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Vocational Courses

get on with itWorst ‘teaching’ I’ve ever seen

Easily the worst lessons I’ve observed in the last 7 years were vocational in nature. NOT because vocational is bad!

I’m a fan of vocational learning. Any learning in a real context has incredible merit! What I’m not a fan of is what I saw too often as “lazy teaching” of these courses, where students are given a project book with a series of tasks in it and left to teach themselves through it!

Add to that listening to teachers complain about the types of learners doing these courses, and my heart would just sink!

Teach like any other lesson

In feedback to teachers of such lessons that have not gone well, I usually ask a series of questions to help them reflect on their delivery against the progress and outcomes of learners.

chunksThe reflective conversation

Me (classic opener): “Well, how do you think that went?”

Teacher A: “Oh you’ve seen that class, they’re all the lowest ability kids, they just can’t work independently”

Me: “Hmm, there are some of our most challenging students in there. You’ve your work cut out for you getting them engaged and keeping them on task. With engagement and progress in mind, talk me through how in that lesson you’d planned to engage them, keep them engaged and make progress…”

Teacher: “Errm…”(Always a good sign that reflection is starting and a difficult realisation might be forming) “Well they have their project book to work through, so I can see what task they get to and then know what progress they’re making…”

Me: “I do love those project books, really good way of ensuring they all have access to the whole unit of study and can see what they’ve got to do. Do you think that some of those learners might find that a challenge though? If i said how could the booklet be broken down to be taught in chunks during a lesson, what might your ideas be?…”

My advice would always be the same:

Don’t think of these courses as any different to any other; it’s still about acquiring knowledge to be able to do something. So, teach it that way, break everything down into stages…

  • Teach the ‘theory or idea’
  • Let learners practise
  • Let them ‘master’ the new knowledge or idea
  • Give them part of the assessed task to complete
  • Review what they’ve done

…repeat cycle and see just how much more engaged, focused, and productive learners are as they tick off that criteria that normally you’d say they just couldn’t understand!

And EVERY time teachers report that progress improves, attention of students improves and learners seem to enjoy their lessons again!

Any thoughts on this approach?


Vocational thought

Vocational thought



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