All 5 entries tagged Education
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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.”.
July 25, 2016
Teaching without research, really?
Teaching without research, really?
Although my teacher training year is coming to an end, I feel that my learning and development as a PE teacher is only just beginning. As I sit and reflect on my progress this year, I consider the impact that research has had on my practice; the action research that I have carried out myself as part of my masters, the literature I have read and explored to develop my pedagogy and behavioural management, alongside the continuing professional development sessions I have attended at school, university and teaching school alliance days that have been centralised on research and key practitioners. I cannot think of an element of my teaching that has not had at least some influence from a form of research and therefore I cannot entertain the idea that I will not continue to engage within research as I enter my newly qualified teaching year.
Most importantly for me, I have engaged with research in order to develop my classroom pedagogy. As I enter my NQT year and in my future teaching profession, I have every intention to continually develop my teacher toolbox, so that my teaching is up to date and innovative to ensure pupils make the best possible progress. As a teacher I can experiment with my own ideas within the sports hall and conduct my own research about how successful or unsuccessful these prove to be, even if time is limited to write up the findings. However, I question whether alone I would have been able to develop the variety of ideas, teaching styles and models that exist for the teaching of the PE. For example, the Teaching Games for Understanding Model developed by Bunker and Thorpe has become renowned within PE for teaching pupils the skills through game based contexts and without the research that details how to implement the model, the discussions about the positives and drawbacks of the model within other PE teacher’s lessons, I would not have known about this pedagogical model and therefore may not have taught in such a way. One of my favourite journals that I have engaged with so far is the Association for PE’s “Physical Education Matters”. This has been particularly useful because I can read about the practice of other PE teachers and trial out methods that have already been tried and tested by other practitioners allowing me to make comparisons with my own experience. Not only this but each article within the journal, is both informative but relatively short meaning it doesn’t take too long to read. This removes one of the existing barriers that may prevent practitioners from engaging within literature.
Furthermore, I have had first-hand experience of how research can allow me to perfect and develop elements of my teaching practice through my action research around peer assessment. I intend to continue this approach throughout my career, experimenting with the findings of other researchers and implementing these within my own practice. By conducting research into the effectiveness of strategies used within my own lessons, I will be able to draw conclusions from my observations, the thoughts and feelings of the pupils (if relevant) and the impact of my teaching on pupil progress.
I spent a well-needed day at my alliance, exploring the ways in which we as teachers can help our pupils to make good progress within our lessons. The ideas presented were focused on research, allowing us to explore a variety of strategies and analyse the impact on progress. Without research and the contribution of practitioners sharing and discussing their experiences, we would only have our own singular vision of teaching and how best to do it. Some may consider research to be a very time consuming activity in our already very busy schedules but contrary to this view, seeking more effective ways to enable children to make progress could prove to save us time in the future. This could simply be through learning a new behaviour management strategy, experimenting with a teaching style to push gifted and talented pupils, seeking resources, learning about how best to implement peer assessment or self-assessment activities or understanding the factors of a lesson that allow for pupils to make the best progress. Of course the research doesn’t come with a one size fits all, but it allows you to see what worked for other teachers so you realise you aren’t completely alone!
July 18, 2016
Research … what’s Research???
What effect conducting a research project with my students had on my practice. A trainee’s personal reflection.
What on earth could I implement in my class, in a well-established school with ‘outstanding’ teachers that would have anything but a negative impact on learning? How could I, six months into training, devise a teaching technique that would make a difference or change the way we approach our lessons? How I could I compete with the likes of Vygotsky and Piaget, when I could barely even say their names?
These are the manic thoughts of a trainee about to embark on what seemed like the most challenging assignment of the year. Why did I think like this? I guess it was because I’d never done anything like this before, it was the fear of the unknown. I’d written essays, assignments, done practicals, and presented but never had I implemented or completed a research project.
I soon realised this wasn’t about me re-inventing the wheel, this was about having the chance to implement a technique, style or method that I hadn’t had chance to try out before, whilst being able to monitor and record its effect on my practice.
As a trainee I have done this all year round, such as experimenting with different teaching methods etc. It’s what we’re told to do. But did I read up on these techniques before? Did I understand where these methods had come from and why, and the context they worked in?
This light-bulb moment inspired my ideas, this realisation allowed me to start the reading into my theme (behaviour) as well as research methodologies and the theorists behind them. This literature review enhanced my previous study, giving me a greater understanding of their validity, influence and value in the classroom. [AM1]I was able to understand the context in which these theories were developed and why. What conditions these methods had been tested in, and more importantly why these factors were important in the outcomes of the interventions.
Behaviour had always been of interest to me, but for the first time since I’d started my course, the reading felt natural. It linked to my practice and enabled me to understand what variables would help/ hinder my intervention.
I found Google Scholar to be amazing for this as well as my Universities library online books and resources collection. As obvious as it sounds, searching key words e.g. ‘Behaviour, Rewards, Journals/ Research/ Theories’ pulled so much reading I struggled to keep on top of it. That’s where ‘document search’ came into play, by searching individual documents for my key words I was able to get to relevant sections straight away without wasting time.
