Teaching and Learning: Theory and Practice Essay

For the purpose of this assignment and to meet all the relevant criteria, I have chosen to focus my assessment tool on the two day foundation training that all volunteers must attend before progressing onto further projects. This assignment includes a report which will focus on the theories and practice of assessment and also the relevance of learning and communication theories to planning, learning and teaching.

It will critically analyse and evaluate my own teaching, together with the assessment and marking tools, which are both included in the appendices.I have also included copies of my group profile, mapping document, lesson plans, resources, student feed back and action plan in the appendices. I shall refer to relevant literature, which relates to assessment and learning theories, within the report to demonstrate my understanding of the subject matter. Report Learning Styles – Links to Theory There are many factors which affect a student’s ability to learn.

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I teach volunteers who have applied to the Youth Offending Service to work on different projects with young offenders.The learners who attend my courses are from a diverse society, coming from a wide range of cultures and backgrounds, both educationally and socially. They all have one common denominator and that is their genuine interest in the subject matter. Learning is something that does not automatically happen, regardless of how academic your learner may or may not be.

It takes time and all learners will go through various developmental stages.Benjamin Bloom (1956), identified three domains of learning namely, cognitive which looks at thinking skills; affective which looks at feelings and emotional areas and finally psychomotor which focuses on physical skills. These three areas are more commonly know as knowledge, skills and attitude. The theory behind this is that after a specific teaching session the learner should have gained new skills, knowledge and attitudes. Bloom believed that learning was not simply a fact giving process, for example a simple PowerPoint training presentation, but a series of tasks that a learner must go through.

He further breaks down the domains, and I shall take the cognitive domain, splitting it into knowledge, analysis, synthesis, hypothesis and evaluation. Each task must be achieved by the learner before they can progress on to the next. It is difficult to know what teaching methods and activities are best for the group of students you have, particularly if you have never met them before, but it is vital for a tutor to be aware of all the learning styles available and to incorporate as many as possible onto the lesson plan so that the training is inclusive to all. … it [the lesson plan] should create learning activities which are accessible to all the learners and which do not make any learner feel excluded directly or by implication.

” (Wallace 2007, p114). There are 3 different learning styles, referred to as Visual, Aural and Kinaesthetic (VAK). Most learners will learn by a mixture of these styles, maybe favouring one particular style more than another. It is for this reason that I have used the VAK learning styles system and have included activities such as, jigsaw exercises, role play, peer observation, case study and PowerPoint presentation.

Once you are aware of a student’s preference, and you have been able to assess the group you are teaching in terms of learning preferences, you can then become more flexible with the session, reflect upon it and adapt the lesson plan accordingly. Learners should feel valued and as a teacher it is your duty to ensure that this happens, this can be done by using effective communication methods for example make sure that you are concentrating on what a learner is saying and show them that you are doing so by using non verbal communication, i. e. nodding, eye contact and encouraging noises. A teacher should demonstrate effective listening and if you are not sure what a learner means rephrase what they are saying for clarification. It is also important not to use jargon or over complicated vocabulary and to speak clearly so that you can be easily understood. The Learning Environment – Links to Theory “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

” (Gravells, 2010 p66. ) How you start a teaching session can play a major part in how the remainder of a session or series of sessions develops.Creating and maintaining stimulating learning environments can be achieved through effective classroom organisation, the physical environment, the teaching style and also the students’ learning style as discussed earlier in this report. The physical environment in which you teach is an important factor in terms of effective learning taking place. Reid states that: “Environmental factors contribute to the learning experience a great deal and can significantly increase or decrease the effectiveness of learning. ” Reid, (2006) p34.Teaching venues vary enormously; I deliver training in community settings, many of them without adequate resources, external noise, and poor layout.

Gravells states that “learners are entitled to work in a safe and healthy environment” (Gravells, 2008, p17). The LLUK Professsional Standards state that teachers have a duty to ensure that they deliver training in an environment where the learners feel safe, secure, confident and valued; that buildings are safe and students are aware of fire procedures. It also says that teachers should be familiar with the relevant procedures in accordance ith the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974), and must ensure that risk assessments are carried out prior to any sessions starting. (BP1. 1). Whatever the environment, a well-planned course should provide a variety of interaction choices for students. Reid (2006) identifies several factors that he believes to be important in terms of an effective learning environment, namely, design, colour, wall displays, light, sound, visual and auditory distractions, space and the presence of other learners in the same environment.

