Posted in LAT

The Maths Diary: Week Two

Gemma Whitelock is an Art & Design teacher based at CHT. Over the course of this calendar year, she was part of a group of Lincoln College practitioners who retrained to deliver Maths to our learners. The initiative was instigated by the ETF ( Here is Gemma’s latest reflection on her progress so far…

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So last week saw the first maths teaching at CHT this academic year. For my groups, it was a speedy induction into my slightly alternative methods. I am doing things the way I know best, with project-based learning. There is a method to my madness though, it is based on sound research and observation through last year as well as an understanding of how our creative learners approach their studies.

In the first session, we actually didn’t do any maths. A slightly odd concept I know… but an important part of the master plan. We did talk a lot about maths though, more specifically all of their negative thoughts linked to the subject. I actually allowed them one whole lesson to unpick the bad experiences from school and just genuinely ‘tell it how it is’. For me, this was one of the most crucial ways of understanding how and why the learners find the subject difficult and why they find themselves needing to continue with their maths study with us at college. The groups didn’t disappoint, they were VERY honest in their responses and the information gathered will hopefully allow me to be able to support them better in achieving their qualification this year.

This week was very much based on their outcomes of the discussions and brutally honest responses from the first session. The key focus of this week’s learning was to help the groups to understand how to get those crucial marks on their exam paper. Issues related to exam technique were a MASSIVE focus within the discussions last week and something that learners all (in one way shape and form) recognised was an area for development.

Again, using the new project based Maths approach, the learners used facts and information to work in pairs to answer questions. The lesson actually felt more like an English comprehension lesson for most rather than maths! It was certainly an eye-opener for the learners when analysing the answers and realising that so many of them had made the common mistakes. We followed up the project task with the application of their new understanding to some different exam questions. Again re-affirming those key messages and helping them to see that with careful consideration, the full marks can be achieved.

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At the end, learners were asked to summarise what they had learnt and set targets for future sessions.. these included comments such as; ‘I need to read the question 3 times’, ‘highlight key bits of the question to keep focussed’ as well as ‘visualise the question. Draw diagrams and ‘see’ what you are being asked.’ This for me demonstrated clear progress.

In my usual style, the groups also had a range of resources to support their ‘meeting’ this week. The newly issued project briefs and folders helped to give the ‘CHT Events Team’ members that feeling of being valued and part of something different when compared to their previous experiences of the subject…let’s hope that the progress continues!

Posted in LAT

It’s not SMART to ignore GROWTH

GROWTH Targets?…….But we had just got our head around SMART targets!!

Although SMART targets may appear to be clear and concise, the reality is that they are often restrictive, repetitive and overly focused on the outcome.

“The best performers set goals that are not about the outcome but about the process of reaching the outcome.” ― Geoff Colvin (2008)

It is collectively our responsibility to help learners unlock their potential to maximise their performance and make their way to extraordinary. The GROWTH target model provides a simple way to structure a conversation with learners which will help to raise their awareness of responsibility for success.

Zig Ziglar

You may be surprised to learn that the GROW model is not something new. It is a ‘tried and tested’ model that is widely used when coaching professionals towards extraordinary levels of performance. The model was instigated in the 1980s and is attributed to Sir John Whitmore, a former racing driver turned coaching consultant.

The key to setting a successful GROWTH target is to spend time establishing the G (the goal). Forming a goal that is both inspiring and challenging is the crucial first topic in the conversation between learner and tutor.

The R stands for Reality and encourages a consideration of the learner’s starting point. On too many occasions, SMART targets were created without any real requirement of the learner to address their starting point and consider if the goal is still challenging enough to be a success. During this section, there is an expectation that the learner will reflect on their current reality, considering what has gone well so far and the areas that still require improvement.


Options….how many options do we need? In the above quote, Picasso suggests that the plan is the most important part of any target. The options provided should address possible ways of achieving the target and offer learners flexibility in their working process towards their goal.

So with the learner conversation under full steam, now is the chance to discuss the Will or Way forward. Which option will be employed to ensure the successful completion of the target? This section enables the learner to show an element of commitment towards the target and creates a summary or action plan towards their achievement.

As with a SMART target, a GROWTH target also requires a Timeframe to be employed in order to maintain momentum and check completion. The final H stands for “How did you progress” and is an opportunity for the learner to share their successes and/or address their barriers. This discussion should lead positively into the next GROWTH target.

Jacqui Browne

GROWTH targets are supportive and have been proven to be successful. It is time to embrace the new method and enable our learners to continue making those steps towards extraordinary.

GROWTH targets will be explored in one of your sessions on the 19th and 20th October, during which there will be opportunities to discuss them in more detail.

