Explain the role of initial and diagnostic

8 August 2016

Explain the role of initial and diagnostic assessment in agreeing individual learning goals. Initial and diagnostic assessments should effectively diagnose learners’ strengths and weaknesses. Learners who know what their strengths are and which areas they need to improve are more likely be motivated and “know what is expected of them” (Gravells, 2012, p. 50) to progress and meet the requirements of a course or programme. In order to determine “the level and which specific aspects learners need to improve on” (Gravells, 2012, p.50), teachers should administer initial and diagnostic assessments to them before or at the start of a course or programme. The results of initial and diagnostic assessments can be used to help learners agree on Individual Learning Plans specifically designed to meet their learning needs. Some learners might have expectations of making rapid progress within a course or programme but unexpectedly experience difficulties due to a lack of personal or functional skills. Initial and diagnostic assessments should help teachers identify problems early relating to their learners’ personal skills.

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In certain circumstances, results from initial and diagnostic assessment might indicate that some learners do not have the requisite skills to have any realistic chance of progressing within a course or programme and they should be referred to a course or programme which more specifically meets their learning needs. On the other hand, some learners might have very advanced personal skills or abilities in relation to the minimum core and teachers should be able to ascertain which of their learners would need to feel more challenged during the programme and plan different activities to meet the needs of these learners.

Results from initial and diagnostic assessments should be used by teachers to discuss and agree realistic targets with their learners early in the course or programme. 1. 2 Use methods of initial and diagnostic assessment with learners. Having reflected in my previous CTLLS’ assignments on ways to improve my assessment practice, I realised that I needed to devise an initial and diagnostic assessment which provided me with more information on how to help learners progress on the PTLLS’ course.

As a result, I devised and administered a questionnaire to my learners at the beginning of the PTLLS’ course which required them to identify and write about one of their interests, hobbies and their specific areas of expertise. The results of these questionnaires enabled me to make a quick diagnosis of learners’ skills in relation to literacy and language. Learners are required to write essays as part of their final or summative assessment to meet the requirements of the PTLLS’ course and it is therefore important that I know that they can effectively express and articulate their thoughts in essay form.

Learners also need to specify their areas of expertise and understand that they will have to teach subjects in which they have relevant experience to become lifelong teachers. As a Accounting teacher, I have frequently had to refer learners who did not have the requisite language or reading skills to meet the summative assessment criteria. For this reason, I have devised a mock multiple choice test to administer learners and which more effectively diagnoses their reading and language skills at the beginning of the Accounting course.

The test consists of ten multiple choice questions and, although the questions are completely different from what learners will find on their final exams, the format of it is similar. The questions are also devised to specifically assess learners’ attitudes towards Accounting early in the course. This enables me to quickly identify and deal with learners’ misconceptions early in the course as well as learners’ “previous experience, achievements and transferrable skills” (Gravells, 2012, p. 51). 1. 3 Negotiate and record individual learning goals with learners.

As a teacher, I recognise that learners frequently commence a course or programme either not knowing what to expect or with unrealistic expectations. It is important that I diagnose their expectations and/or anxieties early so that I can help them plan to meet the requirements of the course. I recently delivered a PTLLS’ course in which I discovered (following an initial/diagnostic assessment) that a learner was struggling to identify and explain the specific subject she would be teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector.

As a result, I held a professional discussion with her during the assigned lunch break in which we eventually agreed upon an action plan to help improve her chances of progressing on the PTLLS’ course. During this discussion, I asked her what she wanted to specifically teach people. Although she knew what she specifically wanted to teach, she did not know and could not pinpoint a specific subject heading. I explained that she needed to be able to do this in order to have a reasonable expectation of improving her employability prospects as a Lifelong Teacher.

The action plan we devised involved her conducting research and then writing an essay of how her interest (improving standards of care) comes under a specific heading in her current employment as a nurse. I made a record of this professional discussion and added it to her Individual Learning Plan. As a result of the research she conducted later, she decided that she was most qualified and interested in teaching Care for the Elderly. I recently had an experience in the PTLLS’ course where a learner questioned the relevance of the initial/diagnostic assessment (writing a few short essays) to what he would be learning.

