Who would ever have expected last year to turn out the way it did! As we commence into the unknown of teaching amidst Covid precautions, I reflect on what went well, changes made and the lessons learnt.
Last year I aimed to try three new things: Consolidation Packs, half termly quizzes and folders. Two out of three of these were a success – well for the first half of the year they were.
Firstly the Consolidation Packs, a booklet organised with a Blank Sheet Summary and Essay Question for each topic. Each week my students routinely had a Consolidation lesson on the previous week’s topic, allowing them to forget and then re-learn the topic. Every consolidation lesson followed the same structure: revise for ten minutes, from memory write down everything can remember on a blank sheet, using notes fill in any gaps, test then essay writing. This routine emphasized more testing over revising, key to memory training (see The Science of Learning for more information on memory and recall).
I asked my students what they thought and there were mixed responses, mainly positive but a few, as expected, were not as keen. Some comments included: “I thought they were really helpful, gave time to ask questions and clarify any missing areas from the topics” and “The KKT’s and blank sheet summaries were very useful because they forced me to revise the topics as we completed them” and “The exam questions with a guide for structure were extremely helpful.” For more information on the Consolidation Packs see: Revision Must-Do: Blank Sheet Summary
Secondly the half termly quizzes, whilst only doing three, seemed to work really well. The aim was to test the students on their key words. So after October half term I created a table of all the key philosophical words encountered thus far e.g. A Priori and the students had to write the definition for each word. After Christmas they got the same list of words with new ones added. After February they got the previous two tests with all the further new words added. This is a retrieval strategy, once again designed to train their memory, moving the words from short to long term recall.
Lastly the folders never happened due to budgeting, however generally my students maintain very organised folders to support their revision.
Last year also had a few firsts for me. These included:
- The charity event which exploded beyond all my expectations. The Philosophy Ambassadors and I collected donations to fill the local Yorkshire Coast Sight Support charity shop. Well my classroom was flooded with generous offerings. After one week of collecting, we have over 30 bin liners and multiple boxes which in two cars and many trips, delivered the collection to the charity shop.
- Using the examiner’s mark scheme within assessments. I created a table which broke down the different exam criteria and students highlighted which sections applied to their work. Afterwards they awarded their essay a mark and grade, just like an examiner. This got them thinking about what the examiners were expecting and whether their writing portrayed this.
- I ran a Teacher Toolkit Enrichment supporting students who wished to go into Primary or Secondary teaching. Every week I worked through a different educational theme from behaviour management to SEN and how to be successful in an interview.
- Then lockdown happened… this led to a whole new world of teaching! From live lessons on YouTube to one to one virtual feedback sessions using OBS Studio to setting and marking work remotely. I also signed up for a short online course in Educational Studies which I enjoyed completing from my sunny garden.
So what does the future hold? Well I am going to continue using the Consolidation Packs and half termly quizzes to try re-establish some routine and structure.
I am also teaching a new subject this year: Criminology, which I absolutely cannot wait! I have taught General Studies and Extended Project on and off over the years but never another full qualification. I am one week in and I am loving how similar it is to Philosophy in that we can explore and discuss interesting ethical topics such as honour killings, genocide and homelessness without the intense pressure of keeping up with the tight timeframe.
Teaching wise I am going to start using my Surface Go during lessons to help make assessment lessons more interesting. Finally I have also started to teach myself Sign Language which I am thoroughly enjoying. I wanted to do something to develop my own skills beyond teaching and it seemed like an invaluable skill that could overlap with my job as well.