It is up to the teacher to make the best out of what is available, and to be creative if necessary. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs focuses on 5 basic needs and can be applied to a learners need to feel safe and secure within a learning environment. In relation to the training I have based my assessment on, all five of Maslow’s needs’ were met. 1. The learners basic physiological needs were met by having access to refreshments and breaks. 2.

Their safety needs were met by means of making sure that they are aware of fire regulations, that ground rules and confidentiality are adhered to. . Learners satisfied their need for self esteem by re-engaging with education and by gaining recognition and encouragement from the tutor. 4. A sense of belongingness was met as the learners formed new relationships with other like minded people on the course. 5. Self actualisation was achieved as all learners completed the training, therefore achieving their goal. From researching literature I feel that my teaching style lies between that of a behaviourist approach and a humanistic approach.

On reflection, I believe that this is due to my professional background in social care, and also from having studied person centred counselling, which is now reflected in my teaching. My teaching style creates a relaxed informal environment. This serves to make everyone at ease and each session begins with a fun, but relevant ice breaker to encourage immediate participation, even by those who are apprehensive. There is a person centred approach and all learners’ experiences and contributions are valued.

The humanistic approach to teaching focuses on the learner pursuing their own interests and talents in order to develop and is particularly influential with adult learners as there is not the same need for the teacher to take control as there is with a younger learner who may need more direction. In humanism, learning is student centred and personalised, and the educator’s role is more of a facilitator. I allow my groups of learners to lead the sessions I teach, by way of debate and discussion, I also ask them what they might want me to include in a future session and how.Carl Rogers is one of the most influential thinkers of the Humanist theory. He believed that the key to successful learning was the relationship between student and teacher, and that the teacher should be non judgemental and value their student.

The Humanist school believes that students need to feel valued and safe and I refer again to Maslow’s Hierarch of Needs mentioned earlier in the report. Wenger (1991) was a social and situational theorist, and talks of Communities of Practice as being, “groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly. (Wenger, 1991). There are three components of Communities of Practice, firstly there must be a specific domain; for example, in context of my learners, are all volunteers within the Youth Justice System and have signed an agreement to say that they are committed to work with the YOS for a minimum of one year after completion of training, secondly there must be a community, all volunteers meet up socially to discuss there progress on the different projects, they attend open days and social events and finally there must be a practice, all the volunteers are practitioners and are able to share their ideas and concerns with one another.Wenger believes that learning is central to human identity and that the primary focus is learning as social participation. The behaviourist approach is based on giving immediate feedback, which, if positive will then in turn encourage the learner to behave in a certain way and if negative will stop the learner from repeating the behaviour. Skinner (1904) was one of the most well known behaviourists, and his rat experiments demonstrated how they learnt to open a box with a lever to release food.

I would not say that my teaching style was wholly focussed on the behaviourist school, but I believe that I do exhibit behaviourist tendancies within my sessions. I believe rewarding learners with praise and encouragement, particularly if they are lacking in confidence, will encourage them to carry on participating and give them the confidence to try new things. I also use prizes when learners are carrying out ice breakers or quizzes, again this motivates the whole group and encourages them to learn in order to get the correct answers.I ensure that the tasks which are set out are achievable and broken down into smaller segments, and will often work through the first point as a whole group to ensure that there is a thorough understanding of the task, which produces positive results from the group, encouraging them to carry on achieving. “Effective teachers continuously reward and encourage students while they are working, so reinforcement is almost immediate”.

Petty, (2009) p15. Assessment ToolI have chosen to create a summative assessment tool based on the 2 Foundation Days that all volunteers must attend. Due to the loss of the accreditation through the Manchester College there is no summative assessment of the volunteers learning, so by creating a summative assessment tool, based on the foundation training, I was able to ascertain their understanding of the subjects taught and also their suitability to go onto further training.

