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Teaching and learning tricky topics
Teaching and learning tricky topics

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1 To the classroom

Read this excerpt from Olney et al. (2017) which explains the importance of activity profiling and how teachers may begin to use activity profiling in practice.

The introduction of mandated subject coverage in the UK, Australia, and other places mean that developing and documenting transferable (between teachers) curriculum has never been more important. Valuable resources are wasted year on year reworking curriculum that is unclear or that only concentrates on content rather than the student experience. Increasingly high turnover of staff can mean valuable expertise and consistency is lost as teachers move between schools or move into other fields of education. Due to this turnover it would seem sensible, and it is suggested, that teachers consider establishing an activity profile early in the design process when presented with new curriculum.

Therefore, in the first instance it is suggested that teachers might gain benefit from mapping their practice retrospectively in order to generate some usable data for their peer teachers and their students. That is, taking five minutes after a lesson, or at the end of the day, to jot down the approximate time spent by students on different activities. Further, students might have a very active role to play in this. Why not get the class to do it? Or, alternatively, it could be included in peer observation sessions.

Coding student activity in this way will allow teachers greater insight into their own practice for it may be that it is only through assigning numerical values to student activity that will allow teachers to step back from their work and reflect on how their practice may have impacted on their students. For example, it is likely that teachers may be surprised if presented with data that suggests that their students are predominately required to engage with assimilative activities when they may believe they promote communicative activities in their classroom. An action arising from this might be to build more group work activities where appropriate.

Without the hard and fast deadlines of presentation schedules it is likely that most schools design processes are already more iterative than those focussed on e-learning in so far as teachers design as they go. With the increased use of online learning in all learning institutions, the introduction of upfront learning design will become more and more important.

Typical curriculum plans for units of work often consider what the students will be doing during class time but rarely seek to classify this activity according to a taxonomy such as the one above. This can be a very powerful way to generate data and provide an evidence based way for teachers to reflect on their own practice.