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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
By Laura Kehdi – Westway Trust. Member of PDNorth’s online practitioner action research group
I am currently teaching ESOL
pre-entry at Westway Trust and I just love it, as it is very rewarding. I have
based my research on a pre-entry group of lovely international students, who I
teach on Mondays and Wednesdays for two and a half hours per lesson. Each
student has a different background, nationality and age. Most of them are
illiterate and many also have learning differences and difficulties. Many speak
Arabic as their first language, others speak Portuguese, Spanish and Farsi.
Stage 1: Getting feedback
I asked my students what they
like about my lessons, what they don’t like, and what they would like to
continue doing. As they are beginners, I did this by talking to them directly
(using translation when necessary), and by taking notes. Their response didn’t
surprise me at all; they were all very happy and enthusiastic about what we are
currently doing. However, what everyone really wanted to be able to do was to keep
trying to learn how to read and write certain words. In essence the group want
to become literate, which as an ESOL teacher, is my aim for them too! Following
some phonics training our team accessed in November as part of our Outstanding Teaching and Learning
(OTLA) CPD, a particular approach caught my attention – something so simple but
so useful at the same time. I had never thought of it before, and I felt it
could potentially help my students very much when it came to learning a new
word, especially when writing and reading it.
Stage 2 implementing a new teaching strategy: From copy and speak tocopy, copy, copy, no copy, check!
The technique I first tried out
with students is focused on copying
words while speaking them at the same time. So, while a student is
writing one word, it is extremely helpful to speak the sound of each letter
instead of being silent. However, notice that it is the sound of the word that
we are taking in consideration, not the name of the letters. So, for example,
with the word “cook”, students would say k-ʊ-k
(c-oo-k), and not see-ou-ou-key / c-o-o-k.
I shared this
strategy with my students, as a new way of practising and learning a new word while
becoming more independent; in fact, students can use this strategy anytime and
anywhere, without the teacher‘s help. However, I found that just copying the
words wasn’t enough for students to both understand the word and to check how
much they had actually learned. Building on my reflections, my work with students,
and my learning during the CPD course, I developed the following exercise: copy, copy, copy, no copy, check!
STEP 1 Copy, copy, copy
copy the word multiple times and concurrently speak the sound of the word (we copied
the same word at least 10 times).
STEP 2 No copy
cover the sheet where they have copied the word many times. On another sheet,
they then try to write the word without copying, just one time.
STEP 3 Check!
compare the word they have written without copying (step 2) with the original
word (step 1). Students can then see if the word is correct, how many letters
were right and how many were wrong – by doing so, students can see by
themselves what was correct and what they need to practise.
this cycle as many times as needed with the same word. Once students feel confident with the word chosen,
they can change it and start all over again with another word. I found that it
was helpful to stress the name of the steps ‘copy, copy, copy, no copy, check!’ almost like a chant, as this was very helpful for students
to memorise the sequence of the exercise, which also helped promote students’
3: Reflecting on the results of copy,
copy, no copy, check!
I am very pleased with the
outcome of the activity so far; I could see huge improvements in every student!
Most of the students can remember and write the word at stage 2 100% correctly. I was impressed on how much copying while speaking the sound of the word, could help students to memorising it – incredible!
A few students did not write the word completely correctly. However, I saw a huge improvement in my group. Sometimes from one letter correct to three or four.
Speaking the word is key. The sound itself massively helps students at stage 2, when they have to remember the spelling of the word without copying it. Students have combined and memorised the letter and the sound together, therefore this helps them with remembering each letter of the word when saying it.
A key finding from this
intervention is that it has helped students to become much more independent
when studying a new word. They learn how to practise, to check and correct the
word by themselves, and not with the help of the teacher as usual. This is a
huge step, especially for illiterate pre-entry ESOL students.
There are however situations
where this approach could be less successful; it is helpful to be aware of
these problems, to avoid disappointment. For instance:
might not be aware nor confident enough with the pronunciation of the word.
