Friday, 29 August 2008

Do better qualified SfL teachers teach better?

Reflect magazine is published three times a year and is always a good read. The latest July 08 issue was delivered to my house about a month ago but I've only just finished browsing.

There are 17 articles. Seven are grouped together as a special report on family and community learning; the remainder range from 'E-learning in Uganda' to a well argued, down-to-earth plea from a Skills for Life tutor (more on this in a later post).

This is a VERY interesting question and the answers might not be what you're expecting...

To be honest, I found it very hard to tease out exactly what the results were but here's my nutshell version:

  • Better qualified (generic - e.g. Cert Ed, PGCE) SfL teachers enable learners to make more progress.

  • Numeracy learners make more progress if their teacher also has A level mathematics or beyond. In contrast, the progress of Literacy and ESOL learners is not markedly improved if their teacher has an English qualification beyond GCSE.

  • Students’ enjoyment of numeracy is higher if the teacher also has a maths degree or postgraduate qualification but beware: these teachers are also related to a decrease in learners' confidence about numeracy skills.

This doesn’t surprise me - I've met high level mathematicians who just cannot get back to ground level (but I’ve met others who can and do!). As a test try this: ask someone with a maths PhD what a fraction is (I’ve tried this myself with someone I know well…).

However, I am rather confused by the results of this research. I would have thought that confidence and progress in numeracy work hand in hand so am not sure what the ideal is here…

Maybe a teacher with AS level maths – who knows!

I should point out that this research is ongoing and the authors, Olga Cara and Augustin de Coulon, welcome feedback and comments.

You can read Reflect online at the NRDC (National Research and Development Centre for Adult Literacy and Numeracy) site
(Select the 'publications' tab). The magazine can be read as individual on-line articles or as a single, large PDF file. You can also subscribe and receive free printed versions.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Freebies from NIACE / Basic Skills Agency

I've been updating my links pages - a mammoth task that is only tackled once a year. There are three links pages (each with 200+ links) on skillsworkshop - and, thankfully, now just one of them left to check.

The Basic Skills Agency merged with NIACE (National Institute for Adult Continuing Education) sometime ago. This morning, whilst editing and removing the dead links to these sites, I was inadvertently diverted and sidetracked (you know how it happens!) into taking a look at some of the 'old' BSA resources. Now archived, these resources can be reached via the NIACE site and purchased online with a credit card (or by phone if you want to be invoiced).

Don't miss out on the free PDF downloads that are scattered amongst their more pricey cousins. To find these, select the 'Free downloads only' button in the 'Product search' area. Tip: no not select 'Resources from England' or you will miss out on many resources that are published in English and Welsh (within one document) including most of the resources I'm about to mention...

KS3 Text Type posters' is a set of 2 x 5 A4 posters (English/Welsh) - as depicted at the top of this page (click on this picture for a larger view). Great for classroom display or for passing around and general discussion. Aimed at secondary school students but perfectly OK for adults (Entry 3 upwards). There are also two related booklets for teachers, rather ungrammatically entitled: 'How to teach Information Text' and 'How to teach Instruction and Explanation text'.

'How to measure at KS3' is another good one for teachers. Common problems and misunderstandings are discussed and there are useful resource sheets such as this one (right) relating common objects to metric measures.

Last but not least is the 'Help yourself' maths pack - 20 pages of facts, clear explanations and questions for learners to improve and then check their understanding.

Note that if you don't have the facilities or the desire to print out glossy colour copies, most of the free downloadable resources can also be ordered online. The postage is fairly reasonable - especially if you are ordering many items (e.g. 1 item £1.50, up to 4 items £2.00, up to 10 items £3.50, etc.).

This is just a taster - there are many more freebies in the BSA archive.
If you discover any gems do share them by leaving a blog comment or emailing me via the site. ... likewise if you find any dead links on the skillsworkshop links pages!

Links pages
Useful links for tutors - professional development, teaching and learning, good books and software, government agencies and departments (inc. links to the on-line interactive curricula and resources), learning difficulties and disabilities, study skills, and more.
Printable resources for adult basic skills - our most popular links page (approx 2000 visits per week). Lists other resource sites with free printable resources suitable for adults. These are arranged under 6 categories: realia sites for good examples of real-life texts, educational clip art and web graphics, pre-entry, literacy and numeracy, literacy only, numeracy only, and ESOL.
Embedding ILT (information & learning technology): interactive sites for adult basic skills tutors and students - hundreds of links arranged under: general computer skills and accessibility issues, pre-entry, literacy and numeracy, literacy only, numeracy only, and ESOL.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Wordle and Hilda Taba

I'm delighted to say that, since my earlier post on Using Wordle in the Classroom, I've received some new resource ideas from site-contributor Dave Norgate.

Find all the prepositions.

Sort the words into two columns - correctly spelt and misspelt.

These ideas will be appearing on the site sometime next week - complete with instructions, answer sheets and curriculum links.

I really like the idea of 'sorting' in the second picture (and 'listing' in the first). It brings back distant PGCE memories of Hilda Taba and her 'concept development model'.

Of course you could give your learners either of the pictures above with no instructions.


Well - this gets them thinking about the words (and the concepts). If they come up with the sorting or listing ideas themselves they'll be more engaged and have ownership of the resource.

Here's a few questions you could ask if needed.

These questions were inspired by information on this site

  • What do you notice about these words?
  • Do any of these words seem to belong together?
  • Why would you group these words together?
  • What would you call the groups?
  • Could some of the words belong in other groups?
  • Can you suggest other words that you could add to these groups?
  • Can you make your own Wordle pictures?
  • What if....
I reckon this idea could be adapted for numeracy: sorting out maths vocabulary words; ranking measures in order of size; sorting measures into length, weight or capacity; sorting shapes (well, names of shapes) according to properties; etc.

For more on Taba:
The PDF above can also be located from this menu page: (select Concept Formation)

There's also good clear coverage of Taba's model in Teaching Young Adults (Gill Turner, Joe Harkin, Trevor Dawn) RoutledgeFalmer 2001 (one of my PGCE set books).

I’m sure there are lots more possibilities so I'll finish by repeating my request from the previous Wordle post: if you have any Wordle ideas you’d like to share please get in touch or leave a comment.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

July 08 Site Stats

I posted up the new site stats on Sunday; they're a bit late this month because I've been on holiday.

Just as last month (see the June 08 site stats post in this blog), I am again bemused by what's popular and what's not!

June's No1 (Andrea McCulloch's Dr Who resource) has been pushed to No 2 position by Laurence Fletcher's Entry 1-Entry 3 Health and Safety reading activities (1042 downloads).

I have no idea why Health and Safety should be so popular in the middle of the summer holiday period but the resource well deserves its pole position. Laurence has cleverly combined humour, cartoons, facts and fiction to provide practice in sequencing, prediction and comprehension - along with more standard health and safety instructions! The two stories are rather like modern-day fables - warning the reader of the dangers of shredders and bus windows - and will appeal to all ages and levels!