Equality and Social Justice in Education

Equality and Social Justice in Education

Much like my post on Open Education & Practice, this is less a blog post, and more a learning journal. As many of you are aware, I’m currently completing a Masters degree in Online Teaching. As part of my second year, I am studying Equality & Justice in education. Part of this is to create a reflective learning journal.

These are my candid reflections on my own practice and thoughts. Unlike my classroom teaching, this will include personally held beliefs & political opinions, however whilst I do not bring these to my classes they do form my ethical base as both an educator and business owner.

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The Right to Education?

The Right To Education

Part A

Q1. To what extent do you feel that the ‘universal primary education’ (UPE) right should be upheld as a universal right for all individuals in the world? Why?

I strongly believe this should be a universal right, but feel that “education” isn’t defined clearly enough. For me, this raises the question, “what is a suitable primary education?”.

Testing primary children provides us with data, but is numeracy & literacy enough? My own lived experience is that primary education has changed dramatically over the past 40 years from creating a broad foundation of skills to build upon when I was in primary school in the early 1980s, to a focus on core subjects and high stakes testing which has increased further since my own children attended primary. I certainly don’t remember being stressed about exams and requiring specialist tutors in order to access the “best” schools.

As someone whose children didn’t really fit the mould in secondary and chose to home educate, I believe that there is inherent privilege in being able to educate your children without school: although school isn’t childcare, it does provide parents with the ability to work outside of the home. However, this doesn’t mean that a universal school education is the only source of a suitable education – with that said, I do think that without foundations of education at primary, we don’t learn how to learn independently (or it’s more difficult when learning becomes more formal)

Q2. When could it be problematic? For example, is it still applicable to all educational systems? Should everyone be able to attend primary school? What would happen if there were only one faith-based school available or only a school with a particular political orientation?

– I believe that access to a suitable education for the individual child should be a fundamental right, but the one solution doesn’t fit all.

– I think that everyone should have the opportunity to attend primary school in a place suitable for the child. I don’t believe that this should be legally enforced as it creates a negative attitude towards education.

– where parent educational or religious philosophies don’t align with the single state educational option, having alternative options such as independent schools and home education is important to ensure that education is suitable for the individual. This does create it’s own issues as exposure to other cultures and backgrounds creates empathy. However, if the only option is religious rather than one secular option, that has the potential to skew the education rather than expand it. An example of this being the current educational reforms in Florida where extreme Christian values are restricting access to subjects, books, and open discussion.

Q3. Does a universal right apply equally to primary, higher, technical and professional education in every context? How would you support your decision on this?

This is something that as a concept I do support, which seems at odds with working as a private educator. From a realistic perspective, it’s unlikely that as a society that we will return to the days where education from primary to university was available free at source, and certainly not in my lifetime.

I do, however believe that there should be a universally accessible option for education at all levels. Where parents or learners choose not to follow the universally available path, then much like home education the cost would fall to the learner. However, when the only option is to create lifetime debt in order to access education that ultimately benefits more than just the individual, something has gone wrong in the wider societal context.

Part B

What do you consider to be the broad learning outcomes for all of these learners in your educational setting or in a community with which you are familiar or in which you live? By this, we mean the longer-term impact on these learners, their lives, well-being and livelihood.

  • Motivation to learn more deeply than just my courses
  • I’d like to think that for some, this has an impact on their choice of career
  • Self-confidence to enjoy a subject & be unabashedly nerdy
    • This is something that I struggled with. I enjoy learning & that was seen as “uncool” – as an adult, I’ve made peace with this and hope that I show others that it’s ok to enjoy learning.

Are there groups of learners who should have different learning outcomes because it would be problematic to cater for their particular needs within a universal statement of broad learning outcomes?

  • I don’t believe in a one size fits all approach. Much like the cockpit of the WWII fighter plane, the “average” isn’t fully suitable for anyone.
  • A universal education doesn’t need to have the same learning outcomes for all.
  • I strongly hold to the social model of accessibility: an environment can be disabling, but given appropriate access and adaptions, for most people the learning outcomes will be similar. There will always be outliers on either end of the academic scale, but neither should be discouraged from making their own personal progress.

To what extent is there a need for universal learning outcomes or adaptation for diversity and difference amongst the learners you work with?

  • My learners come from a range of diverse backgrounds, learning needs, and disabilities.
  • There are universal outcomes in the format of sitting specific exams or externally set assessments.
  • The default position is to design with universal accessibility in mind, but individuals may require specific adaptations.
Exploring Equality & Equity

Exploring Equality & Equity

In exploring the concept of equity in education, I hold a firm belief that it goes beyond simply providing equal opportunities. This area provides a challenging conversation as tuition is considered a luxury service rather than a fundamental right. It is difficult to reconcile private education with strongly held beliefs on Equality. However, I have chosen to personally earn less as a tutor than as a classroom teacher in order to maintain my own educational philosophy, and protect my physical health.

What ‘equality’ in education means to me

To me, equality in education means ensuring that every individual, regardless of their background or circumstances, has access to the same resources and opportunities. However, equity in education takes this idea further by recognizing that individuals may require different levels of support and resources in order to achieve the same outcomes which I feel is a more important concept.

Equality in education could present as free access to a state agreed curriculum, equal funding for schools, and an equitable distribution of resources such as textbooks, technology, and qualified teachers. Although this may seem sufficient in ensuring equal access, it fails to consider the unique needs and circumstances of each individual student which is where equity comes in.

Dimensions of Equality Relevant To My Practice

As a private tutor working mainly with home-educated learners and private candidates, I have firsthand experience with the unequal distribution of resources in education. I am acutely aware that in order to access my services, students need to have the financial means and support from their families. This creates a barrier for those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds and may not have the financial resources to afford private tutoring.

Another aspect is the digital divide. I operate solely online with a mobile learning platform to deliver asynchronous learning which allows for flexibility and personalized learning, but creates a barrier to access for those who do not have reliable internet connections or access to devices.

What Achieving Equity For Learners Looks Like in My Context

As a small business owner, it is not currently possible for me to provide education free at source as I do not have access to the funding available to state managed schools. However, I engage with open learning by providing self-paced courses in the form of MOOCs and a scholarship place in each class to help mitigate the financial barrier for some students. I am actively exploring the use of AI to maintain personalised feedback for individual learners whilst reducing the cost of delivering my services. At present, it is the personalised feedback that provides value to my students, so I am reticent to remove the “human” aspect.

Perceptions of Equality

My notes on the two broad approaches to eqality:

I read a little further to give myself some context for the reflection:

I think my original ideas closely aligned with equality of opportunity and reading through this section does highlight that removing barriers doesn’t necessarily remove an inability to engage when there are wider societal pressures and issues. As somebody who works in stem I have witnessed the encouragement of girls into computing where barriers are ignored in favour of making resources pink and sparkly (which certainly would not have encouraged me, and did little for the girls that I was working with).

As somebody engaged in home education the equality of outcome appeals in terms of radical change, however positive action is something that I would like to explore more to consider whether the backlash was from a group that was disadvantaged and ignored through the positive action or a group that was no longer the “privileged default”.

I came across this whilst looking for some information Raewyn Connell’s work (particularly after seeing the anger generated in the video comments. What was really interesting was the first reaction was to refer to her as “manly” or gender non-conforming, which largely proved her point).

Social Justice & Me

Social Justice & Me

The context of the word social justice has been co-opted politically to create an image of extremist protestors or ill-informed “hippies”. When presented in different terms such as “teaching for diversity” or “culturally responsive pedagogy”, the politicised imagery is removed.

The quote from EE814 giving an introductory definition of social justice, does make me wonder what underlying beliefs would lead someone to find this objectionable:

” In everyday terms, social justice might be understood as the actions in support of a more just, fairer and more equitable society and education as a site for the enhancement of social justice.”

Unit 3 Introduction – EE814 Open University

In attempting to identify five examples of social justice, I have drawn from current and past experiences:

Example 1 – Respecting Personal Descriptors

Many Inclusivity procedures include a language guide, particularly around disability. The language used within disabled communities changes and not all policies are written with direct input from disabled employees or students.

A personal example of this, is that I describe myself as a “wheelchair user” and a “disabled person”. Both of these are examples of identity first language, where part of who I am is defined by these things. Being corrected by an able bodied person to person first language eg. “no, you are a person with a disability” removes my autonomy to refer to myself in the language most comfortable to me.

I’m also just one individual, so asking an individual how they would prefer specific terms around disability and neurodiversity to be used is important.

Example 2 – Pronouns & Names

As politicised as this is currently, this extends from the point above. Confirming pronouns and preferred names at the start of a course or contact assists everyone. To ensure that learners and their wider contacts are aware that my learning space is a safe place to share this information, I list my own pronouns in my email footer and social media profiles.

As a cis woman, this is not to reaffirm my own gender, but to state clearly that there will be no tolerance of discrimination. I am entirely at peace with having lost clients to this as it is not something I am willing to compromise on.

Example 3 – Dress Codes in School

This is an area where I can draw on from both student and teacher. In high school during the mid-90s, we campaigned for a change in uniform to allow longer skirts (those after us won the right to wear trousers for a short time in the early 2000s), and a change to a PE kit that to a teenager, felt overly exposed. At the time, attitudes towards feminism were changing and our concerns were considered and a compromise was reached.

Later, as a teacher in the early 2010s, a school changed its stance on uniform. They moved towards a much more formal dress code and brought in a teacher & student dress code which was highly gendered. Statements were made about length of skirts and height of buttons to “prevent unwanted attention”.

Subsequently, teachers spent more time addressing uniform infractions than addressing wider issues. In this circumstance, we were required to highlight the length of skirts and my refusal to do so and insistence on highlighting inappropriate behaviour was my stance towards social justice.

Example 4 – Critical Thinking & Misinformation

With the expansion of technology and ability to access information at our fingertips at any time of the day, understanding how to discern factual information from misinformation (or simply poorly researched information) is far more important than it was for previous generations.

