Displays Level 2 STLS – Short Course

A Short Displays Course to Support Level 2 STLS?

Displays Level 2 STLS - Short Course
Displays Level 2 STLS – Short Course – an interesting addition?

Just been looking again at running a 3 day on-line intensive course about the displays optional unit for UK Teaching Assistants doing Level 2 STLS (Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools).

  • We would take 3 days to cover the knowledge base.
  • I would work with them to make sure they understand exactly what evidence they need to gather for their assessor.
  • Learners would then have a workbook to complete which would provide evidence for their portfolio.

Costs are yet to be worked out but using my own site lets me keep them quite reasonable. Teaching assistants (and teachers!) mostly fund themselves to take my courses so it needs to be inexpensive.

I decided against a self-study version due to upcoming changes in the VAT position with regards to digital sales. (Basically all digital books and any ‘automatically delivered’ digital courses will be subject to VAT from January. Boo Hiss!)

I’m really not sure though. I’ve been happy avoiding the NVQ style evidence box ticking with the Basic and Advanced courses. The Basic course produces people with a better understanding of display basics than the performance criteria of the STLS standards ever would. However there is a demand for the STLS course.

Still pondering this – what do people think?

Flickr – finding individual member’s contributions

Not perfect but a good work around:

To find all of the photos contributed by any group member, start by clicking on the narrow box to the right of the buddy icon. Click “Send Flickrmail.” (you won’t be sending any mail). In the browser window, locate the member’s ID; it will consist of 12 characters, 8 numbers, @N and two digits.

(NOTE: Some older IDs will have fewer than eight digits.)

Highlight the ID by clicking and dragging your mouse. Do not include the slashes ( / ).

Copy to your clipboard (CTRL-C).

Go to the first page of your group’s pool. In the browser window, paste the ID to the end of the URL (CTRL-V). Click “go” or the arrow, depending on your browser. This will display all of the photos in the group pool added by the member (via flickr help forum)

Finding all contributions from a member of a Flickr group

Life Without Goals – setting intentions for the new year

Life without goals? Ironic or what? I’ve been teaching goal setting and target setting all term but I don’t do it myself! I’ve tried goal setting and all it does, for me, is set me up to feel like a failure.

It’s a dirty little secret but lots of people feel this way. Goals, or worse yet, New Year Resolutions, can be really destructive. I don’t care how carefully they are set, I’ve been down the whole SMART route, they don’t help me. I’m not daft enough to think I’m unique in this. I know the same is true for some other people. Your mileage may vary. Of course. I am not you.

For me then, I had to find a different way. I still need to make progress. I even need to (cringes) get things done! So how to do it? I’m going to continue with what I’ve been doing for the last six months and work on Action Logging.

ActionLogr - the antidote to To-Do Lists

I’m going to combine that with setting a word for the year. This is an idea I toyed with last year but then forgot to actually do 🙂

Setting a word works better than resolutions for some people and Quinn (Choosing Your Word) has written a lovely post that explains exactly why that’s the case. I’ll just quote a little bit from her post:

The word should be limber and supple, without any stiffness of punishment, or hashmarks to measure yourself with and find yourself coming up short.

Sounds perfect. I’m going to do a bit of reflection and see what I come up with.

Open Badges Learner Story

For week 2 of our Semester of Learning at P2PU we are looking at Learner Stories – imagined examples of how our learners might benefit from our use of the Open Badges scheme.

I’m interested in the scheme mainly from the point of view of learners participating in my on line Classroom Displays Training course. I introduced the course to meet the practical needs of teaching assistants who find themselves needing to improve their display skills. This has now expanded to also help librarians, NQTs, returning teachers and overseas teachers who want fresh ideas.

