Saturday, 12 September 2015

New beginnings

Next week I will start a new (albeit temporary) role as a Teaching & Learning Mentor.  I'm exciting at the prospect, as well as being a little nervous.

Applying for - and subsequently getting - the job have made me think a lot about what the role of a Teaching & Learning Mentor should be.  As a lecturer, I look to my campus Mentor for support with lesson plans in the main.  I'm pretty competent when it comes to technology for learning, so this is not something I need a lot of support with.  But when it comes to lesson observations, I find it handy to be able to chat through my lesson plan with someone else who can give me suggestions or point out areas that I have not explicitly included.  I guess it is useful to hear an objective point of view on what I have put together.

Today, I read the Guardian's Secret Teacher post on inset days (Guardian, 2015).  I agree with the author that there is nothing worse than sitting in training which feels less than relevant, whilst thinking about all the prep and / or marking that is sitting on your desk, whilst trying to control the building sense of panic about when you are going to manage to fit it in.

Last term, I was involved in putting together an inset for a specific group of staff.  One of the things I was determined to do was to ensure that during the session, staff would complete something tangible which they could take away and use in a lesson.  We did this by including a brief introduction, and then four activities - short 15 minute group sessions which introduced a teaching tool or technique and then gave the staff an opportunity to begin planning their own take on the technique - something that would work for them and their learners, and that they could take away at the end of the session.  As an example, my session was on the use of online collaborative forums as a way of developing higher order thinking skills.  I explained the purpose of the forums and briefly some of the technicalities, and then I got the group to think of a forum topic that they could use within their own subject area.  Once they had done that, I asked them to think about how they could drive the online discussion forward to develop those critical thinking skills that we so desperately want our learners to have.

Feedback from the session was very good, and as a team I think we did a good job of making use of the time in a way that the staff felt was productive.  My post now will be to replicate that productivity every day, with every member of staff I interact with.

There is definitely a need to bring staff together to plan and to disseminate information, but how we do that is just as important.  We are telling teachers that they need to be less didactic and more interactive, but that's not always how inset sessions run.  Perhaps now I have an opportunity to lead by example.

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