A lack of understanding of the first 2 days would make if difficult for a volunteer to progress onto further training.The assessment tool I have created is a series of 10 short answer questions, which have been based on the 2 days foundation training. Tummons, (2007), suggests that a series of short answered questions can provide a more structured framework and help to build a learners confidence, particularly in relation to written work. He goes onto suggest that they also reduce the risk of the learner misunderstanding the task, which in turn increases the assessments reliability.Volunteers were given a deadline to return the assessment for marking, they were given the opportunity to complete it electronically, therefore using their ICT skills. By allowing students to complete the assessment at home, it created a stress free environment where they were able to absorb the information they had learnt and refer to their notes. It also meant that they were not completing the assessment under exam conditions, which could put too much pressure on those with less confidence.

Feedback from LearnersFeedback from students is important for teachers as not only does it demonstrate their understanding of the subject matter, but also pinpoints where they need to improve their own skills in assessment. (EP4. 2) “Reflecting upon and responding to learner feedback should be a necessary and integral part of our professional practice. It helps us to evaluate how effectively we are managing the learning process and can provide us with specific information about … what aspects of their learning the learners are most enjoying, or how they are responding to the learning materials and other resources we are using. Wallace (2009) p121. Students completed a reflection piece at the end of their assessment which asked them to identify skills and knowledge that they had learnt from the training and also to identify the next stage in their learning process. This has proved to be very useful feedback, as they have had to expand on what would usually have been a yes or no answer. Each person has highlighted specific areas that they have particularly enjoyed and learnt from, including comments on the actual assessment itself.

One student has said that she felt the assessment had been a good refresher and had made her read through the manual she was given, which she may not have otherwise done. I also received verbal feedback from a student who said that she wished that there had been multiple choice options as she was worried about her written work. I explained and reassured her that I would not be marking her on her written ability, but on her understanding of the subject matter. A multiple choice series of questions could have given the same results, and would have been more accessible to everyone.

Multiple choice questions enable you to: “cover a large body of knowledge or understanding quickly and thoroughly, simply by setting at least one question for each topic covered …” (Tummons, 2007, p 52). The only disadvantage of using this method of assessment is that often students can guess the answers, which could reduce the validity and reliability of the assessment tool. Further feedback I received on the assessment was in relation to difficulty in finding the information to the answers.This was verbal feedback over the telephone stating that they didn’t know where to look for the information as the handbooks were too big. The handbooks are very big, and have been produced by the Youth Justice Board and we have a statutory duty to give them to all volunteers.

There is a vast amount of information and background reading in them which volunteers are expected to study as part of their training and they can be quite overwhelming. The assessment tool I have produced demonstrates to me that all the learners have read through the manuals in order to answer the assessment questions.Strengths and Weaknesses of Assessment Tool Unfortunately, due to my position at work, I only received 3 out of the 8 assessments back. From the 3 that I received, the breakdown of results illustrates that all students answered the questions correctly.

However it does not illustrate the difference in the quality of the answers. This fits in with Bigg’s Structure of Observed Learning Outcomes (SOLO) Taxonomy which focuses on the quality of a students work rather than what they have got right or wrong. Biggs identified 5 levels of understanding: 1. Prestructural.

This is when students acquire bits of information that are not connected, there is a lack organisation and answers are disjointed. 2. Unistructural. This type of response only meets one part of the task. Simple connections are not grasped. 3.

Multistructural. In this type of response a number of connections may be made but there is a lack of complete structure, indicating where and how each aspect fits into the whole. 4. Relational. Here the student can relate the significance of the questions in relation to the whole and can make a connection not only with the subject but also beyond it. . Extended Abstract.