The main product is a portfolio of displays they have created that demonstrate the display theories and techniques learned during the course. This is not an accredited course and that is deliberate on my part. I wanted to cover a range of useful and practical skills that people actually need in the workplace and using a loose framework work to the current needs of the learner. Answering the question “What is the next thing I need to learn?” rather than meeting pre-ordained performance criteria. Each learner can work at their own level and go as deeply into the topics as their interest (and current need) takes them.

Aside -Do you sense the frustration of the NVQ tutor here? You should!

As it is an on line course they may have learned a range of other skills that are not shown by the portfolio.

They may also learn

  • To use email effectively for learning and reflection
  • To manage their on line learning
  • To use digital cameras to document their learning
  • To use Flickr and other photo sharing sites to store their portfolio of work electronically
  • To use sites like the Classroom Displays Flickr Group as an archive of ideas to build on.
  • To use a forum, an email group, a blog and blog comments, or other online interactions to discuss and reflect on what they are learning.
  • To work collaboratively online to improve each other’s ideas for displays.

I can see that some of these could be covered by the use of the Open Badges scheme. I am going to try to explore this further with a Learner Story. This is totally fictional, a thought exercise.

Paulo – a fictional learner’s story

Paulo ( Image leads to photo source - openmatt blog "badges in the real world")
  • Paulo is 28 and came to the UK 10 years ago
  • English is his second language and has already achieved Level 2 English at his local college.
  • He has been a stay at home dad for the last 3 years
  • He likes technology and computers and has used a single dad’s forum for support while he was at home.
  • He enjoys taking photos with his phone
  • He recently got a job as a teaching assistant in a local primary school
  • He likes working with the children but he is really unsure about how to tackle classroom displays.
  • He is going to do his Level 2 Supporting Teaching and Learning next year but that says very little about displays and he needs practical help now.

How Will Open Badges Help Paulo?

Paulo talks to his line manager and tells her he wants to sign up for the Classroom Displays course. As it is inexpensive the school agrees to refund him the fee.

Open badges help Paulo because:

  • He can collect badges for completing tasks and reflections within the displays course
  • He can also quickly achieve badges that give credit for his current technology skills
  • He can get further badges for improving those skills
  • He can get acknowledgement and a badge from his peers for his reflections
  • Through the process of peer review and assessment, giving and receiving badges, he can gain confidence and improve his self esteem as a learner.
  • He can gain proof of valuable transferable skills .

Paulo adds his badges to a Linked-in profile and to his Blogspot photography blog.


Initially the course and the badges help Paulo feel more confident about his role in school. He starts to look for more opportunities to use his technology skills and continues to collect badges via relevant courses on the P2PU.

Eventually he starts to look beyond the teaching assistant role as his life circumstances change. The badges show the skills Paulo has acquired since his formal education. Skills achieved both through work and  through his informal personal learning. These hard and soft skills are difficult to capture in a traditional CV. This could open new employment opportunities, encourage him into higher level formal education or give him the confidence to set up his own business.

Reflecting on the Learner Story

I had a couple of ‘aha’ moments when I read through what I’d written. My first thought was uncertainty about the application of the badges to the main topic of the course. I usually issue a certificate of participation to learners who complete the course tasks. It details the modules covered in the course. Not everyone who takes the course actually wants one. Some teachers in particular are just taking the course for their own reasons and do not feel the need to document their learning in that way. However, learners like Paulo, whose schools are funding the course, do need proof that they have participated. So my first question is:

Would it be possible for the Open Badges to replace my (very informal) certificate?

I am hopeful that this might be the case.

My second ‘aha’ moment came when I was looking at the incidental learning outcomes of the course. This reminded me of the dreaded end of year self-assessment units and in particular the ‘graduate skills‘ section of my degree. (note to self – remember to move all this to my own hosting soon!) It would have been so much easier to collect badges as I went along to evidence my learning of technology skills. For me they became the most interesting and worthwhile parts of the degree. Blogging, wikis, on-line courses all became major areas of interest for me and eventually part of my income stream but they were never regarded as very important by the people in charge.

