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#177

Being a Teaching Assistant in the UK

emoticon:beaker Delia is from Romania. She did an English and Romanian Literature degree and speaks better English than most natives I know. Smile

Despite this it is slightly ironic that she is now teaching ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) to newly arrived asylum seekers, refugees, immigrants and economic migrants. This is part of our basic skills program at the Jesus Centre.

In recent years our blessed government has made two changes to the teaching of basic skills in the UK. First it has committed to increasing the provision of basic skills (to adults) in the UK. Secondly it has dramatically increased the qualifications required by basic skills tutors and their assistants, to the point where by 2010 the majority of those who are teaching now won't be qualified for the job. Surprised

Delia has just started a new course by the Northamptonshire Learning Partnership. This will qualify her to be a teaching assistant and is a step along the way to be a qualified teacher.

She has completed the first part of the course, an introduction to teaching basic skills (like literacy, numeracy and ESOL) to adult learners. In January she starts the second part which is specialised for teaching ESOL.

Some of the course has been very useful, especially the parts on lesson planning. Other parts seem more concerned with an ability to write essays with the maximum possible density of current teaching jargon and minimum possible relevance to the realities of the classroom.

I thought it might be useful to someone if I published here some of the coursework she has had to do (some of which was new to me).

Gerunds

Are you interested in working for us?
I'm not very good at learning languages.
Sue must be fed up with studying.
What are the advantages of having a car?
Thanks very much for inviting me to your party.
How about meeting for lunch tomorrow?
Why don't you go out instead of sitting at home all the time?
Carol went to work in spite of feeling ill.

An Exercise Using Gerunds

  1. They denied ... ... ... ... ... ... the money. (steal)
  2. I don't enjoy ... ... ... ... ... ... ... very much. (drive)
  3. I don't want ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... out tonight. I'm too tired. (go)
  4. I can't afford ... ... ... ... ... ... out tonight. I don't have enough money. (go)
  5. Has it stopped ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... yet? (rain)
  6. Our team was unlucky to lose the game. We deserved ... ... ... ... ... (win)
  7. Why do you keep ... ... ... ... ... ... me questions? Can't you leave me alone? (ask)
  8. Please stop ... ... ... ... ... me questions! (ask)
  9. I refuse ... ... ... ... ... ... ... any more questions. (answer)
  10. One of the boys admitted ... ... ... ... ... ... the window. (breaking)
  11. If the company continues ... ... ... ... ... ... money, the factory may be closed. (lose)
  12. The boy's father promised ... ... ... ... ... .... for the window to be repaired. (pay)
  13. "Does Sarah know about the meeting?". "No, I forgot ... ... ... ... ... ... ... her". (tell)
  14. The baby began ... ... ... ... ... ... in the middle of the night. (cry)
  15. Julia has been ill, but now she's beginning ... ... ... ... ... ... better. (get)
  16. I've enjoyed ... ... ... ... ... ... ... you. I hope ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... you again soon. (see, meet)

A Case Study: An Induction Course

This essay is a case study in teaching an induction course for a company. The company hasn't run the induction course for a long time and the teacher has only just been notified she will be delivering it. Some of the attendees are new to the company and some have already been working there for a few weeks. The task is to identify and overcome the barriers in delivering the course.

Part I

One of the challenges that I would identify when preparing my delivery for this group of learners is the fact that I have been given a rather short notice. Despite the fact that that training programme is already documented, I would still need to adjust it to my own teaching style and to the group I am going to teach. Most certainly, the already-existing training materials are designed for a homogeneous group of learners, on the assumption they are all new to the organisation. In order to overcome this initial challenge I will have to alter various parts of the training programme to suit a group of learners that is rather heterogeneous: 4 members are new to the company, having started this week; other 4 members have been working for the company for 5 weeks; the last 4 have been working for it for 10 weeks. For a start, would involve the learners in the course planning from the first session, for instance, by using a questionnaire to find out which topics are of most interest and which topics have already been covered (e.g. the employees who have been working for the company for 10 weeks already know where the facilities are in the building). I will have to find out what most of the learners have in common n terms of goal, motivation or needs, so I can set an aim and objectives for my scheme of work.

One drawback of the fact that the course hasn't been undertaken for over 6 months is that the information it contains might be, in places, not valid any longer. For example, the number of staff might have increased/decreased, the policies of the company might have changed, or the health and safety rules might have become stricter. As their tutor, I will make sure I provide my students with the most up-to-date information about their company.

