Sunday, 5 December 2010

PGCE reflective journal - entry 1

Matthew Lowe
Section 4 - Reflective Journal
Module - DHD7230, Teaching a Specialist Subject

I will be using this blog to record a reflective journal as part of my 'Teaching a Specialist Subject' module for year 2 of my part-time PGCE course.  The module uses a PDP and Reflective Journal to chart progress through the module (RJ1 for Reflection and feedback to improve teaching and learning; RJ2 for Reflection on working with other specialists and RJ3 for Reflection for integrating ICT and emerging technologies in my specialist area)

This first blog will incorporate my first lesson reflection for observation 1 of 2010-11 which took place on lesson 4 of Unit 17 - Training in the Business Workplace, which is part of the BTEC Level 3 Diploma in Business.  I teach unit 17 as part of my placement at Barnsley College.

The lesson reflection will be followed by action points as well as summary of feedback from observer: this post links to the use of RJ1 (using reflection and feedback to improve teaching and learning)

_ _ _ _ _
Reflection from lesson
What happened?
Introduction and re-cap of last lesson – Blockbusters Quiz: The two teams were actually rather large for this exercise, particularly with the layout of the room / seating.  The questions weren’t really shared amongst the groups or given much consultation amongst people, therefore some direct questioning had to be used to ensure a variety of people got involved

Compared to the start of previous lessons though, students seemed to be engaged much quicker.  Being the first lesson of the day a certain level of ‘cajoling’ has been needed in previous weeks; For example, the use of lots of direct questioning early in the lesson to ensure learners got involved in the lesson and to ensure the same people weren’t always volunteering answers to questions.  This exercise was light hearted and created a bit of friendly rivalry which engaged learners in the exercise whilst also covering previous weeks’ topics.

One question was ‘missing’ from the printed questions used in the lesson therefore need to ensure print settings are correct if used again

Middle part of lesson:  Pairs and small groups were used on research-based exercise and all learners managed to find relevant information on requirements of different jobs.  Using feedback from a variety of people helped compare / contrast job roles at different levels of an organisation in terms of salary (numeracy skills used for this, as well as ICT / literacy skills for research earlier in task), qualifications needed for entry to a job, experience and training.  Learners would ideally have needed a bit more time to complete all job roles on the question sheet though - not all groups completed every job.

Despite the size of the class I was able to visit each group throughout the exercise to discuss the exercise and answer any queries, as well as directing students towards the best website to use for research (NextStep) which is also potentially useful for students in future career planning.

The blockbuster quiz and the exercise on job roles enabled a variety of learning styles to be utilised by learners.  Although learning styles are explicitly covered on lesson plans for Barnsley College, there have been criticisms by some writers regarding the use of learning styles in lesson planning, including by Coffield (2006), who questioned the reliability and validity of the tools used to identify preferred learning styles.  He also suggested it is virtually impossible to ensure all preferred styles for all learners are incorporated into all lesson plans. 

Nevertheless, it seems sensible to at least offer a variety of exercises – such as the ones used in this lesson – to stimulate learners using a variety of methods.  This way, whatever the preferred style of learning for individuals – if indeed the preferred styles are accurately identified through IAG – the variety of activities involved in lessons can appeal to a broad range of learners.

Tutor-led discussion in final third of lesson seemed well understood (based on direct questioning and answers given) in terms of how individuals are given their own objectives and training to meet organisational objectives – the example used (Barnsley College aiming for Outstanding in Ofsted) turned out to particularly relevant given recent announcement of inspection at college, which also helped understanding.  This area will be covered in future activities for checking on learning.

End of Lesson:   Objectives re-capped, though less direct questioning than planned due to need to distribute / signpost case study documents for homework.  The case study is based on Forestry Commission and looks at graduate jobs, different roles at different levels of the Commission as well as looking at on / off job training, which introduces the concept ahead of a future lesson which will look at training types.  This exercise will be marked and feedback given to students to check learning and identify areas for follow-up (find faults, fix, follow-up approach [Petty 2004]  to be used to aid assessment for learning)

Feelings:  I was actually quite ill on the day of the observation.  Due to an extended team meeting before the lesson (inspection announcements / issues) the lesson was slightly delayed in starting also, this was unhelpful given the fact it was an observed lesson.  I was off work for two days after lesson due to illness; therefore reflection was completed a few days after the event.  By then it was also announced that the class was being reduced in size with an additional  group being set up for the BTEC Level 3 Business course (moving from 2 x classes of 25/26 to 3 x classes of up to 18 learners).  This will undoubtedly help future classes as the size of the classroom is more suited to smaller numbers and it will mean individual exercises can be done on PCs from now on.


Action points:
-       Amend quiz for printing / use in lesson
-       Amend timings of exercise for future use or reduce size of activity
-       From next lesson – in group work select groups myself to try and ensure all learners mix and to ensure peer support (this can be based on the marking of the individual activity on the Forestry Commission)
 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
 Summary of feedback from observer:
  • Positive feedback from learners re: quiz game at start
  • Confident whiteboard work (completed SWOT on whiteboard)
  • Good use of exercises to develop learners' CPD
  • good rapport with learners as well as empathy / trust with group (divulged personal SWOT analysis)
  • Class feedback positive (used summative assessment by way of case study which was marked)
  • Possibility to use my personal aims for class / learners in relation to learning outcomes (i.e. milestones along the way to the outcomes) as well as more clear labelling of tactics in relation to my teaching strategies.
  • need to cross-reference class profile to lesson plan / strategies
  • Address ergonomic issues where possible in terms of class layout.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Overall, i was pleased with the lesson i delivered when observed, particularly as it was early in the year and the module was new to me.  However, given that it was early in the year, i had an under-developed class profile which crops up in my feedback from observer and needs linking to lesson plans further into the module.