The following narrative is an account of my ability to deliver my subjects to a range of learners.
I will, with reference to examples such as lesson plans, Assignment Briefs, and examples of resources that I have developed (such as a PowerPoint presentation, a handout), a lesson observation report and student feedback, highlight the effective use of skills and knowledge obtained in my ITT and through ongoing CPD . In doing this, I shall explain and illustrate how I believe my own professional development has impacted upon my learners.
My teaching career has been in a range of environments and this has involved providing qualification and non-qualification education for a range of learners. This has meant constantly updating subject knowledge and delivery strategies to accommodate these diverse needs. An ability to be flexible and willing to professionally grow is a necessity in order to support a departmental and organizational vision, so that the optimum learning experience is achieved.
Keeping up to date with latest policy initiatives and trends and keeping my own knowledge and skills current are necessary to help in ‘future proofing’ the work of the department and in creating a culture that enables colleagues; managers, teachers and support staff, to provide teaching, learning and courses that are up to date, innovative, relevant and that meet the developmental and progression needs of all students.
Much of Music Education requires the listening to, reading about and analysis of music and, throughout my career I have had the opportunity to teach within musically diverse environments; Theatre Schools (ages 5 to 16), Adult Performing Arts Classes (16+), Secondary Education (GCSE, AS, A2 and BTEC), Further Education (Lecturer in Music and Media, NEETlearners and Staff Development), and corporate training roles with American Express, the Pacific Institute and NBI Associates. This, and the various qualifications involved, has meant developing an understanding of a broad variety of genres from Musical Theatre and Jazz to Popular Music and classical music (in its broadest sense).
I believe that the best teachers are those who are not only passionate about their subject but are those who are open to developing their own skills and knowledge. My current career is so far removed from my original training as a classical musician but I have never been happier. Change is challenging for most of us but gradual change is comfortable, and continual professional development should be desirable. To use a musical term, we should have many strings to our bow, because ultimately this makes us more valuable to our learners, employers and to ourselves.
“David is a person of unrivalled integrity, who has great passion for his art and for whom I have the greatest respect.”
Matthew Kolakowski, Curriculum Leader, Greenwich Community College
“I had the opportunity to work with David as part of his team in the performing arts department. During that time David had a great leadership styles that enable his staff to develop at their own pace, while maintaining a high standard for his team. His advice and support for CPD has been extremely beneficial which has resulting in me writing development programs. Furthermore, David’s passion on the subject of equality and diversity was very inspirational. With this in mind, I recommend David as a leader who can write about our unique experience’s in and outside the working environment. Hope to work with him in the near future.”Michael Noble, Owner, IyPSchool
During my Initial Teacher Training at the Institute of Education, University of London, I was introduced to a variety of perspectives and gained knowledge, skills and experience; through research assignments; from colleagues at both Teaching Placements; and from workplace CPD sessions which have inspired me to pursue a professional development route which has focused on diversity, differentiation and inclusion.
The benefits of this development were not only for me, but, as a result, the learning experience has undoubtedly been enhanced for my learners and the retention, achievement and progression of these learners has positively impacted upon the success statistics in each organisation.
Research Assignments, whilst at the IoE (Institute of Education), were:
• BEYOND THE SCHOOL – DEVELOPING PARTNERSHIPS
• OBSERVING, MONITORING AND ASSESSING PUPILS’ LEARNING AT KS3
• MUSIC, ICT AND THE CURRICULUM
• SCHOOL BASED EVALUATION OF MUSICAL LEARNING
• SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL NEEDS and WORKING IN PARTNERSHIP
I will discuss these in detail and explain in which way the research has directly enhanced my ability to teach.
BEYOND THE SCHOOL – DEVELOPING PARTNERSHIPS
The opportunity for schools to establish cultural links with the community have never been better and Departments of Music are most fortunate of all in that there now exist a multitude of Arts Organisations eager to foster educational attachments. There are mutually beneficial gains to be made for all parties involved in such creative relationships, including the opportunity for artistic, cultural, personal, spiritual and social growth for all who participate.
The variety of partnerships fostered by Teaching Practice School One (TP1) clearly had an impact upon student development, musical or otherwise, and the schools relationship with both the local community and creative connections with visiting musicians have inspired me to nurture partnerships with a range of subject relevant organisations.
One particular implication is the cross-curricular connection which can be considered. There are specific links to Citizenship which further justify the validity of nurturing Creative Partnerships between schools and outside organisations.
Citizenship at KS3 focuses on the “Democratic Community”, with particular emphasis on the rights and responsibilities of individuals and communities where views and desires may compete or conflict. Students learn to develop skills of democratic participation, which are undoubtedly relevant when interacting with external visiting Arts Groups. “This course introduces pupils to key ideas that are central to developing an understanding of what active citizenship is all about. They consider their rights and responsibilities and think about issues of fairness, in the context of the communities to which they belong.” National Curriculum, 2006, Attainment at KS3.
These concepts are further developed at KS4 where students learn about planning and taking part in a community event. Here students gain an understanding of how to develop successful working relationships with the key partners in their local community.
The National Curriculum for citizenship attainment targets for KS4 specifies that ‘pupils learn about fairness, social justice, respect for democracy and diversity at school, and local, national and global level through taking part in community activities.’
Besides connecting with external arts providers, I have always found ways to develop the social awareness of learners by supporting charities and promoting equality and diversity through the embedding of E&D in all possible areas of the curriculum, with performance events regularly informed by related social causes.
For example, when working on a student production of the musical Rent, a rock musical which has characters who are living with HIV and AIDS, I liaised with and raised money for the Terrence Higgins Trust.
Classroom workshops and discussions into the themes of the show were enhanced by information from the THT. This knowledge and deeper understanding helped students to develop personally and assisted them in delivering a sensitive and sincere portrayal of their characters.
Academic Investigation Relating to whether Creative Partnerships offer mutually beneficial rewards is somewhat divided. Although there is a general belief that participants may be enriched, as a result of collaboration, views differ as to the extent.
Estelle Morris MP, and former Minister for the Arts, determined that ‘The aim of Creative Partnerships is to give children and young people, particularly those living in disadvantaged areas, access to rich and diverse cultural experiences through working directly with artists and other creative professionals.’ Dobson Report, (6 Dec 2004, Column 334W)
In 1999, the DfEE published a Report which strongly advocated Partnerships stating that, ‘Such partnerships enrich and extend the experiences of young people and support teaching and training. In both ways they can help directly to raise standards of achievement.’ (DfEE Publications 1999 p138)
Whilst in agreement with these principles, Julia Winterson made a point in 1999, which is still true today, that ‘visiting musicians can be a welcome and enjoyable diversion from normal school routines and, at times, they can have a profound effect on individual participants, but there is little evidence to suggest that the work helps with the school music curriculum.’ Winterson, J (1999)
I would agree with Winterson that not all Education Departments have something relevant to offer schools and that Heads of Music should be informed and discerning before entering into a creative partnership so that the experience can offer more than an “enjoyable diversion.”
Departmental budgets are not inexhaustible and should be spent wisely on activities which complement the curriculum and enhance the musical development of all participants.
Moving onwards, however, it is clear that there now exist a great many companies who are all too aware of the National Curriculum and have engaged the talents of specialist Educational Advisors to ensure that their product delivers all that their customers require.
Throughout my time as Head of Department at GCC, I was proactive in sourcing affordable and relevant Creative Partners, including those whose Education programmes taught students to write their own original music; those which developed physical performance skills; and those which introduced the music and culture of other countries.
The expertise of these groups has been broad and was beneficial in illustrating the interdependency of all factions within the Performing Arts.
The knowledge and practical experience of these partnerships broadened student understanding that musicians do not work in isolation and that backstage and front of house careers exist which have an equal value.
Partnerships with the world of the professional arts and creative industries can contribute to improving standards in the arts through raising expectations and demonstrating excellence.
o Partnerships offer pupils a much greater range and depth of arts experiences than can be provided by the school or college alone.
o Specialist venues, such as theatres and art galleries are designed to enable works of art to achieve their greatest possible impact and this helps contextualise and complement the classroom work.
o Students have been affected positively by the atmosphere of a new environment, and this has helped them to increase their understanding and enjoyment of their subject.
o Working directly with a professional creative or organisation has given students a greater insight into the creative process.