In the example below, young learners were using AI generated videos to learn about science and believing this misinformation to be factual.

Whilst embedding critical thinking into the curriculum from a young age will lead to young people challenging the current world views (which is not seen as beneficial by everyone), it also equips them with tools to protect themselves from misinformation and propaganda. The ability to critically analyse a source as an adult is particularly important to enable them to make educated choices within a democratic society.

Example 5 – Facilitating Learning, Not Demanding

Since leaving the traditional classroom, I have created a different identity for myself as an educator. I am no longer referred to as “Mrs Billinghurst”, but as “Holly”, and whilst I create the resources as an instructional designer, and for most learners lead a live online session, the learning that takes place is for the most part as a facilitator with the focus on the learner being engaged. I set homework which is marked, but this is optional and not chased.

My current work uses a connectivist approach with the provision of tools and support from a mentor, but with the learning taking place in a wider context as learners complete practical & theory tasks more independently. It’s certainly not dissimilar to this approach where my learning comes from how deeply I engage with the set tasks – I could choose to skip them and no-one would know, but that would remove a tool from my toolkit when the time for higher stakes assessment arrives.

Philosophy and Discourses

Egalitarianism

This is a useful online video with some useful notes on the concept.

Neoliberalism

I’ve used the same video channel to explain Neoliberalism as the notes are quite detailed.

Normative Theories

Normative Theories in My Setting

If I’m entirely honest, these notes took far longer than simply writing things out as a mindmap, but post-covid I’m not at my best and this really helped to give me space to think about what was being asked.

As an adult who has to keep the brain bees entertained, assumptions on ability are really interesting to me. As a professional, I maintain huge amounts of organisation whilst surrounded by physical chaos. This isn’t something I can “unlearn”, but it is something I employ strategies to cope with (which are mostly effective). There is a dominant neurotypical theory that organisation just takes habit and trying harder – the reality for me is that I’ve spent all of my talent points and forgot to leave any for executive functioning outside of work & study!

Annotated Bibliography

Hidden content

How I Unlocked My Productivity with Flow Club: Online Body Doubling and Its Benefits for Neurodiverse Learners (& Tutors!)

How I Unlocked My Productivity with Flow Club: Online Body Doubling and Its Benefits for Neurodiverse Learners (& Tutors!)

Some of the links provided in this blog post are affiliate links. This means that I may earn a discount for my own flow membership, at no extra cost to you, if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link. Any blog with a recommendation, is written with my honest opinions.

As an online tutor and a lifelong learner, I’m always on the lookout for tools that can help me be more productive. If we’re honest, anything that excites the brain bees gets a trial, so recently, I decided to try Flow Club. Usually, these things are great, then fizzle, but this week I attended my 50th session on Flow, so now that I know it works, I wanted to share with you how it has transformed my work and study habits.

50 Flow Sessions Congratulations

What is Flow Club?

Flow Club is a platform that uses the body doubling technique to help individuals focus on their tasks. It’s a virtual space where you can work alongside others in a structured, timed manner. Think of it like a Zoom call with a set of other people who want to get on with some work & will hold you to account if you just sit there and faff!

As someone who mainly works from home, it can get lonely, but when I’m in the office being “in a flow meeting” also stops people from quite literally interrupting my flow. The platform allows you to schedule focused work sessions, making it easier to stay on task and get things done.

What is Body Doubling?

Body doubling is a technique often used to help people with neurodiversity, particularly those with ADHD, to focus better. The concept is simple: the presence of another person working silently alongside you can create a calming effect, helping to increase focus and productivity.

Imagine you’re in a room with a friend, both of you working quietly on your own tasks. Even though you’re not interacting, the mere presence of your friend can make it easier for you to concentrate on your work. This is the essence of body doubling and its effects are exponentially more powerful if you struggle with focus or anxiety.

Body Doubling and Neurodiverse Learners

image of a diary / planner with a pen

For neurodiverse learners, particularly those with ADHD, body doubling can be a game-changer. ADHD can make it challenging to focus on tasks, especially those that require sustained attention like revision or completing assignments and homework. Body doubling can help create a sense of calm and focus, making it easier to stay on task and get things done.

For example, a student with ADHD might find it easier to concentrate on their homework if they’re in the same room with a friend who’s also working quietly. This isn’t dissimilar from going to a library to do your homework (fond memories of the late 1980s & 90s there!) – you’re not directly interacting with others studying in the library, but because you all have a similar focus, it’s easier to get into the flow of studying.

How I Use Flow Club

I’ve found Flow Club to be incredibly helpful when I need to focus on longer tasks, such as marking student work or updating my website. The platform’s structure of timed work sessions helps break down large tasks into manageable chunks, making it easier to stay focused and make progress. In fact, this blog was finished thanks to me joining a 60 minute pomodoro session.

In the session we:

  • join and type in a short list of what we want to get done in that hour
  • take 5 minutes for everyone to say what their session goals are & say hi (this might be verbal or typed)
  • work quietly for 20 minutes while the host shares music which can be muted if you want
  • take a 5 minute optional break for water & a stretch
  • work quietly for another 20 minutes
  • take 5 minutes at the end to say what we achieved (there’s the accountability!)

… then join another!

Flow Club has also been instrumental in helping me complete assignments for my postgraduate course with the Open University. With several 4000 word assignments to complete alongside running a company, and wrangling my own home ed teens, Flow’s structure of timed work sessions helps break down large tasks into manageable chunks, making it easier to stay focused and make progress. It’s also nice seeing familiar faces in some groups and no matter what weird & wonderful time I’m working, there’s a flow session running.

Flow Club for Students

It’s important to be aware that these are video calls with strangers, so like any platform, if you’re under 18 these should be used with a parent / guardian with you at all times, and I would recommend with your camera off. Consider this similar to an open Discord call & take the same safety precautions.

For learners, particularly for A Level and beyond, Flow Club can be a game-changer. Because the platform was built for professional people working from home, there’s an automatic expectation that everyone will be working and supportive of each other. This not only helps with focus and productivity but also aids in time management. By scheduling work sessions, studying becomes a concrete plan rather than an abstract idea. This can be particularly helpful during exam periods when managing study time effectively is crucial. For me, it also means that I get a regular reminder to stop & drink some water – without pomodoro I’d be more dehydrated than my house plants!

The Flexibility of Flow Club

One of the features I love about Flow Club is the option to join sessions with or without verbal communication. This means you can choose a session that suits your preference or your current environment. I’ve even joined a session from my garden while updating my calendar!

Another great feature is the music played by hosts during sessions. This can help create a conducive work environment and further enhance focus. You can listen to my current “Eat the Frog” host playlist here. Not everyone plays music with lyrics – my sessions tend to run on a Friday afternoon as I attack the distance learning marking, so upbeat helps, but others use lo-fi, classical, or bring your own.

Get Extra Freebies

As I host sessions, you can use my affiliate link, this will let you try Flow Club for 14 days for free, instead of the usual 7-day trial. Whether you’re a tutor, a student, or anyone looking to improve their focus and get more done, I highly recommend giving Flow Club a try.

Open Education & Practice – Reflective Journal

Open Education & Practice – Reflective Journal

This is less a blog post, and more a reflective journal. As many of you are aware, I’m currently completing a Masters degree in Online Teaching. As part of the third assignment, we have been asked to create a reflective portfolio based on prompts throughout the unit. These are my candid reflections on my own practice.

Open TEL and YouYour Roles, Priorities and InfluencesTeaching Observation and YouOER and YouOEP and YouOpen Pedagogy and YouCuration and YouCollaboration and YouTechnology and YouScholarship and YouEthical & Equitable EducationAccessible TEL and You

– encounters with open education you’ve had prior to starting H880 (you could use Tony Bates’s list in Step 1.6, ‘Encounters with openness’, as a reference point)

I was educated in both the private and state sector. The open education model in the 1980s & 1990s often involved education material from the BBC in collaboration with the Open University.

As a child I benefitted from open access to local libraries & museums which were government funded but free at point of access.

– challenges you’ve experienced when trying to work or study in the open

Where open access to education or resources is funded, this often comes with attached restrictions and requirements to promote the message of those who fund the resources. This is one of the main arguments against home-educating parents receiving funding from local authorities as universally accessible education is not always in line with organisations like Ofsted.

– any plans you already have for becoming more open as a learner, educator or other professional

I am currently developing several MOOCs for my own company, including resources to study the ICDL. These are provided as free-to-study courses with the option to sit the exams with us to gain the formal qualification.

– any concerns you have about becoming more open in your practice or studies.

As an author and private educator, I am mindful about how resources, and courses are funded. I have a strong ethical foundation in my company that everyone contributes equally as we all enable each other to perform our roles – part of this is that we are all paid an equal wage. Using CC assets simply to save money feels at odds with this.

Your response to the percentage of time you spend on the activities in Bates’s model, and the percentage of time you’d like to be spending on those activities:

I’d suggest that I’m a technologist experimenter. Pretty much all aspects of my work & home life use or are governed by technology. Teaching computer science means that I need to keep up with new technology, but I’m naturally inclined to get excited about the “next big thing” and don’t fear jumping in feet first.

My percentages – I’m actually quite happy with this mix, I’d probably only swap the teaching & curating:

Teacher for Learning: 20% –> 10%

Collaborator: 10%

Experimenter: 15%

Curator: 20% –>30%

Technologist: 25%

Scholar: 10%

– the skills or knowledge gaps that you’ll need to address in order to realise your aspirations

I’d like to work on my course creation skills and include more analytics to clearly identify my learners’ progress pathways. Time management is something that I am actively working on as I am juggling running a company where I am the primary tutor & author with study on H880, and extra writing/resource development contracts.

– your initial plans for developing those skills and/or addressing the knowledge gaps (other than studying this course)

The course development skills are being addresses to a greater extent by H880. It’s not only the content, but the space to reflect that’s been beneficial instead of flying from one thing to another. I’m currently running a pilot where I am using AI to organise my time to reduce admin & planning time.

