Improving the process of target setting

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Personalised learning instead of children getting a one- size-fits-all schoolingPersonalised learning has come about as result of a response to an Ofsted Inspection that pointed to the need to improve the process of target setting for learners at an individual level.

I was asked to pilot one of ten areas for this initiative.

The group I choose for the pilot was an E2E group; unlike other E2E groups in the college who develop their skills on entry to employment these students have both E2E lessons and their main subject which is a level 1 Diploma in Bricklaying, a one year course.

My problem is this; the group I am working with on this initiative have qualifications below what is needed for our new Diploma level 1 in bricklaying. So we have brought them in for an extra afternoon for completion of two qualifications, Entry to employment and a construction Diploma. This I feel is piling extra work on a group which would struggle on just one qualification, the Diploma. (Appendix 1 entry for 8/1/09)

I take this group on a Friday morning for 1 hour of group tutorial followed up with individual tutorials. My Personalised learning session follows these.

Each student will be timetabled for a slot of approximately half an hour I have found that this varies greatly with each student some have needed 1 hour (appendix 4 entry for 2/2/09) others only 20 minutes . During this session we will discuss their practical assessment models which they will build in the workshop and consider the merits of time management and construction techniques of building these structures. Upon completion they will then need to critically evaluate how they have done and reflect on what they could do to achieve a higher grade on their next project.

This is a monumental task for any of these students as for most students breaking down a task into manageable pieces and then reflecting how this could be achieved to a higher standard is not necessary high on the agenda of a sixteen year old. During my sessions with my learners I found it particularly hard not to take over and give them too much advice this should be their learning curve not mine.

I have found teaching students to reflect one of the most difficult subjects for them to get their heads and mine. I have used different methods of reflection from theorists to help in develop their reflective skills as well as mine.

"it is not until an uncertain situation occurs a person will think about what it is they are doing to make sense of the situation"

Moon (1999)

Looked at how reflection is linked to learning to include it as a process which restructures the way the mind thinks about issues to accommodate new learning or to upgrade previous learning.

Within Vocational education and the overlap between that of attending college and that of practice within the work place.

Analyse the way in which your has been put together etc (eg Comparisons between journals/diary/log (eg Moon) and comparison between possible different ways of presenting the material-written,taped,drawings,maps, videos (eg Morgan, Buzan) etc


Theorists over the years have defined journals in different ways. Jennifer Moon has explored how journal writing has many purposes and will come in many forms. A journal can give a sense of ownership of learning, enhances learning through writing and encourages metacognition. Metacognition is a word that appears many times. Professor Michael Martinez from Department of Education at the University of California says' this definition will become more detailed and complete as our understanding grows. Many teachers would describe Metacognition, quite acceptably, as "thinking about thinking." But I would propose a more precise definition: Metacognition is the monitoring and control of thought'. (Martinez, 2006) Flavell defines metacognition as 'knowledge and cognition about ...anything cognitive' or 'anything psychological' (Flavell, 2006 edition) is this too general? Professor Michael Martinez I feel has described this about right.

The journal entries for this assignment have been used as a reminder to what has taken place over the last term. Although they have not covered every learner who has participated in this pilot it gives an over view of some of the difficulties which have surfaced and a few suggestions should the pilot run the following year. My take on a journal for the learners to use while working on this pilot came in the form of a work pack

The work packs provide a structured method of monitoring progress as well as helping learners to manage their own learning effectively, to raise self-confidence and to improve their achievements through setting goals and SMART targets.

Developed skills of setting SMART action plans

Targets have become smarter and learners have become more motivated and targets have been achieved.

More confidence in discussing their strengths, achievements and personal targets.

More successful in meeting deadlines, organising themselves and managing their own learning.

