Monthly Archives: February 2006

Teaching practice observations

After the first round of observations I am again feeling humbled by the practice that I am privileged to see in the variety of settings. My trainees are a mixed bunch, coming from a range of backgrounds and bringing different sets of previous experience with them. Many of them are in their first years of teaching, and one or two have been at it a long time (you know who you are!) I do feel that, like toast, I have landed butter side up in this job, and although the thought of leaving my nice warm office for the outer reaches of Chadderton or Heywood sometimes causes me to wish I taught something less complicated, on the whole I love the chance to see folk in action. Personally I like having visitors and observers in my classroom, and find that I soon forget that they are there, but I also recognise that my trainees may have a different perception, and I try to take care to reassure them that I am here to search out the really great stuff. Failings and mistakes can alsways be rectified, but flashes of brilliance are easily lost unless they are acknowledged and applauded. In future I hope to be able to capture such moments, using short video clips that I can share with the class. Again this can create apprehension and fear in some, and I would never impose my wacky ideas on those who react badly to the idea.

Assignment feedback

Its best to tell you now that I don’t do lectures. Ask my trainees and they will tell you that in my lessons it is about expecting the unexpected. I get bored with the sound of my own voice, and I love hearing the “reflective deliberations” of my class. I use short expositions followed by various discussion techniques, based mainly around learning conversations. I also use food and other miscellaneous items as metaphors. However this is a risky strategy because there is a danger of a lack of “stuff” and “substance” to the lesson, and there has to be an expectation from me that my trainees will read enough to engage effectively with the learning outcomes. I spend time explaining the assignments, giving guidance and helping them to frame the assignment by using starter sentences and “tips”. Well this year my trainees have come through brilliantly. Their assignments are a joy to read, and generally the standard of presentation and depth of engagement is high. Some of the trainees have not studied at this level academically, yet they have shown an ability to understand and apply theories beyond my expectations. If you are reading this guys this means I think you are great. You may not appreciate how strongly I feel about the importance of building “learning how to learn” skills, and their primacy over subject matter. This is the first year that I have tested my conviction, and I have 40 pieces of evidence that tells me that it works! I mentioned the use of metaphors earlier and for a couple of years I have been using the “group sculpture” evaluation technique, where the class form themselves into a sea going galleon as a metaphor for their state at various stages on the course. This year’s attempt was the most successful in terms of the information that I gained, and also in terms of the trainees’ willingness to “play with me”. We even got as far as creating sea sounds and seagull noises.