Assignment 1 ??“ Observation
The lesson that was observed for this assignment was an entry level 1 English as a Second Language (ESOL) course based in City College Coventry; there were 15 learners consisting of a wide range of abilities, backgrounds and ages. Refer to appendix 1 for background information relating to this. 30 minutes were spent observing this lesson.
In anticipation of the observation, the teacher had set aside a table from which the observation could be carried out, on this he had placed a copy of his full lesson plan including copies of his power points and any learning material that was going to be utilised throughout the lesson. (Copies are in appendix 2). This level of preparation was a good indicator of the level of planning that would be shown to have been applied throughout the whole lesson. The lesson plan included ???coherent aims, learning outcomes and a clear assessment strategy??™ key parts of the process of planning lessons as referred to by Armitage et al (2007). It is clear from the teacher??™s lesson plan that he has a very good knowledge of each of his students and an understanding of their abilities, included in the plan were very clear and concise expectations of where the students are and where he wants them to be by the end of the class, this is not a general expectation but a very individual assessment of each student. The impact of this planning on the class meant that the teacher was able to pin point learning specifically to those that needed it in a way that each would benefit from the most.
On commencement of the observation, the class was reconvening after a 15 minute break. The teacher started this section of the lesson with a brief recap on what the class had covered before the break, he used this to refocus the group; it also got them engaged with the lesson. The teacher made good use of this opportunity to review the knowledge that had been learnt so far, also to assess whether the class was retaining the knowledge that had been imparted to them. He did this by utilising assessment for learning techniques such as, effective questioning and by opening up a group discussion which encouraged the group to question each other, thus teaching the learners to formulate their own questions, in turn helping them to become better learners, the teacher stepped in if the group were going of on a tangent and kept them focussed, helping them to learn where to focus their efforts in order to improve their learning. At each stage of the lesson the teacher clearly explained what was to be expected from the learners ensuring that their focus remained where it needed to be. Each new task was kept very learner centred and a variety of teaching strategies and approaches were applied. Practical activities were mixed in with board work, group work and discussion, ensuring the lesson was varied and kept the students attention. Active learning techniques were very much used to ensure that the activities were student led rather than teacher led, ???what the learner does is more important than what the teacher does??™ (Petty, 2004). There was a good pace to the lesson, reference was made to up to date cultural material, such as the use of current popular movies relevant to the subject matter being taught (i.e. The King??™s Speech) this kept the students motivated, engaged, willing and enthusiastic to contribute to the lesson.
The teacher was very aware of the different abilities within his class and had contingencies in place as part of his lesson plan to ensure any differentiation was catered for, for example, he made use of quicker finishers to aid slower learners, this has the multiple benefit of keeping all learners actively learning within the class, at the same time re-enforcing their own learning by teaching to others.
Initial impressions when entering the classroom were of a very cluttered and overcrowded class, this made for quite a claustrophobic atmosphere, this was due to the resources available to the teacher and not something that could be overcome easily, possibly something as small as moving around the furniture may have reduced this feeling. However, on further observation it was evident that this was turned into an advantage by the teacher in that he encouraged it to give the students a sense of inclusion and ???community??™, meeting several of Maslow??™s Hierarchy of Needs (Maslow, 1943), for example, the needs for ???safety and belongingness??™ thus making them feel comfortable and more inclined to participate in the lesson. The teacher utilised all of the available resources to the utmost. Making extensive use of the whiteboard in a wide variety of ways, such as using it for video clips, audio, visual aids, questioning, revealing answers slowly one at a time, along with the use of laptops, the teacher was able to broaden the students use of technology as well as the primary role of improving their English skills. The variety of teaching methods used also took into account students different learning styles ensuring that methods used enveloped visual, auditory and kinaesthetic (VAK) methods of teaching. It was also evident in the seamless way the students collected and set up ready to use the lap tops that this was a regular occurrence within the lesson and that the students were accustomed to using them. The impact of this was that something that could have been quite disruptive to a lesson was actually very conducive to the overall learning experience.
The motivation levels within the class were very high; this was achieved partly due to the teachers??™ own enthusiasm and partly due to the subject matter being studied. Although this was essentially an English language lesson the subject matter had been chosen in order to engage the students and give them something familiar and yet taxing for them to discuss, they were actually learning the aims of the lesson without even realising that was what they were doing. By enabling the students to relate to their own cultures and countries (by asking them about a speaker from their own country) not only did the teacher get the students motivation and engagement by discussing something familiar to them, he also brought into play their emotions, thus engaging their ???affective??™ domain (Krathwohl, 1964, Bloom, 1956). The teacher could also introduce aspects of equality and diversity, for example the topic naturally moved on to differences in culture between royal families, the students were then able to discuss this and gain a better understanding of each other and their backgrounds.
Although the nature of the course was conducive to matters of ???equality and diversity??™ it by no means meant that it would be automatically taken in to consideration, however, the teacher in this instance made full use of all opportunities to bring to the attention of the students any issues that may arise, for example language barriers and understanding the spoken language, he pointed out differences in accents using Winston Churchill as a good example of how even within a language you have the different dialects, ???Queen??™s English??™ for example as opposed to a regional accent. This had the effect of breaking down these barriers and attempting to make them less of an issue for students who by nature of their cultural differences had many language barriers.
Throughout the lesson one of the main methods of assessment used was questioning, with the teacher using whatever opportunity that arose to question the students understanding, this was not the only means used however. The students were asked to complete worksheets to show their understanding and were also observed completing sentences on the white board. The students were obviously used to the teaching methods being used and were keen to show their knowledge by shouting out answers to questions, even talking over each other to the point where it was not always possible to hear what anyone was saying, also the stronger characters were more likely to be the ones heard the most, the use of ???lolly-pop sticks??™ or some other means of directing the questions and answers may have been more constructive.
One of the major points that can be garnered from this lesson is the importance of preparation, from the lesson plan to the learning material used, making this as detailed as possible and yet clear, concise and meeting SMART objectives. A thorough knowledge of the subject being taught and of the students themselves and their ability to learn and apply this knowledge helps to produce a lesson that will engage, motivate and enthuse the learners, in turn they will be more conducive to the learning process and positive results will ensue.
In conclusion, there was an energy to the observed lesson which filtered down to the students, this in turn gave them motivation and enthusiasm, this was evidenced by the students body language; they were leaning forward in their seats, making good eye contact and very willing to contribute to the lesson. In turn this led to deeper learning as evidenced by the assessment techniques used. Even as an observer you were drawn into the lesson.
Armitage, A et al, 2007, Teaching and Training in Post-Compulsory Education; 3rd Ed (OUP Buckingham)
Maslow, A. H. (1943). A Theory of Human Motivation. Psychological Review, 50, 370.
Petty, Geoff (2004). Teaching Today: a practical guide Geoff Petty, 3rd Ed (2004) published by Nelson Thornes. pages 137 to 351 deal with teaching methods.
Bloom, B. S., Engelhart, M. D., Furst, E. J., Hill, W. H., & Krathwohl, D. R. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: the classification of educational goals; Handbook I: Cognitive Domain New York, Longmans, Green, 1956.
Anderson, L. W., & Krathwohl, D. R. (eds.) (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of Blooms taxonomy of educational objectives. New York: Longman