– any contextual factors that influence the balance of activities involved in your current role, including those that may prevent you realising your aspirations.

I have to be mindful that the work I do is generating sufficient income into the company to remain viable. The rising running costs have certainly impacted the percentages for Bates’ model and this year has included cost cuts to enable continued study.

As a continued consideration, my health & mobility impacts on the balance of activities. The overall 100% in terms of available hours fluctuates with my health which can be difficult when others rely on my availability, so I’m not always able to dedicate the time I would like to.

– your views on the value of teaching observations and any concerns you have about them

Despite a couple of negative experiences with observations, I still feel that they are beneficial overall to teaching and have the potential to positively influence skills and knowledge. If used as a part of peer-observation or mentoring, they can have an impact on enhancing teaching skills through allowing the observed teacher to test out new ideas with the benefit of feedback from someone able to view the lesson from a different perspective.

– any contextual factors influencing your views about teaching observations – for example, your views might be grounded in an experience of being observed yourself

I do believe that my views are heavily influenced by my own experiences. Having experienced several years in a secondary school where we were obliged to participate in peer-observations, this fostered a supportive environment and positively influenced our interactions with learners as we were regularly in receipt of feedback in addition to writing it. By removing the dynamic of manager/observee in favour of peer evaluation, teachers were more willing to show a realistic lesson rather than an unrealistically prepared lessons.

– any personal or professional development plans you have as a consequence of studying the material on teaching observations.

I’m currently planning my annual student voice survey which I use to set company objectives for the coming year. This year, I would like to include a lesson observation as I have recorded the majority of my group lessons from this year. In this way, the tutor I work with on this can see a realistic lesson by watching one at random.

Over the past few weeks, my engagement with the H880 materials has led me to reflect on my own use of Open Educational Resources (OER). I’ve often turned to YouTube videos to learn new programming skills and used openly accessible courses on the W3schools website. These resources have been invaluable in my learning journey, providing flexible and accessible ways to develop my skills.

The H880 materials have not only deepened my understanding of OER but also inspired me to integrate open practices into my teaching. I’ve recently embedded a collaborative notes project into my Learning Management System (LMS). This project, inspired by the portfolio in Unit 3, encourages learners to share their notes with others, fostering a culture of collaboration and shared learning. It’s a step towards making the learning process more open and participatory.

It’s still early days in the course, but I’m already seeing the impact on my thinking about ‘openness’ in education. As an educator in a career based on private provision, I’ve often viewed education as a somewhat closed system. However, the concept of open education is challenging this view, making me reconsider the potential of open practices to enhance learning and teaching.

I’ve written this reflection, specifically reflecting on my work creating and running distance learning courses, as this aligns better than my direct 1-2-1 tuition.

In terms of ‘using’, I’ve been able to leverage a variety of open resources to enhance my courses, from open artwork to open-source software. This has not only enriched the learning experience for my students but also allowed me to keep costs down, making education more accessible. This has enabled me to create several free to access smaller courses.

When it comes to ‘creating‘, I’ve been proactive in developing my own open resources, such as sharing “lite” versions of learning resources and course materials. This has been an easier process when working for larger organisations as through their funding, I am able to focus on producing high quality content without worrying about the impact on my personal income.

In the ‘connecting‘ quadrant, I’ve made efforts to foster a sense of community among my students, encouraging them to collaborate and learn from each other using comments in each lesson – this has been a direct impact from H880 and the useful conversations within comments in lessons. I also have a social media group of over 300 parents where I am able to freely share ideas for learning.

Finally, in terms of ‘contributing‘, I’ve been sharing my ideas and experiences with the wider private tuition community through a community of practice for private tutors. I created the Tutors Learning Network in 2000, which has since grown to a community of over 1000 private tutors who actively engage as a professional learning community. This has not only benefited others but also enriched my own practice, as I’ve received valuable feedback and ideas in return.

Looking ahead, I’m particularly excited about expanding my distance learning offerings and making recorded lessons available as self-study programs. I believe this will provide greater flexibility for my students and allow me to reach a wider audience.

I’ve written the following reflection based on my experiences tutoring and running distance learning through TeachAllAboutIt. Below, I have mapped these against Hegarty’s 8 Attributes of Open Pedagogy.

  1. Participatory technologies have been integral to my teaching approach. I utilised text based forums / chats, social media groups, and online live lessons on Google Meet to foster an interactive learning environment, engaging students in a dynamic way. In live lessons, learners complete visual notes using Classkick so that all activities are interactive.
  2. Openness and trust have been key in creating a positive learning atmosphere. I’ve encouraged transparency, inviting students to openly share their thoughts and ideas through lesson comments and an annual student/parent survey that I have been running since 2019.
  • This openness has sparked innovation and creativity. Empowering students to contribute their unique perspectives which has led to changes and improvements to my distance learning courses. In 2023, I have invested a large amount of time in moving my courses to a new LMS & integrating H5P interactive elements such as digital notes into all of my courses.
  • Sharing ideas and resources wasn’t something that I had reflected on clearly before, but it occurred to me that it has been something that I have done through both TeachAllAboutIt with my Facebook group, “KS3, iGCSE, & A Level Computer Science For Home Education”, and the Facebook group “Tutors Learning Network UK”, where I’ve been able to disseminate valuable resources and engage in meaningful discussions with fellow educators.
  • Although my learners have been encouraged to take ownership of their learning, an area for development is the ability for learner-generated resources. I attempted this within several courses, encouraging learners to share their revision notes to help each other, but to date none have been willing to share these openly.
  • Reflective practice has been something that I try to model. I share my reflections on my student/parent voice survey each summer through my blog, and have published these reflections in the same way. At milestones in their learning, I encourage my learners to contemplate their learning journey and identify areas for improvement.
  • Peer review is difficult in a distance learning environment with younger learners. This is a feature of my new LMS and I intend to make careful use of this within my groups to encourage a collaborative learning environment.

Drawing from my experiences running TeachAllAboutIt, my online presence teachallaboutit.uk and social media accounts for @teachallaboutit, I’ve found that open curation plays a pivotal role in shaping my professional identity and enhancing the learning experiences of my students.

Open curation allows me to archive and share a wealth of resources, from lesson materials to insightful articles, which not only serve as a learning repository but also contribute to the broader educational community. Sharing resources that I have found useful or interesting has helped to create a nonjudgmental space for learners to access accurate and credible information. It allows me to raise up voices that may otherwise not be heard.

I would like to me more active on my social media platforms, but find that time pressures when balancing a full “teaching timetable” of over 30 hours contact time, studying towards an MA in Online Education, and my own home life, leaves consistent social media posting as a lower priority task.

With that said, sharing my thoughts, insights, and experiences on these platforms over the course of my 15+ years teaching has enabled me to establish a professional persona that reflects my values and pedagogical beliefs. It’s interesting to look back at these accounts to see which values have been constant throughout my career.

I made the decision to close my Twitter account in early 2023 as I no longer wanted my professional persona to be linked to the platform due to a number of ethical issues. This not only lost years of content, but disconnected me from a number of colleagues with whom I had connected with solely through this channel. With the introduction of Threads, some of these connections have been reinstated.

Looking ahead, I plan to I aim to build on the areas where I have fostered a culture of collaborative learning and knowledge sharing. I also intend to explore the use of AI technologies, to enhance user engagement and personalise learning experiences.

My journey with Technology-Enhanced Learning (TEL) collaboration has been reflective of my journey as a digital resident. I initially engaged with others via Twitter, particularly being involved with the weekly #CASchat, but due to ethical concerns, I decided to shift my focus. I found a new home in Threads, reconnecting with my computer science colleagues, and fostering a more supportive and inclusive dialogue. With many work and family commitments, I have found this difficult to keep up with regularly.

The highlight of my TEL-related collaboration has been the creation of the Tutors Learning Network (TLN) on Facebook. This professional learning community, initially designed to aid tutors in transitioning their practice to an online space through COVID lockdowns, has grown to over 1000 active members. It has become an active hub that we use daily for sharing ideas and best practices, and supporting others in our field.

Within TLN, we’ve taken collaboration to another level through Continuous Professional Development (CPD). Tutors actively participate in online teachmeets, fostering a culture of shared learning and growth. Additionally, they contribute by submitting tutorials, providing valuable insights to help their peers. This collaborative approach has not only enriched our collective knowledge but also strengthened our community.

My journey with educational technologies, both as an educator and a learner, has included a variety of evolving technologies. To a degree, this is because my academic subject is computer science and I have a software programming background. Because of this, I am naturally inclined towards a technology-led approach. As a learner, I’ve experienced the flexibility and accessibility of online learning through the Open University’s H880 course – this distance learning approach is one that suits me for a number of reasons, but this has improved significantly through the provision of accessible documents which I have talked about more in the accessibility section.

To keep my programming skills up-to-date and to build my tuition website, I’ve utilised resources such as YouTube and LinkedIn Learning. These platforms provide open education through video tutorials which I find particularly useful when learning to use a new platform. I have been able to produce several of my own YouTube tutorials which feature smaller tutorials or streamed revision help.

As an educator, I’ve designed and built courses using TutorLMS and H5P technology. These tools have allowed me to create more interactive content than a simple set of videos or written lessons, enhancing the learning experience for my students.

I’ve also leveraged Google Meet and Zoom for hosting live lessons and meetings, providing a real-time, interactive learning environment. Classkick whiteboards have been instrumental in creating more interactive lessons, fostering active participation and engagement from my students.

Looking to the future, I’m intrigued by the potential of AI in education. I believe it can help become more productive with content creation. Additionally, AI could serve as a tool for initial feedback, streamlining the marking process and allowing me to focus on providing more in-depth feedback. I would certainly like the time to explore this.

I have greatly benefited from informal skills education through platforms like YouTube and the Stack Overflow website, which have been instrumental in developing my programming skills. These platforms have provided me with a wealth of knowledge and a unique learning experience. Whilst I learnt many of my foundation programming skills in a formal learning environment, the vast majority of my complex skills have been learnt through informal methods.

