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.

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Cover for Others!

Today was my first day back teaching after having two weeks off and was I thrown in the deep end or what!

Arriving at the college at just past 8:30am I was informed that three teaching staff were currently off and cover was urgently needed. This resulted in me taking the two classes I typically have but together! Two classes in one! So obviously I had to change all my lesson plans as it would have been impossible to do my planned one-to-ones as the second class (Group A) are more needy than my first so I basically had to do as much as possible, moving around the class, helping those that needed it and checking in on those that didn’t just to make sure.

Obviously this led to many difficulties, mainly that of keeping students on task. The mixed group and change of normal class structure meant they were already disrupted in their mood to work and more excitable and I feel I saw a glimpse of how substitute teachers feel being a cover teacher out of the loop almost. Having more students to watch also meant that it was easier for the students to fall off task (though I do believe I am slowly developing the ‘eyes in the back of my head’ phenomenon but it is extremely difficult to do) and also hard to get them back on task. This wasn’t helped by the students being unsure on what they should be doing and or really needing a sit down to go through their work which just isn’t happening. What I am finding with both groups is the feeling that many of the students struggle to get past issues they have with the work which stops them and sucks all the motivation from them, especially since they know they will fail if they don’t do the work which I find baffling. I feel that many of the students fall back on a loop hole of having 10 days to re-sit work which takes some of the finality of doing the work.

Another issue was that the students who also needed the help only had me, while lately they have me and their regular tutor and I witnessed the old issue of too many students and not enough teacher time – trying to get these students to do something else while they wait for help is also near impossible as they’re so linear in their working and thinking, which links back to if they have an issue they stop dead and don’t work.

I think a big problem is my classroom management, I do feel I am not being strict enough with the students but I don’t really know how to do it… I have a feeling it’s all down to tone of voice and nipping issues in the bud but I think it could be my own confidence of doing it and what to do if they do have issues. I  feel it is a matter of not treating the students like they are back at school but obviously giving them freedom isn’t working all the time which is the worst issue as sometimes the classes work fine and although I felt there was a pattern emerging this class really threw that idea into the wind.

The second block of classes had the issue of having too many students and not enough space but thankfully the technicians helped with having students (those more capable and who knew what they were doing) moved to another class to work in their sketchbooks, this allowed the remaining students who were all doing practical sewing work to have the attention they needed and once the over-crowding issue was solved the class ran smoothly.

Lunch however was interrupted by a fire which had most of the college evacuated meaning that Group A who I have after lunch came in excitable and hungry (not a great mix) I allowed them to spend the first 15 minutes of the class finishing off their lunches and settling as I felt this was the only method of getting this group to settle and it did work as they then worked well for the hour and 15 minutes. With 45 minutes left of the class is when the students began to really fall off task again, I sometimes feel that this class being two hours is too much for this class as we often have issues with keeping the students on task, motivated and driven in the last portion of the class but I know that I probably gave in to the students as I tried to get certain students working over and over again but ran out of options!

Covering for other teachers was an experience and having a larger group (25 students) again was an experience I will not forget as it was very different and it was good as I have not had these experiences yet and its all good reading up on class management but as I have seen knowing what to do is very different to doing it in place. I also feel that I need to figure out (AKA Research and ask around)  tactics to get students back on task as I really felt I had ran out of all the options I knew of and became exasperated with the student.

Gagne’s Theory class training

This week was what I felt was a continual lesson from the previous week which I unfortunately missed so I felt throughout that I was missing information that was needed to fully understand.

I did however find the class useful with the upcoming essay as it was a useful base of information to allow us to research further although I would have liked perhaps more detail or at least context relating to the previous week as I have had to research the other theories to help understand this theory further as many are linked and based off of each other.

 

I have also noticed a change of pace to the lessons since our usual tutor is not in and feel although I am enjoying the discussions that spring up I feel that sometimes we do not get enough out of them and that tangents are gone down. I felt that sometimes there would be more done with our typical tutor and am trying to figure out why this is the case as it could help me understand about the affects of changing teachers and even different strategies as there is obviously something this teacher is doing differently.

A Week Off Sick

So I’ve just spent the past week off ill and it wasn’t nice. Although too ill to think about work as I started to get better I did start to worry about the time I had just had off. I have just had my first day back in at PGCE (I have yet to teach after having the time off) and I am now really concerned about getting the work done.  I was surprised at how lost and behind I felt with only missing that one lesson but it was more the days off from doing work that I missed.

This course I knew would be full on but just having those extra few days off (I typically don’t get much work done on Mondays –my full teaching day- and Saturday/Sunday where I work in a shop so really I only had three/four days not doing anything) but that is a massive amount of time in this short course and now I hope the pressure of having to get these two assignments done in two weeks, teach and work doesn’t end up being too much to handle. Working even means I don’t really get that week off for Christmas either which isn’t helping the stress levels (working the week up to Christmas including Christmas Eve and Boxing Day) but I guess I just have to deal with these next two weeks and then it’s over for a bit.

