Dear Coach…

By Jerrelle Karakanna

This month: A Levels

A question box was placed in the staff room and staff members anonymously submitted questions they had about teaching and learning.

  1. Any tips on keep learners motivated at this time of year?

A lot of courses are moving to the last stages of their delivery. Workshops / portfolio / revision sessions are therefore becoming more frequent. If these sessions are delivered with the same structure each time, learners will inevitably become bored and this will affect their attendance and in the most extreme cases, could result in a late-stage drop out. One excellent example of good practice seen around the college is the use of “pub quizzes.”

Lecturers have been making innovative score sheets on A3 paper which are striking and aid the learners with engagement and curiosity. Differentiation can be actively applied by grouping of teams and complexity of the questions. The use of different rounds was particularly effective in maintaining engagement, Use of “wipe out” rounds meant students had to make the decision whether to attempt all questions and maximise or lose points or to gain nothing at all. The use of jokers so learners could double their points on a round also upped their motivation-they could only use this once though! The GCSE maths evening classes went one further and combined their classes so it also became a competition between the tutors. All these different varieties on a classic can maximise engagement and raise motivation of learners at this late stage.

  1. For students coming back, will I need to give another initial assessment for their group profile?

First of all, keep your group profile from this year! Presumably, learners will be completing new units/modules. If these contain a new set of skills the learners will need to utilise, then a new initial assessment should be done for this part of the course. This way, you can identify individual strengths and weaknesses specific to this module/unit and plan your sessions accordingly. If the skills they will need are the same as the ones needed in previous units, set targets and strategies to enable learners to stretch themselves and develop them further. Regular updates on the group profile can ensure sessions are planned to meet the developing needs and abilities of the learners and can allow them to develop even beyond their potential for their next stage in their education or career.

Next month: English



Advice for Trainer Demonstrators in the Classroom

By Rachael Ellard

As TD’s across college are now being observed in sessions I thought I would speak to two TD’s in my section to get their advice on running a successful practical session:

Know your students – read through group profiles and update these for practical skills, talk to other tutors in the section and make sure you are aware of any situations that might affect the students. This helps you plan your groups, handle potentially difficult situations and allocate tasks appropriately.

Keep practical spaces organised – Keep equipment tidy and organised, make sure students know where to get things and also how/where to store them correctly. This allows for a smooth start and end to the session with students being able to get on without prompting.

Make students think for themselves – don’t just answer students questions, try and encourage them to think for themselves, use questioning to draw the answer out of them or direct them to use information sources in the room i.e. posters, handbooks etc.

Stretch & Challenge – Try and push learners outside of their comfort zone and ensure they are developing a range of skills i.e. handling animals they aren’t as confident with.

Develop leadership skills – select a team leader for each group and give them a set of extra responsibilities. Change this from week to week so everyone has the opportunity to develop these important employability skills.

Extension – always have extra tasks on hand for those that complete quickly, this could be asking them to support others who haven’t yet completed, completing other tasks in the centre that need doing or evaluating the task they’ve completed/ peer assessing each other’s work.

Assessment dates – plan these in advance and ensure students are aware of these and how they are progressing towards these week by week. Liaise with theory tutors to ensure practical work is supplementing and supporting theory sessions. Plan time for mock assessments and get the students themselves to reflect on how they could improve. Make sure students also receive verbal and written feedback.

Differentiating Assessment

By Adrian Gray

I am sometimes asked how after a busy lesson that the learning can be individually assessed, particularly after group presentations and research activities. The following may assist and can also be used to ‘fill’ those few minutes at the end of the session where energy drops and the students are focusing on leaving the classroom!

The system that can be used is simple but does focus the student’s minds on what has been taught and at the very least should invoke some reflection on their behalf.

Two models can be used both of which work the same way. Draw an arrow or if you prefer a picture of a mountain on the white board. Then mark different pints on the diagram; show the top of the arrow/ mountain as being the point where anyone reaching that point will have a full understanding of the topic taught maybe including an ability to evaluate/ analyse (much like Bloom’s taxonomy). Thus the bottom point will be where no understanding/ awareness of the topic is present.

You can draw this at the beginning of the lesson if you wish so that student can at that stage indicate where they see their knowledge should be indicated. If you have nervous students you could give them individual copies of the diagram on which they can indicate their levels. This will reduce peer pressure/embarrassment issues where they may not want others to know that they do not understand a topic and need help. At the end of the lesson the students individually repeat the exercise thereby showing that they have moved up the mountain/ arrow. You should then ask the students to justify their new individual grading.

The mountain diagram is my preference as I include a base camp ( starting knowledge level) and have several different levels as they climb the mountain, maybe having reward levels as they progress. This can make the review fun.

Thus you end up with a model where you can evidence and challenge individual progress, evaluate how effective your lesson was and should the need require set action plans for individual.

I would be pleased to explain this matter should anyone wish.

Etrackr – Clearing up some confusion…

By Nick Broome

While working with Hair and Beauty, I discovered some confusion existed concerning the use of eTracker, causes for concern and Progression Audits.

Causes for Concern are a very useful tool with which to build a picture of a student’s performance including attendance and behaviour. These should be seen as means by which behavioural, etc issues are seen to be challenged and recorded without the need to, in the first place, resort to formal discipline procedures. That said, of course, such an approach depends upon the scale of the breach of discipline occasioned by the learner. Hopefully, CFC’s become stepping stones towards a stronger-based formal discipline.