If you do require more support with GROWTH targets in the meantime, please contact one of the AP team, Rebecca Holmes or any of the PPCs.

Posted in LAT

The Maths Diary: Week One

Gemma Whitelock is an Art & Design teacher based at CHT. Over the course of this calendar year she was part of a group of Lincoln College practitioners who retrained to deliver Maths to our learners. The initiative was instigated by the ETF ( Here are Gemma’s initial thoughts as she commenced delivery of her sessions this week…


It is no secret that it is a slightly daunting thing to meet a new group. Even the most experienced teacher surely has a slight flutter of nerves right? I think for me, it may have been quite a bit more than a ‘flutter’ this week as I dipped my toe into the world of teaching maths.

And so it begins…if I’m being totally honest, I have had a few wobbles and crises of confidence over the summer when trying to get my head around the concept of planning a subject that will ‘fit’ with my own teaching strengths as well as the needs of my learners. Never an easy task, even when you are quite confident with the subject you are delivering. After much head scratching and testing of ideas on my own kids (they are VERY willing when bribed with Haribo!) I have a grand plan. Something that takes into account everything that I absorbed through observing maths lessons during the last academic year, the feedback from the learners themselves as well as things that I have used effectively within my own subject area. I am doing it the way that I know best…injecting a little bit of weird, a lot of practical and the really important bit: making it ‘real’ for the learners involved.

There are lots of things that I have planned to engage and involve the learners in developing their maths skills. However, there is one crucial theme to my lessons…they aren’t called maths lessons. A point of discussion that I’m sure will split opinions among practitioners across college. This is one of the things resulting from feedback last year. It was clear that the stigma related to being labelled as a ‘resit’ student is a little too much to take for some. Even though learners knew that their maths (and English) was a core part of their study programme and they knew that attendance was important, they didn’t really enthuse about their lessons when questioned. Most were in attendance and did what was asked, which admittedly is progress for some when compared to their previous experience of the subject. I just couldn’t help feeling that there was a spark missing… isn’t this something that we naturally try to inject when delivering our vocational subjects? It’s just what we do. This thought resulted in the rebrand for my groups this year.

This week my new ‘maths’ groups have been inducted as the ‘End of Year Show Team.’ Quite simply, they have the responsibility to plan, calculate, make recommendations and develop strategies to ensure the smooth running of the final Creative Arts and Media show at the end of the academic year. There will also be opportunities for the groups to test their skills with the Christmas pop-up shop (our work experience initiative held during the Lincoln Christmas Market.) Every element of the functional skills specification is accounted for in the delivery of the project. There will be a flavour of project based learning with maths skills embedded to make it as vocationally relevant to my learners as possible. The learners will have the responsibility to deliver the goods each week to ensure that we have a professional standard show at the end of the year.

Yes, it is an experiment and yes, it is a risk. However, given the feedback received from the groups already this week when they were asked to ‘honestly reflect’ has been an eye opener. Stories of unsupportive teachers, relentless past paper sessions and worse…it’s not surprising that they have a negative feeling about maths as a subject. Now it is the time to flip that attitude, make them see that they can do it and that in many ways they already are. It is going to be a challenge and more than a little bit out of my comfort zone.

The learners are already more than open to the suggestion of more practical and vocationally relevant ways to develop their maths skills…it will be interesting to see what happens next week when we really get stuck in!



Posted in LAT


I believe teachers are superheroes; do you? 

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Don’t get me wrong; I am not trying to over-romanticise the role of a teacher or suggest it’s on par with other jobs where immensely courageous and brave people risk their lives carrying out acts of heroism. I am not suggesting teachers arrive to class wearing capes or their pants on the outside of their trousers; but I do believe teachers share similarities with our much loved and celebrated superheroes.

So what unites our teacher and superheroes? 

Answer (according to me!)…they all can positively impact on people’s lives; they can change people’s life chances and outcomes.

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That’s what great teachers do, right?

The sad thing is great teachers often don’t realise it; maybe this is because our great teachers come into teaching to do this very thing; they see teaching as a moral profession and that’s just what they do.

The even sadder thing (again according to me) is their impact often goes unrecognised by those whose lives are changed by them until many years later; but then it’s too late for them to say thank you!

That’s one reason why I believe many of our great teachers are unsung superheroes who go about their superhero ways in their civilian clothes.

But there’s more…

Our great teachers often sacrifice many things for the benefit of their learners. They give up their own personal time in order to plan for exciting, stimulating and meaningful learning. They often go home with piles of assignments to be marked, reports to be written or references to be completed.  They don’t do this for their own personal gain; they do it because they know it will benefit their learners.