Although I was initially somewhat surprised that he seemed to be challenging the relevance of the activities I had planned at the very beginning of the learning programme, it also gave me an opportunity to diagnose his preferred learning style. Honey and Mumford (1992) as cited in Wilson(2008)suggested that pragmatists learn best by questioning and ascertaining relevance. I explained to him that to meet the requirements of the PTLLS course, he would have to understand generic teaching concepts and make them relevant to his specific area of teaching.

I explained that learners on the PTLLS’ course needed to produce evidence of self-assessment and reflection in the essays they wrote. To help him understand what we had discussed, I demonstrated a few more icebreakers which were relevant to my subject and asked that he reflect on and devise one of his own for the next lesson. I made a record of this discussion and placed it into his Individual Learning Plan. 2. 1 Devise a scheme of work which meets the needs of all learners and curriculum requirements.

Wilson (2008, p. 10) explains that differentiation occurs when “a teacher understands what helps a learner to learn, recognises differences in their learners and is prepared to alter their teaching to suit those differences”. As a teacher, I must use different approaches, resources, activities and assessment methods which cater for maximum inclusion of my learners in the class. I must also follow the curriculum requirements and deliver all the information within it in a specified period of time.

To help me do this, and to ensure that learning outcomes are SMART (Teacher Vision, 2012), I must be able to devise and write schemes of work for specific courses and programmes I will be delivering. I deliver an intensive Accounting course to learners looking for work in the Accounting industry. The official curriculum of the course and the official PowerPoint is provided by the awarding body. While ensuring that all slides are shown and that all requisite learning outcomes are discussed relating to it, I cannot simply deliver this and expect to meet the needs of my learners.

A scheme of work enables me to devise different activities which can help me reinforce Accounting concepts covered in the PowerPoint presentation. For example, planning role-play in the scheme of work would provide opportunities for my learners to practice different skills we had previously discussed. This would cater to learners with a kinaesthetic preferred learning style and reinforce theoretical concepts explored in class. It would also give me an opportunity to assess my learners’ progress within the course on a more holistic level.

Planning to use different resources in the scheme of work and showing videos, for example, to learners in the Accounting course reduces frustration and ensures that they do not have to concentrate intensely while taking notes for prolonged periods of time. It also gives me an opportunity to visually demonstrate Accounting concepts and cater to learners with a visual preferred learning style. *(Scheme of work included at the end of this unit) 2. 2 Devise session plans which meet the aims and needs of all learners.

To write session plans to meet the needs of my learners, I must reflect on previous sessions and analyse the effectiveness of my teaching approaches, resources, assessment methods as well as my ability to deliver learning outcomes within a measurable timeframe. Following David Kolb’s, model of Experiential Theory (Wikipedia, 2012)after each teaching session has enabled me to reflect on what happened within it, why and how my teaching methods were effective or not and plan improvements to my future teaching sessions which more specifically meet the needs of my learners.

Session plans follow a similar format and principle to schemes of work in that they help teachers plan specific learning outcomes, resources, activities and methods of assessment to meet the needs of all their learners. One of the main differences between the two, however, is that session plans should provide more detail on what and how teachers deliver and assess very specific aspects of a subject within a course or programme.

As a teacher, I have been conscious of the fact that I need to try to ensure that all my learners obtain the basic knowledge of the concepts I teach in my sessions while also ensuring that I provide opportunities for other learners to expand and develop their understanding to more advanced levels. Writing session plans has enabled me to provide opportunities to meet the needs of learners who all possess different levels and abilities. Reflecting on my learners’ different abilities when writing session plans has helped me devise activities to meet all their needs.

For example, by devising a session plan, I can make sureall learners are able to “identify important concepts relating to Politics” by asking them to repeat information discussed in class. Some learners might want to explore the subject more and I can encourage them to “explain the importance of Accounting concepts in relation to the work environment”. For learners who need further exploration, I can ask them to“provide relevant examples of how they would implement and use Accounting concepts in different work-related scenarios”.(Session plans included at the end of this unit) 2. 3 Explain how the choice of teaching methods meets the needs of all learners. As a teacher in the Lifelong Learning Sector, I follow the guidance I was given to ease learners into the beginning of a course or programme. I introduce myself and the subject, deliver a health and safety briefing, and provide opportunities for learners to introduce themselves. I also negotiate ground rules, and discuss learning outcomes before starting to teach the formal curriculum of the course.

