I am currently employed in the post 16 training sector as a tutor on the ‘entry to employment’ programme (e2e). The e2e programme is designed to be flexible and individual, with the aim of equipping young people with the necessary skills to become independent; self-motivated; informed and empowered to take control of their own lives. Learners work towards realistic but challenging targets that lead to progression onto suitable training or employment opportunities. There are 3 basic strands to the e2e programme; basic and key skills (literacy, numeracy, communication etc…); personal and social development and vocational development.
The programme is tailored to suit the individual needs of a variety of young people who are engaged on it. All learners are aged between 16 and 18 years and are not participating in any form of post 16 learning, or in any form of employment. The programme itself is not qualification driven. However, opportunities for the achievement of certificates are available throughout the course. There is no set time limit for the e2e programme ensuring that learners can work at a pace suited to their skills, needs and circumstances – learners can spend as little or as long (within reason) on the programme in order to successfully achieve their goals.
The strand I teach is vocational development. This incorporates training sessions such as CV building; interview techniques; job searching and sustaining employment. Learning is individualised, thus meeting the needs across a range of age and ability. Professionalism to me is exceeding the standards as set by various government offices and ensuring that the service young people access at my organisation is a quality one. Further education has received its share of criticism over the last century and this has been reflected in the salaries of the tutors in this sector as opposed to those in the compulsory education sector.
To me being a professional is about attitude, behaviour, self presentation and having a commitment to improvement. How we conduct ourselves in our roles is paramount to earning the respect and appreciation of our fellow workers, managers and indeed the people accessing the services we offer. The learners that access our service are usually low level (below entry 1) and many lack motivation to learn. As the National Foundation for Educational Research conducted research on participants taking part in e2e, “Around one-third of young people interviewed reported negative school experiences.
These related to problems with other students, negative relationships with teachers, lack of achievement and the perceived irrelevance of what they were taught. Many had been expelled from school or had excluded themselves. ” (http://www. nfer. ac. uk/research-areas/pims-data/summaries/eet-entry-to-employment. cfm This gives some indication of the difficulties facing tutors in this sector and it is my belief that conducting a programme that reflects school will only serve to discourage learners from accessing this course.
Therefore, although we must be professional, we must also offer something different to the curriculum offered in compulsory education. Thus it is important to consider Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Basic Human Needs. The main points being; physical comfort, safety and shelter, love and belonging, self-esteem leading to self-actualisation. Further education in the UK has seen many changes during the last 10 years. Concerns were raised by the government that Further Education was not producing a skilled enough workforce in line with international standards, impacting upon Britain’s economical viability.
Other EU countries were seen to be producing a much higher skilled and trained workforce. The belief was that a cause of this was a lack of suitably qualified teaching staff in FE. This propelled the notion that all teaching and training staff working in the FE sector should be qualified to the standard set by mainstream schools. It was thought that by doing this, standards of the UK workforce would be raised. In 1999 FENTO (Further Education National Training Organisation) was launched. They were responsible for identifying needs within the FE sector.
In 2000 FENTO proposed a set of standards, which addressed wider issues of professional development and considered a new teaching qualifications network. These standards consisted of three main elements: Professional knowledge and understanding, skills and attributes and key areas of teaching. In 2005 Lifelong Learning UK (LLUK) was formed to manage the reform of teacher training. All FE teachers now have to register with the Institute for Learning (IfL) which is part of LLUK, and monitors training and records sector training needs.
Since initial reforms, teaching standards in FE have further developed and progressed. In March 2006 the White Paper ‘Further Education: Raising Skills, Improving Life Chances’ highlighted further needs to develop a much more highly skilled workforce. It states, “This is a huge challenge, because there are some deep-seated and long-standing weaknesses in our national skills. We have put in place major reform programmes for 14-19 year olds and adult skills, backed by substantial investment.
Those reforms are bringing about real progress. But there is a long way to go to raise skills and qualification levels for young people and adults to world standards” (White Paper ‘Further Education: Raising Skills, Improving Life Chances’, 2006). It also goes on to say that FE establishments are central to achieving world standards in the UK workforce, but are currently not realising their full potential in being the driving force behind skills.