Additionally, educational professionals from HE partners, where acting and singing workshops were delivered, gave learners insight into the next level of their professional development. Reflection upon these experiences proved aspirational and motivational to students and often an improvement in attendance, attitude and achievement was the result; with many taking up HE places.
Working with an artist can enable teachers to observe their pupils learning, and to gain new insight into pupils’
achievement and potential.
Partnerships also offer teachers opportunities for professional development, allowing them to update and refresh their skills, knowledge and understanding of the arts.
Cultural relationships have broadened and enriched the curriculum, and this has stimulated the learners’ imaginations
and has inspired their interest in musical development. These partnerships have put into context the work covered within the music department and have been particularly effective in reaching young people who were disheartened by more academically based approaches.
OBSERVING, MONITORING AND ASSESSING PUPILS’ LEARNING
Prior to studying for my PGCE, I was of the opinion that assessment was incredibly complex and that assessing the Arts could be somewhat of a minefield. My question was: How does one assess creativity?
All learning, however, should be structured and can come from a theoretical base, with Music Education no exception.
The National Curriculum Assessment Levels offer guidance on what to expect of students at different stages of their development and although helpful should not be seen as entirely prescriptive.
Assessment lies in the heart of the learning process. It provides the framework, through which students’ progress can be followed, expressed, recorded and future stages in learning planned in response to students’ needs.
I am of the view that the purpose of assessment is to recognise and acknowledge the positive achievements of students and thus further their motivation; to identify and diagnose students’ individual needs with a view to making further appropriate provision for them and to provide an adequate basis for the production of accurate summaries of students’ achievements at recognised times in the learning continuum.
Further to this, I have developed as a teacher who can incorporate assessment as an ‘integral part of curriculum planning’ by devising and delivering carefully constructed Schemes of Work which include strategies for a) identifying the intended learning experiences, b) supporting diagnosis of individual needs and c) giving students the maximum opportunity to demonstrate what they can do.
In short, I now place great importance upon the careful monitoring and observation of each student, utilising formal and informal assessment, as an important evaluation tool.
Educators in all subjects are required to accommodate a range of learners and this inclusivity within education necessitates an ability to devise, deliver and assess in a manner which uncovers the strengths of all learners.
Just as we have a variety of Learning Styles we must also employ a diverse number of Assessing Styles with written, verbal, practical and self-appraisal, being just a selection, not to forget the indispensable tools such as video and audio recording which we can utilise to aid with our accuracy in marking.
Ultimately Lesson Planning should be informed by a clear vision of what is to be taught, learned and to what level. Above all it is paramount that there exists a clear relationship between Assessment and Learning Outcomes so that students have an awareness of the relevance of tasks and validity of grading achieved.
Vocational courses, including those BTEC Music and Performing Arts, offer scope for teachers to assess learning in a way that is suited to each individual learner and in order to optimise achievement, I have always written Assignments which offer assessment options which allow learners to illustrate their development in a manner that best suits their abilities.
Technology in the classroom has given me the option to video or voice-record planning meetings, rehearsals and evaluations; learners are also encouraged to use their own phones to video record rehearsal diaries or create video blogs for any coursework. I have even, on occasion, found it extremely useful to create questionnaires for entire assignments and voice record learners at the end of the unit as a means of backing up their knowledge and evaluation of their progress and achievements.
The Assignment Brief here illustrates the points made above about clarity in criteria (Learning Outcomes) being covered by the tasks and methods accepted to assess achievement.
MUSIC, ICT AND THE CURRICULUM
One fundamental challenge of ICT is to ensure that it actually enhances the quality of the learning experience.
Educational technologies are evolving at a rapid pace and, possibly, none more so than those available to music teachers. This inevitable progress whilst presenting a great many opportunities, to both learner and teacher, also poses a great many challenges.
Ultimately the goal must be for all learners to achieve their full potential. New technologies should not require that teachers change this basic principle of good pedagogy but, by introducing new and exciting tools this principle can be enhanced. The most powerful implication of ICT in the classroom is the opportunity it allows for the accommodation of differing learning styles, largely achieved through the multiple methods available to present and receive information and the interactive nature of these technologies.
The learner is an active participant central to the learning process and it is here that ICT can represent a valuable attribute. Effective use of ICT “impacts on the dynamic interplay between teachers and learners and can – with careful design – enhance what has previously been taught” (Bonnett, 1997: 145, 151)
Piaget’s “genetic epistemology” theory highlights that learning should actively involve students and the major theme of
Vygotsky’s theoretical framework is that social interaction plays a fundamental role in the development of cognition.
Vygotsky (1978) states: “Every function in the child’s cultural development appears twice: first, on the social level, and later, on the individual level; first, between people (interpsychological) and then inside the child (intrapsychological).” Bandura’s social learning theory emphasizes the importance of observing and modeling the behaviours, attitudes, and emotional reactions of others.
Standard of Attainment in subject area as a result of ICT
The Common Evaluation Framework (CEF) which was developed across government departments and agencies relates to the evaluation of the whole-school impact of ICT. As well as Ofsted, the DfES, QCA, Becta, NCSL and the national Primary and Secondary Strategies have all been party to this work.
This research indicated that “When using ICT, some pupils pay more attention to detail and are more self-critical, while others work quickly but superficially. Some are likely to turn to ICT for investigation and problem solving and learn from their mistakes, but others are more likely to use it for drafting or presenting. When using ICT, most pupils collaborate effectively with others, but some may lose interest when they encounter a problem. They show respect for other people’s work, feelings, values and beliefs. Some pupils show interest and curiosity when using ICT; this helps them to explore and exploit the potential of ICT. Most can sustain concentration and independent study. Some pupils are more likely to attend and get involved in sessions where ICT is used.”
My current use of ICT includes:
Internal Moodle System – where students can access, in college or at home, their Assignment Briefs and all resources that are required to complete coursework. Gradebook facility allows for uploading of and marking of coursework where feedback and grades can be quicker to access. The following link is a video that I have made to support Major Music Project (Assignment Brief here). It is available both on MOODLE and on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=badZoQduvoM (Preparing Your Event Guidance by David E Watters). View this as a powerpoint here.
Powerpoint and Prezi presentations - are useful, in terms of differentiation, as tools to visually illustrate lesson objectives and outline tasks, whilst also allowing embedding of videos, sound files and interactive quizzes. Examples of powerpoint as a teaching and learning tool include those uploaded from the RESPECT CAMPAIGN TUTORIAL PROGRAM.
Examples are here and here.
YouTube Channel – I have set up a youtube channel, POPNERDZ, as an additional resource for students. The channel contains playlists for music by decade which aids learners in choosing repertoire. Other playlists are concerned with Songwriters and songwriting, and Improvisation.http://www.youtube.com/user/POPNERDZ?feature=mhee
POPNERDZ blog - has been set up as a place to post exemplar work anonymously (the learner is not named and neither is the college). This has made assignments more vocationally relevant and encourages learners to write articles or create vlogs which are of a more professional standard; since these are online and accessible by anyone with internet access. http://popnerdz.blogspot.co.uk/
Flipcam – Videos are made of most practical lessons and include, planning meetings, rehearsals, rehearsal evaluation and goal setting, performances and presentations of research. The opportunity to see their own performances can be particularly helpful and an efficient, time-effective way to illustrate areas of strength and areas for improvement. As stated earlier, learners are also encouraged to use their own phones to video record rehearsal diaries or create video blogs for any coursework. I have even, on occasion, found it extremely useful to create questionnaires for entire assignments and voice record learners at the end of the unit as a means of backing up their knowledge and evaluation of their progress and achievements.
Learning technologies are tools which support both teaching and learning. Where good practice is in evidence, teachers will avoid using ICT simply for motivation; avoid using ICT for simple or routine tasks best accomplished by other means; make clear the links between the ICT application and the musical objectives of the lesson and expect pupils to use ICT to answer valid questions relating to the musical objectives of the lesson.
The challenges and opportunities concern the professional development of teachers and the necessity for up to date ICT software and provision of a strong integrated ICT support system. There is an impact of the use of ICT on classroom organisation and management which ultimately is of benefit to learners.
ICT, if used creatively, can help meet the teaching and learning objectives for music. It can stimulate and direct pupils’ learning and be used as a tool to assess progress. As a versatile and interactive method of communication ICT can allow for differentiation including provision for SEN, EAL and G&T learners.
