The subject of this SPE was a mixed ability group of approximately 20 first year catering students carrying out an individual investigation as part of their Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification. The 2 hour session was class 6 of a 10 session course as documented in my scheme of work. A lesson plan was provided.
The overall aim of the session was to achieve progress in the production of their WBQ assignment. In context, previous sessions had covered how to plan, research and prepare the assignment, with a variety of assessment methods for the students to choose from offered.
A session had been held on using research resources other than the internet (such as books), as had sessions on mind-mapping, setting up assignment files and the assessment criteria had also been introduced. In session six of 10 sessions, and being aware that many students were not managing to work on their assignments except in class, this lesson was designed to allow students to work on their assignments with the full support of the tutor and LSAs.
Most students had already chosen to produce an essay for assessment, and those students were allowed to work independently on these, while less able students who had selected presentation, powerpoint, poster and documentary assessment methods would be provided with the additional support they required to progress.
The ‘Pyramid of Support’ theory (Baker/Brown 2006) suggests that about 80% of students will operate at ‘tier one’ and will manage to follow the curriculum without needing intense individual support, 15% will be the group that ‘receives the least amount of attention (Adelman & Taylor 2005) but will respond quickly to some additional intervention, while about 5% will have the most intensive needs and require the most ‘innovative and specific interventions’ (Baker & Brown 2006 p 13). This was the case with this group, where the most able students would produce a high standard of work with short but intense 1-to-1 attention from me.
Students routinely arrived for the class up to 10 minutes early and 15 minutes late, due to their individual circumstances and the nature of the catering work some were undertaking throughout the lunch break. This was a pattern in every session, and I had chosen to manage this by offering 1-to-1 support to students arriving prior to class, and then offering a fun activity associated with the learning objectives for the first 15 minutes of each session until the late-comers were in attendance.
This was a pragmatic approach when many of the issues were unknown to me as a new tutor. I chose to adapt my lesson plan to the students’ needs. They would often arrive straight from service and would need a settling-down period to adapt from the psycho-motor domain of the kitchen to the cognitive domain of the classroom and I was sensitive to this, allowing a certain amount of boisterous and unruly behaviour until people started to settle down. I wanted the students to be creative and motivated and felt that taking a disciplinarian approach would not be appropriate.
In this session, we revisited a travel/geography quiz we’d tried in the previous session. I wanted the students, many of whom openly described themselves as ‘thick’ to start to see that they were obtaining knowledge and remembering facts. Laptops failed to materialise, therefore, I adapted the quiz, using tables as question numbers. The students had to go to the appropriate table being the answer they believed it to be. This game was fairly shambolic and noisy, but the learning outcomes were achieved with the entire group managing to score 20 out of 20 in the test by working together. This reinforced previous work I had done on building up their confidence as a group, which had a number of factions, an undercurrent of bullying and a history of poor behaviour.
I chose to ignore inappropriate behaviour. I wanted to get the students out of their seats and moving around so that I could re-order their seating and break up old allegiances without them noticing and the chaos of the quiz allowed this to happen so that within a short period of time I had all the students sitting in three groups, without them realising this had happened. I moved my position to the back of the classroom, in effect turning the room around, to take control of the ‘back’ of the classroom. I spoke to each student, briefing them on the objectives, and bringing them into my sphere of influence.
I was then able to brief each group separately to give them the aims and objectives of the session. Two groups were briefed and sent to the drop-in centre to continue their essays and research. The last group, who were to produce simpler assignments in the form of a poster, powerpoint presentation or video documentary, had the benefit of a quiet classroom, without the higher achievers listening in, to have some ‘right brain’ teaching, (G. Petty 2004 p146), to discuss their assignments, share ideas and have my attention.
In terms of my delivery, I feel that this session matched the OFSTED criteria regarding the characteristics of effective lessons: Enthusiasm; Clear (high) expectations, a variety of activities; clear links to previous and next stage of learning; recognition that people learn in different ways; suitable pace; stimulating and challenging; participative and experiential.
In terms of the genuine atmosphere of the class: the students were not briefed that I was being assessed, they were not asked to be ‘good’ and I did not plan anything extra for the benefit of the assessor. The class was real, as it is, and required a fair bit of thinking on my feet. In that I feel that I gave an honest account of the realities of teaching such a diverse group. This class has allowed me to investigate and experiment with many elements of teaching that I am only just becoming aware of as I continue my PGCE studies, in particular Tuckman, (1965) on how groups develop: ‘Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing’ – we were right on target for the storming level, and elements of psychology that we have covered in ETO2
Within half an hour of the class starting, all students were relocated to the drop-in centre and working on their assignments and I feel this was an achievement given the issues I have already highlighted.
The rest of the session allowed me and other tutors to work one-to-one with the students, looking at the work they had already done and advising them on how to progress. Most students showed a real commitment to their work and produced assessable work by the end of the session. Now a month later, most have completed their assignments and have achieved something that as a group, they had felt was beyond them.
1000 words.April 5 2007. SH
Baker, J & Brown, T. 2006: A PYRAMID OF SUPPORT Leadership, Mar/Apr2006, Vol. 35 Issue 4, p12-36, 5p Document Type: Article accessedapril 3 2007. http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=afh&AN=20970768&site=ehost-live
Brandes & Ginnis, 1996 A guide to Student-Centred Learning Stanley Thornes Cheltenham
Curzon, L 2000 Teaching in Further Education ContinuumLondon
FForwm 2005 ‘Why Colleges Succeed, Ofsted November 2005
Fullan, M 1991The New Meaning of Educational Change Cassell London
Kerry & Tollitt-Evans 1992 Teaching In further Education Blackwell Oxford
Petty, G. 2004 Teaching Today Nelson Thornes Cheltenham
Tuckman, B 1965
http://www.businessballs.com/tuckmanformingstormingnormingperforming.htm accessed April 5 07