Professional Development

Reflective Essay: Skills for Life

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(831 Words)

Skills for Life, through embedded learning, have been seen to be vital these days. These skills, literacy, numeracy, and ICT are skills that are fundamental for any student to have as a minimum requirement. This fact was exacerbated many years ago by the Moser report ‘A Fresh Start’ (DfEE 1999) that highlighted 7 million adults literacy skills were below those expected of an 11-year-old.  This worrying figure emphasised the need for teachers to use any opportunity to embed these key skills in their lessons. I would like in this essay to reflect on my experiences of embedding which asserts “learn by doing”. Moreover, research has suggested if the skills are embedded the students actually feel more motivated (Roberts et al. 2005). I faced this with a research project I did involving Howard Gardeners Multiple Intelligences (1983). I studied students’ learning characteristics in an ESOL class and reflected on them using various techniques to aid their learning.

To begin, multiple intelligence suggests that students learn in different ways, so, for example, one learns more by being active (body kinesthetic) while another learns more from pictures (visual spatial). Of course, in an ESOL class language and literacy are paramount, but this had to be done in ways that were learner-centred with active learning which kept the students focused on the task, so they still used their English language. For instance, I gave each of them a picture of a famous person with some text about that person. I gave them the grammatically formed questions and answers to ask each other about their famous person (verbal linguistic). Incidentally, I had a higher level class get their information from the internet. So, they first had to read the text and write down the answers to the questions. They would then get to ask and answer each other who the famous person was, where they were from, how old, and an interesting fact.  I collected the faces, got the students into groups (interpersonal) and each group had to ask questions (logical mathematical) to find out who it was I was thinking about. It was like a game show. The winner was the one who guessed right first. Language was guided by myself, the teacher, to use complete answers and questions and the discussion in the groups was prompted by me also. The embedding here involved having a fun activity while pressing home language proficiency which is similarly shown in LLUK standard BS1, of ‘maintaining an inclusive equitable and motivating learning environment’. This class had competition, interest and a challenge which was valued as much as with English and literacy.

Still staying with learning languages, but this time related to numeracy, I had been teaching a class about nouns. I had had them in groups outside (naturalistic approach) describing objects. It was a kind of treasure hunt. They then had to write about what they found and present it. The presentation involved the characteristics of the object. The progression from objects was onto using nouns involved with shopping. I also felt for this subject the students should get used to prices. I found some newspapers, magazines, and door-to-door fliers that were filled with adverts for shops, filled with writing and numbers. So, I proposed that the students go through newspapers, magazines, and door-to-door flyers. The students needed to read them, cut out eight objects and stick them on a large sheet of paper (Bodily/Kinesthetic). However, the pictures had the prices missing. Then, they had to write about their object, ready for selling.  A few times, I actually did this part of the lesson with the computers and had the students make up a catalogue for their objects. There was certainly less clearing up. Once they were finished sticking, the challenge for the exercise was for each group to get the other groups to guess the answer to the price of the object. The students had to work in their group to guess the price. This meant they had to work in their group to come up with answers using their English. It ended up as ‘Price is Right’ competition with myself telling them they could not go over the real price. The nearest won, so, they had to work out the prices higher or lower which as embedded numeracy skills worked well.

To sum up, in this reflective essay I have shown that through my work and reflection with multiple intelligences, which was actually part of my ongoing continual professional development (CPD), as a teacher I try to embed key skills into my lesson. This I feel goes a long way to ‘discovering, respecting, and meeting individual needs’ (FENTO, 1999). My ESOL classes are full of opportunities to use not only to use literacy coherently in reading and writing but also in numeracy where for example we talk about telling the time and buying goods. Not forgetting, the use of ICT to allow the students to work on projects in groups or an individual basis.

References

Further Education National Training Organisation  (FENTO, 1999)

Moser, C. (1999), A Fresh Start. London: DfEE. Retrieved on 15 June 2008 from http://www.lifelonglearning.co.uk/mosergroup/

Roberts, C., Baynham, M., Shrubshall, P., Brittan, J., Cooper, B., Gidley, N., Windsor,

V., Eldred, J., Grief, S., Castillino, C. and Walsh, M. (2005), Embedded teaching and learning of adult literacy, numeracy and ESOL: Seven case studies. London: National Research and Development Centre for adult literacy and numeracy.

Professional Development through Thoughtful and Philosophical Teaching

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(997 words)

There are always areas of any profession people are in to which they feel may need change and/or improvement. Teaching is no exception. Any teacher needs to be enthused to bring light to new areas of interest in their line of work. Having read many articles on professional teacher development I came across a document that inspired me with some core beliefs. It made me read more, delve deeper, and look at a specific area of the teaching profession that I hope empowers me. The document is ‘Teaching: the Reflective Profession’. It was published by ‘The General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland (GTCNI)’ to show competence for reflection and discussion. It was written to address the issues and recognise the complexities of teaching. In this appraisal, I will address how this document gave me an insight into an area I feel may be missed by teachers in their daily toil.