Our superhero teachers don’t give up on their learners and they see potential in all they teach. Quickly and effortlessly they spot learners who are struggling, frustrated or not achieving their potential; they invest their time and their expertise in these learners so they do succeed. Our great teachers have patience in bucket loads, they are resilient, they are tenacious and they instil these qualities in their learners.

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They can turn situations that learners see as ‘hopeless’ or ‘pointless’ into meaningful learning opportunities. They engage even the most disaffected and help them achieve the ‘unachievable’. They remain positive, but honest, even in the most challenging situations.

Our great teachers have open mindsets, they have a love for learning and never stop learning themselves; yet even their learning is often altruistic. You’ll hear them say ‘I want to be the best teacher I can be’ but it’s not uncommon to hear this followed by ‘because I want my learners to be the best they can be’.

Like superheroes, our great teachers are multifaceted. They may be teachers one minute but the next they could be a counsellor, a coach, an advisor. They do this innately.

So, as we embark on a new academic year let’s not forget or overlook the significance of great teachers.  Professor John Hattie asks teachers to ‘know thy impact’. If teachers know their impact is positive it’s likely they will be supporting their learners in making the maximum progress and adding the greatest value to their education. This will improve their employability, their ability to contribute positively to society and their learners’ life chances. Now tell me that’s not a superpower?

I am lucky to have had experienced the impact of great teachers in my life, I am privileged to work with many great teachers now, I am proud to say I am a teacher (and sometimes a superhero); I hope you are too!

Sally Reeve

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Posted in Induction, LAT

An enjoyable fresh start or a box ticking exercise? Getting the balance right in those first few weeks…


One of the key differences that you are likely to have noticed from this time last year is that what we have traditionally called ‘induction’ has been rebranded as ‘The Big Welcome’. Part of the rationale behind this is to try and make it sound a little less formal for our new students. Remember that at lots of marketing events such as open evenings, we always sell ourselves as a fresh start for our students and these initial weeks are our opportunity to make a great first impression.


Imagine that you have been invited to take part in a paired learning walk and as you move from classroom to classroom, you encounter scores of students all sat at desks completing form after form. How do they feel? Is this the fresh start that everyone was hoping for? Is this an environment where young people begin to make lifelong friends? As we move closer to our first ‘Big Welcome’, please consider carefully the types of activities you will be doing with these new learners, is it inspiring? Does it get the students hooked? Does it allow them to make new friends? Obviously there is an appreciation that certain ‘things’ must be done in these initial weeks, however, this year more than any other year we want you to be bold, brave and innovative with your activities, yes, students need to know where the toilets are, how to orient their way around the campus, where the fire evacuation points are, but think creatively with how these can be achieved. Try as much as possible to avoid that ‘box ticking’, process driven culture that can often deter new students and instead of feeling excited about the year ahead, leave them thinking that it could be the longest year ever.

Some of the students enrolling in courses for this year will be eager and excited, but for some of our learners, the thought of making a fresh start on a new course can be completely overwhelming. Many of our learners are likely to be anxious and will need our ‘Big Welcome’ to help them to integrate and settle into college life. It is therefore extremely important that you consider the emotional and social side to their initial days/weeks at college.

Some things that you can consider as a start point could be…..

Learning their names and getting to know them as people.


Ensuring that you learn and use the student’s names as soon as possible will help to make them feel valued, make you more approachable and will help students to form those important early relationships with each other. Finding out their likes and dislikes, previous experiences and career aspirations enables them to share information and find common ground with other learners.

Letting them get to know each other.

Try to encourage some activities that let the learners spend time together in small groups without staff members being the focal point. Allowing the learner’s opportunities to make new friends is crucial to help them settle into their new surroundings. This is very difficult to do if all they do is listen to a teacher waffle on about the rules/regulations!!

Be clear with the expectations.


Knowing what is going to be expected of them is likely to help ease those early nerves. It is really important that the learners have a clear understanding of how their study program will work and what the patterns of attendance and expected workload will be. Be open to questions from the learners and be honest with your responses.


In a big study conducted in the FE sector involving 203 teachers, ex Lincoln College Lecturer Professor Sue Wallace (2013) found that there appeared to be a correlation between teachers’ apparent ‘cheerfulness’ and positive levels of learner motivation and behaviour. Therefore, smile a lot and enjoy meeting these amazing young people.

In summary, give your students a fantastic Lincoln College ‘Big Welcome’  and remember that…




Posted in LAT

Re-thinking Learner Induction


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 ( 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:



  • 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:
  1. Scan the room- where are you needed most?
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

  • 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.