Planning “To do or not to do” that is the question.

plannin 1

Planning is is the curse of my life or is does it have purpose ? Do students benefit from hours of endless planning? Do we have the time in which to write plans that as Tummons (2009) purposes The planning process: who is it for? p50 suggesting the importance of planning documents are for quality assurance and to demonstrate or provide evidence of your teaching for management and bodies such as OFsted. This leads to me another question why is that the mere mention of the word “O F S T E D”  promotes a genuine fear amongst  managers and teachers. I witnessed precious time being wasted with generic planning that had been delivered weeks ago, should we focus our attentions on looking back or forward thinking?  Back to my inquiry into planning documents David Didau blog compares and contrast peoples opinions on the usefulness of these blogs, which only did increase more questions, although a few are answered.  He used the analogy  “does a good cook book make you a good cook?” What must be considered are SOW indiviualised, do they promote effective learning, provide context not just content, do they allow for pace and level ,quality not quantity. pupil progress, evaluations.  The Nut suggest that excessive time spent on planning is not necessary , however “must be fit for purpose”

I believe that SOW need to be individualised  not generic a “working document” that focuses you to holistically look at the what is needed for you to effectively deliver the curriculum, to break it down into manageable parts and embedding skills such as: Functional, employability, independent learning strategies and diversity rather than as “bolt on”  strategy.  rather than : planning

a scribble that leaves you unprepared and even worse negatively impacting upon your students.

Mind mapping is  method that I approach a new subject so I am able to see the holistic picture of learning required then that is broken down into aims and objectives that meet the criteria of assessment for the individual diploma units. Activities are selected that provide a multi sensory approach and also enable students to practice and master embedded skills.  For example how to prepare for an interview, the teaching method is role -play students engage in being the interviewee and interviewer asking and answering questions this develops communication skills, recall of experience and to enhance the activity students have to research a job and work out how much it will cost, determine the time of the journey what time students will need to leave home at arrive on time, E&D explores discrimination, appearance for interviews and then writing CV promotes English skills. The SOW works shows a picture and shows progression. I don’t add Initial assessments because the activity can be adapted to include students varying levels and pace.  I have set up folders that are mostly arranged and organised with worksheets and resources required for the delivery of the unit. However Lesson plans I do find do not work especially in my education establishment. I work with disengaged students and attainment is a constant challenge. Lesson plans contain information for specific students and when they do not turn up this has to be repeated. I find that an exercise book that details students targets, including maths and English targets enables me to be more student-centered.

The question is what impact does this have on the student?

  • Being organised, worksheets and activities
  • providing a variety of teaching methods engages students
  • Promotes effective classroom management because the tutor is organised and have clear aims and objective
  • Students are able to work at their own pace, however need to be aware that assessments need to be completed by a specific date.
  • If a tutor is ill, another tutor is able to see what is needed. My book is like a diary and Students initials are at the side of  the task a student is required to achieve.
  • I provide alternative resources, such as U-tube videos that I can draw upon if I feel that the activity I have chosen students are not progressing or understanding
  • References
  • Tummons, J.  (2009) Curriculum studies in the lifelong learning sector. Exeter. Learning matters LTD.
  • Didau, D. Blog The Learning Spy;  Brain food for the thinking teacher .

Holistic thinking and reflecting

Why is that the reflective brain wakes up at 5.30 in the morning with streams of thoughts and feelings that explode  with a kaleidoscope of clarity? Neuroscience suggests that sleep clarifies our thoughts, with the power of neuro-imaging the scientist have found that the days of studying and staying up late are not what helps us to remember, “Sleep” gathers our thoughts and connects them up.( Neuroscience quote) Time to think, Kleine (1999) suggests we need time to think, although she develops her theory into thinking rounds where people are able to speak and think without interruptions, maybe our brain needs that biological time in which to think, to not make harsh judgement, mistakes. We are encouraged to complete evaluations after each session we teach maybe we should sleep on it before those evaluations are made and analysed. Can we reflect at that moment if students have met the learning outcomes, do they need time for their brain to process the information?