Make sure the teacher does a lot of drilling first and records the word with
the student’s phone to help them and to promote self-study.
might start spelling the word (name of the letters) instead of speaking the
sound of it. For example, with the word “cook”, students would say see-ow-ow-key
/ c-o-o-k, but actually they must say
might struggle with speaking the sound of the word and copying/writing it at
the same time. For example, some of them might have just started copying the
first letter but finished to pronounce the whole word already. Teacher’s must
show students a few examples on the board first, and the stress the fact that writing and speaking must be concurrently.
students forget to continue speaking after a while. They get back to what they
used to do, which was copying without any sound. Make sure you always monitor
and encourage students to persist with the nature of the exercise.
might struggle with remembering the chant at first. Make sure to reinforce this
as it helps students to be independent, knowing what to do without any help.
Without the chant, it is extremely difficult for students to remember what to
do at every stage, especially at pre-entry levels.
Stage 4 – Concluding thoughts
and next steps
I am truly pleased on the
very positive results I had with my group. I believe that having included the
technique as a three-stage cycle improved the outcome even more. This activity works
very well not only when it comes to helping students, (especially those who are
just beginning to learn to read and write), to learn and practise a new word,
but also to promote self-study. I designed this activity for pre-entry students,
but it can be adapted and used with higher levels too. For example, instead of
learning one word, students might want to practise a whole sentence. Timewise, the
exercise can be done in 5 minutes or in 15 – do it as much as it is needed, I
would say. I intend to keep adapting my approaches based on learner feedback
and my observations, and I will continue engaging in action research as a way
of reflecting upon the strategies I develop to support my learners.
I am grateful for having had
the opportunity to engage in action research and to work on such an enjoyable
and important project. I hope that many teachers will find this activity as useful
and efficient as I did, and that they will use it to help students to become
literate and more independent.
Cathy Clarkson from our CPD exchange (Yorkshire & Humberside) talks about the impact practitioner research has had on her own continual professional development.
I’m no stranger to practitioner research. It’s formed a
valuable part of my CPD throughout my career, with the support of organisations
such as the NRDC, LSIS, SUNCETT, EMCETT and the ETF*.
I was involved in a few of the NRDC projects. I really am a
child of the Skills for Life agenda and it seems crazy how critical we were of
it at the time. My first foray into practitioner research was with the ICT Effective Practice study. I was
one of the nine practitioner researchers, working with the fabulous people at
the Institute of Education. Whatever happened to webquests?
Just one of those technologies that comes and goes, although the underlying
principle of guiding students through the complexities of the internet seems
even more relevant today.
I took this model of collaborative action research to my MA
dissertation, which I was fortunate to piggy back with an NRDC practitioner-research
grant. The Lancaster University tutors were amazing, and the mentoring I
got from tutors at Leeds Mets and the Institute of Education was invaluable.
The Action Research Network is still viewed through the rose tinted glasses of
nostalgia by the Dewsbury College gang. With the MA under my belt, I managed
the application for the college to become a Cambridge-approved centre offering
both the CELTA
and the full DTE(E)LLS – the only place outside of London offer the ESOL
subject specialism. Because of this, I managed to secure a grant through the
Creative Routes project and with this money bought a set of iPads to be used by
our DE(E)LLTS trainees to support their CPD. The highlight of this project was
a trip to Morocco to run a workshop for IATEFL
and MATE where the post-it notes we’d brought were more novel that the
With the demise of NRDC, LSIS picked up the baton of
supporting practitioner research. With support from the SUNCETT team, the theme
of emerging technologies continued in my practitioner research as I looked at
what we could find out about
iPads by working collaboratively with tutors and students from different
curriculums. I learnt that I couldn’t answer the
question about how to use this emerging mobile technology in the classroom,
because I had been focusing on how the technology supported independent study
out of the classroom. This led me to
apply for an EMCETT grant to explore the question of mobile technology in the
classroom. I brought my (now aging) iPads together into a class set and I
worked with my beginner ESOL group to find out what this technology had to
offer in the classroom. We explored ESOL apps of varying quality and I got some insight
into the differing opinions on what 16-18 year olds thought were good or poor
apps. My next project, once again supported by EMCETT, broadened this question
into other curriculums. I worked with other tutors, who worked with their
explore how a class set of iPads could be used effectively.
It may be no surprise reading this, by the end of the year I was pretty tired, I needed a break from practitioner research and I needed to get a little more control of my work/life balance. It’s one thing to get the grants and the college to promise the time, but the reality is that practitioner research eats in to your life. Of course this doesn’t mean that I stopped trying new things. Not at all. It just meant I stopped writing about it, I cut back on blogging and Tweeting although I still ran some sessions for NATECLA for a short time.
