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The Teaching and Learning Cycle Essay

a) Teaching and Learning Cycle

The teaching and learning cycle is about how we assess and teach learners and the different stages of teaching and learning. There are four stages in the teaching and learning cycle: initial and diagnostic assessment, course and lesson planning, teaching and learning, and assessment and review (summative and formative assessment). Each stage is key in determining what happens in the next stage and that ‘the cycle involves a complex interweaving of the two’: teaching and learning (Derrick and Gawn, in Schwab and Hughes 2010: 282. Gravells suggest that for teaching and learning to be effective, all stages must be addressed (Gravells 2012). The first stage is the initial and diagnostic assessment. This is key in identifying key information about the learner: their reasons for doing the course, their goals and aspirations, their previous education and work history, and any additional information that will give a clear picture about the learner. This stage will assess the four key skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing.

The initial assessment is carried out on a face-to-face basis and the diagnostic assessment is done either on paper or on a computer. The results from the diagnostic assessment, measured against the DFES national standard, will help place the learner in the appropriate class. The diagnostic assessment provides key information about what the learner can do. An analysis of the diagnostic assessment provides information about why the learner is making those errors. This information enables teacher to set targets for the learner. The learning targets are put forward in the form on an ILP (Individual Learning Plan). The ILP is conducted in a tutorial between the teacher and the learner and is a personal document for the learner to review and track their progress. Once the initial and diagnostic assessments are completed, the teacher has enough information to plan the course: the second stage.

Planning needs to be aimed at delivering coherent, well-structured and effective classes with clear aims and objectives and a clear end goal. Armitage states that ‘the ultimate goal of our planning, whether we are working with a small or large group or with individuals, should be to enable each learner to achieve their potential during the learning experience’ (Armitage, 2012:103). The planning stage, in the form of a scheme of work, is a combination of the Core Curriculum standards and the final summative assessment. The scheme of work ‘provides an overview of learning activities over a specified period of time’ (Derrick and Gawn, in Hughes and Schwab, 2010: 284) but can change throughout the course.

Teachers will take into consideration the needs of individual learners and the learning objectives of that group. During teaching and learning (third stage), formative assessment takes place throughout the course. Formative assessment helps teachers find out how the students are progressing and what areas need to be evaluated or to be taught and can affect the scheme of work. It is conducted both formally (through a tutorial) and informally (during a lesson). Gravells points out that a formative assessment can enable teachers to see if the learners are ‘ready prior to a summative assessment’ (Gravells, 2012: 116) which is the final stage of the teaching and learning cycle.

Summative assessments are usually carried out at the end of the course (some courses may be at the end of a unit or school term) by an external examining body but in some colleges, they are carried out internally. The results from the summative assessment are measurable by the DFES national standards and provide proof of the learner’s achievement, usually in the form of a certificate where learner’s can use it to progress or move on to employment or other routes in education. Once the summative assessment is conducted, should the learner stay on in the course, the teaching and learning cycle does not start at stage one but goes straight to stage two; planning.

b) Initial and Diagnostic Assessment and ILPs

For the purpose of this essay, I am going to use the E3 Literacy class that I teach at City and Islington College (CANDI) to discuss the tools used for initial and diagnostic assessment and the process of drawing up an ILP. I will use the example of a learner and for this, I will call her Learner A. Learner A arrives at CANDI with the aim to improve her literacy skills. She would like to do a training course to teach drama. Her first initial meeting is with one of the basic skills staff, usually a Literacy teacher, who conducts a short interview to find out about Learner A’s previous educational and work experience, her goals and aspirations, any special educational support needs, and basic information about her interests and family. After the initial meeting, the teacher judges what level the learner should be assessed. The teacher gives Learner A the Entry 3 Literacy Diagnostic Assessment from Excellence Gateway (app 1.1). Learner A completes the test as expected and is placed in an Entry 3 course.

The test made clear Learner A’s error pattern in spelling and punctuation. The teacher meets with Learner A again draws up the ILP. The results from the Diagnostic Assessment enables the teacher to set targets in her ILP (app 1.2). At CANDI the ILP Is drawn up online using SMART targets; targets that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time based. This online system allows the teacher to set the learning targets but also update them as the course goes on. Initially, the targets set for Learner A were to: read closer for meaning, proofread for closer meaning, and punctuation and sentence structure. The targets were reviewed and new ones set in February when Learner A and the teacher met in a formal tutorial. These targets were reset due to the on-going formative assessment on Learner A’s progress.