My thoughts are so clear after a goods nights sleep, to catch those clouds of clarity I keep a pen and note pad at the side of my bedside cabinet and catch as if they are dream never to be forgotten. The real challenge is what to do with those thoughts, analyse, compare and contrast, be critical, Action Plan pigeon hole your reflections into a model, a cycle, a box a concrete experiences in which to reflect upon. I wonder do we need concrete experiences in which to reflect? Just the word “concrete” puts a cold process into the “emotional” views of reflection. Education establishments suggest  reflections are a “purpose to help you learn from a particular practical experience” (uefap) and then to make it “better next time” Petty(2009) p341.  Brookfield(1995)) choice of words “it helps us to take informed action” (p1).  Reflection is important and as Brookfield suggests that without the reflective habit “we run the continual risk of making poor decisions” p3

The next question, is our assumptions a concrete experience, or are they based on other view points other experiences. When we reflect we make assumptions, for example my action research project explored Accelerated learning techniques in which to improve students independent learning to support them with the next stage of learning. My assumption was that these methods had worked in primary and within my early years practice so they are bound to work with teenagers in FE. Brookfield (1995) suggests that critical reflective thinking  is about “unearthing our assumptions” p28 and that “sooner or later, however something happens that forces teachers to confront the possibility that they may be working with a assumptions that don’t really fit their situations” p28  For example as the action research project progressed I read an improved my knowledge and understanding of brain based learning and explored neuroscience and education, the subject is fascinating and opened my eyes to how to learn and how not only environmental factor, but biological factors impact upon our learning. Further reading engaged my thirst to understand more, was this reflecting upon the concrete experience or has theory provided me with knowledge in which to have a concrete experience? Wallace (2002) points out that “as professionals we can only judge the worth of theory when we have measured it against our own experience.” (introduction)

Do we need to have a reflective cycle in which to be critical and reflective. Dewey cited in Ruston (2012) discuses a systematic approach to address the “uncertainties and complexities of human action” p25 Brookfield proposes 4 critical lenses, four different perspectives in which to critical reflect upon. Kolbs cycle of reflection, focuses the trainee teacher to reflect upon those concrete experiences  and apply theory, action plan and test it out, however teaching is a passion where does the feeling come into it or the students voice? Why would you change something, without getting the views of the learners? Are we making assumptions based on theoretical underpinning, theory doesn’t know my students. After saying that theory helps us to understand.

My thoughts was so clear at 5.30, I have my notes, driving to work I work through them, repeat the words so I will remember,  a strategy I learnt to help improve my memory. Pen to paper and thy are gone. My brain has gone into work mode and my “to do” list overshadows the real thought the passion to not do better next time, but to create and improve experiences. So if predominately our thoughts are about improvements,  feelings are apart of those reflections. Our emotions are apart of our teaching Rushton (2012) discusses effective teaching and learning is based upon our own “set of values” p4 and reflective practice is at “the heart of all teachers” (l2) Gibbs Improved Kolbs cycle of reflection and added in “Feelings” one example of improvement, however does not necessarily mean that it is “better” . The cycle if one has to use one,does provide a more emotional viewpoint to the reflection. Brookfield (1995)  suggests that we need to be aware of the wider context in which to be critical about  our emotions  because when our feelings are involved we inherently blame ourselves if students do not learn, what did we do wrong, how can we do better, what strategies and theory will engage that student, form within our emotional state, have we met the individual needs of that student? Brookfield continues to discuss how a critical stance in terms of how we teach and reflect keeps us grounded emotionally and breaks down that “innocent view” (p1) of blaming ourselves and that by thinking and reflecting critically we “will survive in the classroom with enough energy and sense of purpose to have some real effect” Susan Wallace (2002) discusses the realities of teaching in the FE sector, she suggests that we need to challenge our assumptions that in FE students are there because they want to, so when we emotionally question why students have not learnt we need to seek the answer within a wider political thought. She continues to propose that “choice or lack of it can cause disruptions and disengagement to education” p5  With  the raise of the participation age, students do not have the choice any more to stay on in education.

Reflection is a natural part of what we do, I reflect upon my life, my experiences and make decisions. So do we need to be modeled by a reflective framework, critical reflection is suggested as being a deeper thinking, a context in which to see the wider picture and not a narrow viewpoint. During an observation with a trainee teacher, we discussed various subjects, it became clear that both the observer and trainee teacher reflections and conversation took on a feminist perspective, there was passion in their voices, however does this provide a narrow pedagogy, or provide diversity to the session? the session explored assumptions and discriminatory practices and how those behaviors can impact upon various groups and individual people that are protected under the Equality Act (2010) Sometimes when you view the world from one perspective you lose sight of the “full or big picture” I have heard feminist disgust at the oppressive nature of E.L.James 50 shades of grey, whereas I see the holistic view of his possessive nature and his attitudes towards women as oppressive and controlling in the beginning, however the love of one woman changed that.

