New for 2018/19, this will be the space where PD North members and some special guest Bloggers will share ideas and experiences. Watch this space and, if you would like to write a Blog for us, on the topic of further / adult community education and skills, please contact Chloë at email@example.com
WORD: 300 – 1,000 words. Keep it short and engaging. Something folks can read in their break, on the bus or in the staffroom when they have a spare moment.
STYLE: Flexible. We’re interested in: Voices from the classroom/staffroom. Resource explorations. Reviews of books, blogs and events. Think pieces. Descriptions of PDNorth exchange activity. Critical thoughts.
REFERENCES: If you choose to mention other people’s work, events, videos, resources etc please reference them and give them the kudos they deserve.
Robert Broome, a practitioner from our online action research exchange, explores how language and context matters when embedding Functional Skills.
My name is Robert Broome. I’m a level 1 course team leader in professional
cookery at North Hertfordshire College and I am also completing my PGCE
teaching degree at Bedford college. As part of my course I was asked to
complete an action research project of my choice. Because I teach on a
vocational course, I decided to see whether adding contextualised examples of
maths and English work within my cookery sessions could help students with
their maths and English studies. This has been of interest to me not only within
my profession but because, I too at 28 years old struggle with English in a general
sense (e.g. reading, spelling and breaking down of text).
A report from the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills,
Department for Education, and The Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP (published 2 July 2014)
‘Many students have problems in maths and English all the way through the progressing
to adult life. “40% of pupils do not get GCSE grades A* to C in English and
maths by age 16. Worse still, 90% of those who don’t reach this basic standard
by 16, don’t achieve it by age 19” (dept. of education, 2018).
Another interesting study made by the Organisation for Economic
Co-operation and Development (OECD), states that older generations tend to
perform better in maths and English based tasks than younger learners.
I researched into these claims by the government by conducting my own experiment
with a few of my level 1 professional cookery students. I asked a few GCSE
standard maths and English questions and the average score out of 13 was 7-8,
which works out to be 57% of the mark. I then asked the same questions to adult
learners, all of whom were over the age of 40. The average score for the older
learners was 11-12 out of 13, which is 88% of the mark.’
After compiling data whereby I had
asked students GCSE standard questions in both Maths and English, I then used their
knowledge of Professional cookery to help them progress and challenge them in
these areas. In order to do this I took the GCSE questions and “re-worded” them
with terminology based around catering and hospitality. I also gave students
visual aids to help them around the kitchen classroom. This process was much
the same with maths; my aim was to get students to think of maths in the
hospitality industry as opposed to working from a textbook. My hope was that
this approach would help learners:
See the relevance of maths and English skills within professional cookery;
encourage a subconscious style of learning, helping students learn through
experience and by what they saw and heard in the kitchens.
encourage reluctant students to learn important maths and English skills,
without these needing to be explicitly taught.
Help close the maths and English skills gap I noticed between younger
learners, and adult learners.
Following this period of embedded and contextualised maths and English
work, I then asked students the GCSE standard questions again and cross
referenced their answers with the previous ones to see if there were any
improvements, big or small. With each group of learners there were slight
improvements, with most learners scoring at least one point more than they had
during the first test. The graph below shows the differences in learners’
scores, before and after they had accessed contextualised English and maths
Whilst the gains in learners’ test
results initially seem quite small, perhaps more telling was their improved
spelling of contextualised vocabulary. One example I did of this was when I
asked the students how to spell ‘Tagliatelle’. Initially, only 1 student out of
15 got it correct. I then posted around the two kitchens a glossary of types of
pasta where Tagliatelle was on this. A couple of days later I asked the class
to spell Tagliatelle again. The number of students who spelt it correctly grew
from 1 to 3. Not a huge leap but then an additional 4 students were only 1 or 2
letters off the correct spelling, a huge improvement in such a short period of
If I was to sum up my research it
would be that vocational courses can have an impact on a students’ maths and
English skills in both a positive and a negative way. The positives are clearly
seen in my research, if teachers keep pushing maths and English in their
lessons then students will progress. The negative however is that I noticed a
lot of my students didn’t realise how important Maths and English is to vocational
courses and professions. The mentality is for most was once they have finished
maths and English at GCSE then they don’t need to think about it again. This is
where students can slip on their skills in Maths and English over the two to
three years they are in vocational courses at colleges. This potential for
slippage adds to employers’ concerns that college leavers do not always have
the maths and English skills they require for the working world. I believe that
by constantly reminding students on vocational courses how important Maths and
English is in the working world, alongside constantly embedding and
contextualising maths and English work (to the point where students may not
realise that’s what they are doing) vocational teachers can make a massive
impact upon students’ motivation, engagement and success in maths and English,
during their time at college and in the future.
I also think it’s vital for tutors to
keep up to date on their own Maths and English, so we can help students and so
we can improve our own confidence to teach these essential skills.