The information gained from the initial and diagnostic assessments were useful in helping the teacher plan the scheme of work and identify key areas of learning support for Learner A. From observation, it is clear to see that the initial assessment, especially for this specific group, does not have a great impact on planning the scheme of work. The results from the learners’ diagnostic assessments have a greater impact on the scheme of work because the teacher is be able to see what areas the group needs to focus on. For example, if 15 of the 20 students had errors in reading and sequencing, the teacher will include reading and sequencing tasks in the scheme of work. The teacher will create differentiated materials to suit the learner’s level and needs.

c) Detailed rationale for a lesson plan

On my training practice, I teach a group of Literacy learners at Entry 3 at CANDI. I have chosen to discuss lesson 4 (app 2.4). I teach a group of 12 learners. English in not the first language for some learners and some learners have special support needs: dyslexia and visual impairment. For the learner who has a visual impairment, the materials were enlarged by 141%. This context of the lesson is to teach learners telephone techniques when asking for information about a job. Learners are currently doing employability and have covered areas in looking at job adverts, highlighting their skills and qualities and applying communication skills when applying for a job. The first part of the lesson, students are asked to think of a time when they telephoned to ask for more information about a job.

This is a constructivists approach to learning where students are bringing in their prior knowledge into the classroom. In this case, learning becomes more meaningful to students because they are taking an active role in learning. The lesson is based on listening tasks where learners are able to listen for detail, which is a task, that some of the learners find difficult. Scaffolding allows the learners to present their ideas, listen to see if their ideas are similar to those in the listening activities, to listen to ways of perfecting their phone call and to come up with possible questions to ask for information about a job. The matching activity reflects the Zone of Proximal Development put forward by Vygotsky (1978) in that learners must be presented with tasks that are just out of their ability so that it can promote learning. Some of the learners find it difficult to match words with meaning.

To evaluate, the lesson went well and the learners were engaged in the discussion about asking for information about a job over the phone. They came up with some excellent tips for making a phone call. I was pleased with the way the learners completed the matching activity and how engaged they were in coming up with questions to ask using the titles given. However, there was need for a lot of development in the lesson. It would have been better to provide a hand-out for the learners to write their questions for the titles so that they could have them for future reference. I believe that a role-play activity would have allowed them to practice their telephone skills maybe in the form of a sorting activity and then practiced the role-play. However, at the end of the lesson, it would have been good to review what the learners had learnt, which would have allowed room to test progress and to see if learning had taken place.

d) Summative Assessment

A summative assessment is based on assessing the learner through a series of assessment tools such as examinations (typically done by an external body) or through portfolios and coursework. They are usually conducted at the end of the course; however, some institutes do them at the end of term or throughout the course. According to Derrick and Gawn (citied in Hughes and Schwab, 2010), assessments play an important role in providing evidence that learners can use in future employment or ‘providing public recognition of achievement’ (Derrick and Gawn, citied in Hughes and Schwab, 2010: 279). Aside from proving what a learner has retained in the form of knowledge gained from the course, summative assessments also provide an understanding to see whether the learner has achieved the skills to be able to progress to the next level.

For the Literacy Entry 3 training class I teach at CANDI, there is no external examination at the end but the learners are assessed internally on their achievement: have they met the goals set out in their ILP and can they provide evidence that they have met their goals? They provide evidence through their portfolio that consists of assignments set for them in class or for homework, mainly in the form of written pieces of writing ranging from a cover letter to filling out a form. Specific to this class the summative assessment, for progression to the next level, includes the assessment of the following: proof that learners have met their learning targets (usually in the form of a portfolio), have 90% attendance, have a good attitude and effort, and they are punctual.

e) Tracking and evidencing progress

Tracking and evidencing progress is important to teachers so they know how their learners are doing and what they need to improve on. Gravells points out that ‘if accurate records are not maintained, your students’ progress may become unstructured and their achievement may not be recognised or documented’ (Gravells, 2012: 17). This is done through formative assessments, usually carried out throughout the course. For teachers, tracking and evidencing progress makes sure that the learners are meeting the objectives but also that the national teaching standards are met. There are specific skills that are set out the in Core Curriculum and teachers must prove that learners are acquiring those skills. For the Literacy Entry 3 class, the teacher gives a piece of written work once a week and provides written feedback, which highlights the positive and provides areas of improvement.

Theses goals are then discussed in the formal tutorial where the teacher will track and evidence their progress in their ILP (Individual Learning Plan). New targets are set and the teacher provides the necessary work that will allow the learners to reach those targets. At CANDI, the ILPs are kept online so it is easier for teachers to update and track progress. Tracking and evidencing progress acts as proof to show that teachers are reaching their teaching goals and objectives. Teaching institutes will have external (OFSTED) and internal inspections to check teaching standards and review teachers. By keeping track and evidencing progress of learners, teachers are able to prove that learning is taking place and that they are achieving the goals and reaching the targets set out in the Core Curriculum.

Armitage, A. (2012). Teaching and training in lifelong learning (4th ed.). Maidenhead: Open University Press: 103 Derrick and Gawn, in Hughes, N., Schwab, Irene, (2010). Teaching adult literacy: Principles and practice Maidenhead: Open University Press: Chapter 8 Gravells, A. (2012). Preparing to teach in the lifelong learning sector (5th ed.). London: Learning Matters: 17, 116,

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