From a private company perspective, open scholarship presents challenges. While I have been able to create several free-to-access level 1 courses attached to exams we run, offering taught courses for free would make the business unviable. Balancing the need for open access to education and the financial sustainability of the business is a constant challenge.

One of the ways that I have been able to engage in open scholarship as a company is by contributing to the development of resources for BCS for the new Computing T Levels as a contracted author. Whilst the development of these resources are funded, they are subsequently freely distributed to classroom teachers, enhancing their teaching capabilities and enriching the learning experience for students

During the past half term, I have applied for an associate lecturer position at the Open University. This opportunity would enable me to engage more in the production of open resources, further contributing to the open scholarship movement while ensuring my own financial sustainability.

The main takeaway from this reflection is that whilst open education aligns well with my personal ethics, it is a delicate balance of contributing to open scholarship while maintaining financial viability.

Recently, as a learner, I experienced firsthand the barriers to accessibility when my screen reader required me to copy and paste all text while accessing the H880 course. This experience has significantly influenced my approach as an educator. Since experiencing the frustration of accessing text on screen, I’ve been working to embed text-to-speech features in all of my online (LMS) lessons, ensuring that my content is accessible to learners who find this feature helpful. To help with this, I have used ElevelLabs to create a digital version of my voice which will allow me to produce a recognisable audio reading of each page much more quickly (and with the added benefit of being able to recreate the audio if changes are made to the text).

Ethics also played a significant role in my decision to leave Twitter for both personal and professional accounts. Despite recognising the platform’s potential for shared scholarship among educators, I was uncomfortable with its role in enabling discrimination against LGBTQ people. This was a difficult decision, but ultimately, my commitment to allyship and ethical principles outweighed the potential benefits of the platform.

In my role as an educator, I’ve had the privilege of teaching a diverse range of learners from the home education community through my distance learning courses. This diversity has brought a wider range of needs, but it has also fostered an openness among learners and parents to collaborate with me in improving accessibility. This experience has reinforced my commitment to equity and inclusivity in TEL.

As a wheelchair user with a variable health condition, synchronous learning can be challenging. This personal experience has shaped my understanding of the importance of accessibility in education. However, I am also aware that my personal experience of accessibility will differ from another person’s and as such I believe that whilst we can do our best to create accessible designs, being open to adaptions based on feedback is equally important.

FutureLearn has been a game-changer for me in terms of post-graduate learning. Whilst I do miss the comradery of the classroom, its flexibility allows me to assign time to learning that works around my work and health restrictions. This often means engaging in large chunks of learning each week, as opposed to the recommended little and often approach, but it works for me.

The student forums on FutureLearn have been instrumental in helping me navigate neurodiversity barriers. The ability to check in and discuss progress using non-verbal communication has been a significant motivator. Additionally, I’ve found online body doubling through www.flow.club to be a helpful tool for maintaining focus.

While I’ve been hesitant to discuss my disability with my learners, I recognise that there might be value in being more open about it and encouraging them to share features that would benefit their learning journey. However, I am cautious about this openness being misconstrued as a “no excuses” inspiration narrative, which I am uncomfortable with. Balancing transparency with maintaining appropriate boundaries is a learning process and something that I am keen to explore more.

Why Bunny.net stopped my love affair with Vimeo as an Online Tutor

As an online tutor, you’re always on the lookout for ways to enhance your students’ learning experience and I’m no different. One crucial aspect of this is the platform I use for video and document hosting – it has to be fast, it must be accessible, and it has to allow me to keep costs down for my learners. Last year, I was investigating ways to improve site speed and was introduced to a game-changer for my website: Bunny.net.

Bunny.net is a Content Delivery Network (CDN) that we’ve been using for our video and document hosting. But before we delve into the specifics of Bunny.net, let’s first understand what a CDN is and why it’s essential for your online courses.

What is a CDN and Why Do You Need One?

A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a network of servers distributed across various locations worldwide. When a user accesses your content (like a video lesson), the CDN delivers this content from the server closest to them. This reduces the time it takes for the data to travel, resulting in faster load times and a smoother user experience.

For online tutors that run recorded courses, a CDN is invaluable. It ensures that your students can access your course materials quickly and seamlessly, no matter where they are in the world. This is especially crucial for video content, which can be bandwidth-intensive and slow to load without a CDN.

The map below shows where my students access my website from and with a combination of students who live internationally and those who are world schooling, it’s important for me to provide easy access no matter where they happen to be:

Bunny.net vs. YouTube vs. Vimeo

When it comes to video hosting for online courses, the most common platforms tutors use are YouTube and Vimeo. However, Bunny.net offers several advantages over these platforms, especially in terms of price, speed, and available tools.

Bunny.netYouTubeVimeo
PaymentPAYGFreeMonthly Fee
Cost per GB£0.0076£0.00N/a
60+ new videos pcm
Adjustable CDN
File storage
Restrict Video Embeds
Website Caching

Having both video and document hosting in one place made life much easier for me, when this was added to extra speed for my website I was easily convinced.

The Benefits of Using Bunny.net for Your Online Course Website

Using Bunny.net as your CDN offered several benefits to my site which I’ve been measuring for some time now:

  1. Improved Site Speed: By storing my content on servers closer to my students, Bunny.net significantly reduced load times for the pages on my website. This has reduced from an average of 7 seconds to under 2 for almost every page.
  2. Reliability: Bunny.net’s distributed network design means there’s no single point of failure. What this means is if one of their servers goes down, another server automatically takes over. This means that I don’t have to worry about my videos being unavailable.
  3. Cost-Effective: With the cost of living increasing, this was a big concern for me – running online courses requires investment of time and money, but I was determined not to increase prices for my group students if possible. Because Bunny.net, uses a pay as you go system based on how many of my videos are watched, this makes it a cost-effective solution for tutors of all sizes.
  4. Global Reach: Bunny.net’s global network ensures my content is delivered quickly, no matter where my students are located.

In essence, my risk in moving several hundreds of hours of teaching videos to Bunny.net paid off! We’re now a year into using this and have never looked back!

And if you’re interested in exploring our range of distance learning courses, you can find them here. I use Bunny.net for all our video and document hosting, so you can be sure of a smooth, seamless learning experience 🙂 .

Disclaimer: As customer of Bunny.net, I earn from qualifying purchases. The links provided are affiliate links, and I may earn a commission if you purchase through these links. However, this does not impact my reviews and comparisons. I try my best to keep things fair and balanced, in order to help you make the best choice for you.

The Power of Graphics Tablets for Online Tuition: A Game-Changer for Both Tutors and Students

The Power of Graphics Tablets for Online Tuition: A Game-Changer for Both Tutors and Students

Image

There’s a phrase that’s being used more frequently in recent years: “The fourth industrial revolution”. Digital technology has become part of our everyday life, so much so that we’re no longer visitors in cyberspace, but residents.

This has meant that for many of us who work and access education outside of schools, the way we learn and teach has transformed dramatically. Online tuition has become a popular choice for many parents and students, offering flexibility and a personalised learning experience that can be adapted to fit most styles of home education. As a teacher & tutor of Computer Science and Games Design, I’ve found that there are a select few tools that have significantly enhanced the experience for me and for my learners. Here’s why.

For the Tutor

As a tutor, the graphics tablet I use has become an indispensable tool. It allows me to illustrate concepts visually, making abstract ideas more concrete. For example, when teaching game design, I can sketch out game levels or character designs in real-time, making the lessons more interactive and engaging.

The VEIKK tablet I use was originally purchased as a test and I refused to buy the more expensive versions. I’m really glad that I didn’t because I now have one for each desk! Even though I chose the larger 10″ version (this is more comfortable for me to use on long 10+ hour teaching days), it’s still lightweight and has a responsive, ergonomic, pressure-sensitive pen that feels natural, like a pen on paper.

When one of my learners is finding a concept tricky, this means that I can quickly sketch it out on our interactive whiteboard and they have a permanent version of this to keep for revision. Over the years, my ability to draw has not improved, but it has opened up a whole world of creativity in explaining some of the more dry concepts… explaining computer architectures with ants in shoes & hats is just one of my more recent examples!

For the Learner

For students, using a graphics tablet can make online learning more interactive and engaging. The model we use in our tuition centre, the VEIKK A15 Pro, is a great choice for beginners and we opted for these as a budget version that can fit into a small bag. The most important benefit is the ability for learners to be able to interact with my online whiteboard. I’m a huge fan of interactive lessons (you’ll get no chalk & talk from me!) and part of this is the ability for learners to put their own answers onto our class resources.

To make this happen, all of my groups use classkick which allows me to share my whiteboard whilst they write their answers on their individual board – in this way, I can see their work, but they don’t have to collaborate on work with others in the group unless they feel confident to do so.

Classkick can be used with just a mouse and keyboard, but you can see in the example here that access to a graphics tablet has taken this learner’s answer to the next level!

For the Digital Artist

Image

For those interested in digital art (something we cover in both coursework units of the iMedia Games Design course), my daughter uses the One by Wacom. This tablet is a step up from mine and offers a more natural pen experience, with a pressure-sensitive pen that acs more like a paintbrush. In recent years, the price of these has come down significantly making the choice far wider for those who want to use their tablet for more than just whiteboard writing.

In conclusion, I’m not sure that I’d want to be without mine and if you’re looking for equipment to invest in for online tuition, a graphics tablet being near the top of your list is a good plan.


If you’re interested in exploring online tuition further, check out my distance learning courses. I offer a range of courses in Computer Science, IT, and Games Design.

Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. The links provided are affiliate links, and I may earn a commission if you purchase through these links. However, this does not impact my reviews and comparisons. I try my best to keep things fair and balanced, in order to help you make the best choice for you.