 Over all the students have become reflective in what they do

Researching personalised learning helped me understand a little more into what I was actually supposed to develop in this pilot "it is shown that the approach induces structures on the assessment problems and learning objects, respectively, that can serve as a basis for an efficient adaptive assessment of the learners' skills, and for selecting personalised learning paths." (Heller, Steiner, Hockemeyer, & Albert, January 1)

What is reflective practice? Debate the influence of theorists, eg : Dewey, Schon, Kolb, Mezirow, Habermas, Friere, Boud, Keogh etc.. (Moon and Hillier have good references to these) (LO 1)

Reflective practice in simple terms is learning from experience, every teacher has done this. There are many different theorists who have given their thoughts to reflective practice. All have their own uptake on how it should be done.

As part of any teaching qualification this is now the required learning. You as a teacher will examine and debate the influence of theorist and how they may best suit your needs when reflecting on a session you may well have taught that day.

The likes of Donald Schon who in the 1980s' invented the term

'Reflection -in -action' to us, thinking on the move this is when you would be reflecting while teaching and adapting you teaching to possible moods and situations. This is something which has always been carried out but had never been defined. He thought teachers had in his terms become 'technicians' by this he was referring to teachers who carried out the task of teaching for organisations to cover teaching problems which occurred. The teachers themselves had not queried their values to how they taught. Some of his views ran alongside David Kolb who I feel was one of the main contributors to how reflection is now perceived. A few years before Donald Schon came up with his theories John Dewey created a theory based on five strands of theory these were adapted by theorists Mezirow and Freire who were looking into how learners could process critical reflecting, they wondered if learning was a form of a cycle which would start out as an experience developing into reflection once reflected upon leads to action and then becomes a concrete experience. The example they gave was a teacher has an encounter with an angry student who failed an exam. They labelled this as the experience. The reflection was would be them trying to explain and make sense of the experience and compare with other experiences, was it the same or was it a new experience .Talking to other teachers who may also face same situations. This would then lead to a course of action would then lead to further reflection.

Kolb later refined this process of reflection further by splitting it into two activities, perceiving and processing followed by a final stage called "Abstract Conceptualisation" In the Critical Reflection stage questions are asked about the experience in terms of previous experiences, in the Abstract Conceptualization stage, we look to find the answers. We come up with conclusions and form ideas about experiences learned. From these ideas came Experiential learning cycle

Which have been adapted by many theorists through the years? (The Internet TESL Journal, 1997) Kolb in my eyes simplified the theories of Schon, Dewey Mezirow and Freire. Why I feel Kolb's learning cycle is used to great extent as a learning tool in teacher training courses.

Stephen Brookfield breaks down reflection into assumptions .Paradigmatic assumptions as the hardest of three to uncover. This relates to facts which we know to be true. Brookfield then says it would take a considerable amount of contrary evidence and disconfirming experiences to change them, but once changed the consequences for our lives are explosive. The other two are prescriptive and causal assumptions

What are the characteristics of a reflective practitioner? (discuss checklist eg Hillier) (LO 1)

In terms of analysing the situation/theme you have identified, what model of reflective practice have you found most useful? (eg Ghaye and Ghaye, Brookfield, Peters, Burgess, etc etc

Through my research it was proven that we as the teachers can only assist in the reflection process, we can only provide the structure or the stimulus to guide the learner, it is up to learner to extract their own experiences and develop their own thoughts on how they may progress or improve. The learner can only improve if the learner wants to make that effort.

Habermas said that he thought "self-reflection needed one part of yourself to be split from the other in such a manner that the subject can be in a position to render aid to itself. (Habermas)

Although this seem a good comment at first, I would find this particularly hard to carry out, let alone a student with a naive approach to this concept. How could you separate yourself from the task? The idea is to be able to self - reflect. A second party is then needed, possibly the teacher would need to step in to facilitate, is this not what we do?

In my opinion, a more realistic and manageable approach would be that of Stephen Brookfield

Stephen Brookfield used a process known as the four critical reflective lenses. Unlike Habermas this reflective practice is broken down into four areas all relying on different situations. Brookfield explains that the four areas are:

Our auto biographies as student and teachers

The teachers looking at ourselves from the other side of the mirror, connecting us to what the student would experience. This would carry out through personal self- reflection as Habermas had based his reflective practice on. Using Personal reflective practice you will become aware of pragmatic assumptions on how we teach. Brookfield then says that "self-reflection can a times be less painful than subjecting ourselves to the scrutiny of others", this I find very true being a private type of person. Once we understand what this all means we can then move on to the next stage.