Just writing CFC’s are only half the task. To make them effective, staff need to go into eTutorial and create an action plan which clearly sets out what is required by the learner, using SMART targets.

In a similar vein, the completion of Progression Audits seemed to cause confusion amongst the staff I work with. Essentially, Progression Audits should be brief and to the point. If Student ‘A,’ for example is working well, is up to date and on course to successfully complete the course then state just that. If however, Student ‘B’ is not working at the correct level, has missed several sessions or in any other way is risking either failing the course or at least not achieving his/her target grade then a similarly short entry to that sort of effect should be logged in the Audit. IF the student is at risk of failing the course, he/she should be shown at risk in the audit. The next stage, as with cfc’s, is to create a SMART action plan in that student’s eTutorial giving the student very clear requirements which he/she must fulfil.

There are some students who were labelled ‘at risk’ for no reason other than attendance. Some may have had hospital or other medical problems preventing their attendance but still they are keeping up to date with work. These therefore, should not be shown ‘at risk’ UNLESS they really are so far behind or their work is of such a poor state and they are not attending then ‘at risk’ needs to be applied.

I find the Hair and Beauty staff very professional, committed and caring, who work hard. Another great example of embedding maths was observed where one teacher created starter activity based on geometry (I learned much about angles and haircuts)!


Setting the Tone

By Joanna Jones

I have recently been fortunate enough to observe various lessons in the Beauty department and want to share some of the good practice that I saw. The tutors that I have observed are particularly good at setting the tone so that the students are ready to learn.

The tutors are outside the class, before the lesson starts ready to greet the students with a cheery ‘Good Morning’ and a comment or question for everyone. Before the students enter the classroom the tutor checks them to ensure that they are wearing the appropriate uniform, in the appropriate way and that their hair is suitable tied back. If anyone isn’t dressed appropriately, they are kindly, but firmly told to go and change/put their hair up etc. As the students are used to this, the vast majority of them turn up ready to work in a commercial environment and if they do need to adjust their dress they are quite happy to do so.

The lesson then starts with the aims and objectives shared on the board, all resources/materials ready and happy students ready to learn. Anyone who is late is dealt with quickly, with very little fuss and integrated straight into the lesson with any explanations dealt with at an appropriate part of the lesson when it doesn’t disturb anyone else’s learning. A lively, active learning, recap activity is then recommended to check what the students have retained from the previous lesson, which will boost confidence and enable any gaps in knowledge to be filled, before moving on to any new learning.

This may seem obvious, but it is amazing how much of a difference a fair and consistent approach will make, the students will know what to expect and will be ‘trained’ to be ready to learn and will be confident as they know what to expect.

Another innovation I have recently seen for the first time is ‘Magic Whiteboard’, a roll of wipe off flip chart paper that sticks to the wall. It is absolutely brilliant for a recap activity or for students to write down their thoughts and ideas and then display them and because it is wipe-off, far more versatile than a roll of flip chart paper.


Information, Advice and Guidance 16/17

You may have heard about the upcoming changes to 19+ Advanced Learner Loans (formerly 24+ Advanced Learning Loans). Here are some key points which you may find helpful when speaking to potential students.

Advanced Learner Loans (from August 2016)

For courses starting on or after August 2016 the government criteria are changing for the Advanced Learning Loans so that learners aged 19 or over will be able to apply.

  • Students 19 or older can apply for an Advanced Learning Loan to help with the fee costs of an eligible Level 3, 4, 5 or 6 course. These include A levels, Access to HE Diplomas, Extended Diplomas, Certificates and NVQs).  The levels are stated on our website.
  • If students are aged 19-23 and haven’t already achieved a full Level 3 qualification then they do not need to apply for a loan, as they will be eligible for fee waiver. They must not have previously received a loan to do the same course at the same level
  • On receiving an Offer for a course the Student can apply online after they have received a Learning and Funding Information letter from the College.
  • Please direct students to the Student Information Centre or Registry Information Point if they have further queries.

Detailed information about Advanced Learner Loans will be available soon on the Student Finance England (SFE) website and we strongly recommend that students look at this website before they apply.

Student Union News

By Tony Payne, Student Activities Manager

I love a bit of democracy, and there’s loads of it going on at the moment! Firstly we’ve recently elected a new Students’ Union exec for next year. Turnout was down on last year, which is a bit of a blow as we’re trying to evidence democracy as British Value so I’ll have a think about how we make it easier for next year. Ten students were elected Jessica Foster from Performing Arts is the new President with Ellesse Cheeseman and Luke Pollard (Science), Susie Haynes (HE Public Services), David Johnston (Supporrted Learning), Elliott Lawton (Performing Arts), Casey Pownall (Hair)  Jamie Dixon (A-Levels), Yann Trokhymenko (Business)  and Jack Marsh (Media) forming the rest of the executive committee.

We’ve just had the PCC and London Mayoral elections last week and the EU referendum is coming up on Thursday 23 June! There will be a debate for students to participate in before the vote (when I can get a hall) and Emma Fruin has a brilliant enrichment session you can use if you need it. It’s a tough subject to get your head past the “opinions” to find the facts but a good resource is  This is a once in a lifetime vote affecting everyone so please try and promote to your students.

The fifth annual student-led staff awards and class rep awards are coming up soon and students have until Friday 13 May (this Friday) to submit nominations – we are happy to come to classes and talk about the process. Please email me to arrange. All the info can be found at  and It would be great to hear about any great work your class rep has done.