Tip: Look up the references in books and journals so you can see their sources directly. You can then use these to influence your own reading.
The intervention itself lasted six weeks and consisted of embedding a ‘5,4,3,2,1’ count down which results in students collecting VIVOS (rewards) for beating the teacher to ‘0.’ The aim was to reduce LLD in the Art Classroom. The countdown was utilised to stop the class for instruction, behaviour management, and demonstrations.
The points were then collected over time and linked to various rewards. Conducting my intervention was just like any other method I had tried and tested in my classroom, the hard part was getting its impact captured in data form for analysis. That’s where fellow trainees came in and in the end was no extra work at all. Helping each other out meant we were all able to get the data we needed from people who understood what we were trying to achieve.
It actually turns out my intervention was successful in lowering low level disruption in the Art Classroom, allowing me to continue its use in the classroom.
By using an action research approach, I have captured data which validates it impact. Being able to back up my findings with data has meant that this technique has now also been rolled out across the department. This gives me an immense feeling of satisfaction and pride, not just in my work but also the fact that a shift has taken in my department away from sanctions towards positive reinforcement.
July 16, 2016
The pivotal role of Peer Assessment in PE
The Pivotal Role of Peer Assessment in PE… WWW and EBI?
Since learning about assessment for learning within my undergraduate degree and developing this knowledge further within my teacher training year, I have become a keen advocate for embedding, in particular, peer and self-assessment activities within my lessons. As supported by numerous research articles, feedback is critically important in helping pupils to make progress within PE, and peer assessment is key to allowing all pupils to receive immediate, individual feedback - an impossible task of the teacher! A number of sources suggest how peer assessment is not only a great way of engaging pupils within the lesson (rather than just allowing pupil to be stood ‘waiting for their turn’) but also in aiding their peers to progress and scaffold their own progression. As a result they are able to develop a better understanding of the standards they are aiming for within their own performance. With university, literature and my school all advocating the role of peer assessment within PE lessons, it seemed a relevant topic to inform my action research.
As there is already a vast selection of existing research around peer assessment and its benefits within PE, I decided to explore how peer assessment impacts the perceived competence of girls within their PE lessons. It is reported that girls are the more sedentary sex and it is has been found that girls are less likely to lead a lifelong participation in sport; linked to the negative perceptions girls have about their ability in sport and a fear of the negative evaluation they might receive from others. I therefore wanted to explore if the frequent use of a pedagogic tool, peer assessment, would change this. So how did this research impact my practice?
Firstly, the research that I carried out around peer assessment was supportive of the findings of other researchers; peer assessment can support the progress that the pupils make within PE. It also taught me about the importance of structuring peer assessment activities within a lesson. I am sure many teachers are familiar with the more common feedback practices of asking pupils to tell their peers what they did well and what they could to do to improve or to give three stars and a wish- myself included. But this alone without any scaffolding often leads to a lack of quality feedback and instead the pupils identifying and providing superficial feedback such as something “looking good” but not really influencing the way a pupil feels about their ability in an activity. Although, of course, some feedback is better than none at all! I therefore invested time into creating peer assessment resources with an explicit success criteria supported by pictures, alongside key words that the pupils should try to include within their feedback. These resources scaffolded the peer assessment activities really well and the quality of the feedback was much better as well as the pupils cognitive knowledge of teaching points and technical vocabulary increasing. One example of this was that a pupil, during a synchronised swimming lesson, provided feedback suggesting her peer’s body was streamlined and fully extended, as opposed to saying straight, flat or some other synonym. I also learnt that pupils need time to be able to analyse and identify the success criteria within their peer’s performance and pupils need to be clear on what each skill or success criteria should look like, through a modelled example, so that they can more effectively evaluate their peer’s achievements.
My research showed that the participants involved had mixed feelings about how the peer assessment activities impacted their perceived competence, with lots of them saying that this is affected mainly by their own perceptions of their ability and other people’s views. It was very interesting to capture the thoughts and opinions of the pupils about peer assessment activities. Although some of the participants felt that they liked being able to get instant feedback from a peer who was just focusing on them, lots of them doubted their peer’s ability to give accurate feedback and stated they themselves found it hard to give feedback even though the success criteria did make it easier.
The participants expressed lots of concern about offending their peers and admitted that when receiving critical feedback they ignored it due to not valuing or believing what was being said. This suggested to me the importance of my role as a teacher in teaching pupils to peer assess effectively before implementing peer assessment activities, the groupings of pupils for peer assessment and the important role that ICT and videoing performances could have in allowing pupils to show and justify they feedback that they give. Based on my research, it appears the most significant factor could be the facilitation of the peer assessment. It has become evident that I need to support the feedback the pupils make (as long as it is accurate) in order to help develop relationships of trust between the pupils, encourage reflective and justified feedback and dialogue between peers and guide them to see the fully understand the benefits of peer assessment to enhance their learning.