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30 November: Measurement and Sushi

2 December 2010

Thanks to Paul for his session on measurement.

  • Among the items we discussed afterwards was again the desirability (and practicability) of technology, and the virtues of keeping things simple.
  • The special demands of teaching in a prison environment came up, but some of the themes about class management and defining the situation are common to all settings.
  • Use of jargon and plain language came up, too. You might find this page explores some of the less obvious background to that.
  • Paul had planned for everything, with the IDs on the planes, the post-it notes to mark the landings, and so on; the detail of the planning can certainly increase learners’ confidence that the teacher knows what they are doing. This led on to how to handle getting something wrong.

One thing we did not discuss–again a background issue about theory–was the use of the very active, concrete activities to get at teaching a fairly abstract skill (measuring). There’s an angle on it here (not about “kinaesthetic learning style”).

And so to Caroline’s session on the preparation of sushi–we did not have time to discuss properly the mico-teaching itself, unfortunately, but several points did emerge.

  • the first concerns risk assessment! Caroline was very careful about warning us all to wash our hands because we would be handling food, and reminding up about the danger of the very sharp knives. It was up to me, however, as the “manager” of the session to ensure that in the event of anything going wrong, plans were in place to put it right. In the event, there was a slight problem in that Caroline cut herself (with the scissors!), but that exposed the problem of the university that First Aid boxes were not readily accessible, the security staff on at that time in the evening did not know where they were located, and that when found they did not contain any plasters…
  • the second was that Caroline’s planning was as meticulous as Paul’s; it was quite an achievement to do so much in twenty minutes, and the preparation requirements were considerable (thanks to all of you who helped with that). In the informal discussion, the question  was raised as to whether the plans were too ambitious: I don’t think so, but in relation to teaching such as this, the “return on investment” does need to be considered carefully.
  • …on the other hand, the participation was great, and the indirect learning which could (and does frequently) come from a shared activity among a small group of learners does pay a real dividend. In that sense, while the group was probably as big as could be managed for the task (the support for individual learners aspect was very time-consuming), it was a pity that not all colleagues could be present.
  • and there was discussion of how the time could have been used more efficiently. Demonstrate each step and get learners to try that step before proceeding? That would cut out the beginning-to-end demonstration at the start. But at what cost? Presumably a potential loss of the overall picture. Sometimes that doesn’t matter; I can remember being taught the basics of perspective at at school by the art teacher giving us very specific instructions about measuring and drawing lines without ever revealing the point of them. But when this almost 3-d picture of a (very modernist) building emerged, it was amazing. But sometimes you just won’t get how important it is to get a particular step right until you realise how much relies on that step, and that can only happen when you have an overview. These are all real trade-offs and there are no perfect answers…

I should have mentioned on the blog that I have changed the video system; I’m recording on a hard-disc camcorder and then burning the results to DVD afterwards. It does mean you don’t get the recording to take away the same day, but it does pretty well guarantee that you will be able to watch it.

By my reckoning there is just Graham to go next week. So we shall be able to get in to some “matters arising” from the series of micro-teaching sessions. Please give them some thought, and if you think I’ll need time to prepare, please let me know in advance by email. (Just go to one of my web-pages and click on the link to me at the bottom–I don’t put a direct “mailto” address on the blog as a spam precaution.)

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