This year has seen an increase in both new ringers signed up to Learning the Ropes and in also in the demand for day course teaching Modules, with the result that there are quite a few new teachers getting ready for assessment at the same time. As an assessor, I have felt this increase in demand, too and recently I have undertaken assessments within the context of a group teaching session.
These have been very fruitful and successful for many different reasons which I will outline below.
Group teaching is such a positive and encouraging way to teach. Every group teaching session I have been to has had the most amazing energy and there has been a lasting sense of achievement and satisfaction from both teachers and learners. So it’s a really great environment in which to carry out an assessed lesson.
It is easy to for an Assessor, or an experienced teacher, to underestimate the degree to which new teachers may feel anxious and nervous about their assessment. Despite trying to emphasise that it is all about learning and sharing good practice, I think there is still a sense in which people may feel they are being tested in the narrow sense of the word, so the relaxed and usually jovial atmosphere of a group teaching session really helps to alleviate this. Moreover, because there is usually quite a lot going on simultaneously, even at a small group practice, it can help take the focus off the new teacher and helps to make them feel less self-conscious.
Often the logistics of people getting around different parts of a wider area and fitting assessments into a busy schedule of ringing, teaching and life, can really delay things, so a group teaching session can enable several assessments to be carried out in one go. This can be a big help if an Assessor has a reasonable distance to travel and it also gives a more nervous teacher time to warm up with their learner while the Assessor starts off with a different teacher. It may also help if a teacher or learner can't attend the whole session but can come to a part at a time to suit them.
I find that assessed lessons involve quite a lot of talking and this is a useful way of making the session inclusive, which helps create the right atmosphere of openness and interaction, and takes the spotlight off the teacher and learner. It also means you can start making assessments without standing there with a clipboard feeling like a bit of a party-pooper.
I recently carried out assessments for a group of five new teachers. Only two were experienced teachers while the other three were new to teaching and felt rather apprehensive. I think the group approach really helped dispel any anxieties and allowed me to observe their group dynamic and how they supported and encouraged each other – something I wouldn't have seen if the assessments had been done singly.This was something I found very impressive about the group. One of the new teachers wrote to me afterwards, “I feel as a group we have grown together and form a good basis to move our learning forward. I was feeling quite lost and alone beforehand with very little support, but now have more confidence that I have a support network around me.” I think the group assessment really cemented this feeling of being in a functioning and successful group.
Even when I assess experienced teachers I can sense a slight apprehension, so again, opening up the session to other people and seeing them work in a wider group setting is beneficial for all.
Perhaps organising an assessed lesson is a cloud on your horizon, but it shouldn’t be! Try getting a small group together for a practice and the assessment can just be a part of that. It will really take the pressure off and your learners will feel really proud of you when you get your certificate – just as we do when they get theirs!
Ruth Suggett at Basildon Bell Tower
Ruth Suggett, ART Assessor