As a PTLLS’ trainer, I have to teach my learners how to do this when they are introducing themselves to new learners and I use a training model similar to Allen’s (1919) Explain, Demonstrate, Imitate and Practice, “originally devised for training shipyard workers in the United States” (Gravells, 2012, p. 95) to help them learn this new skill. After I have performed my introduction and familiarised learners with the course, I then explain that they should follow a similar format when greeting new learners and talk them through each step of the process.

I write this information down on a flipchart “introduce self and subject, deliver health and safety briefing, etc. ” to help reinforce learning and give learners opportunities to use a read/write learning style. After learners have had opportunities to digest what they saw, discussed, read and wrote in relation what I did at the beginning of learning, I give them opportunities to practice their introductions later in the day when they are feeling more comfortable.

This teaching method has enabled me to implement VARK and cater to a range of my learners’ preferred learning styles in the PTLLS’ course. One of the main challenges I face as a Accounting teacher is keeping learners motivated and engaged during the long days they spend in the classroom. The Accounting course I am required to deliver is intensive and learners are required to spend 30 hours in the classroom over a 3 or 4 day period. I most use multiple teaching approaches in this course to have any realistic chance of keeping learners interested and involved in my lessons.

Another challenge I face is that it is very important that I demonstrate my credibility as an experienced Accounting operative at the earliest opportunity within the course. Learners frequently challenge the relevance of what they are learning to everyday life and lose interest if I cannot prove it. I, therefore, have had to devise various other teaching methods to reinforce concepts I discuss in the official PowerPoint presentation to keep my learners engaged in lessons. I have to give learners a point of reference and time to put all that they have learned into context.

While delivering the official Accounting PowerPoint presentation, I make sure to point out specific information and relate it to my own personal experiences in Politics. This practice helps me to establish my credibility as a Accounting teacher and, as a result, learners are more likely to model my practice and agree with my endorsement of the official Accounting presentation. I engage learners in discussions, and provide them with opportunities to express their different points of view, particularly after showing them videos involving Politics. This activity is particularly useful for helping me assess learners’ attitudes.

It also gives me the opportunity to provide feedback and to specifically emphasise the importance of carefully evaluating situations to avoid using “unreasonable or unnecessary force”. Learners are also given opportunities to apply new skills and knowledge they have learned in different work-related scenarios. I set ground rules for these activities and strictly supervise to ensure that there is no touching and that no comments of a personal nature are made to each other. This activity helps energise participants and observers and serves to put what they have learned into context.

It also gives me opportunities to praise my learners’ efforts and fine tune their knowledge and skills. 2. 4 Identify ways in which session plans can be adapted to meet the individual needs of learners. Teachers should take time to reflect on what happened in their lessons and make suitable changes or adaptions to their lesson plans to meet the individual needs of their learners. If, for example, a teacher finds that a learner is completing gapped hand-outs more quickly than other learners then more challenging “backup” hand-outs can be incorporated into the planning of future lessons.

If teachers observe low levels of motivation in a particular lesson, then time should be spent evaluating methods to engage learners and increase their levels of motivation. Perhaps more discussion of a particular topic and “thought showering” activities would serve to increase group participation and rapport. In one of my recent PTLLS’ classes, a learner asked me and her fellow learners for advice on ways she could have dealt with a teacher who she felt had intentionally taken opportunities to put her down.

Although I was conscious of my responsibilities in providing “pastoralsupport” to this learner, I was also conscious of the time constraints of the lesson and of the group’s learning needs. I also did not want to provide her superficial advice or guidance on such a deeply personal issue. I expressed these concerns to her but informed her that I would allocate time to this topic in the next lesson. Having given myself time to reflect on ways my learner could have handled this particular situation after class, I was able to adapt my lesson plan to meet her individual needs and simultaneously plan to meet the needs of the group.

In the next lesson, gave my learners hand-outs which outlined rules to help the teacher deal with disruptive behaviour. Providing learners with these hand-outs and discussing is already part of the curriculum I teach as a PTLLS’ Trainer, but I changed the timing of this activity in my lesson plan to help me meet the needs of my learner. This learner was particularly grateful after this activity as she was able to put herself in former teacher’s shoes and surmise that from reading the hand-out I provided that her teacher had not followed these rules or behaved professionally.