The paper paints a grim picture in terms of skills levels of the UK in comparison to other developed countries, and with the Leitch report highlighting the skills need for 2020, it is clear that reform is necessary for the UK to compete in the global economic market. The economic mission is at the core of the proposals, with the focus of the FE sector to be equipping young people and adults with the skills and competences that meet the needs of employers. The proposals laid out in this white paper were implemented in the Further Education and Training Act 2007.
Reforms such as the above have a resounding impact on organisations such as mine. We have to ensure that the government’s vision and targets for the future are embraced and taken forward in the most effective possible way, thus demanding that we, as FE employees, are professional in all aspects of our work. So how do we as an organisation ensure the commitment and quality of service that is expected by our government? Firstly it is imperative that we have systems in place that effectively transmit information to staff.
Accurate and relevant information and communication are vital in order to transmit and effectively implement plans that will uphold the government’s wishes in regards proposals for FE. My organisation has a quality improvement department which continually monitors the performance of the company against standards set out by agencies such as the Office for Standards in Education (ofsted), Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) Learning and Skills Council (LSC) and many more.
FE establishments are now subject to inspection by ofsted of which their aim is to“inspect and regulate to achieve excellence in the care of children and young people, and in education and skills for learners of all ages” (www. ofsted. gov. uk). This department is crucial for the continuation of improvements within educational settings. Although misinterpreted by many as ‘harrowing’ and ‘stressful’, the inspection process that this agency conducts is the platform for which FE providers need to build their provision.
Ofsted inspections are designed to aid improvement in services, raise aspirations and assist in the achievement of higher standards within educational settings. The quality improvement team in my organisation follow the Common Inspection Framework as dictated by ofsted. This ensures we are providing the services and meeting the standards set by the government. In order to ascertain that teaching staff are in line with this framework, regular lesson observations take place by competent staff. By carrying out these observations, staff are able to use the feedback to continually improve their practice.
It is also expected of teaching staff to self evaluate and reflect upon every lesson they teach. This is a key part of professionalism within teaching. I will discuss in more detail later in this essay the values and importance of reflection. The quality improvement team are also responsible for official documentation used by all staff. These are regularly reviewed and updated and communicated to all staff. This ensures that all staff are using the same documents and helps create seamless processes that are followed by all.
As well as ofsted there are many other agencies that regulate the delivery of FE in the UK. One of these is the QCA. As a provider that delivers qualifications in a variety of subjects the QCA is an important source of information. The QCA maintain and develop the National Curriculum and accredit qualifications to appropriate levels in order to meet the needs of learners, employers and the economy. As we deliver accredited qualifications it is crucial that we follow the guidelines set out by the QCA to ensure we are teaching the correct knowledge and skills that learners need to achieve the standards set.
We also have to adhere to awarding bodies such as Edexcel and City & Guilds who provide the qualifications which we deliver. As well as organisational procedures and external influences, it is crucially important that we, as teachers strive to continually improve our practice by self reflection. “Reflective Practice is a process of reviewing an experience from practice in order to describe, analyse and evaluate and so informs learning from practice” (Reece and Walker, 2006 p421). This involves using a selection of the models identified during the course of this programme.
Donald Schon (1983) identified 2 sub categories of reflection, reflection on action and reflection in action. Reflection in action is often described as ‘thinking on ones feet’; this is done during the course of action and is one that I have had to use many times during the course of my career. Reflection on action occurs after the actual action and gives professionals the opportunity to develop theories and create knowledge. “Individuals, supported by others, constantly frame and reframe a problem, test it and reach solutions” (Schon, 1983).
Another model of reflective practice is one proposed by David Boud. In the introduction to Understanding Learning from Experience, David Boud et al (1993), present five propositions of experiential learning, the first of which is; experience is the foundation of and the stimulus for learning. “Learning always relates in one way or another, to what has gone before. There is never a clean slate on which to begin; unless new ideas and new experience link to previous experience, they exist as abstractions, isolated and without meaning” (Boud et al, 1993, p8).