SCHOOL BASED EVALUATION OF MUSICAL LEARNING
The objective for this research project, whilst at the Institute of Education, was to understand to what extent the Equal Opportunities Policy of School X was being implemented within the Music Department and the effect of this upon achievement amongst students from ethnic minority communities. This, for me, was the most stimulating and fascinating research topic and has led me to further explore Equality of Opportunity in relation to all learners; EAL, SEN, G&T, LGBT (Lesbian , Gay, Bisexual and Transgender), throughout my career.
An absence of effective equal opportunities policies wastes human talent and deprives both the individual of the satisfaction of realising their full potential and society of their skills. Turner, T (2001)
The ethnic make-up of our nation is constantly evolving and within schools the student population is increasingly varied in ethnic, social, economic, religious and cultural backgrounds and I believe that my job as a teacher is to facilitate the learning of all students through the provision of a learning environment where all learners feel welcome, respected, equally able to participate and to achieve.
As a foundation to this and as a good starting point, in order to ensure maximum achievement across the entire learning community, schools should have in place an Equal Opportunities Policy which is regularly reviewed and which impacts upon every aspect of school life.
The ethos of any school should be to strongly promote learning and achievement and effectively encourage a sense of self-belief in its pupils.
School X which is a large (1719 students) multi-ethnic Girls (and Mixed 6th Form) Comprehensive School, within the Borough of Greenwich, was given Performing Arts Status in 2000 and in 2004 became designated as a Humanities College.
Students are from diverse and, in some cases deprived, backgrounds. 39% of students are eligible for free school meals (well above the national average); and, students with statements of special educational need are also above the national average.
The student body can be divided according to ethnicity where approximately 50% of the student population is Caucasian, though not exclusively white-British, and the remaining 50% represent a wide spectrum of ethnic minority groups.
As may be expected, the proportion of students whose first language is not English is extremely high. Bi-Lingual students are positively encouraged through a variety of practices; Awareness raising – use of interpreters and school liaison team, bi-lingual notices, displays reflecting languages and cultures and INSET days; Encouragement of home language development – the school provides Panjabi and Urdu twilight and weekend classes, School X funds GCSE entrance in a range of home languages and parents are encouraged to support both formal and informal development of their home language; Use of first language to support access to the curriculum – Tutor Group placements where first language groupings are a major consideration, allowance where written work may first be drafted in the student’s home language and literacy groups where bi-lingual texts are utilised.
Working within this environment highlighted to me that the respect for an individual’s home language and culture brings increased confidence and strengthens identity. GCSE language attainment was a testament to this and over the years students have successfully entered exams in Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Farsi, French, German, Greek, Gujarati, Hindi, Italian, Panjabi, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Turkish and Urdu.
The Equal Opportunities Policy at School X was fairly standard with its overall aim being to “maximise achievement by ensuring equality of opportunity for all members of the community.”
The principles set out are that:
• All individuals are unique and are valued and respected equally.
• All individuals are entitled to equal access to the full range of opportunities and learning experiences.
• All individuals are entitled to an accessible, positive curriculum, and to learn, teach and work in a supportive, non-threatening environment in which self-esteem is enhanced.
• It is everyone’s duty to be aware of issues of variety and difference including class, gender, sexuality, race, religion, bilingualism, culture, physical disability and all special educational needs and abilities including marked aptitude.
• It is everyone’s responsibility to address the behavioural needs of students in the context of learning.
• It is everyone’s duty to challenge and combat all forms of discrimination in any of these areas.
When put into practice this should mean that the above principles inform all policies, procedures, structures, organisation and developments in the school and permeate all areas of the curriculum.
The Rampton Report, which was based on the work of a committee set up as a result of widespread concern at the poor academic performance of Afro-Caribbean pupils, contended that:
A ‘good’ education should enable a child to understand his [sic] own society, and to know enough about other societies to enhance that understanding. A ‘good’ education cannot be based on one society only, and in Britain, where ethnic minorities form a permanent and integral part of the population, we do not believe that education should seek to iron out the differences between cultures, nor attempt to draw everyone into the dominant culture. On the contrary, it will draw upon the experiences of the many cultures that make up our society and thus broaden the cultural horizons of every child. That is what we mean by ‘multicultural’ education. (DES, 1981, 27)
The report recognized the value of multicultural education in all schools, irrespective of their ethnic composition and expanded upon this definition as follows:
“The multicultural curriculum is one which is appropriate to the education of all pupils, whatever their background, by reference to a diversity of cultures.” (DES, 1981, 27; original emphasis)
The Curriculum – G & T and Learning Support
Any school or college should provide a good, varied and stimulating curriculum that meets the needs of individual students and staff at all levels should be firmly committed to giving learners the best quality of education they can achieve.
A school should have high expectations of all students and a recognise that different groups of students need to be supported in different ways; most able students should be stretched and special provision should be made for them in lessons and also through enrichment and gifted and talented programmes; additional support should be offered to students with specific learning needs both within the classroom or in small teaching groups – this includes EAL and SEN students or those with behavioural issues who should be offered guidance and support through other means, such as an Inclusion Unit.
What became evident through conducting this research was that the quality of teaching, support systems and the Pastoral Care provision within School X facilitated incredible progress and high level achievement across the curriculum. GCSE results steadily continued to improve across all subject areas and it was a credit to the school that one Afghani student who arrived in the UK only 5 years earlier, with no real grasp of English, was awarded 10 GCSEs.
Music Department – The Curriculum and Extra-Curricular Activities
In September 2000 Performing Arts Status was awarded to School X in recognition of the quality of the curriculum, teaching and community involvement.
Curriculum innovations, especially those linked with theatre, dance and music have widened course and extra-curricular activities significantly. Ofsted Report (2005), Curriculum and Other Activities
The Music Department had grown in recent years and increased funding, as a result of gaining Performing Arts Status, meant that greater diversity in musical experience could now be offered to students; Post-16 options had broadened to include AS Music Technology and a wide variety of BTEC Performing Arts courses.
The Equal Opportunities Policy of School X states that ‘All individuals are unique and are valued and respected equally’ This is evident in that access to provision is non-discriminatory and all students have practical music lessons in Years 7-9. The curriculum for these students, whilst designed as a building block toward GCSE, demonstrated an awareness of issues of variety and difference including class, gender, race, religion, bilingualism, culture, physical disability and all special educational needs and abilities including marked aptitude.
In view of this, however, it was true that particular ethnic groups chose not to pursue GCSE music as an option. Although it is important to understand cultural influences upon this decision, more worrying was that prior learning may have been led to a disengagement of a pupils’ interest. To understand this better it is of particular interest to look at the Schemes of Work which were being delivered to students between Years 7 and 9 at School X. The curriculum at this level is designed primarily to develop “Knowledge, Skills and Understanding” whilst introducing cross-curricular concepts of literacy, numeracy and citizenship and ICT.
Between Years 7 and 9 there was no specific reference to music of India, Africa or China and it was my opinion that it was the duty of the teacher to find methods of incorporating these into planning. The unit titles and keywords are, perhaps, deliberately open to allow for teacher input and greater flexibility when lesson planning. Therefore, in order to show learners that they are valued and respected equally a teacher is duty bound to devise, obtain and deliver resources which are culturally varied and representative. It should be stressed that it is not only what is taught but also how creatively it is delivered which has an impact on educational achievement.
Motivation can come from a desire to emulate and where no gender or cultural role models are present there is a greater potential for disengagement and low attainment. Teachers must consider their choice of resources and make adjustment to Lesson Plans where possible to provide for more inclusive learning. In a school which is culturally diverse it is more important than ever to present a broader picture of the world.
Resources must be both relevant to the subject and something to which students can relate. This is a tall order, but over the course of each Unit reference should be made, where possible, to the variety of musical genres from a broad range of cultures.
This view is not exactly new as can be seen from this extract from the 1981, Rampton Report.
The variety of social and cultural groups should be evident in the visual images, stories and information disseminated within the school. However, this selection should not be made in such a way as to reinforce stereotyping of life-styles, occupations, status [or] human characteristics [of] one particular culture. (DES, 1981, 27; Rampton Report)
At School X where it is true that ‘all individuals are entitled to equal access to the full range of opportunities and learning experiences,’ it is not enough to treat all students alike and to provide “equal access” if the learning experience is not representative of the learners’ diversity.