During a safeguarding session I made a decision to add video clips and music of very emotive subjects of child abuse, bullying, neglect and emotional abuse. The videos are highly emotive and made the decisions that this would engage the students, therefore students will have had a positive learning experience. I aware that most of my students are visual or kinesthetic learners. I am also aware of small snippets into students personal history, so I gave the speech that if this information is too sensitive then you are able to leave the room and also we would provide any additional support needed. What I was not aware of was the impact that these video’s had upon students emotions varying from, anger, frustration, throwing objects at the screen, crying, opinions. Emotions were high, the stories moved everyone. Some disclosures were made from bullying and anger towards previous establishment that she had felt did not support her through this anguish. Consequences as a result of abuse, neglect was physically felt in that session that day. Kelly Clarkson “because of you” highlighted the consequences that emotional abuse places upon children. There was no plenary that day no consolidation of learning. Had learning outcomes been met? There was no doubt in my mind they had, however later that evening I questioned my methods, was I right to evoke those emotions. Neuroscience suggests that we we are stressed learning does not take place. However is an highly emotive situation he same as when someone is stressed? Dis I meet everyone’s individual needs? Brookfield (1995) thoughts ran through my head that it is impossible to meet the needs of everyone and that this ignores “pedagogic reality” p24 and can be limiting towards the students not stretching them he suggests that “students who define their need as never staying beyond comfortable ways of thinking” can have consequences.” p21 I was criticized by my lack of compassion in an incident within my own life that exposed my 12 year old daughter to a video that highlighted the consequences to her “Behaviour” I say the word loosely because the behaviour had spiraled out of her control. It is my belief that students do need to be involved, I did take into consideration the effects that the material I presented would have on the learners, however did not expect the enormity of those emotions. Decisions are made in curriculum, schools teach sex education now in primary schools (Government Policy) City and Guilds standards inform us of what is required within the curriculum, however it is the teacher who decides the content.

So how can I improve here, what does the reflective process tell me, what have I learnt from this experience? That I haven’t taken into account the students voice. The next session I planned to inform the students in my current thinking, I explained my dilemma, we explored how the class felt, a concept word map presented various adjective emotions and the student completed their own reflection, except for one students. All students agreed that even though the subject was emotional they do need to be exposed to the wider view of the world. Would I do the same again? Yes, maybe I would involve the students more to let them include the material and involve them more in the construction of the presentation.

This is a blog and half, it is across between my emotive blogging style to an academic thought pattern. Blogging in a social platform in which to express your ideas and feels natural and more spontaneous than an academic form of writing.


Brookfield, S. (1995) Becoming a critically reflective teacher. San Francisco. Jossey-Bass.

Wallace, S. (2002) Managing behaviour in Further education. London. Learning Matters, Sage.

Ruston, I. Suter,M.(2012) Reflective Practice for teaching in lifelong learning. Maidenhead. Open University Press.


My action research project is beginning to take shape, I have been adding in startegies over the month to evaluate the responses, this has been done on a slow pace as not to bombard students with too much change at one. Change is something that is a barrier to their learning. The group has been working on improving how they lear, although it wasn’t until today’s session that I connected up those strategies with how they have motivated students to learn. We discussed students change in behaviour to complete amended work and how the tracking form that students signed when work is completed provided students with motivation to complete work on time, especially when other students were. When I originally  asked students what timely targets where they said yes, however had not fully understood what they were and the purpose. In today’ session I explained how the targets worked and why work had to be completed on time, I also discussed how meeting deadlines and targets will be something that students will need to take autonomy over with their progression to level 2 and especially in level 3. Most students could see the benefit to making sure work is completed on time. When asked how they could improve this skill and what strategy they could employ. CJS informed the group that we could use the calendars more effectively. I had introduced the calendars to increase learners knowledge of timely targets, however had not really interpreted them into my classroom routine. In today’s session students are able to link the strategy to how it would improve their own learning. Reflecting on the use of the calendar I will begin to encourage the use of the calendars to further review the usefulness of them and whether they actually do provide learners with autonomy over their work. Students were introduced to new vocabulary of how to learn, linking strategies to how they learn. Students listed how they learned see mind maps. I introduced the students to mindset and asked them what they thought it meant. It was interesting to see how experiences influenced the conversation especially for one student EE. EE use of languished was negative, she was able to describe a fixed mindset and how the effects of bullying and other peoples negatives words had influenced her. This answers many questions about this students who has struggled, especially with her written work. Verbally she is able to link prior knowledge to questions that are asked of her . We continued to discuss a positive mindset. Most students engaged and produced the vocabulary to describe the qualities attributed to a growth mindset. These are the words I now intend to use and words that will form part of my learning environment to reinforce positively. During the session we viewed a power point presentation on deciding the right path to claim a mountain metaphorically speaking. Whilst watching students I watched their reactions and most where engaged . PP falling asleep why? What barriers are there? ZS very disengaged, very little confidence. In the last assignment I have provided feedback that describes their work demonstrating a lack of effort that had been previously demonstrated with other units. I was careful not to divulge this information, but, I wanted to link effort to success. Some of the issues I had reflected upon today I will discuss with students so I can have a better understanding of students motivations and barriers.  In the session tomorrow we will build on the vocabulary for a growth mindset and explore learning styles. My intentions are for students to understand how they learn and for them to look at ways, strategies for them to build upon to improve motivation and autonomy. 