Building on previous learning and relating new learning concepts and topics to past experience has been essential in my teaching practice. Linking new experiences to past ones to create new meanings and insights in extremely constructive in reflective practice. “We attach our own meanings to events. While others may attempt to impose their meanings on us, we ultimately define our own experience. ” (Boud et al, 1993, p10) Another important model of reflective practice is Jack Mezirow’s. His emphasis is on disorientating dilemmas, which he believed can be a slow transition rather than a sudden insight.
Mezirow believes that, “learning is different when we learn to perform than when we understand what is being communicated to us. ” (Mezirow, 1990) The belief is that questioning and reflective nature results in an altered and more beneficial learning process. “In reflective practice, practitioners engage in a continuous cycle of self-observation and self-evaluation in order to understand their own actions and reactions they prompt in themselves and in learners” (Brookfield, 1995) The diagram below illustrates Brookfields perspective of reflective practice.
Reflecting upon my practice is something I need to be doing continuously to constantly develop in my role. This reflective process is an essential part of teaching, as Kolb’s Four Stage Model of Learning, demonstrates. Reid (1993) states “Reflective Practice is a process of reviewing an experience from practice in order to describe, analyse and evaluate and so informs learning from practice” (Reece and Walker, 2006 p421). Reflective practice is a vital part of teaching. Effective practice is a beneficial aspect of continuous professional development and without it progression in teaching would be extremely limited.
By gaining a better understanding of their own individual teaching styles through reflective practice, teachers can improve their effectiveness in the classroom and strive to achieve the vision as set out by the government, as previously mentioned, for Further Education. Reflection of Learning – CertEd: During the 2 years I have undertaken learning on the CertEd course, I have learnt many underpinning theories that were previously unknown to me. Although I have worked in the industry for 8 years and learnt from experience and reflection, I have been unaware of the background as to why we do what we do and the reasons for it.
It began with the first module which was preparation for teaching. In this module we covered learning theories, learning styles, planning effective lessons, presentation of lessons and factors influencing learning. Before I began the module, I believed I had a sound understanding of the teaching process; however I discovered many more vital and useful tools that I now apply when delivering training sessions. Kolb’s theory was something that I was unaware of before this module. Learning theories was also a topic that I had very little knowledge on. This proved to be one of the most useful sections of this module.
I did practice the different approaches beforehand but was unaware of the theories behind them. Now I am aware I believe I use them much more effectively in my day to day role and my planning of sessions. The next module was ‘Developing Personal Skills’, and I found this extremely useful. It enabled me to concentrate my efforts upon areas of my career that were not as strong as some of the others. By doing this I was able to improve my performance at work a great deal. It was good to have agreed learning contract beforehand as this gave me a schedule to work towards.
It was more beneficial negotiating with the tutor, what I wanted to develop, instead of being told what to work towards. In “Learner managed learning” Graves (1993) states the role of the learning contract in higher education takes on board the concept of our individual learning styles. It gives students the freedom to learn in a way they feel comfortable with. It has long been established that adult learners learn in different ways, and that they are self directing and defined in their experience, with the onus and effectiveness of this learning process primarily, on the learner.
Upon reflection, I learnt much from this module, both my IT and networking skills have been improved, and this has had a positive impact on my job role. I feel much more comfortable using IT in teaching now than I did before, especially power point presentations which I have used in a few sessions since my online tutorial. However I still have far more to learn, especially in IT as it is a fast changing concept that is constantly introducing new equipment and technologies into society and indeed teaching.
The module on assessment was also beneficial as before this assessment was something that I did without really thinking of the underpinning theories to it. This module made me change my practice by ensuring assessment was valid, reliable and relevant and also prompted me to give more feedback to my learners and document this. The module of learning on curriculum studies was again one that developed my understanding of the subject. Designing a curriculum was a valuable learning experience for me and although a successful one, I have seen many opportunities for improvement along the way.
In summary, teaching and learning is an ever changing industry and constant evaluation is necessary for the process to be continually successful and for ongoing improvement to take place. I found that the autonomy I was given helped tremendously as I was able to decide for myself what course of study the students would follow. Obviously I had to account for external influences such as the criteria of the awarding body and contractual requirements from the LSC, but nevertheless my organisation were prepared to allow me to choose the path students would follow to meet these.
