Professional Learning: Evidence of changes in teaching, learning and assessment practices
The self-assessment tool has proven to be very useful. It was designed to facilitate discussion between learners and volunteer support workers. We noted that the inclusion of social, personal development and British Values allowed us to see more of the learner as a whole person rather than someone who had to develop their English skills. Interestingly the social skills were often affected by the technical. For example, one learner said he was not always assertive because his spoken English was poor. As learning progressed and English improved so did the social element.
Confidence helped learning and, in turn, learning helped confidence.
All learners discussed British Values with much confidence. They demonstrated strong moral compasses and spoke passionately about their beliefs. It resulted in a feeling of success from the outset. Learners appeared to feel valued.
I believe an interesting point for research has arisen with the identification of perceptions of British Values; are they not humanist values? Irrespective of background or culture our learners (within the demographic for this project) cited strong beliefs in mutual respect; intolerance of discrimination; making informed life choices and taking responsibility for them.
It was beneficial for learners to reflect on their studies after a 6-week period. Again, the self-assessment tool was used to facilitate a discussion where the learner could reflect on progression and chart their current position. This was then compared to the last reflective self- assessment log to see if there was any change. In all cases there was positive progression.
One to one time allowed us to focus on individuals and their learning styles. We were able to facilitate learner self-discovery about learning and develop appropriate learning strategies. This empowered learners to take control of their learning and develop outside of the classroom.
Independence was growing as self-belief was developing. For example: one learner worked out that reading wasn’t just about putting letters and words together. He also looked at context and clues. He realised that he could understand the gist of things without being able to read every word. This gave him the confidence to try.
He lost his fear and started to practise reading everywhere he went:
“I’m no longer frightened of reading. It’s in there. I just have to unlock it”
(ML, functional skills English learner)
He started to select the DVDs he wanted to watch through using strategies he had learnt to piece together information. Before this point he had relied on his father to choose for him.
Using a Lunch Club as a learning platform was very effective. We set it up for low level learners who attended English in the morning and maths in the afternoon. Learners had a 1.5-hour break in between sessions, so we used half the time for one-to-one study and half for Lunch Club. Lunch Club involved learners discussing food choices; researching prices and nutrition; shopping; designating a treasurer, buyer and food prepper – it was a social as well as educational event.
Our volunteer devised maths questions for learners to work on, as well as exploring naturally occurring English skills. For example: How many sandwiches can you make from this loaf of bread? How much does the bill add up to and what do you each have to pay? What is the expiry date on that ham and what does it mean? Why are bananas good for you? What do you think of?
The learners thoroughly enjoyed the lunch club experience and the educational aspect:
“Lunch Club is a very good thing to do. I am enjoying it. When I came to the class, I was not doing well but now I get extra support, I am doing better and look forward to coming to class.”
(DD, ESOL Learner)
“Lunch club is good because it helps me to budget. I like to help prepare the food and I enjoy the lunch and being with friends. I like choosing a menu and talking about the food. The one to one practice is very helpful”
(PD, Functional Skills English learner)
After the first lunch, learner LS stated:
“I can’t believe we got all that for £1.68. What a bargain! I’ve really enjoyed the lunch and learning side of it.”
We introduced new foods to taste and then encouraged discussion about smell, sight, taste and touch. Using the senses facilitated improved, and sometimes sophisticated use of adjectives. LS was very animated:
“I really like this persimmon. I like its attractive orange colour. I like its delicious taste.”
DD had an opposing view:
“I don’t like it at all. It has a weird look to it. It has a boring taste and the texture is too hard.”
Interestingly, learners were using vocabulary they wouldn’t normally use in class. However, they are adults with life experiences and their own lexicons, which would not necessarily be reflected in their writing. It demonstrates we cannot make assumptions about vocabulary based solely on written evidence. One-to-one time can afford us more time for verbal assessment and a better understanding of the individual.
We will continue with this sensory exercise with the objective of learners adopting adjective use in a natural way and then transferring the skill to written work.
Learners started to explore nutrition independently and have been making healthier choices. Some have swapped cola for water and herbal tea. They have chosen to eat a boiled egg and salad over a ham and pickle sandwich.
The volunteer has a qualification in Food Hygiene so has been able to transfer practical knowledge to the designated food prepper. I believe the impact of Lunch Club is wider than English and maths. It is also instrumental in people making informed choices and improvements in lifestyle. It is a perfect demonstration of Kent County Council’s ethos of improving lives.