Our students' eyes.

This I used in my own teaching thought I could see how students had perceived me by relating back to myself as an apprentice and my lecturer trying to explain to me how I had gone astray on a model, teaching methods although different then still had the same young students as of today, unsure and needing support. Although this was my interpretation on what I saw, my students had different ideas getting to know the student is easier than getting their respect and trust. Without these two criteria it is hard to get any accurate feedback. In class if students look bored or have lost interest try to move on to a more interesting topic or introduce a practical activity Donald Schon describes this as reflection in action. This has worked for me although not ideal for this E2E group. Groups such as 2nd or 3rd year have fallen into the Brookfield category as Brookfield as predicted the longer you work with the group respect and trust can flourish.

Colleagues' Experiences

Peer observations giving feedback have been used during this pilot although not in this particular session but with this group. The feedback from colleagues always welcome especially from someone who can give critical reflection and advice.

Theoretical literature

this can sometimes help us to realise what we thought were areas of possible bad or incorrect teaching, but find this is not always the case it can be down to possible situation that we may have been put into .Example Not have the correct resources for the job or possibly being chosen to teach a subject best suited to someone with back ground knowledge and site experience. This is not to say that with experience this would not come.

What are the advantages and shortcomings of these models? (LO2)

What has your selected model of reflective practice enabled you to consider and realise? (eg impact of situation on colleagues/student perceptions ref: Brookfield or role of the validating body in this situation ref: Ghaye and Ghaye,learning that has occurred (Atkins and Murphy) (LO 2,4)

What has aided or hindered your reflection and reflective practice? eg: your own personality, features of the environment in which you work, mentors/work shadowing/emotional involvement/ etc.. Moon, King and Kitchener, Boud etc(LO 3)

The class have struggled with the thought of having to spend time reflecting on what they have achieved in their practical sessions in the workshop.

Development of reflecting has not come easy to many of the learners. Many of the group find it hard to express themselves, either through writing or verbal communication. The group find it hard to concentrate for more than twenty minutes at a time. So breaking the sessions down to smaller sessions meant that we didn't get to a sufficient stage to reflect on anything.

Barriers to the pilot

Some learners were negative to the thought of taking on extra work on top of the E2E and Diploma, although this pilot was not explained to the group as extra work in any way. I have also found many of the staff to be in a negative mindset when trying to discuss the outcome of such a project. This in turn has meant I have had to go to other departments in the college those of which are also carrying out other areas of the pilot to discuss this.

The personalised work pack developed for this pilot has had many changes; this is due to the practical models and scheme of learning changing approximately once a term. This then alters the practical models list. The students find this off putting and in some cases put the reflection back a stage or two, as the learner thinks they are progressing only to find the work load continuing.

Enhancers to the pilot

The enhancers are there to balance out the barriers and there are several colleagues that I have that want to see this pilot succeed. The head of School has been behind the pilot and has been a fundamental supporter in the backing of this. He has spoken in depth to different heads of school to help find the resources to assist with the development of this, utilising the help of other members of staff in other departments, enabling the group to have the right classroom to work from and to link both our practical and personalised learning sessions.

Another enhancer has been that some learners have now developed an understanding why reflection is needed to help improve their outcome and development.

What is the next step in terms of the outcomes of your reflection, (eg:Kolb, Mc Niff Action Research,Schon/your PDP/training)

My next step to developing this is.............................

What will you do to put the benefits of this reflection into practice(eg curriculum devt-Race, Gibbs/curriculum management: Preedy, Levacic, Lumby,/Team building-Handy/ partnership Huxham,Childs/ motivation etc etc (LO 5)

And in terms of your reflective capabilities : (eg: continue to refer to models of reflective practice/ mentor/critical friends/action research/team meetings/ Moon(LO 5)

PS use as many references in the reader as possible