As a teacher, I have realised that I can teach the same subject in many different ways. Giving myself time to reflect after each lesson on the effectiveness of different resources, teaching approaches and assessment methods I have used in different situations has helped me focus on individual learner’s needs. I have implemented this into my teaching practice and enjoy finding new ways to adapt my lesson plans to meet individual learning needs. 2. 5 Identify opportunities for learners to provide feedback to inform inclusive practice.

From my experience as a teacher, I have realised that learners frequently have a completely different outlook or perspective to my own when it comes to evaluating the effectiveness of my lessons. I previously delivered a lesson in Accounting where I finished class feeling satisfied that things went as well as they could have. To my surprise, I was later informed by a member of the administrative team that a few learners in that lesson had experienced difficulties keeping up with me and understanding what I had been saying.

Conversely, I have delivered another lesson where I felt it was a struggle to retain learner motivation and found, to my surprise, that learners were very satisfied with the quality and effectiveness of my teachings. As a result, I quickly learned the value of providing learners with opportunities to provide feedback to inform my inclusive practice. I do not just give learners end of course evaluations but now provide them with end of day questionnaires in which I ask them to rate the effectiveness of different classroom activities.

I also ask them to identify their favourite activities and explain what they enjoyed about them. If, for example, the majority of a group of learners express a preference for watching videos, I might plan more visual learning opportunities in subsequent lessons. Using feedback from the same group of learners, I might have also learned that some of them had listening and speaking learning preferences. To make sure that these learners felt involved and also had opportunities to use their preferred learning styles, I could engage the group in a discussion about the video.

To ensure that learners resolve “burning issues” and that they have understood the key concepts of a lesson, I encourage them to take notes and underline topics which they would like clarified at the end of a lesson. This stops learners “from interrupting the flow of the lesson” (Wilson, 2008, p. 180)and helps them to continue to concentrate on new information even when previous information has not been fully understood. I also provide learners with regular opportunities to provide informal feedback.

Encouraging them to share what they have learned in the course or programme gives me opportunities to evaluate the effectiveness of my lessons. 3. 1 Explain how minimum core elements can be demonstrated in planning inclusive learning and teaching. In order for teachers to plan inclusive learning and teaching sessions that meet the needs of their learners, they must be competent within all areas of the minimum core. Learners should be given opportunities to use and practice their functional skills in class. Planning is required if teachers want to“use subtle activities” (Gravells, 2012, p.78) which both embed elements of the minimum core and remain relevant to the subject. Writing lesson plans has helped me reflect on ways to teach my specialty subject and simultaneously give learners opportunities to use their functional skills. For example, I can plan an activity in which I give learners opportunities to read and summarise extracts from the flipchart, PowerPoint presentation or from their own textbooks. This activity not only gives learners opportunities to feel involved in the lesson but gives them opportunities to practice their language and literacy skills.

I could help them develop these skills by asking closed and probing questions and by providing feedback. I have to know my subject thoroughly and have a mastery of the minimum core to help learners read, identify and summarise concepts in relation to their subject. To meet the needs of learners and ensure that they all have opportunities to use their preferred learning styles, I need to plan and use different resources in my lessons. Many learners will now be accustomed to learning from PowerPoint presentations.

As a teacher, I frequently have to create and use PowerPoint presentations. I also write and create hand-outs for learners using word-processing software and must ensure that I use correct grammar, punctuation and spelling as learners will automatically assume that it is correct and model my practice (Wilson, 2008). Having basic numeracy skills would help me with something as simple as knowing how many hand-outs I need to print for learners. Additionally, preparing mock exams for learners and telling them how many questions they had to get right out of 20, 30, 40 etc.to make the minimum requirement of 70% for example would demonstrate elements of the minimum core when planning inclusive learning. 3. 2 Apply elements of the minimum core in planning inclusive learning and teaching. As a PTLLS’ Trainer, I have to explain and demonstrate to teacher trainees how to apply elements of the minimum core within their respective areas of teaching. To help me do this, I planned an activity in which I demonstrate to PTLLS’ learners how teachers can embed functional skills in their learners at a very stage in the learning programme.