That phrase sparked the next ‘aha’ moment. Badges put learners ‘in charge’ of their own learning and that is exactly what I think most learners on my course need.

I have minor qualms about a couple of aspects of the scheme.

The first is mercenary but still important to me. I need to be paid for my time facilitating courses. If my learners drift off into P2PU where does that leave me?

My second  worry is will UK employers actually see the worth and point of badges? There will be questions about rigour especially for peer awarded badges. Might they go the way of ‘continuing education credits’, which used to be, and I think sometimes still are, given for attendance at CPD courses?

Phew – this post is far longer than I intended but worthwhile I think. Good to exercise the little grey cells occasionally!



Teaching Assistants Level 1

Teaching Assistants Level 1 – reflecting on my learning

I mainly work at Level 1 which is pretty basic in UK further education. My learners are mostly volunteering as teacher’s helpers in primary (elementary) schools, maybe hearing readers or tidying up the classroom. They want to do a teaching assistants course and this is the gateway. Many of them have English as a second or even third language. Most of them are also parents. Part of the course is child development and basic psychology. A lot of what they need to know, they really know already.

“Their knowing is in their doing” (J Ryan – 2003)

to coin a phrase.

maths equipment to help place value
Investigating place value in the classroom using maths equipment

In order to help them make the connection I use paired discussion of real life scenarios a lot, combined with simple reading tasks. There is also the concept of using ‘realia’ (everyday real objects) that you can hold and touch and talk about or write about. I tend to use things they might come across in the classroom.
It’s still tough getting them to connect and value their current knowledge.

It sometimes seems like they no longer trust themselves in this new country, which now I write it down, actually seems quite reasonable and not at all surprising.

How Should We Assess People in Educational Contexts?

How should we assess people in educational contexts? - Quora

There’s an interesting group of answers to this question appearing on Quora as part of #purposedassess. I thought I’d add my answer here as well:

When working with adults in my role in FE I am involved with portfolio and observation based assessment. This involves the collection of evidence of both knowledge based and applied learning into a portfolio. In theory this is great and close to what I think I would like to see in schools. However the performance criteria are very detailed and tightly defined and so the reality for many of my learners though is that they muddle and fudge their way through. Anything that’s not assessed is vigorously avoided and often discussion and deeper learning is stifled. Their goal, reasonably enough, is the certificate. It is a variation on the ‘is this on the test?’ question.
I am very drawn to a more informal approach like the Open Badges model possibly combined with project based learning. Always answering the question “What do I need to learn next?” and then showing evidence of that learning in an authentic way seems to me to be a useful approach. Using technology based tools to help collate and collect a body of work mixed with reflections on what has been learned is a very good description of how my degree (Ultraversity) was achieved. Could that work in primary? I don’t know but I’d love to see it tried! I know it can work in secondary – just have a look at Notschool sometime.

There are a couple of days left to answer this question before the #purposed ( I won’t link to the twitter hashtag for that as it has turn out to not be unique enough) discussion moves on so why not have your say, either here in the comments, on Quora, on twitter ?

If you use google+ don’t forget to follow +Purpose/Ed Team


Action Logging Again

Action Logr is Andy’s new blog on the topic of keeping an action log. Inspired by him and wanting to get my work patterns back on track after a busy teaching term I decided to start action logging again.

It’s been a while <cough – over a year!> since I posted anything here but I’ve decided this is still the best the place for reflections on my ongoing first person action research.

Action logging
Action logging prevents a downward spiral developing

For the last 5 weeks I have been keeping an Action Log . I’ve gone back to this practice, which I first used during my degree, several times over the last few years and always found it helpful. The basic idea is to keep a record of completed ‘actions’ rather than to focus on the overwhelming thing that a to-do-list can become. I’ve a poor record with to-do-lists that goes way back so I tend to do almost anything to avoid having one. However, flying without any compass can be deadly. I find it far too easy to get to the end of a week & have no clue what I’ve actually achieved. Being of a slightly negative turn of mind (stop laughing at the back!) I therefore assume that I did nothing and feel really rubbish. My ‘inner critic’ has a field day and I become too demoralised to get anything done. Not good.

