Working to the Students needs?

Today was a day where the student and their needs seemed to be a difficult choice to make. The groups that I deal with both had a deadline for a project which was stressing them to considerable degrees; some claimed not to know that the deadline was today while others complained that it had been changed which was causing the stress. The topic of this Unit was visual studies, including perspective, architecture and colour theory – the perspective and architecture were two topics they all claimed to have disliked and all (apart from three students) had a considerable amount of work to do.

This created my first issue of the day as before my 9am class had even started I had students begging to do their visual studies work in the two hour session. In the end I made the students have the introduction to my class and then allowed them to do their visual studies work as I had scheduled roughly 95 minutes of the 120 minute lesson to book work anyway (though for a different Unit). I decided this because with the deadline at the end of the day I knew many students would not be able to focus but felt they still needed some of a class to their current Unit as my session was designed to help them think of ideas for this project which they are currently struggling with and I did not want them to continue the week with no ideas.

A massive problem for these groups seems to be doing the work on time and I partly feel this is because the students do not get enough timetabled time – they get 10 hours a week, currently split over three units (one unit is recommended to get 60 guided learning hours in total)  but also that they are not working effectively, they get tired and fed-up easily so do not use the time they do have to the best, often stating that they will do it at home which most of them are unable to do really. This causes a problem for me because I feel they should have more time in college to do the work but that at the same time the students are not getting the idea yet that it is their fault for not being productive in the time they do have which is very immature of them.

This mood of wanting to get on with visual studies continued on to the second period, still with my morning group but this time they were taking part in the college ‘Have a Go’ week which is different departments showing examples of what they do in the main reception . Today was the turn of the art and design group which happened to be my two groups. This meant that the time my AM group were typically in class they were taking part in mono-printing. For this group however this technique works to a unit they are currently working on and so despite them complaining they did all take part for the first hour… after that though they all switched off and did not want to be there. Stuck with just me I tried for the next half hour to get the group continuing to do designs and work but I could easily see that if they were doing this task in a classroom that we would have moved on and felt it was unfair on these students that they should spent two hours on this task while they should be doing work for their course.

In time they were allowed to go on their lunch break early (after checking with a more senior member of staff) however I felt let down by the college and tutors that I had no other choice but to attempt to encourage the students in the task even though they had done what was asked of them, as I couldn’t leave all of the materials in the reception area or leave the students as there was no one else!

Moving on to my second group and PM session, this group was also supposed to be doing Mono-printing but most had already done it for their project as this group have dedicated print classes so were set against doing it again with the impending deadline of their visual studies. This time however with more staff now available it was deemed that those students who had examples of mono-print in their books could be in the classroom with me continuing work which apart from some classroom behaviour issues which I felt I tackled better than I would have previously (trying to keep in mind recent observation feedback to be more assertive) they then got on with their work surprisingly well.


What bothered me the most about today was this insistence on this ‘Have a Go’ week; I saw little in how it helped the students (or even the college) and how out of all the students around why it had to be the students with a deadline that day.

Other outside influences caused the lack of staff in the morning which impeded being able to split the class but I also felt that two hours was far too long on and the length of time students were doing the mono-print activity should have been considered.  This made me feel that whoever had planned this all was not thinking of the students needs, the thing we are always thought to consider and that as a trainee I felt I had failed them in a way by not being able to help them when usually we could have.

I also felt in two minds however as, like I mentioned, these students have always struggled to get work done on time and that if they had got their work done then the mono-print activity should not have been a issue. I was also annoyed at how the students could not just sit and do the printing! Why was it such a big deal that they had to play around with drawing designs, printing them and printing them onto Bags, it was as if one drawing, one print was enough for them! They’re supposed to be art and design students! They’re supposed to play around with new techniques and methods but it was one go, don’t like it, not doing it again with them which really annoyed me as I am slowly getting more annoyed with the students ‘can’t do attitude’ when things are hard or do not go right the first time no matter how many times I tell them it will only get easier the more they do it and it doesn’t matter if it goes wrong just tell me why it went wrong!


Either way today felt like a lot of work… and I don’t know how I feel about it really.


Marking Part 2

So I’ve had some more marking experience (work still needs to be second marked so I can’t comment on that yet) but while marking this next group which included students I more regularly teach I began noticing a pattern with work which was missing or not quite up to the standard expected.