In the summer of 2018 something changed. The universe
realigned and the stars pointed me to an EdD, which is basically a taught PhD.
This has given me over a year since I started the course to get a feel for what
I want to study, and today I have submitted my proposal. I am also dong an
OTLAEnglish project, funded through the ETF. It is very interesting doing these
projects simultaneously. It feels very different doing a doctorate to doing any
other practitioner research. I am both intrigued
and scared by the philosophical nature of research. It has taken me about
the same amount of time to write my EdD proposal as it has to do the entire
OTLAEnglish project. But the start/finish notion of these projects is
deceiving. The EdD isn’t just starting, it has started and I can already feel
the messiness of engaging in action research. The OTLA project isn’t finished,
the report may be written but the activity continues.
Without funding from organisations such as the NRDC, LSIS, and ETF I’m not sure that I would be taking my EdD now. I certainly could not have done these projects without the support of the people working with the organisations who provide the funding. The money is of course always welcome, but as we found out in the Action Research network, a group of willing tutors with a rota of baking, can create the time and space needed to be able to reflect on changes made in the classroom. I would recommend anyone to look for funding opportunities, particularly through the ETF. Twitter is a fabulous place to find out about these things and there is a growing base of FE tutors chatting and sharing. Going to conferences is also useful, look out for a local teachmeet, FEbrewed and the upcoming ReimagineFE conference heading into its fifth year. There are also the regional Professional Exchange Networks (PEN). Internally you could hunt out your Advanced Practitioner, who I am sure will be more than happy to support you in developing your own practitioner research project or find some like-minded colleagues to create a Research Space to talk about your practice – don’t forget the cake.
CELTA – Certificate in Language Teaching to Adults
EMCETT – East Midland Centre of Excellence in teacher training
NATECLA – National Association for Teaching English and Community Languages to Adults
by Susanna Brandon, PDNorth Northwest TLA exchange
As part of the PDNorth TLA (Teaching, Learning & Assessment) professional exchange, our Myerscough Director of Quality and procedures Sue Keenan facilitated an afternoon showcase of our latest digital skills projects and teaching tips delivered by members of the Myerscough digital skills team and selected teaching staff with the aim of building further collaborative opportunities to share good practice and really drive the project forward.
At Myerscough, we have a dedicated digital skills team who have been generating some fantastic training opportunities for staff to develop their digital skills and also working on new projects funded by the Education & Training Foundation (ETF) to further embed and use technology, such as Virtual Reality (VR) to bridge skills gaps between training and employment.
Over 20 delegates from colleges and University centres around the North West attended on the day. The afternoon events started with an overview of the Myerscough developed Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) Spiral, by Sandy Hunter. Then for the majority of the afternoon the visitors attended five short showcases where they had the opportunity to immerse themselves in some of the VR programmes; including milking at the farm, buying fresh flowers at the wholesaler and also the use of VR to stimulate creativity in creative writing. There was also the opportunity for the attendees to access a range of free Apps that tutors at Myerscough have successfully utilised within their own teaching.
One of my remits as ATP is to liaise with the digital skills team in trialing new technology in my own teaching and then sharing with my team. The digital skills fair allowed the extension of this approach beyond Myerscough and into the wider teaching community.
The close of the session was delivered by Punam, who shared more technology in her briefing in the form of her (Mentimeter) presentation, which linked to the ETF professional standards and also the proposed method of communication (Zoom) to allow all attendees to stay in touch, share experiences and generally support each other in developing outstanding teaching, learning and assessment.
Some of the comments taken from the day included;
‘It’s been great, I just wanted to stay and play!’
‘…feel more confident about encouraging staff.’
‘Great for my own CPD and how I can share my work with others.’
As you can see from the comments, the afternoon proved a great success. Hopefully the energy from the room will continue to filter through all of the educational settings and we have lots to discuss when we next meet. Monthly Zoom meetings have been scheduled to keep everyone on track and we look forward to hosting again in July 2020 when the attendees come back to Myerscough to share the impact of their individual projects.
Susanna Brandon is the Advanced Teaching Practitioner (ATP) for Greenspace and Creative studies at Myerscough College.