ChatGPT – An Astonishing AI & A New Way To Look At Plagiarism

By Holly Billinghurst… and Chat GPT

ChatGPT is a new version of the popular GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) language model developed by OpenAI. In plain English, that’s the artificial intelligence that sits behind chatbots and other natural language interfaces such as Alexa, Siri, and Google Home. ChatGPT was launched over the past few weeks and was specifically designed for chatbots and conversational AI applications.

artificial intelligence chatGPT

You may already be familiar with the Turing Test – a psychological test applied in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics to identify whether a computer can “pass” as a human. Chat GPT certainly meets many of the benchmarks for this which has caused alarm bells in schools and universities where students may be tempted to use the free tool to generate assignments and homework answers.

One of the main advantages of ChatGPT is its ability to generate human-like responses in a conversation. This is achieved through its use of a transformer architecture and pre-training on a large dataset of human conversations. The model is able to understand the context of a conversation and generate appropriate responses, making it a useful tool for building chatbots that can engage in natural and coherent conversations with users.

What is ChatGPT?

In addition to its ability to generate human-like responses, ChatGPT also has a number of other useful features. The program has the ability to keep track of information mentioned earlier in a conversation and use it to inform its responses later on. This makes for a much more human approach to a conversation with the ability to respond not just to the last thing that was said, but based on the conversation as a whole. It can also handle multiple turns in a conversation, allowing it to have a more complex conversation with a user or even make recommendations based on several ideas.

One of the key applications of ChatGPT is in customer service chatbots. These chatbots can handle a wide range of inquiries and requests from customers, freeing up human customer service representatives to handle more complex or time-sensitive issues. ChatGPT can also be used to build chatbots for other applications, such as providing information or assisting with tasks.

One of the challenges in building chatbots with ChatGPT is ensuring that the responses generated by the model are accurate and appropriate. This can be achieved through careful training and fine-tuning of the model on a dataset of high-quality, human-generated conversations. It is also important to monitor the performance of the chatbot and make adjustments as needed to ensure that it is able to provide useful and relevant responses to users.

Why Does ChatGPT Concern Schools & Universities?

plagiarism and cheating

Whilst copy writers and HTML developers may be concerned about the rise in machine learning replacing much of the basic work that they do, schools, colleges, and universities are concerned about detecting students who use the software to generate answers for assignments and coursework.

As many plagiarism checkers are based on data that already exists, large changes are required in these to deal with generated answers. Thankfully, the developers of ChatGPT (openAI) have also developed software that can give a probability rating for whether an essay or answer has been written using their software. With both systems being developed at the same time, the accuracy of the checker is high.

Detecting “fake” assignments will require a more human approach as our style of writing is often very much like our fingerprint – it’s unique to us. The better we know a student, the more likely it is that we are able to authenticate their work. It’s certainly an argument for smaller class sizes and more time with our individual students.

Despite these concerns, the ability for chatGPT to generate human-like responses and handle complex conversations makes it a powerful tool for building chatbots that can provide useful and engaging experiences for users. As the technology continues to improve and advance, we can expect to see ChatGPT and other conversational AI models play an increasingly important role in our daily lives.

Could you tell which section was human & which was generated by chatGPT? Click expand to see the answer:

Click to see answer

Human content is in white

chatGPT content is in blue

ChatGPT is a new version of the popular GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) language model developed by OpenAI.

In plain English, that’s the artificial intelligence that sits behind chatbots and other natural language interfaces such as Alexa, Siri, and Google Home. ChatGPT was launched over the past few weeks and was specifically designed for chatbots and conversational AI applications.

artificial intelligence chatGPT

You may already be familiar with the Turing Test – a psychological test applied in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics to identify whether a computer can “pass” as a human. Chat GPT certainly meets many of the benchmarks for this which has caused alarm bells in schools and universities where students may be tempted to use the free tool to generate assignments and homework answers.

One of the main advantages of ChatGPT is its ability to generate human-like responses in a conversation. This is achieved through its use of a transformer architecture and pre-training on a large dataset of human conversations. The model is able to understand the context of a conversation and generate appropriate responses, making it a useful tool for building chatbots that can engage in natural and coherent conversations with users.

What is ChatGPT?

In addition to its ability to generate human-like responses, ChatGPT also has a number of other useful features. The program has the ability to keep track of information mentioned earlier in a conversation and use it to inform its responses later on. This makes for a much more human approach to a conversation with the ability to respond not just to the last thing that was said, but based on the conversation as a whole. It can also handle multiple turns in a conversation, allowing it to have a more complex conversation with a user or even make recommendations based on several ideas.

One of the key applications of ChatGPT is in customer service chatbots. These chatbots can handle a wide range of inquiries and requests from customers, freeing up human customer service representatives to handle more complex or time-sensitive issues. ChatGPT can also be used to build chatbots for other applications, such as providing information or assisting with tasks.

One of the challenges in building chatbots with ChatGPT is ensuring that the responses generated by the model are accurate and appropriate. This can be achieved through careful training and fine-tuning of the model on a dataset of high-quality, human-generated conversations. It is also important to monitor the performance of the chatbot and make adjustments as needed to ensure that it is able to provide useful and relevant responses to users.

Why Does ChatGPT Concern Schools & Universities?

plagiarism and cheating

Whilst copy writers and HTML developers may be concerned about the rise in machine learning replacing much of the basic work that they do, schools, colleges, and universities are concerned about detecting students who use the software to generate answers for assignments and coursework.

As many plagiarism checkers are based on data that already exists, large changes are required in these to deal with generated answers. Thankfully, the developers of ChatGPT (openAI) have also developed software that can give a probability rating for whether an essay or answer has been written using their software. With both systems being developed at the same time, the accuracy of the checker is high.

Detecting “fake” assignments will require a more human approach as our style of writing is often very much like our fingerprint – it’s unique to us. The better we know a student, the more likely it is that we are able to authenticate their work. It’s certainly an argument for smaller class sizes and more time with our individual students.

Despite these concerns, the ability for chatGPT to generate human-like responses and handle complex conversations makes it a powerful tool for building chatbots that can provide useful and engaging experiences for users. As the technology continues to improve and advance, we can expect to see ChatGPT and other conversational AI models play an increasingly important role in our daily lives.

Am I Revising Too Much?

With exam season about to get into full swing after several years of teacher assessment, it seems a strange question to ask, but stop and ask yourself “Am I revising too much?” Just how much is too much? And how much should you study during the holidays leading up to exams?

Even teachers and tutors are out of practice and are finding this year a shock to the system with revision. Over the past few years, our skills in striking a delicate balance between head in the books and head space need sharpening. In particular, those of you sitting A Levels in 2022 are the first in generations to be sitting exams for the first time at age 18.

Exams are not just about the ability to simply recall key words, but being able to apply then in context; and this is where long term memory techniques are needed! Comitting information to your long term memory requires a combination of repetation of similar topics in small chunks, and a low stress environment.

According to Barnaby Lennon, ICS (Independent School Council) Chairman and former Headmaster of Harrow, students should be revising for 7 hours each day for most of the Easter Holidays. This applies to both gcse and a level students. Whilst I don’t entirely disagree with him (and certainly don’t disagree with his methods), my own approach uses the 10-minute approach that can be applied to any year group.

The 10 minute method is usually applied to the amount of time for homework during a usual term time. But can be easily adapted to plan revision during the holidays full stop new line the system suggests 10 minutes of study for each year of education per day. For example, in year 11 in the UK, you’ve been in formal education for 12 years:

12 x 10 minutes = 120 minutes or 2 hours per night

This means that over 5 days you’ll be studying 2 hours per night or 10 hours per week when also attending school with usual lessons.

Revision Takes Time
Revision takes time. But how long?

Using Barnaby Lennon’s theory, if you continue your 2 hours of homework time throughout the holidays and add the time you would usually be in class (5 hours) then 7 hours makes perfect sense. However, class time also includes group discussion, admin (register, answering questions, other disruptions) so working individually may not actually require quite so long.

Instead, try this equation for working out your revision schedule (even if your exams are looming large, it’s not too late to set a schedule!):

10 Minute Rule (TMR)  = (Year Group + 1) x 10 minutes

TMR x 5

Add (2 x Number of Subjects)

Using this, the average Year 11 with eight GCSE subjects could calculate their time in the following way:

TMR = (11 + 1) x 10 = 120 minutes per day (2 hours)

(TMR x 5) + (Subjects x 2)

(2 x 5) + (8 x 2)

10 + 16

= 26 Hours per week during the holidays

  OR

  5.2 hours each day

But how do I spend that much time studying?!

Breaking down your revision into manageable chunks will help. using the calculation above, you could cover all 8 subjects each day with 40 minutes per subject.

Study for 80 minutes, then build in a 20-minute break. The example below shows how you could divide your eight subjects into smaller, more manageable daily chunks. This is a technique called “time chunking’ that many bloggers and vloggers use to maximise their time:

9.00English
9.40Maths
10.20BREAK
10.40History
11.20German
11.40LUNCH
12.40Computer Science
1.20Science 1
1.40BREAK
2.20Music
2.40Science 2
3.20FREEDOM!


For the days you want to go out with friends, or just have a little downtime, split the study in two or get started little earlier. Don’t be tempted to remove the breaks though! It’s important to give your brain some time to digest the information – just like you wouldn’t go for a run straight after a meal.


If you’re struggling to set out your study plan, you can always use a timetable templates like my Painlessly Planned Revision planner to help get organised. Just remember to spend more time revising then planning!

Reflecting on Tuition During 2021

We’re now in our third year of gathering data from both students and staff as part of our ongoing reflections. This is to ensure that TeachAllAboutIt stays focused on our primary goal of making education accesible & enjoyable to everyone. Writing a public post on how we’re doing never gets any easier, but I maintain that being transparent about our feedback is a positive thing – even when we get things wrong.

Key Performance Indicators

This year, I’ve added in KPIs as we have grown as a company and these help us to focus on what our ethos is and how our work helps everyone to acheive this throughout the year. Feedback has still been evaluated using the formal teaching standards as I believe that these help us to remain focused on tuition as a profession.