This then began to make me worry that I had missed something while teaching these students, that I perhaps have not be as rigorous with them as the work was not what I expected. I know that I have spoken to these students, and have a tracker to prove what work has been done and I know that these students were struggling with these elements which have let them down but  I am sure I have spoken to them about it so it really made me wonder if I have been teaching affectively.

Knowing that I have given students smart targets, post-it notes with work to do and suggestions for their work also makes me think ’you can obviously only help them so much, if they choose not to do the work then that is their choice’ but then I think why did they not do the work? Is there anything more I can be doing to help them?

I feel if I was in a secondary school there are probably more things you could do to keep them for not doing work (or am I being naive in thinking detentions for not doing enough work still exist in schools?) but then I feel would this simply work? Is all these students need is the extra time?

Obviously seeing the pattern in hindsight is good as mentioned in my last marking post it will allow me to see with the next unit (or if this unit was run next year) where issues might arise allowing me to plan ahead for these stumbling blocks the students seem to have.


Until the work is second marked and the feedback is given to the student it will be unclear on why the student did not achieve (or even if I was valid in my marking) so it is hard to tell what else can be done, it is just worrying to think that I could be my fault that the students have not achieved well when I think I’ve been trying to do my best.

Experience Marking – Part 1

Back at it after the Christmas holidays and my first real trial at marking students work. Just before the holiday I sat with a mentor who showed me how they mark the BTEC work and we did one together going through it step by step, today I sat going though my small pile of allocated students alone using the one we did as a guide along with the assessment criteria from the BTEC handbook/ website.

I found that the marking became easier once I had done a couple; as a problem with Art and Design is that it can be quite unclear on if the student had really achieved the evidence to fulfil the criteria. I found that a couple students had but not quite (in my opinion) shown evidence of for example ‘compare ideas and concepts in art and design work’ the first marker for a Pass on one of the Units. It was sometimes difficult to gauge if that student had really done enough to achieve that mark as the marking was simply a yes or no on achievement for various points to achieve a Pass, Merit or Distinction (broken down into Pass 1, 2, 3, 4 etc.) but the more I did the easier it was to spot and understand if the evidence was there or not, comparing the evidence of one student against another.

Taking this on board it was still sometimes difficult to mark the work, but it was also a slow process. I started with reading the marking criteria so I knew what to be looking out for, then I sat and read through the students full work (sketchbooks and everything) returning to the criteria after to fill it in. Sometimes it was very clear if a student had or had not fulfilled the criteria but the next issue was the notes that had to be written. Because work is double marked and for the feedback to the students I was told it is very important to give notes and feedback on how the student had or had not fulfilled the criteria but without giving away if they haven’t,  what they need to do to achieve it (that’s for the verbal feedback) as this is a summative assessment and as teachers we should help students in their learning, rather than just tell them what it is that needs doing which I found difficult as I sometimes thought how can I tell them what they need to do without being too vague.

Something that concerned me was the feeling that I was being fair to the students, and I think that comes from always having those students say how certain teachers are strict with their marking then others but after looking through the assessment criteria more and after giving it ago I found that it is really down to the evidence. Making sure that I could clearly say yes there is evidence or not the evidence is not there / not enough was the important thing to clearly get into my head deciding that pushing the student to be better is what matters so if I was unsure that a marking criteria hadn’t been met then mark it as a no rather than a yes as the student wouldn’t then be able to learn, I just have to make sure my feedback is clear and helpful so they see this.

I have told my students to treat their work like it is being marked by people that do not have a clue what they are doing (in terms of Art and Design that is) and to literally spell out everything they are thinking and doing in their sketch books to prove they have done something and it is this which makes it easier to mark, where students have headed the pages ‘development ideas’ rather than just plain sketches randomly in the books (as they rarely run chronologically to the design process like they should).

Going through the work made it clear why it is so important to double mark, due to the ambiguous nature of the marking criteria and also helped me see where students were failing the most (typically written work, which isn’t surprising but disappointing as I’ve been trying to work with the students on this) so I can go into the next project with this in mind.

The next step is the double mark and then I have to give the students their feedback, then comes the re-mark so watch this space for updates.