I’ll enjoy my Christmas after Christmas…

Feelings so Far

It’s been 9/10 weeks (I’ve lost track a little) of the PGCE now and it has honestly been (please excuse the cliché) a massive rollercoaster of feelings and emotions. The most common feeling I have had is that of an overwhelming daunting pressure from the amount of stuff that needs to be done.

I’ve found that the lesson plans and the lessons are coming easier, I still get nervous, especially if I am doing something new or getting observed but these elements of the course are typically becoming the least of my worries as I feel I am steadily improving and getting the hang of it. My lesson plans are taking on average less time to do and I am actually finding myself enjoying classes. The full amount of paperwork a teacher much do hasn’t quite hit me yet (I’m expecting this after Christmas) but I have started dipping my toe in, making sure my registers are correct and absences sent to the reception to be chased and the students’ progress being tracked on my very own spreadsheet.

In regards to the other emotions I’m feeling we recently had one of our eight assignments which I was slightly concerned about, a micro-teach with reflection. Again the teaching aspect I was only slightly concerned about as would anyone who was about to stand in front of people might get but the written reflection was what I was/am most concerned about. 1000 words for a reflection isn’t really a lot anyway but then when we have to link that to theory – something I am still trying to get my head around – the pressure of doing it, and doing it well hit and I froze with no clue of what I was supposed to be doing even though I have basically done this task already in typical class observations. I have basically done it now but my biggest concern is that it is absolute rubbish and not at all a show of what I am capable of. But I can’t think about that for too long anymore because the next assignment has loomed its ugly head from the background with only three weeks to do it which really hit me today as seriously not enough time!

I have come to think the pacing of these assignments is ridiculous as the Micro-teach really should have been earlier as now I am just getting the hang of everything else thinking about an essay is now in my mind possible but thinking about an essay with three weeks to go is insane! Personally I was so busy thinking about normal classes and then this micro teach that the essay was a tiny (and I mean tiny) niggle in the back of my brain… my main concern was that I was using my time to plan and teach actual people! These poor teenagers have a student teacher as their teacher and I need to be the best that I can for them, their future is at stake and yes I know mine is too but that leads on to other feelings… those of doing enough for me and doing enough for them.

Almost every day I have to remind myself why I am doing this and why these assignments are there, to make us better teachers. We are learning as we are doing as well as learning outside of doing which is pretty full on and hard (not that I thought it wasn’t going to be) but the thoughts of ‘well I could have just stayed in retail, worked my way up’ are hard to fight as I struggle with this pressure that really got me in my Masters.

Some days it is a real struggle, I just want to sit and cry and think why I am doing this to myself. I try to take my own advice, taking little bits at a time, make the lists and progress little and often through it but when I’m trying to do so much as well as do the work it’s not as easy as it should be to just sit and do the work, especially when you just want to sit and have a Harry Potter Marathon to cheer yourself up.

But anyway I digress, these 9/10 weeks have been hard, I’ve enjoyed parts and dreaded parts… I’ve already cried (they said we would before Christmas) and had thoughts of packing it all in (more precisely, packing it ALL in and just going off to read in a corner of the world somewhere where it’s warmer AKA my “if I actually played and won the lottery” plan). The dread these couple of weeks have outweighed the happy feelings and I know that once this essay is out the way things should run smoother… maybe after the feedback too? I’ve had other little worries, some personal some college based as well so it has been tough emotionally, the bigger picture is what matters I and each day am that step closer, I just have to repeat that a lot.

No matter what I feel though I must get back to doing actual work as this blog has turned somewhat into a form of positive procrastination.

Activity Makes the Class Run Better

Last Monday I had an observation and it could have gone a lot better, the students were really rowdy and would not keep to task, they got little done in the session and it was s big waste of two hours. They were however doing Risk Assessments and Health and Safety of the workroom… not the most interesting of subjects and since this task was sprung on me as something they had to do that lesson I had not planned for it so a whole heap of things just went wrong and that old saying which our tutor is fond of saying came true ‘fail to plan, plan to fail’.

Anyway my thoughts on the class were that I should have got the students working together with me to do the risk assessments, worked as a larger group to 1. Keep them on task and 2. Actually get the damn thing done but alas I didn’t and it all went to pot and I would rather not dwell on it here.

This week however the class were being practical, working with fabric manipulations and though many were apprehensive about using sewing machines and hot wax they were angels!! The class was split into two groups due to the number supplies and although not split how I would have split them (making sure the two trouble makers were in different groups) it was like a whole different class. Okay so soon they need to sit and annotate their samples but this class really hit home how activity in the class is the best way to get certain levels of student (in this case low achieving level 3 BTEC students) working.