I found the positive ethos of the Music Department to be in line with that of the school and the standard of teaching was extremely high with an impressive subject knowledge and level of musicianship amongst staff. However, the resources created and used by teaching staff within the Music Department at School X were often traditional, commonplace and “safe.” There existed a creative spirit but it rested too comfortably within a limited comfort zone which failed to fully inspire all learners.
Teachers can, all too often, fall into the trap of reproducing a “good” lesson from year to year regardless of the cultural variations within the group. It is no longer acceptable to present a class with Frere Jacques or Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star when more stimulating and culturally representational resources exist or, more importantly, can be created.
Tony Turner in Unit 4.4: Responding to Diversity, Learning to Teach in the Secondary School presents a compelling insight:
Equal opportunities are about maximising the aspirations of all pupils and not about trying to make pupils of all ethnic backgrounds more like each other. The task of the school is to create a learning environment in which all pupils can thrive. Not recognising pupil differences, including culture, is as inadequate a response to teaching demands as the stereotyping of pupils.
He further adds that, ‘No matter how concerned the school is to promote equal opportunities through good policies, implementing them in the classroom is not an easy matter.’
My research led me to look, in more detail, at KS3 Schemes of Work at School X. Analysis of one Unit in some depth illustrates Turner’s point and perhaps demonstrates that, although no “easy matter”, it is possible to consider ways in which to introduce engaging cultural stimuli in line with the principles of the Equal Opportunities Policy of the school.
The Year 7, a Scheme of Work entitled ATMOSPHERES where the given keywords were MOOD, PROGRAMME MUSIC, EFFECTS and SPECIAL OCCASION offered immense scope for creativity. Listening extracts, now that we have infinite online capabilities, are unlimited and can draw on music from any given culture, so long as the music is descriptive and atmospheric. Consideration of “Special Occasion” can open up a stimulating group activity where students can share knowledge and experience of other cultures, not necessarily their own, about religious festivals and related music. If teaching this Unit around the period of a particular festival, for example, then this could be an opportunity to complement other areas of the curriculum such as RE and Citizenship.
Compositional stimuli may be images or writing which describe another culture. From this, students may create, individually or in small groups, a brief written narrative which gives an account of the action and emotion of the story. For EAL students this may even be done in their home language initially. This then can be created musically through a group composition activity. There are links here to literacy where differentiated learning can be enhanced with regard to EAL and SEN students.
Embracing cultural diversity in this manner gives learners ownership of the project which can only serve to stimulate and motivate. If such measures are taken in preparation and planning then the schools Equal Opportunities Policy with regards to the learners entitlement to an accessible, positive curriculum ‘where students can learn, in a supportive environment in which self-esteem is enhanced’ is undoubtedly adhered to.
In 2005, of those opting to study music in Years 10 and 11, only a very small percentage came from ethnic minority communities with more than 70% coming from a White-British background and the remaining 30% divided amongst ethnic-minority groups (predominantly Black-British of either West Indian or African descent). From these groups there was no-one for whom English was an additional language and only 5 students in both years were of Asian origin.
Although there was a 96% pass rate in GCSE Music in 2005, with 48% of those entered gaining Grades from A*- C, almost 50% of those initially choosing the subject were not entered and those with good grades were predominantly White-British with only a few exceptions.
The Edexcel GCSE Music Specification is in line with the finest principles of School X’s Equal Opportunities Policy stating that the course is designed to develop the learners’ ‘understanding and appreciation of a range of different kinds of music, ability to make musical judgements’ and ‘develop broader life-skills and attributes including critical and creative thinking, aesthetic sensitivity and emotional and cultural development.’
It is based on an ethos which goes beyond the mere theoretical comprehension of music and aims to provide a learning programme which develops the learners’ sense of the world and their place within that world with ‘areas of study (which) include a wide range of music including classical, world music and popular music.’ Edexcel GCSE in Music, Specification
In following such a course, teachers and learners have the opportunity to investigate, validate and appreciate the importance of an array of musical genres and their cultural roots.
In this area good teaching practice at School X was prevalent with learning across the different areas of study which incorporated the learners’ diverse cultural needs and which made provision for the varied learning styles within the class. It was of concern, however, that only 50% of students completed the course but investigation confirmed that many students had seen music as the “easy option” and were surprised by the level of course work expected. This information was obtained through informal discussions with excluded students over a three week period. These students demonstrated an enjoyment of music but lacked the necessary technical and theoretical skills to fully achieve. It is encouraging that even amongst those not entered for the GCSE examination there was a healthy, active participation in the many extra-curricular musical activities available.
Extra-Curricular Provision – Opportunities and Success
Much has been written about the importance of “informal learning” and the impact on achievement in a broader context.
Knowledge may be gained or used in a number of non-formal, or extra-curricular, situations. Eruat (2004: 247-273) investigated peer culture, learning from experience, tacit knowledge and the transfer of knowledge from one situation to another. Informal education has an invaluable place alongside formal education but as Coffield (2000: 1) noted, for all the talk of lifelong learning and the learning society the focus remains on formal provision, qualifications and accountability.
Learning involves the whole person; it implies not only a relation to specific activities, but a relation to social communities – it implies becoming a full participant, a member. In this view, learning only partly – and often incidentally – implies becoming able to be involved in new activities, to perform new tasks and functions, to master new understandings. Activities, tasks, functions, and understandings do not exist in isolation; they are part of broader systems of relations in which they have meaning. Lave and Wenger (1991: 53).
As a result of its diversity and inclusivity the Extra Curricular Provision at School X attracted a wide variety of students who were eager to participate in and attend an assortment of musical performances. Ofsted observed, ‘Provision for extra-curricular support, activities and sport is very strong.’
At the time of writing, approximately 300 students had free instrumental tuition. Further to this, the school boasted an overwhelming number of organised groups including a Steel Pan Band, various choirs (Year 7, Gospel and Senior Choir), a girls Barbershop Group (Years 10 & 11), Pop Club (Year 8 & 9), Wind and String Ensembles, Samba Band and tutor support was given to the many more student run ensembles and bands. There was also an annual dance performance, Outburst, which involved students from all year groups.
The Performing Arts Coordinator recognised the importance of broadening the learning experience and believed that when students are given the opportunity to mix they could develop in untold ways. This helped to develop a sense of community amongst the students and this can only serve to benefit a school.
The school promoted and celebrated the richness of its multicultural, multi-ethnic community through every aspect of its work and its environment. Further evidence of this was seen in the programming of their Winter Concert in which most of the aforementioned groups participated. Throughout the evening the capacity audience, at Goldsmiths College, enjoyed a multi-cultural musical marathon of both solo and ensemble performances which included Western Classical music, Indian Classical, Samba, Steel Pans, Musical Theatre, Jazz, Rock and Pop.
What I took from this research and into my own teaching was that these extra-curricular activities enrich the lives of students by promoting self-esteem and developing a sense of community. Relationships across year groups result in the strengthening of the supportive peer network which extended out-with the school environment and into the wider community. The self-belief gained or improved through such experiences can be beneficial to the student across the curriculum. Increased confidence to speak up, to question or to challenge ideas in other subjects will enhance the students’ development and academic achievement and, as such, should not be underestimated.
If each department within a school delivers a curriculum based on this philosophy then all members of the learning community should feel valued and be better placed to succeed.
The Music Department at School X was well managed and teachers provided an exceptional level of tuition within the curriculum. An area which could easily be improved, however, was provision within the KS3 syllabus which could be more prescribed, without restricting teacher creativity, to ensure culturally stimulating delivery; particularly with regards to resources and ICT. Here the Head of Department should have greater involvement in regularly assessing quality of content and level of delivery.
Departmental INSET training days which focus on the use of resources and professional development with regards to ICT capability would also be beneficial. Staff can rely too heavily on tried and tested resources and methods of presentation which may not take account of the cultural variety of the class or individual learning needs.
Greater involvement in Educational Partnerships including specifically improved communication with SEN and EAL staff would promote better practice. A wider development of Creative Partnerships could fill gaps in teacher and student knowledge, particularly with regards to specific cultural awareness. Visiting Tutors and specialised music organisations could be utilised to enhance the curriculum.