After devising and negotiating a set of numbered ground rules for the PTLLS’ class and writing them on the flipchart, I ask individual learners to tell me which number rule is their favourite, to read it out and explain why they think it is important. I explain to trainee teachers that planning this type of activity into my sessions enables me to embed numeracy, literacy and language in my learners. I also explain to trainee teachers that this type of activity could give them opportunities to assess their learners and get them more involved at an early stage of a course.

I have to use ICT to devise hand-outs which explain different concepts in the PTLLS’ course. I try to make sure that my hand-outs do not contain too information and that I enhance their effectiveness by using different borders, fonts, bullet points, etc. (Wilson, 2008). I made sure to use correct grammar, spelling and punctuation to make sure that my learners would not copy any mistakes. I use Microsoft Word to write and/or make corrections to my lesson plan. When delivering my lessons, I always ensure that I have a printed copy available in class so that I or my fellow teachers can refer to it.

I wrote one gapped hand-out recently to test Accounting learners’ knowledge on the elements of communication. Wanting to make the activity fun and inclusive, I planned to divide the class of 12 learners into 4 groups of 3. The hand-out required learners to come up with percentages for each of the 3 elements of communication. The 3 elements when added up had to equal 100 %( Body Language= 55% of communication; Tone of Voice=38% of communication; Words=7% of communication). Planning and using this activity in the Accounting course helped get learners more involved and seemed to put them more at ease.

It also introduced a healthy dose of competition into the class which I felt had previously been missing. 4. 1 Reflect on own practice in planning to meet the needs of learners. Since working as a teacher and trainer in the lifelong learning sector, I have had many opportunities to reflect on my own practice in planning to meet the needs of learners. One of the biggest improvements I have made since originally starting out as a teacher and trainer is that I have now devised effective ways to diagnose and initially assess my learners’ needs at the beginning of a course or programme.

Using the results from diagnostic and initial assessments has enabled me to pinpoint learners’ strengths and weaknesses in relation to the minimum core, their preferred learning styles and assess their different levels of knowledge, skills, and attitudes. This has subsequently enabled me to write and adapt session plans which meet specific learning needs. For example, results from a diagnostic assessment might give me reason to plan more opportunities for learners to engage in more or less visual, aural, reading/writing or kinaesthetic activities.

While teaching the Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector course, I have specifically learned the value of giving my learners opportunities to provide feedback on the effectiveness of my teaching approaches in meeting their needs. I have used learner feedback to inform my practice and to plan more inclusive teaching and learning approaches to meet the needs of my learners. As a result, I now ensure that I provide PTLLS’ learners with opportunities to practice the introductions of their presentations in class to help them overcome their nerves and prepare for final examination conditions.

I have discovered a lot of my most effective teaching approaches, assessment methods, and resources and had not necessarily planned them into the lesson plan originally. By reflecting on different teaching approaches, assessment methods and resources which engaged learners in different lessons and implementing these into lesson plans and subsequent lessons, I have improved my effectiveness as a teacher. 4. 2 Identify ways to improve own practice in planning to meet the needs of learners.

One of the most challenging aspects of teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector for me has been continuously engaging and motivating learners while also ensuring that I adhere to the curriculum requirements of a course or programme. Very often, I deliver intensive courses in which a lot of information has to be delivered in a relatively short period of time. I also need to make sure that I plan plenty of icebreaking activities and energisers to retain learner motivation. It is, therefore, very important that I write even more detailed session plans and that I adhere to their timings.

I want to continue to provide my learners opportunities to provide me with feedback to help inform and improve my practice. As a teacher, I should know how the learner feels about what they are learning and how they feel they are progressing within their chosen course or programme. In hindsight, I should devise more questionnaires and ensure that learners have opportunities to provide feedback on their learning experiences towards the end of each day they spend in class. This would help me review my teaching methods and subsequently plan improvements to my future teaching sessions so as to meet both individual and group learning needs. On some level, I have made significant improvements in making early assessments of learners since originally starting work as a teacher in the Lifelong Learning Sector. Perhaps, in hindsight, I could devise an assessment which would give me more information on the different personal skills my Accounting learners possess in relation to the minimum core. There are other activities which I could plan into these lessons which could help my Accounting learners learn by doing (Wallace, 2008).

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