All entries for December 2016
December 19, 2016
Reflecting – “…through a mirror darkly…” Keith Pugsley
So, term starts, and there you are in the classroom, pen in hand, notebook at the ready, senses sharpened, dutifully primed (Christmas pun intended) by the well-oiled operation of the Warwick CPE induction team (leave that one with you!) and ready for applying yourself to observation. Observing, do it all the time, have done pretty much since birth, should be good at it. Off we go. An hour later and that’s one down. Much as I thought. Kids lined up, came in, sat down, slapped down a bit for being noisy, reminded that underlining is done with a ruler and, according to my notes, did some exercises. Oh yes, I recognised a strategy or two going on: countdowns; gentle rebuke to the disengaged; reminder of expectations. There we are job-done.
A week or two passes, more notes are taken when the sneaking feeling that these notes are all much the same and, dare I say, somewhat dry and moribund. I’m even writing down the topics and annotating the exercise questions? There are now bits of scaffolding jottings in my pad where I have broken away from observing to get involved in the doing (not that there is anything wrong with that per say). But is writing about whether the ladder leaning against the wall is safe, really going to help my classroom practice (short of the classroom’s openable windows being elevated to a significantly lofty location.)? I need to re-focus, and probably even take-a-look at the session we had on ‘observation’ at uni., which, I am sure, would have almost certainly been useful. Ah yes, focus on one aspect, study all the techniques used for BfL or AFL or differentiation. Makes sense. Right, I’m ready to go. I’m focussed. A few lessons pass. A quick look at my notes. What! Is that all I’ve written? Even some of my least diligent pupils would have recorded more than that! Needs re-thinking, but for now I need to concentrate on delivering my first full lessons.
What went well? I emerged, relatively unscathed. Excellent level of heat generated, possibly accompanied by a flicker of light. What, ‘could be better’? I’m left reflecting, but the next lesson is imminent, so I’m back to a bit more ‘observing’.
The Epiphany. Ah! so that’s what’s been happening. The Teacher ensures the students are admitted in good time, they are settled quickly, they know the routine, they have stuff to do immediately. The teacher glides effortlessly and with minimum instruction to the main focus of the lesson. The students are all, according to their respective needs, and with a relaxed freedom, on task. A flicker of disengagement is smoothly quelled and students are transitioned easily through effortless orchestration from the steady to appropriate, more challenging, tasks. Students are acting as autonomous agents, doing work, at consummative ease in an environment of unspoken, yet understood, boundaries. There is peer to peer support. The teacher is almost subliminally aware of the proceedings. There is a sense of safety and mutual respect, which seems to underpin the whole operation. Assessment of learning leads to a careful transition of tasks achieved effortlessly due to prior preparation. A brief round-up and the class ends. Students are reminded firmly but respectfully of the exit procedure. Staff and students are relaxed and smiling as they depart.
Funny, for all those previous notes and years of experience of ‘observing’, I somehow seemed to have missed all that, until I’d had a go myself.
December 06, 2016
Bacc–ing the Arts in Education
Bacc-ing the Arts in Education
Arts Council England stated that “Drama communicates through the language and connections of theatre. This results in all pupils… gaining access to one of the great forms of human expression.”. As a Drama trainee, I can only agree.
Since the 1980’s, we can see how Drama has grown in education as its own subject, and how it can be a method of delivery in other subjects. However, the current situation surrounding the National Curriculum suggests that history may be repeating itself; the Arts once again are at risk, and Drama in particular is being threatened as a subject that has little academic value due to the recently introduced EBacc system. Drama was the most commonly withdrawn subject as the EBacc made its way into the curriculum; in 2011, the Department for Education conducted studies amongst ten schools in preparation for the 2012/13 academic year, and found that 23% had already withdrawn Drama, with Art, Design/DT and Textiles following behind at 17%, 14% and 11% respectively.
But why is this case? Any teacher of Drama can tell you of the importance Drama can play on a child’s development; it builds both interpersonal and intrapersonal skills, boosts confidence, and can turn the shyest of children into one of the most confident within their school. Any teacher of Drama can tell you how having a creative outlet like Drama can engage even the naughtiest of pupils. And any teacher of Drama can also tell you that it is rare for students to spend lessons pretending to be trees!
Has this research into the impact of the EBacc benefitted my teaching? In a sense, yes. It has made me realise that, as Drama seems to be making its way back into the English Department in many schools, I may have to continue to ‘fight’ for my subject’s recognition. Although Drama is more focussed on social and cognitive learning, with a focus on development overall as opposed to purely academic value, it does not seem to be enough to give Drama a place within the EBacc.
With this in mind, I wonder if perhaps it is the potential lack of written work that has caused problems for the subject. From experience, KS3 rarely engage in written work in Drama, meaning that when they begin to study it at GCSE, problems can arise when it comes to written exams as students are having to learn a different method of writing alongside everything else. Perhaps written work needs to be implemented into Drama lessons considerably more than it is, and Drama will be seen as a more academically viable subject than it currently is. Perhaps then it may not suffer at the hands of the EBacc as much.
Do I still think Drama should be available within the EBacc? Certainly. Already I have mentioned the benefits it can offer socially and cognitively, but the simple fact is that students need creativity. They need an outlet that breaks away from the academic rigour of school, and for those who struggle academically, Drama can be a fantastic tool. As Ken Robinson stated, “Creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.”.