A colleague asked me about digital resources for teaching English so she could support one of her exchange groups. They were looking for resources with low impact on workload but positive impact on learners. I thought I’d reformulate my reply into a blog but then decided that sharing my email reply would be just as authentic and play with the traditional lines of a blog post. I hope you find some or all of it useful 😊 ~ Chloë
Oh goodness – where to begin 😃. I’ll be as brief but
as informative as possible:
PDNorth Youtube Please recommend our screencasts via our PDNorth Youtube account. There are lots more to be added from an English & Maths PoV over the coming months too, from the OTLA Digital folks. Our screencasts have an element of practical ‘how to’ but most importantly they include pedagogical uses (and limitations) from real life experience in the FE classroom/training room/library!
One of the latest blogs on PDNorth is about Screencasting* and that again includes my experience of using it for ESOL/English with some practical examples and suggestions. Read it here: https://pdnorth.org.uk/pd-north-blog/
Shaping Success Courses Perhaps signpost practitioners to the digital approaches / multimedia webinars we have via Shaping Success (£25 per person or free if they fit one of the freebie criterion)? These webinars speak about specific websites / apps and how they can be used to teach English &/or Maths but these require a little play time to explore. We also encourage people to think critically about using digital in the classroom (ie not just for sparkles!). More info: https://ccpathways.co.uk/shaping-success
Just…websites! Average bog standard websites can be really useful for English teaching to explore comprehension and navigation whilst using websites they may already use (or need help being able to use). These days job applications are all online / shopping online is more convenient / accessing transport timetables etc so embedding personal digital skills and digital literacies with everyday websites is paramount.
An example of one ESOL lesson I did (at an FE college in a computer room): Students accessed an Excel spreadsheet (quick one I made) on a Padlet and downloaded it. It had a ‘shopping list’ of 15 items on it for which they had to find and price up at Asda / Tesco / Sainsburys online. Then they worked out the total etc to see which one was the cheapest. At the end they uploaded their document to the Padlet so I had a record of their work (also useful for RARPA). Okay, I’m using Padlet, Excel and 3 websites there but they also wanted to know how to use Excel and upload/download/add an attachment so I incorporated that into the session too. It took me minutes to make the Excel document and add it to a Padlet so it wasn’t a burden on my time (I know this is a real concern with digi stuff) and I reused the document / Padlet with other classes. However, you could just do a paper version of the Excel Sheet and learners could access the supermarkets on their phone (if they have access to one).
Blogs I highly recommend using a blogging website when teaching English. Particularly reading. The one I used originally a few years ago was Blogger* but issues with that included needing a Google Account/Email address which was a barrier to many of my learners. I ended up turning to Edmodo* as that ticked lots of boxes and has a familiar interface (it looks like Facebook with similar functionality). I’ve gauged from colleagues though that Edmodo hits it off with ESOL learners better than English. Phone Apps Specifically ones that come with the phone and don’t rely on learners downloading things/using their space. For example: voice recorder is great for recording themselves before writing an essay. Or recording a convo and transcribing it. Also good for practicing pronunciation (ESOL).
I know it’s easier said than done, but I truly believe in the importance of sharing with colleagues who you work with. Many departments/organisations don’t do this (especially if tutors are 0hrs or don’t work together physically etc) but it really does help to lighten everyone’s load if everyone shares something. Infact this reminds me of a quote (by George Bernard Shaw) that Sue shared with us which I think helps to sum up the purpose of PDNorth tbh:
“If you have an apple and I have an apple and we
exchange these apples, then you and I will still each have one apple.
But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange
these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.”
Hope this helps – let me know 😊
* If you would like to use platforms like these, I’d recommend introducing them at the beginning of the year and using them regularly in order to increase user experience and recognition. Don’t waste time introducing a ‘flavour of the week’ because most of your lessons will be taken up with the initial ‘getting to know you’ stage of a new platform. This will frustrate your learners, increase your workload and decrease the teaching/learning time significantly. With any digital elements of your TLA ask: Could I get the same result easier without the tech aspect? What (if anything) does the tech aspect add to the learning?
At PD North HQ, we are
extremely excited to be moving into year three of the programme. PD North is
going from strength to strength, and our ever growing membership list is bursting
with passionate practitioners from across the North (and beyond), each of whom
are as excited as we are about improving teaching, learning and assessment
practices for learners through practitioner-led research and knowledge
exchange. With this in mind, we felt now would be an excellent time to
introduce our 2019-2020 PD North team, so you know who we are and why we are so
passionate about the our work for PD North and across #FE (in all its
About Chloë – PD North’s Creative Director
Hi I’m Chloë, PD North’s Creative
Director. After working on the PD North project for the past two years I’m incredibly
excited to take the team into year three. Every year the project has grown
following feedback from members as we aimed to make an exchange network that
had practitioners from all parts of the sector at its heart.
The first year of PD North I was
working ‘on the ground’ as project officer for the North West. Last year I was
working behind the scenes, building our social media presence via YouTube,
Twitter, our blog and the twice monthly newsletter. This year I’m looking
forward to pushing the project forward by supporting our team in encouraging
practitioners to make PD North their own.