To begin with, one true fact is that children need to develop not just as ‘rounded individuals able to prosper in the world but, as importantly, to live together in a culture characterised by tolerance and respect for diversity’.  These words speak volumes when I consider the position and the factors I face every day with my school. From observations of various teachers in my school, I feel, they do not, in reality, recognise their students’ true needs for the outside world they will be entering. The teacher is usually sat at a desk. A microphone is always used because the students are so loud. The students are there solely as listeners in nearly every subject. The situation reminds me of Charles Dickens ‘Hard Times where the students were learned facts and imagination were not on the syllabus. There seems to be no thought process involved. I see students turning off, then, just copying other people’s work to get a mark. I feel it is a culture of, ‘It’s there if you want it’ mentality. The brighter kids are at the front and the ones that really need help are at the back where there left behind. This cannot help them to survive in the real world. The students are only worried about final marks not what went into getting that mark, be it copying or cheating.

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Professional Development results can come in many ways

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A report of the dissemination you have carried out to inform colleagues/teachers (either in your own school, neighbouring school or LEA), or young people, governors, parents. This report will include what they have learned from the process of dissemination (approximately 1,000 words).

I was on a teaching course for two months and tried different ways to promote professional development. I would like in this report to give an account of the benefit of the distribution of my efforts. One major fact involved in these endeavors, I found is that some teachers are inexperienced to teaching/professional development. It meant I had to look deeper to see salient points that highlighted recognition of the work I had been completing. I must say I did this report against some barriers, that being the Asian way of teaching which entails the students just listening to the teacher in a very passive way. The students must believe every word that comes out of the teacher’s mouth as these young minds sit in quiet obedience. It can be hard to change people’s methods in a short time. It is true the students dare not ask leading questions to their teachers which I must admit mildly extended to me but perseverance for professional development is a must.

The initial awareness of my development came through surveying 50 student’s ideas as to what a good teacher should be like. I noticed that there were high scores for most of the questions even though some questions were polar opposites. You either had to think one question was right and the other wrong, not the same. I questioned the answers the students gave and proposed my uncertainty to my colleagues. It certainly made them think about how the students answer surveys and the feeling was that, do they really understand what they are doing when they answer questions? It was noticed that the majority of the students just fill in the form not knowing what they are doing while others copy. It held true with my colleagues because the students were given a questionnaire by our training centre at the end of each term where they had to give a points score for their teacher. My colleagues firmly believed and used my evidence when the manager came to say that the students can not give a true representation of a teacher’s lessons by a score card.

I would like to add that through my survey of 50 students which I had designed the questions; the scores, as mentioned, did not seem to add up. I decided to let the students come up with the questions. I reviewed and edited it completely. This led to better results and a better understanding from the students on how to complete the survey.

I can certainly say that I have changed perceptions of teaching and shown a few teachers how I think a positive thinking teacher should teach. For example, I was asked by one teacher to help her teaching her class strong adjectives. The teacher’s approach was to just give the students pronunciation practice. I did the lesson in a constructive approach leaving time to have the students produce spoken sentences. She mentioned to me that she thought the material I used was great. I took the opportunity to explain that the book had many words that were too much for the students.

I also spoke to her about the students copying. I wondered how they can learn. She said ‘oh, when the test comes they will fail’. Basically, it was the students’ problem, not hers. It was attitudes like this I came up against. This teacher had already mentioned a few times that the students were bad. This led me to think that it was their learning skills, not their ability that was holding them back. It was examples like these that made me even more determined to show these teachers how students should learn in class. This meant creating a learning environment when they have to think for themselves. I did have some feedback from one teacher who said that the students enjoyed learning with me and found my lessons interesting. I had a chance to explain to this teacher that if the lesson is interesting and thought-provoking the students will feel they are part of a learning process.

Moreover, I have been continually giving advice to other teachers. This I found irritating at times. For example, I decided to teach one lesson for a teacher for him to see teaching from a new angle. I used one of my lesson plans that I felt fitted in with a more relaxed approach as this teacher had been told he was putting too much effort into his teaching. I showed him that with the right approach he can get the students doing the work for him and he just has to facilitate them and coax them along during the lesson keeping them on a learning path. I then observed him the next day teaching my lesson. In the feedback session, he did not really give me a great response when I asked him about my lesson and how well his lesson went doing my demonstration class. I wondered why he was evasive, was it he was not used to professional development, was it he was scared to show his failing, or was it he felt I was I intruding? I actually thought at one point that I should slow down on the teaching conversations. I wondered how I could help him with his teaching. The fact was the following days after I felt he began to notice how I worked and the detail I put into teaching. I began to see examples of professional development coming through. I saw his new sheet for his lesson plan. It looked not too dissimilar to my lesson sheet I had done with him and some of my material which he had seen on my desk. I also realized he was asking more questions and enquiring what I thought he should do for this learning process. At least, the advice was slowly getting through.

Overall, you must expect professional development to be a bit alien to some and teachers not enthused over trying new methods. However, the benefits are certainly there.

(1007 Words)