A third challenge brought up by this particular group of learners is finding a way to motivate them to attend the course. To the employees who have been working for the company for 5 weeks or more, attending an induction course seems pointless as they already know the about the structure of the company and its regulations. The 4 members who have started this week will be, probably, the only ones genuinely interested in the course, since it will introduce them to the nomenclature of the organisation, the facilities and the rights and responsibilities that they have as members. I am assuming my learners work for different departments of the company (e.g. accounts, security etc), therefore I can outline, at the beginning of the course, that one of the aims is to get people to know each other and other departments and to see a larger picture of their work place. The learners will be given their own information pack with contact names and numbers, who to go to for complaints, career advice, access to resources and bonuses.

Part II

The manager decided to organise the induction at a very short notice. Some of the learners might not be able to attend (e.g. they might be on their annual leave). Also, the induction has been scheduled for 3 days consecutively, which means it is an intensive course that will require a lot of effort and time on the learners' part. They will have to re-organise their evening times (e.g. instead of spending time with their family doing their domestic duties, they will have to take time to read through the coursework and complete their assignments). This might affect their close relationships, even create family tensions.

Most people will have already a transport routine- they have already found the bus/train timetable that suits them. Having a course starting later, at 9.30am, might cause them difficulties in finding the right means of transport.

Some employees could only be working part-time, for example single mothers that have to leave work early to pick up children from school; they won't be able to stay on the course until 4.30pm. Also, they might not be able to arrive at 9.30 as they have to drop children at school first.

Other employees could be working for the company 2 days a week only. Since during the rest of the week they are employed somewhere else, they won't be able to attend all the 3 sessions of the course. They haven't been told about the induction early enough to arrange time off with the other employer.

Considering all learners are adult learners with responsibilities outside work, I would not give them heavy coursework to do at home. I might give out short questionnaires/surveys they can answer at home and hand in next day, or complete at the end of each session. Taking into account the fact that some trainees are part-time workers, I would have printed handouts for every section of my discussion and would make sure they get to the learners that have not been able to attend all sessions.

In order to motivate these employees to attend the induction, the company could allow them to have the rest of the week off. Everybody would definitely appreciate 2 days off to plan the rest the week and even to arrange with someone else to help with their childcare.

The best way to motivate learners is to run a very interesting course in terms of both method of presentation and information provided. The contents of the course should be challenging enough to keep the 'veteran' employees interested, but not too difficult so the newest employees feel inferior and lose interest.

Part III

Some people in the group might already know one another but, more than certainly, there will be quite a few of them who do not know anyone else. To warm up the atmosphere, I thought of 2 icebreakers. The first one consists of splitting the group in pairs, giving people numbers from 1 to 6, each number setting off to seek for its pair. They have up to 10 minutes to share with each other their names, length of employment, department, family, interests etc, after which period they all come back together and share with the rest of the group at least 5 things about their partner. This icebreaker helps people not only to get to know someone else in their group, but also to feel on a more personal level of relationship with the others by sharing with them about someone else they have just met. They can feel they are beginning to develop relationships of trust with one another and feel more comfortable and relaxed- which is essential in a learning atmosphere.

The second icebreaker follows on the same line as the first one but on a whole group level. On a large inflatable beach ball I write, with a fine permanent market, as many questions as I can possibly fit in. The learners sit in a circle and the ball gets thrown around. The person who catches it has to answer the question touching their left thumb, then they say their name and throw the ball to someone else. Examples of questions:

  1. What is your favourite movie line?
  2. If you were invisible, where would you go?
  3. How many jokes do you know by heart? Tell us your favourite.

The list of questions can be a lot longer. This icebreakers would probably be inappropriate without the first activity mentioned earlier (when the group split in pairs) because some questions require well-thought, long answers, and most people wouldn't feel ready to talk about themselves yet.

At the end of these 'warm-up' activities the learners would feel they know at least one person well enough to start a conversation (the one they met during the first icebreaker) and they would feel they've had a chance to talk about themselves as well. The learning environment would be relaxed.

Part IV

My learners will have different levels of knowledge of and interest in the induction course, so I would generally avoid having them all sat around tables, assuming they would choose to sit with the ones that are on their level. For the icebreakers I would have the chairs arranged in a circle, so that everyone feels included and a part of the team. Before the sessions I would set up a drinks' table inside the training room and making use of the coffee machine outside the door. Prior to each session we will have hot drinks and time to talk to one another. There will also be 2 tea breaks during the day, and we will be using the drinks' table and the coffee machine again.

For the activities that require writing, I would set up tables, but encourage the learners to sit with someone else every time so that they can get to know and work with as many colleagues as possible.

The laptop computer and the power point projector are very versatile: with a bit of imagination you can create very interesting effects on your lesson displays that can look really attractive. Even to the employees who have been working for the company for almost 2 months and think they know everything about it, a power point presentation can reveal a whole new perspective on the work-related topics. The laptop computer stores information regarding all the 3 sessions so I can always go back to what I taught the previous day and show it to the members of the group that were absent that day.

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Posted by Fuzzyman on 2006-12-23 16:43:10 | |
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