To ensure that students are achieving their full potential more rigorous and regular assessment would highlight any deficiency in student understanding and development.
Extra-Curricular provision was outstanding but could have been better publicised in order that even more students could have an awareness of what was on offer within the department.
Where possible, School X could look at different ways to introduce positive role models from ethnic minority communities. School X had a healthy and representative cultural mix amongst staff although this was not reflected in the Music Department where the majority of teachers were white-British. Within the Performing Arts Department the picture was slightly broader and although staff did not mirror the cultural make-up of the pupils there was a greater variety of cultural backgrounds present such as South African, Australian, American and Vietnamese.
There are benefits to a multi-ethnic staff but it should not be prescribed as the only option for “good” education. So long as teachers are culturally aware and can demonstrate an understanding of the importance of planning and delivering a varied and stimulating curriculum, which acknowledges the schools diversity, students will relate to staff regardless of ethnicity, class or gender and achieve their full potential.
The principles promoted within the Equal Opportunities Policy of School X were reflected within the Music Department in all aspects of policy, procedure, structure, organisation and development and this impacted heavily on all areas of the curriculum and extra-curricular provision. As a result, achievement amongst students from ethnic minority communities may be considered high; if considering, not only exam success, but personal growth in terms of social awareness, instrumental proficiency and increased self-esteem gained as a direct result from association with the many opportunities the department had to offer.
Specific examples of how I have embraced this philosophy within my own teaching practice range from something as simple as decorating my teaching spaces with images and inspirational quotations from a culturally diverse selection of role models, to selecting music and drama pieces which are representative and relevant. Creative Partnerships and trips to performance events have always taken into consideration the beneficial impact that these may have in terms of validating individuals and celebrating cultural diversity. Community Performances, where possible, have been related to cultural awareness and have included involvement in Black History Month events at Greenwich Maritime Museum.
My current position has brought opportunities to fully explore the celebration of diversity and students are currently in the process of planning and organising a 2nd annual Pro-Equality Festival.
2012’s event, CHANGE OF TUNE, was organised by Year 2, Level 3 students in response to a scenario in the Assignment Brief for both Major Music Projects and Music Project Units:
Your group have been selected NBI Associates to work in association with their Give ‘em Hope Campaign to devise, plan, coordinate, market and promote a Pro-Equality Music and Arts FESTIVAL (Performance date: April 2012) which involves a range of performers and artists from the Hampshire area. The Festival is aimed at a broad audience and should include a variety of musical styles and types of performance. The theme is, Tackling the “isms” Creatively” so all participants should be encouraged to offer music and artistic work which comments upon sexism, racism, ablism, ageism, homophobia and transphobia or any other area not listed here where people may experience prejudice, bullying or limiting labelling.
The aim of this event is to raise awareness of local and or national charity organisations and to communicate a message of social equality and a commitment to community cohesion.
The success of this event is reliant upon careful and thorough project planning. This takes time and effort and a basic checklist, to help you with your planning, includes consideration of:
Venue, Accessibility, Facilities, Health & Safety, Insurance, Performers/Speakers/Guests, Equipment, Costs & Budgets, Publicity.
The festival covered multiple units for both year one and year two students including Marketing and Promotion in the Music Industry, Pop Music in Practice, Working and Developing as a Musical Ensemble and Music Performance Techniques, so not only did it enable students to cover a large percentage of their coursework in one project but it allowed collaboration between year groups; cross-curricular, charity and community liaison and a development of broader social awareness.
SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL NEEDS – WORKING IN PARTNERSHIP
My chosen subject for my final research project at the Institute of Education, known as an Evidence Based Enquiry, was titled, Working in Partnership – The impact of ineffective communication, collaboration and co-operation between Subject Teachers and Learning Support Staff upon the learner.
What measures should be taken to improve collaboration and ensure a quality of provision for students with special educational needs?
The Rationale for this choice of topic was that, since graduating from music college, in 1996, I had taught for numerous private theatre schools and had come into contact with children who possessed varied special educational needs including, ADHD, dyslexia, dysphasia, hearing and visual impairment. In more recent years, I had taught singing for local comprehensive schools and had encountered students from every social and cultural background. Here I gained experience with EAL students and also a number with demanding behavioural problems.
My concern was that I lacked any formal knowledge of special educational needs or the methods with which to meet these particular needs. Professional Studies lectures, at Teaching Placement 2, were often given by Specialist Staff from the Language Development, Learning Support or the Inclusion Units; all who spoke with genuine passion for their role and responsibilities within the school. I realised that I was well placed at TP2 to develop a better understanding of the professional knowledge and skills I might need to meet the needs of my students and have used the EBE as a means to acquire further skills and understanding in these areas.
All students should be supported and given appropriate guidance throughout their time at school and it is the Subject teachers who must provide a fully inclusive and effective learning environment. Lessons should be planned with an awareness of the needs of each student. Nevertheless, in order to fulfill their roles most effectively, teachers will need access to advice, support and expertise to supplement and complement their own knowledge. The structures in place at TP2, which help students to reach their full potential, enable teachers a shared wealth of expertise with which to develop the confidence to devise and deliver stimulating and inclusive lessons.
New teachers are expected to enter their NQT year fully armed with a broader knowledge of education than ever before. Educational reform is a continuing process which directly affects policy, procedure and structure within schools. With more call for inclusion, teachers must continue to develop professionally in order to be fully equipped to embrace the growing diversity of needs. The education of our students is a shared responsibility and, as such, requires of all involved agencies an ability to communicate, co-operate and collaborate. Failure to do so is to fail in the quality of provision and to jeopardise the attainment potential for all children within our care.
There are a variety of factors involved in the academic development of children but one of the most influential is the learning context. The key factors that go to make up this learning context are both the physical and the social environment in which the learner is engaged in an activity. Classroom organisation and management, tools and equipment utilised and the social composition of the class all impact upon each learner.
Prior learning, both formal and informal learning, also influence the way learners interpret new experiences and affects their thinking.
The most pertinent point here, however, is that since we learn from every interactive experience the quality of relationships between all of those involved, in any learning environment, is paramount. Since our academic development is influenced by not only what but how we are taught, teachers and learning support staff all have an equal responsibility to nurture a healthy alliance in order that all students may flourish.
Vosniadou (1996, p.104) suggests that research is needed to improve our understanding of how cognitive processes and structures interact with environmental variables. According to her “cognitive psychology provided rich descriptions of what is learned but failed to provide fruitful hypotheses about how learning happens and more specifically about the environmental variables that influence the knowledge acquisition process.”
Communication is a key skill for educators yet I became aware that, although School X is staffed by a highly skilled teaching and support staff, the restricted opportunity for effective collaboration indicated that students may not be receiving the support they needed. I decided to make the focus of my EBE a consideration of what measures should be taken to improve collaboration between Subject Teachers and Learning Support Staff to ensure that the needs of students with special educational needs were being met. It seemed to me, on first impression at least, that the skills of many people working in the school were not being used to best effect.
Context of Research – School X
School X is a large multi-ethnic Girls (Mixed 6th Form) Comprehensive School, within the Borough of Greenwich which was given Performing Arts Status in 2000 and in 2004 also became designated as a Humanities College. Students are from diverse and, in some cases deprived, backgrounds. 39% of students are eligible for free school meals (well above the national average); and, students with statements of special educational need are also above the national average.
Inspection Judgements following an Ofsted inspection in April 2005 were favourable with most areas considered to be Grade 1 (Outstanding) and none below Grade 2 (Good).
“The Headteacher and staff are strongly committed to high standards and to convincing pupils that they can achieve” Ofsted Report (2005)
The report stated that, “lessons have clear objectives and a common structure, although these sometimes lack the detail needed to meet the full range of students’ needs.” but added that, “Teaching Assistants and Learning Mentors support students with special educational needs effectively by helping teachers to ensure these students make good progress.” Ofsted Report (2005)
“We have high academic expectations of all our students regardless of ability” Headteacher, School X
My role at School X was as a trainee teacher, within the music department, where I taught students at KS3 and KS4. Towards the end of this placement I took a position as a tutor within the Performing Arts Department where I then had the opportunity to work with BTEC National Diploma students. Involvement across the entire spectrum of music education both curricular and extra-curricular presented challenges in terms of ensuring I could offer the best provision for all learners and consequently offered scope for accelerated professional development, with opportunities to enhance knowledge and skills, in areas regarding SEN and ICT in particular.
