlines from the research are:

  • 93% of respondents to the survey stated that workload in their institution was at least a fairly serious problem;
  • 52% cited workload as a very serious problem;
  • The average working hours in a week for all teachers was 54.4 hours

Teaching is a demanding profession both physically and emotionally and it is vitally important for our own health and well-being that we do everything we can to manage our workload. Consider the image below and click this link for a bigger version:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/593913/6.2799_DFE_MB_Reducing_Teacher_Workload_Poster_20161213_print.pdf

workload-dfe-doc

Please take the time to consider where you sit in relation to the ‘do’ and ‘don’t’ column. A period of self-analysis and risk assessment on workload could go a long way towards getting the balance right. Maybe use this as the ‘hot topic’ in your staff room or at your next team meeting. Working collaboratively and focusing on solutions is the most powerful way to engage with emotive issues like workload. Can you share any examples of good practice from your areas?

Have a look also at the following article on how one school has proactively engaged with the topic of teacher workload:

https://classteaching.wordpress.com/2017/02/27/workload-matters/

What are your thoughts on techniques such as collaborative planning, area specific feedback policies and research-based teaching? Can you share any examples of success in these areas from your own practice?

We look forward to hearing from you via the comments section of Workplace as ever.