Learning by doing is after-all considered one of the seven factors that underpin successful learning (Race, 2010).

 

Reference

  • Race, P. (2010) Making Learning Happen: A Guide for Post-Compulsory Education. Second Edition. London: Sage Publishing

 

First Class after Half Term

Monday morning s are always hard, even harder after a week off so having a lesson to do while trying out new technologies was always going to be daunting. I was nervous about doing this class because of the new technologies as I was worried about showing the students things and then for them not to work correctly as I don’t have the most confidence with MAC’s or had ever tried this before but I thought the technology aspect went alright in the end.

In the class today I tried out a new remote for the smart board which worked really well and allowed me to move around the class more rather than be linked to the computer which was well worth the investment however my concerns were that it might not work with the MACs. It would have been an inconvenience if it hadn’t worked but it wouldn’t have been the end of the world as I would have had to make do without like I had already.

I also set up a Kahoot quiz for the students which also went down well, one issue was that the computers hindered the students view to the questions however I did wonder if this was going to be an issue so made sure the questions had enough time on them for me to read out the possible answers. The quiz featured two examples which all the students should have known and most did do really well so had remembered what was covered before half term, so the Kahoot was a good form of assessment. The discussions with the questions again did falter with the students not speaking out so I need to really tackle this aspect of students sharing their opinions, I really hope that once we have moved and the class is more together around a table then they speak out more as the group will be able to develop more group discussions that way easier.

The big issue for this class was introducing the class to One Note and getting the students using the Class note book that I set up for them. I did ask them to save work to the class notebook and although I did see at least one student using one note nothing was saved to the class notebook so it could be that she was using her personal notebook. This was something I had asked the students to be aware of due to their issues with saving (the student who was using it was one of those that had particular issues) however I would like to see them using it more so I’ll be sure to bring it up with them again. Some students said they had issues with their email so they have been advised to seek IT as this should not be a problem at this stage in the year. Obviously this form of saving will not suit everyone, especially as some students write straight into their books but for those that do type I want to get them to try it so I feel I should set them a task for them to have to upload something.

The rest of the class ran smoothly with the students working on their own projects and research, I am however beginning to find it difficult when it comes to discussing work with some students as there hasn’t been as much progress as there should so I feel I am repeating myself with telling them what they need to be doing. I am going through SMART target setting with another group so I think going through this with my morning group would also be beneficial to have better tracking of what the students are doing and to see who should be progressing faster than they should.

Motivation

Motivation is defined by the Oxford dictionary as ‘a reason or reasons for acting or behaving in a particular way’ and having a motivational force in your life is important as it gives you a purpose to do anything, even if you are unaware of it completely yourself. Motivation is influenced by intrinsic (internal) and extrinsic (external) factors and these can be very personal to the individual.

Motivation I feel tends to come more from extrinsic factors, especially the motivation towards education. I have always felt education is a method to progress through life and personally I have used education to better my future prospects. I was raised to believe a good education would lead to a better and more stable life so my motivations over my life have broken down to getting good GCSE’s, good A-Levels to go to University and then a good degree to get a good job so I wouldn’t have to worry about bills and all those adult things in life (well worry as much). This came from having a mother who never did education well and a father who could have done more with his and their message that this was the best way to get through in life however what I have chosen to do (art and design and teaching) is an intrinsic motivator. I want to be happy in my job and future and this is what I have come to do, my love for art was nurtured by family but I could have easily done something else in my life, to achieve the external motivator of a comfortable life.

For students today I fear that their motivations are not as straight forward, from the experience I have already had in the college I fear that their motivations for things like education are not as strong as the ones I had, they have to be in education until they are 18, they have to have Maths and English, and although these enforcements are there to help depending on the students background and natural ability they may not see it that way. For those students that try hard and achieve little (in terms of the correct grade like a C at Maths) their motivations dwindle, they wonder ‘what is the point?’ and if they don’t have a stable background (parents that work for example) they may switch off completely. If they are also not in a subject they enjoy (going back to that intrinsic motivation, wanting to learn for your own pleasure of understanding more) than again they have no real motivation to be there.

This is the struggle I feel teachers face today, giving students the reason to be there. With more pressure being put on educating to have a good paying job, to have any chance of paying off your student debt then those less academic students might not bother going that route at all. The benefits for them do not outweigh the motivation they can drum up.

The Behaviourist Approach to motivation is the reward system, (which is the: educate to improve job prospects and pay outcome system) however where the issues above are in place this is not good enough. Many students (at least a good proportion I have seen) give up too easily; achievement for achievements sake, for a long term outcome is again not enough for them. Their long term outcome for them might not seem worth it, they might feel they will never be able to pay off a student debt and would prefer to go straight into work (which is becoming harder as it) and so the vicious circle never ends.

