Do I practice what I preach?

Need more time

Yes, I know I haven’t blog here for a while. It is not that I don’t have the content to write about, my draft section is full of things. It is just that I am trying to make this blog part of my work commitment rather than my weekend job. But I have made the effort this week! It will take me a bit of time to get into the swing of things so please let me slowly acclimatise back into the writing.

The Inspiration for the post

As head of the year 2 within the UG programme for Initial Teacher Education I try and attend as many of the professional lectures that I can. This is mainly so I have a complete understanding of what the content was for the follow up sessions, but also so that the students have the opportunity to see me and ask questions etc. It was while I was sat listening to the tutor in this morning’s lecture, that I suddenly thought, why don’t we practice what we preach? The lecture was on assessment, including why we do it, but also the differences between formative and summative assessment. The students were talking about summative assessments and were exchanging experiences of SATs both from the teacher’s point of view and when they were children, and commenting, or possibly accepting, that formative was definitely the way forward. It was then I got a thinking, what about the modules which I was teaching on. Did I use formative assessment effectively within those?

Do I use formative assessment?

Like many educators I definitely recognise the value of assessment and used to use it so much in my primary practice. One thing I always struggle with is transferring my practice to the higher education environment. After listening to the content of the assessment lecture, I found myself pondering the question which forms the sub-heading of this section. Do I use formative assessment and, perhaps more importantly, do I use it effectively.

I’m not at the tiller of the ship

Teaching is often related to content. There are often learning outcomes to be taught to and assessments looming over the horizon. Of course I want every student within my sessions to do well and, because of this, I provide tutorials for them to ask questions about assessments and also written submissions from which they receive formative feedback. The latter is more manageable with groups of 10-15 but becomes a lot more time consuming when you have groups of 20-30. I know that I provide formative feedback for assignments and assessments but this is not the feedback which I was thinking about while walking back to my office. The formative assessment I was mulling over was to do more with learning. I think I could explain this easier if I posed another question – Do I use formative feedback of the students’ knowledge and understanding to alter and/or adapt the learning experiences which I provide? Are they actually steering their learning or is there some other form of institutionalised pilot at the controls?

Students’own learning

Being a pedagogue – and a digital one at that – reflection is an important part of my practice and growth. Within the primary sector, I would adapt, differentiate and even recreate learning experiences for the children in the response to formative assessment. However with my current sessions I am not sure that I am actually achieving this. I have, and will continue to do so, changed the content or the session in response to the students’ needs, but this is often only in response to needing to know more about say a different writing style (back to assignments again) or to see how the concept I am communicating about can be put into practice. When it comes to the actual learning I feel that I make little, if any, adaptations to the sessions. Yes, I always check for up to date content, but rarely assess the students learning during, or at the end of a session, and then change the future learning because of this. Or, and I feel somewhat ashamed to type this, never looked at what they already know in order to ensure that the students make progress within the session I am facilitating learning for. Am I missing something here or am I just a bad tutor?

Too Critical?

I always have the feeling that I am very critical of myself and my practice, but that is an important feature of any practitioner. But I do need your reassurance here – not to boost my ego, but more to share and/or remind me of effective practice. I wonder whether I am missing an important part of my practice out or whether andragogy or even heutagogy have different dynamics when referring to and using formative assessment for learning. I look forward to your comments in the box below so please feel free to send me your thoughts. I appreciate the feedback and experience of practitioners with significantly more experience under their academia belts than me.

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