NOTE: The major QTS standards which were addressed through carrying out my EBE, giving an oral presentation and writing this report are: 1.1 – 1.3, 1.6, 1.7, 2.4, 2.6, 3.1.1, 3.1.2, 3.1.4, 3.2.1, 3.2.4, 3.2.5, 3.2.7 and 3.3.13.
While co-operation between Education, Health and Social Services is essential to ensure the quality of provision for children with special educational needs, the issue of inter-agency collaboration has a long history of problems. In 2003, the Government published a green paper called Every Child Matters which prompted an unprecedented debate about services for children, young people and families and highlighted the need for “a national framework for local change programmes to build services around the needs of children and young people to maximise opportunity and minimise risk.”
The paper argued that “the services that reach every child and young person have a crucial role to play in shifting the focus from dealing with the consequences of difficulties in children’s lives to preventing things from going wrong in the first place.” The Every Child Matters: Change for Children programme demanded that all organisations which provide services for children “work together in more integrated and effective ways.” The key outcomes are for all children and young people to: be healthy, stay safe, enjoy and achieve, make a positive contribution to society, and achieve economic wellbeing.
In order to put the current situation into context it is important to look at the key political developments in recent years which have led towards the publication of Every Child Matters. The most significant document since the application of the 1944 Education Act was The Warnock Report (DES, 1978) which emphasised that “special educational need is of critical importance for all teachers.” Next came The 1981 Education Act which incorporated a number of Warnock’s recommendations and further defined special educational need and provision, the responsibility of ordinary schools in identifying, assessing and providing for children with special educational needs as well as highlighting the rights of parents to have greater involvement in the process of assessment and to appeal against any decisions made.
This then provided the basis for the Education Reform Act of 1988 (ERA) which introduced a National Curriculum in which all pupils were entitled access to a “broad and balanced curriculum“. Many teachers and schools expressed concern that there was insufficient guidance relating to identification and assessment and this led to the introduction of 1993 Education Act the Code of Practice on the Identification and Assessment of SEN (DFE, 1994) which aimed to extend the principles already existing in the 1981 and 1988 Education Acts.
Educational Reform, regarding provision for SEN students, has progressed steadily over the last 30 years and there has been an irrevocable social and cultural shift towards full and equal inclusion where SEN students are fully expected to access a broad and varied curriculum and all individuals are entitled to equal access to a full range of opportunities and learning experiences.
The resultant impact on the role of the teacher has been immense with particular implications for the development of professional partnerships with specialist support staff. Teachers must enhance their understanding of SEN and develop differentiated teaching strategies which maximise the support offered to all pupils.
My EBE was concerned with the professional partnerships within School X and, in particular, the standard of communication, collaboration and co-operation between LSA’s and Subject Teachers.
Where “good” or “bad” practice is in evidence the impact upon learners should not be underestimated.
Sally Beveridge (1999 p.115) writes that, “…all teachers are teachers of pupils with special educational needs, with a central role not only in their identification and assessment but also in developing classroom strategies to meet these needs. …teachers will continue to need access to advice, support and expertise to supplement and complement their own knowledge…”
Despite a consensus of opinion that inclusive education is a good idea, there is no solid evidence that all children are benefiting. In order to maximise the effectiveness of SEN provision within mainstream schools the mutual roles and responsibilities of educational professionals must be clearly defined and acknowledged. Staff do not work in isolation and schools should have in place policies and procedures which guide and support effective teaching partnerships.
Liz Lightfoot wrote in the Daily Telegraph (October 2004) that “Inclusion policy is failing special needs pupils.” She highlighted that, “Too often they (special needs pupils) work alone on inappropriate tasks under the supervision of classroom assistants, instead of being included and engaged in lessons. In some schools they are taught separately by assistants in small groups, resulting in feelings of isolation, and in others they are put in the lowest ability set, with resultant damage to their self-esteem.”
Writing in the magazine of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers Union (2004), Mary Warnock, who authored The Warnock Report (DES, 1978), said: “Such children will not, in any case, be well served if they are taught mainly by classroom assistants, or are removed into units isolated from their contemporaries.”
Although “within-child factors can have a significant impact on learning, the concept of special educational need which (Warnock) put forward was far more concerned with the interaction between the child and the learning contexts which the child experiences. (Beveridge, 1999 p.4)
The learning context of SEN students within mainstream education is complex and necessitates a shared responsibility between a greater number of teaching professionals.
In order to assess the quality of professional partnerships within School X and the level of communication, collaboration and co-operation, between LSA’s and Subject Teachers, a range of qualitative research methods were employed. I gathered data via interviews, questionnaires and informal observations. Before embarking I first had to understand the Whole School Policies regarding Equal Opportunities and SEN provision. I then investigated the role of the SENCO, the LSA and subject teachers through specific discussion with staff members and through reading Job Descriptions obtained from the LSU’s HoD. Informal interviews, with the LSU HoD, four LSA’s, Music HoD and a sample of subject teachers, were useful in gaining candid and subjective insight into issues surrounding effective communication. These formed the basis for Questionnaires, given to twenty teachers and twenty LSA’s, which were issued to gather a sample of thoughts, feelings and professional expertise about the effective use of the teaching assistant’s time and skills.
Further to this, Lesson Observations were undertaken to detect any correlation between the perceptions of these professionals and practice.
Conduct of Research
Step 1: Analysis of the Equal Opportunities and SEN Policies
Both the Equal Opportunities and SEN Policies at School X are fairly standard with an overall aim being to “maximise achievement by ensuring equality of opportunity for all members of the community.” The principles contained within these documents (Appendices 2a and 2b) should inform all policies, procedures, structures, organisation and developments in the school and permeate all areas of the curriculum. To investigate the relationship between policy and practice the next logical step was to gain a clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities of the pertinent players.
Step 2: Mutual awareness of Roles and Responsibilities
Although the roles at School X are clearly defined it soon became apparent that many staff seemed unaware and, worryingly, uninterested in the specific details of their colleagues responsibilities. This was apparent from the dismissive response, particularly from subject teachers, to questions asked during interview and as part of the formal questionnaire. None of the teachers knew the specifics of the LSA’s role and one commented, “Would it make any difference if I did?”
Job descriptions improve an organisation’s ability to manage people and roles by clarifying employer expectations for employee; providing a basis of measuring job performance, a discipline for a school to understand and structure all jobs and ensure necessary activities, duties and responsibilities are covered by one job or another.
Within departments there is a high regard paid by staff to their own role, in relation to the pupils, but there is an overwhelming disregard shown, by LSA’s and Subject Teachers, for the importance of collaborative teaching strategies. Evidence of this first came to light through informal interviews conducted with four of School X’s more visible LSA’s, the Music HoD and the LSU HoD.
Step 3: Informal Interviews and Questionnaires
Informal interviews, with those mentioned, painted a fairly bleak picture of a “them and us” scenario. At the outset of this research project the Learning Support Unit’s HoD seemed reluctant to share opinions, was concerned about who might become privy to the information given and stated that similar research had been carried out before and that recommendations had not been acted upon. Some subject teachers openly admitted to not knowing the location of the LSU or the names of colleagues within this department, including those regularly working alongside themselves.
To call these relationships “Teaching Partnerships” is somewhat of a misnomer and to even intimate a “relationship” at all is often far from the reality. Of the four LSA’s interviewed all expressed an eagerness to participate in joint planning and to have input in the assessment of SEN students but viewed the possibility as relatively futile. These responses guided the wording and design of a Questionnaire which was given, initially, to a sample of 20 LSA’s and 20 Subject Teacher’s. This strategy was employed as a means of gathering a cross-sample of perceptions and was intended to form the basis of recommendations for improved practice.
The perceived advantages of the questionnaire were that more detail could be gathered and, the option of anonymity would encourage greater candor. Unfortunately, the response was extremely discouraging. Only one Subject Teacher initially completed the questionnaire and it took more than a month, and repeated visits to the LSU, before I felt fully supported. LSU staff were friendly and wanted to assist but were cautious about the information they were willing to share. Eventually I did receive 16 completed questionnaires from LSA’s. At the time of writing only 4 Subject Teacher Questionnaires had been returned.