Student Outcomes

Maintain our 100% pass rate for all students

2021 Exam Results

Student Attendance

Increase student attendance rate from 92% (2020) to 95% each term

Student Attendance 2020/21

Enrolment Numbers

Increase number of lessons taught to 700 by 01/07/2021

Actual: 1051

Hours Tutored 2021

Turnover

Increase turnover in excess of current year planned budget to fund development of a further GCSE course and additional Home Education session in 2022

Courses Developed Summer 2021

September 2021: iGCSE ICT Course & KS3 Computing Course

Home Education Groups for 2021/22

Reflections on Feedback

Back in our first blog at the end of the 2018/19 year, I talked about the vulnerability that publicly posting our feedback online created, but since then I have had several opportunities to refer back to our data and hold firm that if we’re going to make a claim about our tuition, then we need to be able to back that up! Although we’ve remained relatively small in terms of tuition companies, we were always aware that maintaining the same level of feedback as we grew would be difficult, particularly as we pride ourselves on emotionally investing in the success of our students.

As with previous years, I have divided each section of our reflections into the eight areas of the Teaching Standards which are a key aspect of what we believe makes us professional tutors. Any parent or student can expect the same level of professionalism from us that they would from a school.

Teaching & Learning

1. A teacher (tutor) must set high expectations which inspire, motivate and challenge pupils

Working independently is one of the ultimate goals for a tutor in our opinion. If our students are able to leave us as independent & confident learners, then we have fulfilled our purpose. Part of this is through challenging students in lessons which isn’t always an entirely comfortable process and as we have moved through one of the most difficult years for our students in a long time, encouraging them to move away from their comfort zone has been more difficult.

Student Survey: I am encouraged to develop independent problem solving / learning skills

2019

I am encouraged to develop independent problem solving / learning skills
66.7% Strongly Agree
33.3% Agree

2021

As part of our staff survey, we also asked staff their opinions on their own motivation and whether they felt well supported. This was an important question to us as we know that staff who do not feel supported and motivated will find it difficult to inspire the same in their students. Despite the difficulties of the past year, I am delighted that we’ve ended this year with an overwhelmingly positive response from both staff and students.

Staff Survey: I am happy with my role & responsibilities

[watupror-poll question_id=”574″]

2. Promote good progress and outcomes by pupils

Progress doesn’t always need to be reflected in exam results, and we are equally thrilled with the personal growth that many of our students have made this year through developing confidence academically and socially. With many of our students spending almost all of their GCSE or A Level courses in unusual circumstances, we’re incredibly proud of the resilience and maturity they’ve shown.

Ali Review

Parents have been generous enough to leave public reviews which reflect the data from our students & tutors. These reviews often comment on some of the key aspects that our parents and students are looking for and it is good to see that many of the reviews focus on the enjoyment of learning and strong relationships that we are able to build with our students.

With that said, tracking progress has been an important part of ensuring that the work that we do is adding value to our students’ education. With exam results released on the 10th and 12th of August, we will be able to formally track one of our main targets for the year – even though we were involved in the teacher assessed grades for a number of our students, we are unable to release any achievement data until these dates.

Student Survey: I am encouraged to challenge myself in lessons

2019

I am encouraged to challenge myself in lessons 
66.7% - strongly agree
33.3% Agree

2021

Staff Survey: I am aware of the expectations of my role and that of others

[watupror-poll question_id=”577″]

3. Demonstrate good subject and curriculum knowledge

Curriculum knowledge comes from a number of aspects of our tuition. Back in 2019, as a single tutor this was easier to track as it was a case of ensuring that I was following knowledge based CPD and was able to support students as a qualified teacher in my subject. In 2021, offering a range of subjects with a team of tutors requires us to look at different aspects to ensure that our curriculum knowledge matches or exceeds that in schools. This year we have focused on the following:

  • Recruitment of qualified teachers
  • Payments to staff based on the formal teacher salary scales
  • Development of e-learning courses in line with formal curriculums
  • Access to tutor specific CPD through the Tutors Learning Network

Student Survey: I feel well supported in my learning

2019

I feel well supported in my learning
Strongly Agree - 100%

2021

Although we asked our staff a number of questions regarding development and knowledge of the curriculum, as some of these are identifiable, we have chosen to publish only anonymized data. One of my targets for this year was to ensure that staff felt valued in the work that they did despite us growing as an organisation. Part of this was to ensure that our pay rates match those that would be found in school and fully reflect the knowledge and expertise of each member of staff, both tutors and admin. In a similar vein, it is important that we are able to justify tuition charges to parents which may appear initially high but ensure that we are able to provide the best possible service without overcharging.

Staff Survey: Compared with someone doing a similar role in other organisations, I feel that I am rewarded fairly

[watupror-poll question_id=”590″]

4. Plan and teach well structured lessons

Over the past 18 months, we have implemented our new student portal for booking and feedback. Whilst this has been met with very positive feedback from our parents and students, it has been a difficult transition for tutors whose workload has increased. Over the lockdown period and since schools have reopened, our focus has been primarily on direct support of students rather than the creation of new resources. This is an area which we have once again begun to work on in the summer of 2021.

I am pleased that we remain with positive feedback about the results and support that we offer despite having been through a period of both significant change and growth.

Student Survey: Resources and support are good

2019

Resources and support are good
Strongly Agree - 83.3%
Agree - 16.7%

2021

In order to plan and teach well-structured lessons, it is important that staff have access to the tools and resources that they need. This may be in the form of access to our own resources, booking through our student portal, or simply the provision of equipment where required.

Staff Survey: I have access to the tools & resources needed to complete my role

[watupror-poll question_id=”578″]

5. Adapt teaching to respond to the strengths and needs of all pupils

Tuition is primarily about adapting to the individual needs of a student, particularly when working one to one. Unfortunately, this often means challenging the student to work in ways that they have not considered before in order to make progress or build confidence. Working outside of your comfort zone is never an easy thing to do and often we ask our students to take risks in our lessons that they may not feel comfortable doing in a standard classroom.

Whilst the student feedback on the choice about how to learn has changed significantly since 2019, this is reflective of us working with students where our primary aim is to build confidence through trying out the “tough stuff” in a low stakes environment. Our student feedback remains primarily positive, but is an indicator to us to consider the involvement of our students in understanding why a particular style of learning will work for them.

Student Survey: I have a choice about how to learn new things

2019

I have a choice about how to learn new things
Strongly Agree - 83.3%
Agree - 16.7%

2021

With the change of our company structure from an individual to a team of tutors by 2021, it was important to ask our staff whether their own contribution to teaching and learning was recognised. It is important to me that every tutor can make a positive contribution and feels that they have autonomy in their tutoring rather than following a strict style.

Because of the relationships that each tutor builds with their students they are best placed to understand the style of learning that their students require – therefore, one of our targets was to foster an environment where tutors had the ability to make decisions on lessons whilst following our policy of ethics.

Staff Survey: I feel recognised for my contribution to TeachAllAboutIt as a Company

[watupror-poll question_id=”592″]

6. Make accurate and productive use of assessment

Assessment within a tuition setting looks very different to a classroom where we are supporting one to one students who also attend a formal course of study. Much of our assessment is discrete and verbally provided within a lesson which our students may not see as assessment (and in our opinion they should not be focusing on identifying feedback, but instead reflecting on their own learning).

Student Survey: I feel well prepared for tests, exams, and coursework

2019

I feel well prepared for tests, exams, and coursework
Strongly Agree - 50%
Agree - 16.7%
Neutral - 33.3%

2021

One area which has been much improved over the past 18 months has been our online testing platform which remains under development for the summer of 2021 enabling us to implement more formal feedback into our e-learning platforms. This coupled with the introduction of our student portal in April of 2021 where students are provided with written feedback after each lesson. This is also emailed to parents each month and has enabled us to improve formal feedback. However, there remains room to utilise this better to help our students feel more prepared for formal assessment.

7. Manage behaviour effectively to ensure a good and safe learning environment

Creating a safe learning environment for tuition often looks very different to that of a classroom setting. Within both one to one and small group sessions, it is vitally important to us that our students feel respected and encouraged – this includes our core values of active anti-discrimination.

Despite our group lessons expanding, and as such the potential for behaviour management to be more difficult, our student feedback of feeling respected and encouraged has improved since 2019. For us, this is one of the key aspects of attending tuition as many of our students arrive with low confidence and through strong positive relationships with their tutors are able to make better progress.

Student Survey: I feel respected and encouraged in lessons

2019

I feel respected and encouraged in lessons
Strongly Agree - 83.3%
Agree - 16.7%

2021

It is not just our students that we want to feel respected and encouraged. We asked our staff directly how strongly they felt that we promoted an environment which encourages staff and students to respect individual differences and promotes respect for diversity.

Staff Survey: I think that TeachAllAboutIt respects individual differences (e.g. cultures, working styles, backgrounds, ideas, etc.)

[watupror-poll question_id=”585″]

8. Fulfil wider professional responsibilities

The final aspect of the teaching standards document is sometimes difficult to pin down as fulfilling our wider professional responsibilities could technically include anything. For us, this final aspect is all about building strong relationships with our students and ensuring that we are upholding tuition as a professional role in a similar way that we would if we were teaching.

One of the more difficult questions to ask our students is if they find their work interesting and enjoy the lessons – it is always difficult to hear that a student is not enjoying their lessons, but this year it has been a learning moment for us as tutors to understand that sometimes lessons are not enjoyable because we are assisting a child through a difficult period of their life. In this case, we will do our utmost to identify how we can make this journey more enjoyable and work on the process of resilience.

Student Survey: I enjoy my lessons and find the work interesting

2019

I enjoy my lessons and found the work interesting
Strongly Agree - 100%

2021

Personal & Professional Conduct

Although the personal and professional conduct section of the teaching standards sometimes feels like an aside to the numbered standards when completing an appraisal, for us the personal and professional conduct as tutors is our number one priority. Over the past 18 months there has been an enormous expansion of the number of tutors offering assistance to students through both private means and the government funded National Tutoring Programme.