This April in Blogging U.: The Return of Writing 101!

Hope this will keep me motivated and blog my reflection

The Blog

This April, we’ll be offering Writing 101: Building a Blogging Habit. Writing 101 is a write-every-day challenge designed to help you create a writing habit and push you as a writer, while publishing posts that mesh with your blog’s focus.

What is Writing 101?

Writing 101 is a four-week course that runs from Monday, April 6, to Friday, May 1, 2015. Each weekday, you’ll get an assignment that includes a writing prompt and an optional “twist”; prompts are your topic inspiration for the day, while twists push you to experiment with writing techniques and tools.

Who else is really building their writing habit?… I wake up multiple times each night to check the time and see if it’s time to get up and write because I’m so excited. I’ve never felt this way before! I think I’m in lurve.
Molly, Knocked Up Knocked Over

You can mix assignments however you like: Respond to…

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Reflection – Differentiated Instruction. 

During the session today I attempted some of the strategies by DI by giving the student a choice, however I began to question am I just giving the students more work? Is the work challenging? In my research program I am looking at how to create classroom community that investigates learns motivation. Why do some students choose the easy or less work option? I feel overwhelmed by the thoughts and ideas in my head to ensure every student is being challenged and I am developing the potential of every student, however am I expecting too much, when actually those students who choose to do less completed their work on time and at the expected level, for them this is an achievement.!eb6FcT

Imposter syndrome 

Sat for most of the morning trying to get to grips with my next session on sociology of childhood, I read and re-read the same thing “what does this mean?” I ask myself how can I pass this informTion on if I can’t even get to grips myself!! I can feel my self confidence failing . I really want to spend time reading and thinking and getting to grips with the subject, however I can’t do that because I have to share my time to other areas of my study and work commitment. But what’s  happening is nothing is actually getting finished. I am reading “Stephen Brookfield” The skill full teacher. 

The presentation of the false face of confidence that impostorship entails is usually done
for reasons of survival. We believe that if we appear incompetent then our students,
colleagues and administrative superiors will eat us alive. We think too that admitting
frailty will be interpreted as a sign of failure. As Clark (1992) comments, “Asking for
help makes us feel vulnerable – vulnerable to being discovered as imposters who don’t
know as much as we pretend to know” (p. 82).  

What do we feel like this?  Brookfield continues to say that by admitting to how you feel takes the power away from the shame of being found out.  I have briefly looked at “power of vulnerability” Brene Brown  where she dispels the myth that vulnerability is the same as weaknes whereas actually vulnerability is most accurate measure of courage.  So do I need to know more than the students. Is It better to pose questions like thinking circles to coach the answers out of the students and support them in their own discovery and vulnerability . Learning together!! 

This is a subject that I intend to discover and explore more . Reading further on the analogy of the roadrunner and the feelings of crashing to the floor , metaphor for that struggling to learn, Brookfield suggest that to overcome this is to develop feelings of “belonging, peer support, peer learning”. Developing a ” community” rather than just a “network”.  Being a students I can fully relate to that peer support and collaboration, so rather than having to know everything. I intend to develop learning “communities” 

I want to say a big thanks to Tom Monaghan for saying he identified as having Impostor Syndrome so early in the round, because I think that encouraged many people (including me) to be honest about that too).  

Here’s Stephen Brookfield on Impostor Syndrome, excerpt from from one of his books, downloaded from his website.

 Tell me what are your thoughts?