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:
- 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.
- 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:
- Scan the room- where are you needed most?
- If more than one place, you could ask another learner to give support too
- Avoid having your back to the rest of the room when facilitating .
- 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 .
- 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) .
- 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 .
- 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 .
- Keep the tone productive, use timers, or use short blocks of activity for learners who get quickly distracted .
- But remember it isn’t just the quantity of work they produce that’s important, encourage quality .
- 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 .
- 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.