I feel a large part of teaching in 16+ if finding what makes these students tick, why have they chosen art and design rather than photography for example? Giving them good career advice and showing them what is possible. For those students that have no idea (for there will be many who know exactly what they want to do) It could mean breaking down the stages, having more opportunity to award the steps taken but that these rewards need to be managed and at a level that suits what has been achieved (for a student that had punctuality issues perhaps they can leave class early if they have arrived to every class on time through the week).

Motivation will always falter, they will wonder what the point is, everyone does ( I did many times during my masters) but being a good role model for these students can also help them see what motivation and drive can do and being able to help them through their days where they want to give up is probably the hardest .

 

I feel I have rambled a little in this post but it’s late and my brain hasn’t really worked all week…

Half Term Already!

Half term is already upon us and with it brings a close to seven weeks of my PGCE (six if you don’t include the introduction week, which we do since that week was pretty full on).

It has been a crazy seven weeks, and I have already learnt so much but know there is still so much more to learn so I know my half term is going to be full of reading and lesson planning. I have an observation the day we get back and an assessment the day after!!  So take it from me it is true, teachers really don’t have as much holiday as you think they do.

So far in this journey I feel that I am managing okay, I know my reading is behind (there is so much that I think it will never be over and it has just dawned that we have an essay to do as well! That I am the most worried about.

In the six weeks I have come to see that the main areas that I need to improve are, getting the learners more involved in group discussions/ general motivation as well as figuring out online opportunities with a side of classroom management.

 

My classes are two hours long and maintaining motivation is one of the larger issues I face, especially since my classes are typically workshop sessions where they are supposed to be left to their own devices however with the experience I have gained over the past six weeks I have come to see that the students become distracted after an hour or so of work. A problem I feel I faced was not wanting to disrupt the class to do something with the students but after the half term I am going to try and break up the class with an activity as after all; the learners are only disrupting themselves after an hour or so anyway, so I might as well use this natural lull in concentration to gather the learners up and do something with them (something that was suggested to me from an observation and a tactic for more stimulated learning I came across in ‘Pritchard, 2009’). I thought rather than going through all the information I want the learners to know at the start of the two hour session I could break the session almost in two, obviously this will not work all the time (or I feel that it wouldn’t work all the time) but I can only try and see how this works with these learners, if it doesn’t work I will try something else.

Technology is another element that has been suggested I explore and after having a PGCE session about such things I think the online quizzes such as ‘Plickers’ and ‘Kahoot’ are good programmes to use as starters but that using One Note would be the most beneficial for my students.

One class that I have use computers for the two hours, as they should be using the time to do their contextual research for projects but most have issues regarding printing and saving and I have also come to find it difficult to assess how productive the class has been. It was suggested that I add a submission box to Moodle but have found most of the students do not use Moodle as much as they should, however all students have access to email and office 365 at the college (some even email their work to themselves each lesson) so setting up a class One Notebook seemed like a good idea.

This notebook would allow the students to upload their work on a weekly basis, allowing me and other teachers to check what they have been writing without the worry that they need to print or have saving issues (as they can copy and paste their work into a note document). I feel that this could be a simple solution to a continuing issue but again I can only try it and see.

Classroom management is something that will forever be an ongoing area of learning (well I get the feeling teaching is forever an ongoing learning area) but that for me, right now, it is a case of learning what I could do if…

I have done some reading on the matter (Vizard, 2007. Petty, 2014) on top of the class we had but again I know that I have yet to come across any real serious issues in classroom management and that my issues tend to be related to motivation and simple control of the Primary Behaviour and low level disturbances.

 

I hope to use this time over half term to catch up where I feel that I have fallen behind but to also catch up socially, I have found that doing this course has taken its toll on my social calendar (not that it was the best anyway) but that I have been super busy, and super tired. Working weekends does only give me the two days in the week I have out of college to do everything I need to do but this week I should at least be able to catch up with sleep and recharge the batteries… well fingers crossed.

 

References

  • Petty, Geoff (2014) Teaching Today: A practical guide fifth edition. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.
  • Pritchard, Alan (2009) Ways of Learning: Learning Theories and Learning Styles in the Classroom. Second Edition. New York, USA: Routledge Publishing
  • Vizard, Dave (2007) How to Manage Behaviour in Further Education. London, UK: Paul Chapman Publishing.

Questioning class training

Like the lesson on assessments I never realised questioning could be so extensive and complicated.

I know that when questioning students I have been striving for open questions but that I need to work on probing as when left with the ‘wall of silence’ I do sometimes feel at a loss on what to do but that with these handy starters I should be able to get the conversation moving but redirecting the question, rephrasing it perhaps rather than just answering it myself to get the class moving.

The PPPB method does look like it will need a lot of practice, especially to get used to but seeing it in action it does look like an very effective questioning tool to get students to pay attention and engage – a issue I have had with some students.