Homework – who is it really ‘work’ for?

Anyone that knows a teacher, knows they have a shadow that follows them everywhere. That shadow is marking. A teacher is never far from another essay to examine, book to mark or piece of work to score. I’ve been marking between 100-150 pieces of work every fortnight for the last ten years, mostly on an evening or grabbing the odd five minutes here and there but rarely at college (otherwise when do you plan, prepare resources and answer an endless stream of emails?) However, this blog isn’t about marking because I accepted many years ago that it is just part and parcel of the job. It is an essential to ensure students’ progress, learn from their mistakes, develop their technique and understanding and recognise their current working grade. No, this blog is about homework or the lack of it.

Now at school, teachers have detentions whereby students complete the work that should have been done at home. At college you hope your students have learnt those life lessons and therefore do their homework. The problem is what happens if they don’t do it or at least can never remember to hand it in? The answer – more time is then spent by the teacher chasing up those students, asking for it, reminding them, sending emails, contacting parents…there must be an easier way.

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First Year Exam Paper Breakdown: Philosophy POE Question

I love deliveries from new spec text books to stationery. Today’s delivery: philosophy exam papers from the new spec exams (first years). Here’s a break down of a student’s answer for the question on Problem of Evil.

Assess the claim that natural evil has a purpose (30)

OCR marks given for student’s answer:
A01 15/15
A02 14/15

From reading the student’s answer there are a few noticeable points:

The structure is very clear and simple with an introduction, four main paragraphs and a conclusion.

intro aug 1.jpg

There are three simple things that make this introduction work. The first is the student uses the word ‘natural’ 3 times and ‘purpose’ twice. This shows that they are directly linking their essay to the question immediately (it is also a good way for the student to really clarify what the question is asking of them). Secondly the quote grabs the reader’s attention immediately. It is a short yet relevant quote from Augustine which the student then links into the question with a ‘this means’. Thirdly the student introduces the other key names involved Hick and Irenaeus. This makes it clear to the reader that they will be involved in this answer.

The four main paragraphs have a very clear theme and structure

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Are you a discussion ‘Log or Hog’?

I love planning my summer term lessons because it is the time to re-connect with your subject and take your students down a journey of interesting tangents and topical themes, that the new spec AS content just does not give time for. So my plan for today’s lesson was a selection of engaging discussion questions with a hard hitting documentary. I wanted my students to discuss their views on the topical issues surrounding evil such as – are people born evil? Does upbringing determine behavior?  This would then be linked to the James Bulger case and relevant links made to new spec materials of Behaviorism, Freud and Problem of Evil.

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“Put your mobile phone away!”: Are you Kidding?

Some educational institutions have a  very clear rule: no mobile phones in lessons.  I’m not disagreeing with this. What I am doing is taking a reality check. Students are literally… 13557800_1416481335035387_4218592803150921702_n

So rather than wasting time as a teacher constantly telling students to put their phones away or students thinking harder about how they can read their latest message without been spotted rather than the lesson itself (by the way teachers know the book tilt to cover the phone or the interesting light up lap stare – who are you fooling!) why not use mobile phones as part of the learning?

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“You haven’t done the reading!” How to avoid Flipped Learning Flops

Let me start by saying that I’m not really sure why it is called ‘Flipped Learning’. At the end of the day the learning has not been flipped because the students should have always been doing the learning. What has been flipped is the working roles, by which I mean who is doing all the work: student or teacher?

With flipped learning you are placing the responsibility for learning the material onto the students, rather than the pressure being on the teacher to cover the material (and teach the content, set activities, engage all students, differentiate over abilities, ask a variety of different questions and assess that learning has actually taken place …not to mention all this with new linear specifications and intense content coverage.)

So why use Flipped Learning?

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Bringing back the Red Pen: Effective Feedback

If you type into goggle ‘red pens in schools’  you are bombarded with newspaper articles of red pen.pngschools who proudly declare that the use of red pens are BANNED! My response: I think education has bigger issues. So why is this move deemed necessary? Well some believe that marking in red pen appears more threatening (like writing in capitals), demanding attention from the reader in a warning manner (you don’t ignore road signs in red for example). Well I don’t mean to be blunt (but I’m going to be anyway) but that is exactly why I mark in red pen. Marking students’ work is one of the most significant ways that they improve their independent essay writing technique, so I want them to take notice of my comments.

I can see the benefits of marking in different colours such as green for praise or highlighting spelling mistakes or grammar errors but I want actual feedback for improvement to be as blatantly obvious as possible. Look at me, read me, take me on board!

So here are some tips for handling ‘red pen marking’:

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