Independent Study Task – 22/10/2018

This week, our independent study task involved watching a few videos about feedback and communication skills in the classroom to help us improve upon the way we used these.

Evaluation and feedback are very important aspects of teaching. They are effective tools for improving teaching practice and pupils’ classroom performance. In order to move forward and improve we must first identify the areas which need to be developed.

Self-Evaluation and Receiving Criticism
One teacher from Iowa in the US records all of her lessons in order to reflect upon her teaching. She acknowledges that there is a difference between how teachers view their practice and the reality of it. The views of teachers themselves, students and other professionals may all differ, illustrating the importance of using recordings, collegial/peer assessment and student surveys to ensure comments are received from these various different perspectives.

Another video also highlighted that getting the opinion of more than one person can be useful as each person may see things differently. It is also helpful for two colleagues to assess one person as this can be used to ensure that each of the observers’ assessments are in line with their organisation’s policy.

Giving Criticism
According to Cottrell constructive criticism should be:
• Sensitive
• Current
• Balanced
• Honest
• Productive
• Selective
• Helpful
• Realistic
• Precise
• Kind
• Beneficial

One of the most important aspects highlighted here is the need for balance in criticism. Criticism should be neither entirely positive or entirely negative. In any task, there are always things that people have done well and always ways that things can be improved. One issue I have always had when giving peer feedback is being so conscious of not coming across as mean or nasty when discussing aspects that could be improved upon that the point is missed entirely. However, points for improvement are one of the most important parts of feedback as teachers should constantly be re-evaluating and developing their practice and feedback shows them where to focus their efforts.

There is a clear difference between feedback and judgement. Feedback, as highlighted through all of the individuals questioned in the videos, should always contain positives and should be seen as a starting point for improvement rather than a means of criticising.

Feedback is important but as is self-confidence and kindness.

Reflections on Placement

I thoroughly enjoyed my experience on placement and it was brilliant to be back in the classroom. The school I was placed in was relatively small with just over 200 pupils. Everyone in the school, both staff and pupils, could not have been more welcoming. I worked in P3 and P7 classes and, although different, I loved my experience in both!

I enjoyed interacting with and getting to know both pupils and staff. I attended two staff meetings throughout my time on placement and these, alongside general conversations with staff, gave me a different insight into school life. I also supported learning in classes and gave an exposition for a maths lesson regarding mental maths strategies in a P3 class. It was great to have a chance to assess my own communication skills and get the opinions of others, i.e. peers and teachers. Placement also gave me the opportunity to observe and apply the knowledge and techniques I had gained at university in the classroom.

One of the primary self-observations made during placement was in relation to communication behaviours. I have identified one primary strengths and one area of development.

One of my biggest communication strengths, noted by myself, my peer and teachers, was the use of my voice to showcase my enthusiasm. It is extremely important to engage pupils in lessons and one of the best tools that teachers have to achieve this is their voice. Very few pupils will engage with a lesson if the teacher appears disengaged and disinterested.

Area of Most Progress
I understand the importance of building confidence and showing children that they and their opinions are valid and valued. A large part of building this self-confidence is ensuring that children are included and have the opportunity to share their views.

During group/class discussions, there are often a few pupils who are very confident and who may dominate conversations. Previously, I have always been hesitant to prevent pupils from dominating discussions as I did not want them to feel that their opinions were not valued and/or discourage them from answering in the future. However, I also knew that it is important to draw non-participating pupils into conversations and activities. Teachers need to strike the balance between ensuring all pupils are included and making sure confident pupils can still voice their opinions, without dominating activities. This is something I was conscious of and improved upon during placement. This was noted by my peer during my observed lesson.

Area Requiring Progress
I make a conscious effort to use accurate spoken English when in school, avoiding the use of slang. However, I have a bad habit of using colloquialisms like ‘kinna’, ‘gonna’ and ‘wanna’. This is something I am now aware of and will make a conscious effort to improve upon in everyday conversations before next placement.

