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February 15, 2012

Homeless Man – May not be a stakeholder, but he does know the 'Big Issues' with assessment

This week was quite MA-rvellous. Now I was questioned by a member of the class on Saturday why the devil I am doing a Masters considering I have an MPhys and a PhD already...

Well there are a number of reasons. Firstly, you do not spend as long as I did in education if you do not have a yearning to learn as much as you can. I enjoy learning, and I want to test myself. Going into an MA is a whole new challenge for me. In this seminar-esque system, small groups, lots of discussion, forming opinions etc. It is a whole new way of learning for me. I got a good taste of it during my GTP and having earned 30 CATS towards one already (confirmed in a letter this week) it is an opportunity I cannot turn down.

I left a successful post-doc life, which was in many ways a dream job as it was very flexible, with numerous opportunities and perks, for perhaps a more stable, but more importantly in my opinion, a more rewarding career in teaching. Now I am not very good at settling for being ok at something. When I take up a hobby, a sport, a job, my competitive streak doesn't let me be second best. I see the MA in Educational Innovation as a stepping stone to help me improve my pedagogy and my understanding of the education system.

Which brings me to 'Issues in Assessment'. Now I am in my NQT year, and in charge of probably a disproportionate number of GCSE groups compared to others in my position, my exposure to the cut-throat nature of summative assessment and people's interpretations of them is extremely high. The session on Saturday was really interesting, and I think a few of the cohort heard a couple of my gripes I have with the application of 'assessment' by some. I can safely say I am in the teaching profession to make a difference to the lives of the students I teach, and to hopefully promote a subject in physics which has given a lot to me. I guess as a consequence, my employers will benefit with improving 'league table' position.

It is a shame, but because of the external pressures from stakeholders (and from this, we can deduce that means every single person, bar a homeless man deep in the woods), the general concencus suggests the emphasis of making a difference is the other way round. 'Improve the school, and as a consequence the students' prospects will improve'. So in effect, do what is best for the school, what makes the school look good, and then worry about the students second. It is a fine dividing line, and I appreciate it must be ridiculously difficult as a senior member of staff to make decisions. My experience as a student at school was not amazing and is a case in point.

The school I attended were on a downward-spiral results wise, and as a consequence, the decisions made when I was in year 11 were a tad ludicrous. I, along with 30 others, sat a double GCSE Science at Foundation level in November, got our CC grades, and then sat two single science GCSEs in the June. Awesome. Except for the fact I have no qualification above a double C grade in Chemistry now. Stopped me being able to take all the Sciences at A-Level. Made my degree in Physics more difficult as a consequence. Meant I spent a lot longer understanding X-ray crystallography during my PhD, and appreciating surface polishing methods. Also means as a teacher, I have had to complete refresher and subject-enhancement courses, and prove continuously I can teach Chemistry in particular. So a rash decision by a head of Science to boost the number of C's the department got that year has shaped my future somewhat. As a teacher, I am determined that I will endeavour to give every student I teach the best possible opportunity to achieve after school.

Anyway, am starting to so some research for our group presentation. Methods of Measuring Standards. Have a nice group, though one is choosing to spend the presentation day at her Gran's 98th birthday. Unbelievable :-)

See you on the 3rd.


October 08, 2010

Started it 27, finishing 28

HELLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLOOO planet Earth

A new post, and this one comes with an all new blog background appearance... I thought it only right I change something now I'm really old.

So yeah, interesting week. First bit of teaching done, having taken a year 9 class three times - Insulation, Conduction and Convection. Radiation next. Delighted to have started on the long road to teaching domination. Two things, more from self-evaluation than from comments from observers I really need to work on, is use of language and pace. I found myself for a split second using complex words ideal to presenting at conferences during my PhD, but to a bunch of year 9's just after lunch?? And pace. Pace of my speaking (too quick) and pace of my lessons (too slow). The content is fine, the predicted timings is fine, appreciation of how long it takes a class to pack lab equipment away is waaaaaaaaaaaay out. I'd go as far to say as my predicting skills are as good as those who predicted Liverpool, would win the league this year.

I had a mini-rant in my last blog about losing one of my favourite classes from my timetable, but you know what, I'm over that now. Fingers crossed I meet some excellent pupils in my new classes next week. Bring on the bottom set year 8's!

Positives from the week:

I've done some teaching. Boom.

I really have an awesome subject mentor at school, confirmed from the feedback she has given me from her observations of me so far. Praised me in the areas I deserved, but was extremely honest about what I need to work on initially. And I feel she really has my back too.

Got 2 birthday cards from the Myton GTP crew. Very nice! Though they didn't sing happy birthday, unlike my year 11 form group. I'm really enjoying being an associate form tutor; knowing 60 kids really helps about school, and lunch time duties on upper school playground are actually a delight, away from the usual chat from the female-dominated science staff room! :-)  The GTP guys are all mint, even Adam (sorry, I mean Alex).

Observed a Drama and a D+T lesson. Would love to do assignment 1 again. Saw some quality teaching in very diverse subjects. Drama at school for me was a total non-entity, I honestly can't remember a single thing bar the teacher's name. The drama lesson I saw was unreal. Year 7 kids putting in acting performances that make Ben Affleck look like an amateur. Wait, what do you mean he is an amateur? He helped save the world in Armageddon. Give the guy a break! Or are you from the Team America World Police school of thinking; 'I miss you like Ben Affleck missed acting school' Haha. I love that film. Infact, I might watch it now.

New Chelsea golf bag gifted to me. Its wicked.

Good session today at Warwick too, despite the fact the Science GTPs didn't get any lunchbreak at all. I more than made up for it at dinner. 3 pork chops!! Love that. But yep, seen lots of demos, videos etc which will be useful.

Had a Twilight SMARTboard session, which has revolutionized my template notebook file already for my lessons. Couple of quality little applications were discussed. I'll trial them and let you know how effective they are in due course.

Negatives

No Premier League football this weekend.

Another year til my next birthday.

So it is time to start thinking about assignment titles for this MA dissertation we have to do. My ideas I had initially have been quashed by the fact we can only 'experiment' on one class from one year group. It seems strange, but 5000 words really doesn't seem a lot to me to do a decent bit of research justice. But I warn you, having been the subject of word limit warnings previously at Warwick, you really must stick within the +/- 10%. But alas, all you need to do is say the magic words:

'Word count, excluding titles, name, references, appendix, graphs, tables, figures, abstract..... = 5549'  Perfect.

Right, time to clean my golf clubs, October medal becomes at North Warwicks Golf Club beckons for me, 9.14am tee time, playing with Ratty and the other half of 1x (www.one-times.com for more details).

Yours sincerely,

Stephen of Essex


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