This is the same as the relational, but would then go even deeper. Out of the assessments that I received I would say that 2 out of the 3 answered relationally, going beyond the subject area and expanding on their answers, and one student answered multistructurally, whereby she was able to answer the assessment questions but was unable to expand on them and relate them to the subject as a whole. Overall, I believe that the assessment tool was successful.It is a shame that I couldn’t have evaluated more, but I suspect that I may have come up with similar issues throughout, that some answers would be far more detailed than others, and that by using the student feedback and creating a multiple choice option, this could be a way of standardising the responses. I shall produce an action plan which will look at transforming the existing question and answer assessment into a multiple choice option. Assessment Theory Assessment is on going throughout the teaching cycle and “is a way of finding out if learning has taken place. Gravells, (2008) p75. It is important to emphasise that assessment is not only in place for the student, but also the teacher, as it is necessary for them to continually reflect and assess how a lesson has gone in order to provide the best possible learning experience to the student.

Using a wide variety of assessment methods ensures that all learners are able to reflect on their learning and it enables them to improve on areas which need development. It can take such forms as discussions, role play, feedback and case study.The different methods of assessment that are used are usually determined by the needs of the group and the type of learning programme. In order to meet all learner assessment needs the tools used should be fair and not discriminate against any learner. If necessary the assessment should be adapted, for example extra time may be needed, or it may need to be completed in a different format, i.

e. on tape. There are 9 principles of assessment and it is important that these are followed so that the assessment: 1. Is valid. in that it is worthwhile and covers the subject matter taught. 2.

Is reliable and consistent. The assessment should produce the same results regardless of who marks it, the environment it is completed in and the language used. 3. Is accessible and transparent. The assessment instructions and guidelines should be clear so that students know what is expected of them. 4.

Is inclusive and equitable. The assessment should be inclusive to all students and not discriminate in any way. 5. is an integral part of programme design and should relate to the programme aims and learning outcomes. It is important that assessment forms part of the course and is ongoing.It should be, “ … part of the learning process, a facilitation of understanding rather than a hurdle to be jumped.

” (Kerry and Tollitt-Evans, 1992 p35). 6. is manageable, not only for the student but also the teacher.

7. covers formative and summative assessment. This is to ensure that all learners are assessed and that the purposes of the assessment are addressed. 8. gives timely feedback that promotes learning.

Students need to know when they are likely to receive feedback on their work. It should be given as quickly as possible after the assessment.If feedback is left too long the learner may have forgotten how they tackled the assessment. Learners should be made aware of when they will be receiving feedback. 9. Finally staff development – it is important that teachers involved in the assessment of students are aware of their roles and responsibilities and keep up to date with their personal development by attending relevant training.

Marking The assessment will be comment only teacher marked. Students will not pass or fail, but will be asked to look at specific areas again in order to collect the correct information, before they will receive a certificate of ompletion and allowed to attend any further training. The marking of sort question answer assessments is a relatively easy task for the teacher as it: “… can be marked with the aid of a model answer sheet and marks or grades can be awarded for each component. Careful question choice can also ensure wide coverage of the syllabus, which further enhances validity. ” Tummons (2007) p51 I believe comment only feedback on assessments to be more beneficial to a students learning than that of just graded work.This is because the students are given constructive criticism and direction on an area to develop rather than just been told that they have achieved a particular mark or grade, with no idea of how they can improve their work. Comments should, “identify what has been done well and what still needs improvement, and give guidance on how to make that improvement.

” Black et al (2006) p 49. Links to minimum core Finding ways to embed minimum core is, I believe, my weakest point in terms of teaching, and something which during the remainder of the course, I look to develop.I have included an action plan in the appendices. Embedding English, and also demonstrating my use of English is not a problem for me as I believe my written work and communication is at a standard that I am confident with. My personal use of ICT, in terms good, but I find it difficult to incorporate this into my teaching sessions, and need to find creative ways to do this. I have however used ICT to send out the assessment tool to the volunteers.

On previous occasions the assessment has been done during the session, and when it was accredited the assessment was a hard copy handed out to students.Having electronic copies of the assessment is quicker, and more reliable as there is a record of when things have been sent and received. The students are also required to use ICT as their completed work was returned electronically. I have attempted to embed Maths into, the sessions by asking students to complete task whereby they have to identify a minimum number of objectives, or I have given them a specific time to complete a task. I do not feel as confident in my own skills in maths, and feel that I may need to look at attending some sort of course to increase my confidence and skills in this area.


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