Changing times are an impetus for a practice – and a curriculum – spring clean

Image by Andreas Lischka from Pixabay 

It’s been fabulous starting up the sixth cohort of the Award in Education and Training for new Apprenticeship and leaderships and management trainers at MET Academy / EMR. Yes, it’s been strange not hopping on the train to Nuneaton and meeting everybody face to face, and it’s been a real challenge redesigning the whole curriculum using zoom webinars for learning facilitation, but totally worth it.

Circumstances forcing a complete rethink like this are often a really good thing. It’s given me a great opportunity to totally overhaul the Award course and ask which resources and activities were still fit for purpose and which needed replacing. Once we return to face-to-face learning facilitation – which we hope to for the micro teach at the end of the summer – a lot of the digital feedback and assessment for learning tools that I’ve adopted as an online necessity will become welcome fixtures that stay on a permanent basis.

I can’t imagine the learning space now without Menti polls, GoConqr quizzes and flashcards or a Padlet discussion and resource board, even when we do return to more conventional spaces. Even those welcome discoveries such as the Classroomscreen.com website for timing of activities, calendar dates, random learner name selection and fun dice games will surely become a permanent fixture of the ‘normal’ teacher education room.

I’ve been really encouraged by how engaged learners have been when using digital tools for collaboration, assessment and reflection – even those who were cautious and reticent at the start of a course can see their value in terms of flexibility of learning and the building of transferable digital skills.

As well as resources and facilitation getting a spring clean, it’s also been time for a significant curriculum overhaul. Just because and awarding organisation specification still mentions visual and verbal learning styles, these are only listed as a possible option for the tutor to focus on. When I first began with these cohorts 6 or 7 years ago, VARK diagnostics were still ubiquitous. There was an unspoken orthodoxy clinging to the idea of visual, verbal and kinaesthetic learning preferences, despite mounting evidence that they were a myth – simply commonly-held neuro-mythology in fact!

The move online has been a great opportunity to not only challenge that orthodoxy but also discuss with learners how theories of learning that were simply accepted as best practice a decade or more ago get overhauled by new research and thinking. So it’s been out with VARK and in with more thoroughly embedded neurodiversity approaches, metacognition and dual coding principles while still retaining some of the better evidence-based learning preference diagnostics more centred on personality types and different intelligences than simplistic information processing.

Though there’s been a lot of tragedy and distress stemming from the pandemic, some of the changes teachers have been forced to make have caused invaluable ‘stop and think’ points. These forks in the road allowed me for one to ask myself if I should continue doing things a certain way simply because I always have?

The enforced change has been so productive that it’s made me make a resolution for it not to take something as significant as a global pandemic next time before I take a good long hard look at an established curriculum and decide that it’s time for an overhaul.

Published by ltaylerson

I am a former FE Computing and Teacher Education Curriculum Leader and ex-BBC engineer and trainer. Worcestershire-based, I specialise in teacher education and CPD, educator mentoring, digital skills and pedagogy, I am director of Real Time Education, an independent provider and a keen commentator on further education and digital skills on social media @realtimeedu. I completed a PhD in Education investigating teachers' use of informal social media dialogues for professional learning in April 2020.

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