Enter the Action Log. I know from previous experience that action logging can be used to get me back on track. So this summer seemed to be a good moment to re-visit it.

I’m going to use Gibbs Reflective Cycle in a fairly informal way to consider my month.

Description – What happened?

I started off using the Notes ap on my iPod Touch to record my day’s actions each evening and this worked fine for the first 10 days. It helped me to keep things short and avoid going into huge amounts of detail. I then decided that it wasn’t useful as a long term method as there was no easy way to access the data. I found a convoluted way of transferring everything I had so far to the mac and carried on using Voodoo Pad to record each day’s actions.

Daily actions varied wildly with some days having as many as six and others with only one or even none. Some things recorded as actions really weren’t, leaving  a total of 4 ‘working’ days with no actions at all. On the other hand after 2 of the 4 ‘non-working’ days  large actions (substantial blog posts) were recorded later in the evening. Otherwise actions tended to happen in the mid morning or very early evening.

My average is 1.5 per day for all actions but only 0.7 for substantial actions.

Feelings – what do I think and feel about it?

My initial feeling is one of surprise. After all this time mostly away from formal job structures I seem to have no clear demarcation between working and not working. As soon as I write that I think “Of course not, why would you? You and most of the rest of the world!” I wonder if this is what I want. Is this helpful? Will it move me forward?

Ironically I also feel that there really aren’t enough large actions. Although my average is 1.5 per day many of those are small. The average for large substantial posts is much lower at 0.7. This makes me feel uncomfortable and has my inner critic jumping up and down shouting “Lazy!”

I’m feeling that I’ve slightly fooled myself into believing that time spent on social media, specifically Facebook Pages and Twitter, are actions, all be it small ones. Discussions with Andy and re-reading the definition of actions suggest not. Sigh!

It’s good to be reminded that mid morning and early evening are potentially creative times. It is also worth remembering that late evening after a day of relaxation can be a very good time for me to get work done. I feel very positive about this.


Evaluation – What’s good and bad


  • The process has produced worthwhile insights
  • I’m feeling better about my work patterns
  • I can see a way forward
  • Overall I feel the Action Logging is proving useful and I will continue.


  • Too much time spent on social media masked as actions
  • A deep confusion between work and non-work times  leading to too much ‘pottering’ and disappearing down rabbit holes on line.
  • Too few substantial actions.

Analysis – What sense can I make of it

As ever Action Logging is reassuring. I have a strong suspicion that just the act of keeping a log makes me do things so that I have something to write down.

Working through the month’s log I have identified an underlying issue, a lack of direction, a tendency to react rather than act.This connects to the ease by which things like RSS feeds and email provide distractions.

Conclusion – what else could I have done

Protected myself from email & other distractions.

Clarified what constituted an action sooner

Made sure that I was at my laptop at the times I am most likely to be productive and was not checking email, writing morning pages or even doing yesterday’s action log!

Action Plan – What will I do differently next time?

1. I’ve already started a ‘no email on Wednesdays’ policy to provide one day with fewer distractions. My intention is to boost the number of substantial actions taken on that day I will report on this next month.

2. Find a better way of recording actions. I am pretty sure there are things I did do that were not recorded in the log. Using my browser history as an aide memoir is one of Andy’s suggestions. I will experiment with moving my logging time to first thing in the morning.

3. Use what I know (and forgot!) about the most productive times for me to make sure I am available to work at those times.

4. Remember that a draft post is NOT an action however long it might be!

5. Limit my social media and Rss usage to early morning, after lunch and some evenings.

That’s enough for now I think. I’m not going to reflect on the reflective process. No one is marking this 🙂