Although we were not accepted by the NTP in 2020 as we were unable to support the volume of students that they required as a baseline, this has enabled us to focus our efforts on a smaller number of students and promote our ethos of offering high quality, professional tuition. In the second year of running, we have chosen not to apply to the NTP, but instead apply for voluntary Ofsted registration, something we were unable to do until we were in a position to offer in person “childcare”.

We will also continue to work alongside local education authorities, who have enabled us to ensure that we are matching or exceeding the professional performance of the larger tuition agencies.

Teachers (tutors) uphold public trust in the profession and maintain high standards of ethics and behaviour, within and outside school, by:

  • treating pupils with dignity, building relationships rooted in mutual respect, and at all times observing proper boundaries appropriate to a teacher’s professional position
  • having regard for the need to safeguard pupils’ well-being, in accordance with statutory provisions
  • showing tolerance of and respect for the rights of others
  • not undermining fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect, and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs
  • ensuring that personal beliefs are not expressed in ways, which exploit pupils’ vulnerability or might lead them to break the law.

Our students continued to feedback to us that they have good relationships with their tutors. Our small team has been overwhelmingly employed due to their combination of expertise in their subject and strong ethical beliefs of encouraging students to learn to love the learning process and fostering strong positive relationships to promote educational progress.

Student Survey: I feel that I have a good relationship with my Tutor

2019

I feel that I have a good relationship with Holly
Strongly Agree - 100%

2021

Teachers must have proper and professional regard for the ethos, policies and practices of the school in which they teach, and maintain high standards in their own attendance and punctuality

Our primary ethos remains that education should not have barriers based upon accessibility or learning style and this is reflected in the feedback from both our staff and our students. Although the question regarding equality and diversity may seem like a standard question within every staff survey, this is in fact one of the most important questions that we asked our staff members.

Without the promotion of equality and diversity within our organisation, our ethos of encouraging individual students and promoting positive relationships would simply not happen.

Staff Survey: I believe that TeachAllAboutIt promotes equality, diversity, and human rights in everything that we do

[watupror-poll question_id=”585″]

Asking our students whether the quality of tutoring is good will of course be a subjective question. However, it is important to us that our students and parents feel that the quality of education that we provide is of a high standard. Many education organisations talk about high expectations, but we prefer to see this as a natural consequence of our everyday practise and not simply on a poster.

Student Survey: The quality of tutoring is good

2019

The quality of tutoring is good
Strongly Agree - 100%

2021

Targets

Finally, having requested a good number of quantitative questions we also asked our students for further comments on improvements that they would like to see in the coming academic year. Although there were not many suggestions a few were highlighted that we would like to add to our targets (if these suggestions were from you, thank you and we are listening to your requests).

Staff were also provided with extended comments for every question that we asked and were encouraged to provide feedback as this allows us to facilitate a positive working environment.

FeedbackResponse
Possibly add a way to track what homework has been setWe will talk to the developers at Tutorbird to see if there is a way to add this into the student Study Log
Still don’t love TutorBirdThere are some areas that we are looking to streamline with this – although the system isn’t going away, we’re looking at ways to make this better
More summer clubs to get involved with physically and online for teachers who get bored in the holidays!This feedback was the perfect prompt to get you involved in course development & improvements ready for September. This summer, we’ve launched an in person summer school and we have extra online groups running in the new term.
More in person activity at the Tuition Centre (subject to government restrictions)This is something that we are encouraging more and have more students now attending in person. Both Worthing & Adur Chamber and STAR Team training have booked the space for their own training and we are continuing to advertise the space locally.
More hours for my job, maybe working a full day on a Monday?With the launch of the new Home Education games club on a Monday, this has enabled us to extend Admin / Tuition Centre hours to a Monday afternoon from September 2021.
Becoming an exam centre, but I know that’s something that we’re looking atThis is a difficult process, but we are in regular communication with the Tutors & Exams Centres which has enabled us to offer Functional Skills at the tuition centre and although it doesn’t solve the issue of travel, it allows us to support our students with a well known and respected exams centre.

Following on from the feedback of both students and staff, we have been able to update our KPIs for the next academic year and put in place further targets for the autumn.

Staff Survey: I am proud to be working in this organization

[watupror-poll question_id=”573″]

Why I Chose Elective Home Education As A Teacher

But you’re a teacher? A qualified one, yes. So why did I choose to home educate as a teacher having worked in the system for so long?

Before our youngest child asked us if we would consider home education, I had taught for a decade in schools as a secondary & sixth form teacher of Computer Science, already been tutoring full time for several years, and had recently opened our tuition centre in West Sussex. During the second school lockdown in the UK they approached me with a detailed list of pros and cons to argue why they should remain at home when everybody else returned to school despite being in the first year of their GCSEs. So no biggie really

Bean Home Education
Reading is enjoyable when you’re comfy

My youngest had always struggled with the rules and regulations in school and although they had never really been in trouble and worked incredibly hard, their anxiety had peaked on joining key stage 4 and unlike many children their mental health had actually improved during the first lockdown when they had the independence to study in a way that suited them. Without any distractions of whether their school uniform was perfect, or whether they were sitting in the right way and looking attentive, their grades sailed through the roof. We had a sensible looking child who went from averaging predicted grades of 3s and 4s to one with bright green hair but averaging actual grade 6s, 7s and 8s.

How do I argue with a child who has managed to independently improve their grades so much?

I had been reluctant to home educate as I had worked within the home education community for some time and the majority of parents talked about unschooling which was something that made me personally uncomfortable (although I am aware that this works very well for other families). My background as a teacher and our preference as a family for structured education seemed at odds with many of the things that other parents were saying. As we investigated the possibility of them staying at home to study, I discovered a full community of home educators like myself who follow a structured form for their children and access small online classes to support their own curriculums.

Prior to any of this conversation I had been running an IGCSE in computer science aimed specifically at home educated students for two years and whilst the numbers were low, those who completed the course had 100% pass rate. Gaining are better understanding of home education through being there myself personally, has allowed me to extend this to several groups including a full key stage three curriculum for computing which is something that I have taught for many years but have now adapted into a more flexible home education course.

In becoming a home educator myself, I have begun to understand some of the struggles that a number of parents go through in understanding a complex curriculum, made even harder by a lack of information and clarity from local authorities who simply walk away aside from an annual letter. I remain in a privileged position that I understand far more about the exam system as I work regularly with exam boards, and I have begun to use this to assist other parents with understanding the expectations from colleges and universities who often have very little understanding of home education.

Isn’t Home Education Expensive?

Bean Photography
Creative courses are both easier and harder to access in Home Education

One of my major considerations when we opted to home educate was the cost. Although on a daily basis there is certainly a lower cost as there is no uniform, no leather school shoes that raise a shine, no suitable hairstyles… this is subsequently outweighed by taking on full responsibility for all resources and exam fees which start at around £150 for each exam.

We added to this financial load by identifying practical groups for photography and several subjects where they would see a tutor on a regular basis to support the work that we were undertaking at home. This was in part to assure me that we were following the correct path and making sufficient progress, but also because of the boost in confidence that these weekly lessons give them. It’s certainly not the most cost efficient option, but I am booking their “gold service” of individual time and the results are quite evident. At school, education wasn’t free (I distinctly remember being paid to teach!) – and tutors are paid an equivalent rate; it’s just directly.

So why did we opt to home educate if we are going to follow a structured form of education anyway?

We are raising an independent child who has taken responsibility for their own learning and has removed the ceiling placed on them by standardised tests and progress tracking. This is not to say that the standard school system is not perfectly appropriate for the vast majority of students, but in experiencing an alternative to the norm, my long-held belief that education should be individualised to support the person and not the institution, has grown much stronger. I’ve taken Bloom’s Two Sigma Problem & proved his point. Whoops?

New Challenges for the 2019/2020 Academic Year

Late July / early August usually gives teachers and tutors a few moments to take a breath in and take stock of what just happened. It’s a good time for us to look at the data that we have so far before the panic of September crashes on us. Attempting to juggle evaluative data and prepare for new classes in those first few days of September, I often feel like one of those squishy things in the rock pools on our local beach – I’ve spent a lovely summer in the shallows on my rock & now a whole ocean has just arrived and is being dramatic overhead.

This year, is very different for me as it’s my first September tutoring full time (with writing on the side) instead of dividing my time between teaching, tutoring, and writing. That’s not to say that it’s not a tad overwhelming, but it does mean that my boss has given me some very clear targets to work on.. because I’m the boss.

The genetics of teaching are very strong in this one and it is impossible for me not to use the standard teaching appraisal template on myself. However, the difference this year is that I’m making it public for the world to see and have openly invited both teachers from the wider sphere, other tutors, and my own students to evaluate me and help form my targets for this year. Because my personal appraisal and that of TeachAllAboutIt as a business is intrinsically linked, being entirely transparent can really only be a good thing.

So, without further waffling, let’s get this apprisal underway.

My first task is to look at the feedback, as ultimately as a tutor feedback from students, parents, and the colleagues that we work with is right up there as one of the most important factors in how successful we are. I’ve previously blogged about balancing being a perfectionist with resillience, and it was professionally scary to open myself up to comments from all. Between us, this appraisal took me a while to write as I had to take a deep breath after part 1!

The two areas I wanted to focus on was specific student feedback on my tuition and feedback from CS teachers on areas where tuition could help progress. To this end, I posted a public poll on a well used social media page with the following question:

What are your students up to over the summer? Looking for private tutors apparently! I’ve been really surprised at how many requests have come in over what is usually a super quiet time of year.
This year, one of my personal targets as a tutor is to identify how I can work more cohesively & positively with teachers (after all, we’re both working towards the same goal!).
So, to that end, what can tutors do to make your lives as teachers easier and help support your students better?

I’ve added a few ideas, but feel free to add your own

It is abundantly clear that the vast majority felt that reviewing the summative tests with students is a valuable use of tuition time, and I will be using this as a focused target this coming academic year.