The format of questions asked were both closed-ended and open-ended, allowing a certain element of statistical information to be gathered alongside the opportunity for respondents to share thoughts, feelings, professional expertise and recommendations for future practice. Given the size of the sample surveyed, however, any results must be viewed tentatively. Perhaps this poor response rate is, in itself, evidence that there is a lack of enthusiasm or any real concern for this issue.
The teachers and LSA’s who responded felt that there were both benefits and difficulties relating to the presence of an LSA in their classroom. The benefits from a teaching perspective can be summarized as follow; as a witness if needed with pupils who later deny their behaviour, a chaperone for talking to pupils one to one, someone able to leave the classroom if necessary, for example to hunt down a truant, to escort distressed or badly behaved pupils who are leaving the room, to clarify instructions for students. It was also mentioned that LSA’s can be a source of feedback and “can provide comparison between your lessons and other peoples.”
Data gathered from questionnaires found that LSA’s saw the benefits more in terms of the student and the subject teacher by highlighting that individual attention and support through differentiated resources enables access to the curriculum and encourages students to stay on task. One LSA commented that, “Teachers can gain valuable information on the needs of students, who are being supported, and develop suitable teaching strategies.”
The difficulties were seen to be few but included lack of space in the classroom, particularly when there can often be the classroom teacher, a student teacher and one or more support teachers at any given time. One teacher felt that it was difficult to always keep on top of planning lessons far enough in advance so that LSA’s had time to prepare differentiated resources. One teacher provided a particularly damnatory account of the difficulties encountered, “The commonest problem with LSA’s is that they can be so noisy and disruptive, talking throughout explanations, walking around and in and out etc. They can cause confusion by contradicting either instructions or explanations. They can be dominating and intimidating. I have, in the past, had a class I was afraid of walking into because of bullying by a group of LSA’s. The worst experiences I have had of LSA’s is due to managers using them to spy and report back on teachers. This permanently destroys any hope of a working relationship.”
From a given list, each of the respondents in the study were asked to order the ways in which the LSA’s time is being utilised (1 = most often, 7 = least often):
Working with a group
Supporting SEN, IEPs
Putting up displays
As an advisor when planning lessons
Although the response, from Subject Teachers and LSA’s, to this question demonstrates agreement that a) working with SEN, b) preparing materials and c) advisory roles, are paramount, lesson observations showed a disparity between theory and practice. This variance of perception, which will be further considered in the next section, suggests a lack of clarity regarding role definitions and a potential for the misuse of LSA’s time which will ultimately impact upon the learner.
The ethos that all students should be encouraged to become independent learners requires that SEN students are nurtured in a way which helps them to develop self-esteem and personal learning strategies. For this to occur, flexible support strategies, where LSA and Subject Teachers regularly liaise out with the classroom, must be in place. Fruitful teaching partnerships exist where associates share knowledge and vision regarding the goals for their students. If LSA’s are included in planning, record keeping and assessment then more specifically differentiated lessons can be delivered for the benefit of all students. Here again there is agreement, amongst those sampled, but issues arise where time constraints limit the possibility of effective communication. This point, and a number of others, were most eloquently illustrated by one teacher:
“I try to offer all regular support staff a meeting once a week. However, some years I have had 15 or 20 support staff on my timetable, and they have as many teachers to support, so this is not always practical. Some classes have up to 6 adults in at once, this is obviously too many, especially if it isn’t always the same six, some are reluctant to introduce themselves, give their names or take any direction from the teacher at all. In these cases there is no communication at all.”
Most LSA’s felt that they were not included in planning, stating that only a minority of teaching staff provided any advanced information on lesson content to allow for differentiated planning.
For both questionnaires and interviews, how the questions are asked is extremely important. Poor questions will lead to poor research results and conclusions. Poor response, amongst Subject Teachers, also makes findings inconclusive. This in itself is a great indicator of an apathy towards communication, collaboration and co-operation.
Step 4: Observation
A final method of investigation was Participant Observation which promised the prospect of gathering a sample of impressionistic data. The purpose of this method was to enable insight into the correlation between classroom practice and the previously gathered interview and questionnaire data. Studies in this area were difficult to organise and therefore resulted in a limited sample of Case Studies from which to refer. All samples were within the Music Department of School X and, as such, are not representative of the school as a whole.
There appeared to be an underlying atmosphere of resentment and a lack of willingness to include the LSA. I observed no joint planning or discussions before or after lessons and on one occasion a teacher shared the opinion, “She gets on my nerves” in response to a “persistent” LSA. The situation had arisen because the LSA had made clear that her only concern was the particular student she was supporting and had asked that other students work separately. The task involved working with electronic keyboards and limited supply meant the sharing of equipment.
This particular subject teacher consistently demonstrates a good understanding for the needs of all students and creates interesting lessons which stimulate and challenge all learners. If students are to be included in lessons and have full access to the curriculum they should also be permitted to work with classmates, otherwise the feeling of otherness will persist and be detrimental to the students’ self-esteem, resulting ultimately in lowered levels of achievement.
All other lesson observations highlighted a poor level of communication between staff. The impression given was that Teaching Staff were inconvenienced by the presence of Learning Support Assistants who worked in an unwelcoming environment solely focused on the needs of “their” students.
This research has brought to light a number of mutually acknowledged issues with regards to the current levels of communication between teaching professionals at School X. It is believed, by a majority of respondents, that consistency of provision and continuity of student development is hampered through lack of timetabled periods set aside for staff to collaborate in terms of understanding individual needs and planning appropriately. Workload for both groups is high and, while each aspires to the highest professional standards, time constraints restrict any formalised communication time.
There are further issues of continuity where it is not always the same LSA who supports each student. This prevents the development of any healthy working partnership and is detrimental to the child.
Differing priorities were highlighted by participants from both groups. For example, the LSA may be too focused on one or two particular students to allow for their social development in terms of working with others and also Subject Staff may unintentionally neglect the SEN student, for the best of reasons, if it is perceived that they are in capable hands.
LSA’s commented that they can feel that their knowledge and skills are often not valued; Subject teachers may transmit an attitude that the LSA is an unnecessary addition to their classroom. The reverse is also true and teachers have expressed frustration that their knowledge and ability to deal with SEN inclusion is not recognised by LSA’s.
Finally, communication between the various support departments is not ideal leaving teachers to cope with, at times, as much as 6 adult support staff.
My Recommendations to School X have also informed my own approach to communicating, collaborating and cooperating with Learning Support Staff and the benefits of this to learners have been immeasurable.
In summary these recommendations were as follow: timetabled periods which allow for staff to meet and discuss the needs of students, to lesson plan effectively and look at differentiating resources together, should take place as often as possible. It has been suggested that weekly meetings would be most beneficial but time constraints may demand fortnightly or even monthly liaison. Particularly at the outset of a new Scheme of Work it would be helpful to establish strategies for differentiating the learning experience. Ideally a Learning Support Assistant should be assigned to particular teachers over each week allowing the opportunity to develop an understanding of specific teaching styles and personalities. It has even been suggested that Subject specific LSA’s would be the biggest asset to the school. This is a long way off and may possibly never happen. The best option here would be to promote an environment where information can be shared across departments. Learning Support staff already provide training at INSET days but a way forward would be for subject staff to give introductory talks or workshops on their subject with perhaps an overview of departmental Schemes of Work.
Finally, one manager for all support departments would better co-ordinate the provision for students. Such a person could bring together all the complimentary elements of the rich support network within School X and provide a specific point of contact for students, teachers, parents and outside agencies.
In current teaching, I have made it my business to connect with all support staff and have a hands-on approach to knowing and supporting the different learning needs of all my learners. I will use differentiated teaching and assessment strategies but will also seek advice and support from Learning Support staff when specific needs require.
It is regrettable that scheduled meeting times are not timetabled between Learning Support and Subject Specialist Staff but there is a greater awareness and opportunity to share specialist knowledge within staff development sessions.
More frequently the Music Department have the same Learning Support Assistant, who has developed her own subject knowledge, who is viewed as part of the team and is willing to discuss learners needs, share strategies and who is flexible in accommodating a range of students within allocated workshop sessions.
The growing diversity of need within the classroom demands that teachers have a solid understanding of Special Educational Needs (SEN) so that they can plan and prepare specialised teaching programmes which give all learners the opportunity to succeed.