About Kathryn – PD North’s Network Meeting Coordinator
Hello I’m Kathryn, and I
coordinate the professional exchange network meetings for PD North. For the
past 25 years, I have worked in Education and Training, either in Work Based
Learning, Welfare to Work or Adult Skills and I have over 20 years Management experience
in this Sector. I currently work as an Operations Manager at a Training
Provider that focuses on upskilling adults in Functional Skills English and
Initially, I was
involved in setting up the Professional Exchanges in the North East and Cumbria
and supported Petrina Lynn in the management of the exchange groups. I
have worked with PD North for the past 2 years supporting the Regional Leads in
organising meetings, arranging CPD days and day to day correspondence with
I am excited about going
into Year three as I can see how much the sector has developed, shared and
moved forward as a result of the exchange groups and happy that I am part of
About Petrina – PD North lead for the North East and Cumbria
l’m Petrina and l’ve worked with the sector for more years than l care to admit
Learning and development has been a passion of mine for most of my working
life. Consequently, when the opportunity to become involved in Professional
Exchange Networks (PENs) became available, l jumped at it.
have been a big part of my life for the past few years, particularly focussing
on the North East and Cumbria provider base.
existing network has established seven groups across the patch based on agendas
identified by practitioners. I am never ceased to be amazed at the outcomes
from the groups and the productive networking that is established.
forward l feel a sense of enthusiasm and optimism at the prospect of working
with you all again.
will be in touch soon about year three. Anyone wishing to participate please
don’t hesitate to contact us.
About Gail – PD North lead for Yorkshire and Humber
Hi I’m Gail, Regional Lead for
Yorkshire and Humber. I’m looking forward to a new year for the Professional
Exchanges in our region – it is going to be an exciting one. This year my
focus will be on the word network. Although we will have fewer
networks the ones we have will be bigger and be informed by what the members
want and need. The expertise in the PENs last year was amazing as was the
members’ willingness to share and work together – in challenging times we need
this – we need our network community. So please get involved, I will be
in touch shortly with the dates of the first meetings. Don’t hesitate to
get in touch with me with your ideas. See you there!
About Punam – PD North lead for the North West
Hi I’m Punam, Regional Lead in the North West for the PD North
Professional Exchange Network. A core part of my role at PD North involves developing
networks and organising regional events. I am passionate about delivering
excellence and I combine an engaging enthusiasm with an attention to detail
which enables the organisations I support to feel safe enough to innovate for
excellence in a risk-positive way.
Having held many roles working within FE, ranging from
practitioner to senior manager working locally, regionally and nationally, I
appreciate the challenges in terms of strategic planning for an ever-changing
policy landscape, which compels senior managers to respond in a responsive
manner, realigning organisational priorities and strategies accordingly. This
professional history, together with a grounding in culture-changing Thinking
Environment processes, allows me to support providers with understanding and
empathy at appropriate levels of challenge.
I am looking forward to year three of this exciting opportunity working
with PD North members across the North West and beyond. I will be working with
my PEN’s to grow the membership of the networks and add to the increasingly diverse
range of organisations already involved. We will be focussing on hot topics and
the key development areas for organisations. The networks will provide an
opportunity to continue to share effective practice and provide support to
About Lou – PD North’s events lead
Lou and I’ve been involved with PD North over the last couple of years,
initially as Digital Nurse then moving into the PD North Events. That’s what’s
exciting me most about Year three! The events we held in the summer at
Liverpool, Durham Cricket Club and in Leeds were real highlights – educators
from across the North of England getting together to share ideas and learn new
stuff. Each of the days had the affirmative spirit that always happens when
practitioners get together who are critical – yes, and who challenge themselves
too – but who are never cynical. They were feelgood days, so I’m delighted to
be doing the same again next year with the PD North team. Look out for dates
from us in early September – PD North on Tour!
PD North sits with the other work I do nationally to raise the profile of FE, particularly FE research and voices from the sector. Although my focus is pretty much the events for Year 3, I’d still be delighted to support you to get writing, podcasting and publishing the stories of your practice. You can always contact me on Twitter @loumycroft or by phone 07779135201.
About Vicky – PD North’s virtual action research group lead (and occasional
creative content developer)
Hello I’m Vicky and I’ve been working in education in various guises since 2005. I’m an Access to HE specialist, as well as spending a lot of my working life in the wonderful worlds of community education and community youth justice. I hope that I’ll be meeting (and re-meeting) many PD North friends as we begin our latest online action research professional exchange series (starting September 2019). During these interactive sessions we will be blending talks and training from experienced FE action researcher-practitioners with the opportunity to explore, discuss and reflect upon your own research projects. You can often find me on Twitter – @VickyMeaby, where I get very excited about collaborative working and the power of participatory action research as an enabler of socially just teaching, learning and assessment practices.