Action Plan
Thanks to my self-assessment, peer assessment and teachers’ assessment, I am aware of the areas I need to improve upon with regards to communication. This now means that I will be conscious of them when talking to people or presenting.

The way individuals communicate changes depending on the situation and the feelings individuals have about communicating will impact on how effect they are at it. For example, I would feel far more comfortable teaching a class full of children than I would presenting something at a staff meeting and thus, my communication skills would be more effective in the first context. I have noticed that most of my communication errors occur when I am nervous. Overcoming nerves is something that I am going to work on before my placement in BA2 in the hopes that this will help with my communication skills in general.

Overall, I adored my time on placement and cannot wait until I am back in the classroom again!

Den Building

This week, one of our workshops for Situated Communication was outdoors! We were split into teams and tasked with building a den outside. The teams were split by surname which I liked as it meant that we were grouped with people that we may not yet have had the chance to work with.

My group worked well as a team and everyone contributed by giving ideas and working hard so it was difficult to pinpoint one group leader. Our group didn’t explicitly choose a leader, however, one emerged naturally. As most members of our group seemed quite confident and eager to have their ideas heard all we needed in a group leader was someone to guide us in making a collective decision and narrowing down everyone’s ideas into one final design. The group leader did this well, without ever being strict or bossy, and ensured everyone’s ideas were listened to and considered.

I think the group that explained their design to us did so very well. Only a few members of their team explained their design while the rest of their team finished physically making the den or explaining to another group. This made their explanation clearer as it meant that there were not several people trying to talk at once. Alternatively, all members of the team could have explained as long as they had discussed who was going to say what in advance. The team seemed to have completed all stages of the 5Ps. They had clearly planned and prepared both the design of their den and their explanation and had a very concise, clear and well thought out presentation.

The outdoor area was very different to the type of environment that we were used to working in at university and therefore, was quite exciting. However, I think my group managed to both get the task done and have fun. With regards to both listening and speaking there are challenges that one must consider outdoors that they would not need to think about inside a classroom. For example, it can be quite a noisy environment, thus, gathering round in a tight group can make it easier to listen and be heard. As the outdoors is very different to a traditional learning environment it is be easy to get distracted so it is important to ensure that everyone always has a job to do. This is something that we would have to be conscious of as teachers to make sure that everyone stays on task. Furthermore, instructions should be clear and concise to ensure that minds (and eyes) don’t wander and the task is understood fully.

Our group was tasked with negotiating something from another group which seemed vital to the design of their den. We were successful in our negotiations, however, it was challenging to decide who would be the best negotiators in the team and there was definitely a certain element of guilt from taking something away from your classmates.

Overall, I thought the task was very fun and I enjoyed the opportunity to work as part of a team. I felt the team worked very well together and we managed to create a den that we were all proud of: Casa De Tipi.

Thoughts on Induction

I have thoroughly enjoyed induction week and my first week of classes at UWS.

Throughout induction week, the university not only armed students with an abundance of freebies but also ensured that we knew both what was expected of us and what we could expect from the course. At the end of induction week, we met our Mentoring Family which is made up of students from BA2 through to BA4. This gave BA1 students an idea of the experiences we would have over the next four years and was the perfect opportunity to ask any last-minute questions before classes began on Monday.

The lectures and workshops that I attended in the first week of classes were all very helpful and gave me a good insight into the things I could expect from each of the modules in terms of both classes and assessments. The introductory workshops for the Situated Communication module in particular were extremely useful in easing students into university life. One workshop introduced us to Moodle, an online tool that we will be using throughout the course while another, aptly named ‘Getting to Know You’, gave us a chance to chat to and get to know more people in our course.

Overall, my first two weeks of university have been fantastic! Everyone from tutors to students have been extremely welcoming and friendly and have passed on a wealth of information which has eased any pre-university woes.