Discovering the tools and techniques for effective teaching

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Whilst discovering the tools and techniques for effective teaching, it is important to be open to new ideas in the design, delivery and assessment of your specialist teaching area. Being innovative and creative in teaching is not only challenging and enjoyable; it is an important way to continuously improve practice and the quality of teaching and learning in your subject area. Downing says: "Creative teaching is an extension of effective teaching." (1997: xi) The opportunities presented by new and emerging technologies also offer possibilities to be innovative and creative. Innovation responds to and creates positive change, to make something better. West says: "Innovation is the new and improved ways of doing things at work." (1997: 3) It is about doing things in new ways and being creative in our thinking.

What do you think creativity is? People being inventive, taking chances and confronting the norm? Maybe you believe you can only be creative if you are artistic? Nevertheless anybody can be creative if they are given the chance. Petty says: "Creativity is often seen as the exclusive territory of the creative arts; yet just stand in a modern department store and look around you." (2009: 322) Creativity tackles the way teachers redesign the curriculum in order to allow students to become confident, successful individuals and effective contributors to society. Reddy Sarsani says: "Creativity improves pupil's self-esteem, motivation and achievement." (2005: 141) Pupils who are promoted to think creatively become more concerned with uncovering things for themselves; more open to new information and trials; more capable to decipher problems; more adept to work acceptably with others and have greater possession of their learning. Reddy Sarsani says they become "more open to new ideas, keen to work with others to explore ideas" and "willing to work beyond lesson time when pursuing an idea or vision." (2005: 141) Creativity is typically used to refer to the act of producing new ideas, approaches or actions, while innovation is the process of both generating and applying such creative ideas. The performing arts and media studies are very creative subjects in their own right, so it is now important to look at how this can progress.

Previous Practice

Teachers must make decisions about what they will teach and how they will teach it, decisions that will achieve their purposes and address their students' needs. Therefore developing a rationale will provide a framework for this planning. There are several frameworks used to develop a rationale, such as Force Field analysis, SWOT analysis, Pestle analysis and the Critical Incident analysis, which will help analyse strengths and weaknesses before making decisions relating to the planning, delivery and assessment of learning. I am going to use the Critical incident analysis developed by David Tripp, which helps teachers to recognize how they function, query their personal systems and allows them to expand awareness and enhance expert judgement. It can allow them to consider their practice and describe and validate it. Tripp says "critical incidents are produced by the way we look at a situation: a critical incident is an interpretation of the significance of an event." (1993: 8) (see appendix five for Tripp's method)

One teaching session, which I feel could be designed, delivered and or assessed in a more innovative and creative manner was an AS level media studies session on the production, marketing and distributing of films. When this session was delivered it was via a PowerPoint and involved a didactic teaching style, in which the teacher discussed the topics on the slides and students made notes. Woodhead says "didactic teaching is stifles learning...the teacher standing in front of the class dictating notes, pursuing his own agenda and failing to engage with his students." (2001: lines 9-12) (see appendix six for resources from before change) This was down to the lack of time to cover each topic before their exam and was also a new topic, so it was believed this was the most appropriate method as it is a rapid way of presenting materials and is convenient for delivering an explanation. Petty says: "Certainly, it can help to provide explanations and 'doing-detail'." (2009: 162) Although teacher talk is the most commonly used teaching method and has its advantages, it should not be used for the whole lesson. Using this didactic teaching method means there is no active student involvement so they become bored easily and their concentration spans waiver, which leads to students not retaining as much information. Reece and Walker say: "Students are often passive….The period of concentration of students is not very long." (2007: 110) (see appendix seven for evidence of failure)

Changing Existing Practice

As identified above, there was a clear need for change in the existing mode of delivery. The identified session was made more innovative and creative by making the situation more interactive and learner led, rather than passive, teacher led learning, to keep students motivated. Scales says: "Wherever possible you should plan to use techniques which maximize learner involvement and motivation." (2008: 233)

I decided to use situational learning, in which students were put into two small groups of mixed gender and ability and were each given the task of being a marketing company from Hollywood and British Cinema. They had to promote a new "imaginary" film how there given industry would market it, considering their budget and scope before looking at why this would or would not be successful. Scales says: "Case studies are frequently used in business courses to study particular businesses or business sectors, and to analyse and evaluate their success or failure." (2008: 123) Although this mode of delivery was new in media studies, it is not new in other areas and has been used successfully in other subjects and links to Socrates and constructivism. Instead of using PowerPoint for part of the lesson, I decided to use the program 'Prezi', which is a zooming storytelling and presentation tool that helps create outstanding visuals on a single canvas instead of traditional slides, which is something new to engage students. Arvai says: "At Prezi, we prefer not to follow trends. Instead, we learn about culture and respond with technology. We believe in humanity's desire for creativity and self-expression." (N/D: lines 2-3) (see appendix eight for resources after change)

Inventing motivating and exciting activities, with a suitable level of challenge, stimulated learner's curiosity, made them think and aroused their longing to gain success for themselves and their group, as well as acquiring more knowledge on the desired subject. Petty says: "When well devised and managed, the discovery method offers active learning and achievable challenge which engages interest…They are also very effective in developing the learners' understanding." (2009: 313) There was slight tension, but this promoted liveliness and flow. The students benefited from a feeling of autonomy, but inside supported, secure and controlled surroundings. Embracing an assist and challenge role, and functioning in a way that did not constantly manage the activity, enabled learners to think for themselves, organise themselves and take responsibility for their own learning, which was more effective. Larkley and Maynhard say: "Through such learning people develop as individuals, becoming more aware and potentially more self-conscious and self-aware members of society." (2008: 3) (see appendix nine for evidence of effective change)

Barriers to Learning

Although the change had positive effects on learners, it could still created constraint with regards to student's knowledge and experience of marketing. Current trends are constantly changing due to needs and wants of target audiences, so it is unlikely that learners will have up to date knowledge of marketing or branding. Petty says: "Learners must have any essential background knowledge and techniques they need in order to make a success of the discovery activity." (2009: 314) These barriers needed to be overcome to ensure the activity was successful, but we just have to look around at everything we see to witness current advertising techniques. Students also researched into advertisements of recently released films and their success rates to decide what approach their company would take. However it could also be argued that marketers want to be consistent in the way they advertise to keep their brand consistent. Till and Heckler say: "Repetition and consistency is important to implant the brand's meaning in the mind of the target customer." (2008: 147)

This group is mixed ability therefore it was extremely important that the great majority, if not all, of the learners were able to make a success of the activity, which effectively means that guidance had to be given where necessary. Petty says: "Too much guidance, and the students feel cheated of the chance to make their own discovery; too little, and they are floundering in frustration." (2009: 314) It was also difficult deciding on how much you monitor students' work, as sometimes they learn better by being left to see the consequences of their own errors, but this can be counterproductive, so guidance is often required (see appendix ten for learner needs in subject area)

Young people who have the chance to expand their creative abilities will be better equipped for life. The world is changing quickly and the majority of people will have to adjust to numerous careers in their lifetimes. Nearly all employers crave people who notice connections, have clever ideas, are innovative, communicate and work well with others, and are able to solve problems. Confident, creative individuals will always be in demand. Petty says: "The characteristics of the modern world, such as job mobility, the knowledge explosion and the pace of change within jobs, all require students to have adaptable cognitive skills, rather than a mastery of a narrow set of low-level knowledge and skills." (2009: 320)