Kolb’s theory is foremost in my reflective practice as shown in the diagram below: By designing a curriculum and studying theories of curriculum, I gained a better understanding of the concept. I understand that influences such as organisational policies, government policies, awarding bodies and learning styles of learners, all have a bearing on how a curriculum is developed. I also learned much about the models of curriculum and in what context they are used. Many courses of study are designed to accommodate the product model; i. e.
they are focused on achieving an end result, such as a recognized qualification; however I feel the process model can still be incorporated with better results, such as additional learning taking place and a more enjoyable learning experience for the student. The course I designed was a success. This was reflected in the achievement and retention figures that were collated at the conclusion of the course. I also believe that I added value to the curriculum by incorporating literacy and numeracy support throughout and designing learning to suit all students regardless of learning styles and abilities.
I did have to change the course of study slightly of this curriculum, and so in future I hope to be able to build upon my experiences and design an even more effective course which incorporates the learning I have undertaken during this module. The final module on creativity was the one I felt most beneficial of the entire course. I realised during this module that I had always ‘played safe’ during my teaching and that fear of failure had prevented me from implementing ideas that could enhance my teaching and my student’s learning.
During this module I researched creativity within an educational environment. I realised that being creative is sometimes about taking risks, and this was something I had previously been reluctant to do. Although I felt I was innovative in my lesson delivery, I now accept that a fear of ‘failure’ prevented me from fully committing myself to creativity. On the whole the CertEd course has been a valuable and worthwhile experience for me and I believe I have progressed professionally due to the modules I have undertaken.
Following the course of study I believe I have made excellent progress professionally and feel much more knowledgeable in the sector than I did previously. I still have to continually improve as a professional and I am fortunate to work for a company that recognises this and encourages staff to undertake CPD. Continuous training and development for all staff is now an everyday part of the profession, not a training course that is ‘thrown in’ every few months with no clear structure.
CPD must be strategically planned and embedded within the overall objectives of the organisation to ensure that staff are well prepared for any new developments that arise. At my organisation, staff are encouraged my management to take control of their development and inline with the Business Plan and the Self Assessment Report, are supported to undertake relevant, necessary CPD. I try and improve my practice in many ways. As well as the regular training courses I attend I also take responsibility and ensure that I continually strive to learn and become a more effective practitioner.
Learning from other teachers is an important way for professional development. One of the most powerful ways to better your practice is to observe other teachers, ones that are experienced and confident in their roles. During this course of study I have had a mentor and I have observed her on many occasions, as well as seeking advice and guidance on matters I am not confident in. I believe discussion with colleagues can be an important part of development. They can offer different views on situations and propose alternative methods of practice which might have previously not been considered.
As well as using colleagues and mentors, learners are also a crucial part of continuing development. By gathering their thoughts and feedback on lessons I teach them, I am able to implement new strategies and adapt teaching methods to enhance the learning experience for my students. A written evaluation at the end of sessions is another useful way to reflect and enable improvements. “It is important to produce a written evaluation of the lesson which helps to reflect constructively upon practice.
By reflecting on what went well and badly and evaluating what we would do differently we are developing professional practice and evolving new ways to meet our learners’ needs (Wallace, 2001, p178). My organisation also conducts 6 monthly appraisals with all staff. During this process a development plan is also agreed and produced and this involves recording any learning that needs to be achieved, any courses that have to be undertaken and any other developmental requirements that staff feel they have. The appraisal process helps the employees to understand the company’s objectives.
It helps them to set their goals and precisely know what role they play in their work to serve the organisation. This avoids frustration and gives job satisfaction to the employees. Performance appraisal benefits all parties and can serve to motivate and inspire employees to continuously develop and improve. My own development plan was agreed in February and runs until August. During this time my targets for achievement are Level 2 ICT qualification, Cert Ed qualification and to maintain my CPD file with all relevant learning.
Beyond this time I am looking to achieve a business/management qualification during the next 2 years, and to develop my leadership skills due to a recent change in my job role. I will continue throughout my professional life to strive for improvement and new methods of working, which will enhance the experience of learners accessing our services. Professionalism is an ongoing process. It is commitment to self-improvement, competency in work, motivated in attitude and having respect for both colleagues and learners.