It is the duty of every teacher to ensure that appropriate differentiated work and resources are available. The teacher’s role and responsibilities are expanding, in response to this evolving learning community, whereby they are required to be fully aware of SEN procedures, to liaise with the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) and teaching assistants.
This principle also applies to the education of English as an Additional Language (EAL) and Gifted and Talented (G&T) students who, although not defined within the law as having special educational needs, still require “special” provision and support.
All learners are entitled to equal access to the full range of opportunities and learning experiences within their school and a positive teaching approach at my current college, which embraces the various support systems, ensure that this is the case.
CPD in the workplace, on the whole, has been generic but useful in terms of compliance with organisational and governmental guidelines and has included:
Safeguarding, Child Protection, Health and Safety, Equality and Diversity, Preparing for Ofsted, How to deliver an Outstanding lesson, Writing Assignments for BTEC, Internally Verifying BTEC, Understanding the needs of autistic learners.
The most beneficial training sessions have often been those in which colleagues share their own good practice and this has been helpful in terms of learning new approaches to Starter or Plenary activities and to structuring lessons to accommodate all learners equally and provide more effective differentiation.
Departmental meetings are also often a good source of subject and student specific strategies, of understanding processes and systems in relation to learners and of developing shared cultural values which enhance the working environment and the achievement of learners.
Elective Professional Development in recent years has been to obtain the following qualifications:
The Pacific Institute – Facilitator for the Investment in Excellence. 2009
The Pacific Institute – Facilitator for PX2 PROGRAM. 2010
SMART TRAINING – Edexcel Level 3 NVQ in Management. 2010
SMART TRAINING – Edexcel Level 3 BTEC Award in Management. 2010
Both courses, and work for the Pacific Institute, have equipped me with a new outlook on education and I have learned to encourage the development of learner ownership for their own education and use the 80/20 facilitation strategy with positive effect. With greater guided responsibility for their own achievement and professional development, students are more able to attain Distinctions within their BTEC courses.
Management Courses have given me an insight, from a different perspective in the planning and preparation of work, in communicating objectives, of project management and have enhanced my ability to provide strong, clear, supportive leadership and effectively build a communicative, cohesive and motivated team.
These skills have easily found a purpose within the classroom and the concepts of independence and interdependence have proved invaluable when passing ownership of learning to my Level 3 students. This prepares learners for the next step of their education of for success as productive, proactive and self-motivated employees in the workplace.
Corporate Training (Facilitation and Consultancy)
The following narrative is an account of my ability to deliver my subjects to a range of learners within a corporate and educational setting.
I will, with reference to examples such as outlines of training programs that I have devised, examples of resources that I have developed (such as a PowerPoint presentation, a handout), and student and client feedback, highlight the effective use of skills and knowledge obtained in my ITT and through ongoing CPD.
In doing this, I shall explain and illustrate how I believe my own professional development has impacted upon my learners.
Engaging, Enjoyable and Interactive Workshops
Personal and professional development workshops utilizing Cognitive Behavioural and Performing Arts strategies.
These programs are an engaging, enjoyable, interactive and effective means to personal, professional AND organizational GROWTH and TRANSFORMATION.
Participants explore the origin of BELIEFS, challenge their accuracy, redefine those which create limiting THOUGHTS and learn strategies to make CHOICES to say and do only those things which bring themselves and others closer to emotional, intellectual, spiritual and professional fulfilment.
Educational Partnerships– NBI ASSOCIATES (Including student workshops and staff CPD)
A selection of Training programs that I have devised,
Examples of resources that I have developed (such as a PowerPoint presentation,a handout)
Student and client feedback
L&D at Andover College (for teaching and business support staff)
Here, with reference to examples, a Proposal Document (Introducing the RESPECT CAMPAIGN TUTORIAL PROGRAM), TPO – Scheme of Work Overview, a Tutor Handbook, Powerpoint presentation, a Worksheet that I have developed and learner feedback, I will highlight the effective use of skills and knowledge obtained in my ITT and through ongoing CPD.
In doing this, I shall explain and illustrate how I believe my own professional development has impacted upon my learners.
There is no part of my CPD, from ITT to workplace development and elective training in mediation, facilitation, Management and Equality and Diversity that has not had an influence upon the methods I use to research, plan, create resources and deliver staff training within Sparsholt and Andover College.
RESPECT CAMPAIGN TUTORIAL PROGRAM FEEDBACK
Taken directly from the college’s Passport to Success Feedback
Good – An enjoyable session, with knowledgeable leads. As this is a subject taught to all learners this will help to embed any knowledge they currently have.
Good – I enjoyed this session. Good inclusion amongst staff. As I mentioned during the session, it would be good if we can access useful short film sequences on the relevant subjects to spark off discussions amongst the students. I think getting the students to discuss the issues is the key point in all this!
Excellent – It was a good introduction to the equality act 2010 and it is reassuring to know that there are resources available to be able to deliver this topic during the tutorial lessons.
Excellent – Really interesting session.
Good – A very good overview of the Equality Act 2010
Average – Some good information
Good – Interesting session
Good – Interesting. Good range of activities. Time was an issue as some questions could not get a full answer.
Good – A good informative session that recapped E&D and explained what was expected next year.
Good – Gives us further avenues to embed E&D into our lessons
Good – Interesting topic. I will definitely be using the presentation for the new students in September. Great for awareness and what is acceptable and what is not!
Good – rather fun session but as this is embedded into everything I teach it was revision rather than learning something new.
Good – Good course makes me think
Average – Missed part of this as I had an interview but read the power points that the presenter David Watters distributed. This is information I need to be aware of and very helpful
Average – not what expected but found it very useful
Good – Enjoyable session
Excellent – A good debate which could have lasted all day but was well structured and flowed.
Good – Good pace of session, interesting and snappy
Good – I felt that the Respect Campaign was very well presented and kept directly on the subject. This made it very easy to follow what the course was about and identify the main aspects.
Good – good overall session but a bit basic.
Good – The course was active and informative, I felt I gained a deeper understanding of the equality and diversity act as well as being able to give specific examples of this within my own professional and personal life.
Average – Very good, useful reminder
Good – useful update Respect Campaign
Good – Was fine – got what I needed
Good – This was a very interesting session and I think it will be a useful campaign for the college to run.
Good – Enjoyable
Good – Thought provoking
Average – Interesting PPoint and Discrimination discussion.
Average – very thought provoking
Good – A good informative session
Good – Some good info on legislation
Good – Verbal feedback in discussion with Lynn Nicholls after the session. We were in concert on how the session would mutate in the light of the first session of delivery. Some interesting comments from staff about awareness of personal characteristics – coming across them in Cossar writing as an evaluative tool is closing the stable door after the horse has bolted! Some colleagues would like some reasonable restraint training too. The part where everyone got up and talked to someone else was really good: there was a real buzz in the room but based on the topic in hand.
CONCLUSION – PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
The principles that underpin my professional development
My Professional Development has been and is vital and necessary, since the acquisition of new skills and knowledge ultimately benefit personally. My career goals are being met with the development of a new skill set and rewards are a developing sense of self-worth and job satisfaction; which will impact on home/family life.
The organisation, including my own team, peers, managers and customers, that is, the learners, also benefit from increased skills that are brought through Professional Development.
When identifying areas of development, it has been important to consider my own personal and professional values and goals. When we have a clear view of the principles in which we believe it is easier to make wise and focused choices.
CPD is relevant to all teachers. It is about making progress in the teaching profession — increasing the teachers’ skills, knowledge and understanding as outlined in the professional standards for teachers.
My aim is always to ensure that no student or colleague receives less favourable treatment or is disadvantaged and when planning work, I am committed to policies that will promote equal opportunity in all respects, regardless of age, disability, ethnic origin, gender, gender identity, marital status, religion or sexual orientation.
Beyond ITT, opportunities for staff development have included an induction programme, access to information about courses, conferences and other activities, a regular appraisal discussion, consultation with Staff Development Manager / Officer, the opportunity to make bids for staff development resources, access to qualification courses where relevant and a study award scheme for extended University and College courses.
I have carefully selected training that will enhance the learning of my students and which will develop my skill set in a direction that will further my career in accordance with my own values and towards educational leadership roles in future.