An unexpected result of the poll was a number of hostile responses towards the use of tuition as a whole. Whilst I have left the 13% of ‘other’ responses in here (having chosen not to include the wording of the added responses), I felt that it was important not to skew the data by removing them. Instead, I have used this as a learning and evaluation opportunity around resillience and how we talk to others online in our professional capacity. There’s no such thing as failure – only feedback?

The Teaching standards is something that I hold right up there with being a decent human being. Even though tutors aren’t neccesarily required to provide evidence of these, I can’t imagine why a tutor wouldn’t feel confident in applying these to their everyday practice. Rather than present my student feedback as a set of questions with data with little context, this is why I asked them the questions that I did (student feedback was anonymous unless they wished to add their name at the end).

Teaching & Learning

1. A teacher (tutor) must set high expectations which inspire, motivate and challenge pupils

There are a number of ways that we could evidence this within TeachAllAboutIt, from the production of the open topic introductions that support students across the UK and beyond, to the private individual feedback pages provided for every student where we link help and show progress. Asking students whether they felt challenged to be independent of my support felt like an appropriate area to focus on here.

I am encouraged to develop independent problem solving / learning skills
66.7% Strongly Agree
33.3% Agree
I am encouraged to develop independent problem solving / learning skills

Clearly, I would have like to see 100% strongly agreeing. I am after all a perfectionist! However this is encouraging that despite intensive 1-2-1 support, my students feel that they can work independently.

2. Promote good progress and outcomes by pupils

On an individual basis, this is fundamental to where we are as a company, and also on a personal level. It would be easy for me to talk about what I do to encourage student confidence in lessons, but far more powerful to provide evidence in the form of student feedback. Whilst there have certainly been more eloquent reviews left for me, receiving this feedback from this particular student warms my heart, not solely from the perspective of the improvement in grades, but more so from the increased confidence and responsibility.

I am encouraged to challenge myself in lessons 
66.7% - strongly agree
33.3% Agree
I am encouraged to challenge myself in lessons

Whether all of my students see this challenge as a positive thing, I’m not sure. However, this has cemented my firm belief that by setting a baseline and refusing to acknowledge the ceiling helps my students feel confident to make personal progress.

3. Demonstrate good subject and curriculum knowledge

This year as been full on in terms of curriculum knowledge. The website has grown to over 100 pages of Computer Science topic introductions that are used by students on a daily basis. Last summer saw me being involved with BBC bitesize as the author of the GCSE AQA Computer Science pages, and throughout this year I have had continued involvement with the National Centre for Computing Education (NCCE), helping to develop their training programs for teachers of Computing.

Having completed my NCCE facilitator training this summer (shiny enamel badge on its way), the next step in the new academic year is leading the in person training along the south coast in the UK for teachers.

I feel well supported in my learning
Strongly Agree - 100%
I feel well supported in my learning

It would be all too easy to sit back and say that this one is ticked off, in the bag, sorted. However, none of us are ever truly done with education and my own journey will continue this year through embarking on obtaining further Masters credits through the Open University as a means to pushing my Computer Science knowledge further.

4. Plan and teach well structured lessons

This one is really difficult as a tutor. Lessons are individual to students and often take tangents when a misconception is discovered. Tutoring and teaching in this part are entirely different beasts. Taken from a different perspective, the planning and preparation of lessons via TeachAllAboutIt could also look at the longer term planing of topic revision (or individual teaching for home educated students), with the digital resources for each lesson being uploaded to the student’s feedback area.

The resources made available to the students (every tuition student is given a site subscription for the duration of tuition), and the provision of the online learning platform is also a fundamental part of planning for a tuition lesson. Despite many tuition sessions being student-led, a wide range of ‘pick up and go’ activities must be planned and available in response to student needs.

Resources and support are good
Strongly Agree - 83.3%
Agree - 16.7%
Resources and support are good

This coming year, I plan to continue improving this through the completion of the summer website upgrade, publication of three new printed revision guides, and development of further resources that can be used both in tuition and on the website.

This year will also see a collaboration with Tutor In A Box, where I will be developing resources for their monthly learning boxes for KS3 and KS4 Computer Science.

5. Adapt teaching to respond to the strengths and needs of all pupils

During my transition from classroom teaching to private tutoring, one thing that I noticed about tuition is the intensity is far greater than a classroom. Juggling a classroom of mixed ability students requires a completely different skillset to adapting to the changing needs of one individual child.

I absolutely eat my words after the conversation I had last year with a highly respected tutor who told me that being a great teacher doesn’t always make you a great tutor (and vice versa). They were right, and I am so glad that I took their advice to constantly reflect on the needs of child in front of me instead of having an educational theory focus.

I have a choice about how to learn new things
Strongly Agree - 83.3%
Agree - 16.7%
I have a choice about how to learn new things

That’s not to say that I ignore educational theory whatsoever, however I am more inclined to trust my educator instincts and run with what I know will work for that particular child. On harsh reflection, stepping away from a school-centric focus and having the space to work intensively with learners and really see what works for individuals has made me a much better educator. As someone who believes passionately in education, this is an evaluation that saddens me.

6. Make accurate and productive use of assessment

Assessment in tuition is often discreet and observed. There is a continuous stream of verbal feedback (my students would certainly agree to that!), and through the use of technology that allows us to collaborate over documents and online whiteboards, written feedback becomes the norm of a lesson.

With that said, within my student voice survey this is the one area that has been highlighted for me to clearly focus on. Whilst a few had commented that they felt neutral as they had no exam to sit (which is fair), I want all of my students to feel confident even if I set them a test out of the blue right now.

I feel well prepared for tests, exams, and coursework
Strongly Agree - 50%
Agree - 16.7%
Neutral - 33.3%
I feel well prepared for tests, exams, and coursework

Based on this, throughout the next academic year I will be placing a focus on improving confidence in my learners around their exams through the introduction of exam planners and examiner feedback pages where they can attempt practice questions and understand what the exam board are look for in particular areas.

7. Manage behaviour effectively to ensure a good and safe learning environment

Behaviour management for online tuition is a world away from classroom management. After a decade of strategies for engaging a room of students and ensuring good behaviour, I’ve moved to working with students across the country via webcam. Behaviour is rarely an issue with tuition, and when it is my strategies are more akin to parenting than teaching (sending a child out of the room when on internet chat isn’t going to work! Nor is there a member of SLT to refer to).

In tuition, behaviour management has much more focus on setting initial ground rules, which in my case are a written contract between me and the student, and talking to them directly when behaviour is not appropriate. This is a real example where 1-2-1 has an enourmously positive impact on students who struggle to feel heard in a group setting.

I feel respected and encouraged in lessons
Strongly Agree - 83.3%
Agree - 16.7%
I feel respected and encouraged in lessons

It will always be a target for 100% of students to strongly agree with this statement, and I will continue to ensure that students are involved in the set up process of their tuition accounts and understand their rights and responsibilities with regards to their personal data, and right to be treated fairly and equally.

8. Fulfil wider professional responsibilities

As a classroom teacher, wider professional responsibilities included running of clubs, revision sessions, leading CPD etc. Whilst this is a little different now I am tutoring, I have continued to engage with the wider community in terms of developing CPD as part of a team with the National Center for Computing Education (TeachComputing.org). This year, I presented the plenary at the 2019 Exabytes Conference which pushed me entirely out of my comfort zone!

However, one of the wider professional areas that I have focused on this year as been the pastoral aspects of tutoring. Not only focusing on academic progress, but increasing confidence in students whether they are struggling academically or stressed out by pushing for top grades.

I enjoy my lessons and found the work interesting
Strongly Agree - 100%
I enjoy my lessons and find the work interesting

Enjoyment of learning has gone in and out of fashion within observations in education (I’m looking at you Ofsted). However, it is my strongly held belief that when we are enjoying something we learn more and retain more. That’s not to say that lessons shouldn’t be challenging, or tackle tough topics, but there is simply no reason to assume that because something is gruelling it’s more worthwhile than the lesson where you laugh. This is the point where I step down from my soapbox.

Personal & Professional Conduct

As with the teaching and learning areas above, I can’t see why I would want to shy away from the areas below as a tutor. After all, this applies just as much to us as professionals and possibly moreso as there is no overarching professional body to ensure that we meet them.

Teachers (tutors) uphold public trust in the profession and maintain high standards of ethics and behaviour, within and outside school, by:

  • treating pupils with dignity, building relationships rooted in mutual respect, and at all times observing proper boundaries appropriate to a teacher’s professional position
  • having regard for the need to safeguard pupils’ well-being, in accordance with statutory provisions
  • showing tolerance of and respect for the rights of others
  • not undermining fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect, and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs
  • ensuring that personal beliefs are not expressed in ways, which exploit pupils’ vulnerability or might lead them to break the law.

Within lessons, this is a simple case of following my own policies of respect and high standards. I would hope that students feel comfortable in my lessons and any instances of discrimination are dealt with professionally.

I feel that I have a good relationship with Holly
Strongly Agree - 100%
I feel that I have a good relationship with Holly

We have clear safeguarding policies in place including the introduction of staff badges with a lite version of our safeguarding policy & numbers printed on the reverse, and whilst the probability of there being any issues when tutoring online, we have adopted a policy of never say never. This year, we contacted Ofsted to request voluntary registration as a tuition centre. Unfortunately, as we are purely online our request to register was declined. In response to this, we have implemented the required Ofsetd policies for safeguarding and safer recruitment anyway.

Maintaining an online professional presence has been an area that has required a steep learning curve in terms of marketing and self-promotion (not something that comes easy to me!). Since moving to owning my own business, my personal and professional lives have merged significantly and I am far more aware of how my individual actions as Holly will impact on my professional persona as TeachAllAboutIt. I have been extremely lucky to have assistance this year in the form of Catherine who keeps our admin and social media accounts afloat.

Teachers must have proper and professional regard for the ethos, policies and practices of the school in which they teach, and maintain high standards in their own attendance and punctuality

As a tutor, maintaining high standards, attendance, and punctuality is vital to the continuation of what we do as professionals. Of course, there are instances where I have been ill or the technology has failed – we are human after all. However, the teacher work ethic has really come into play here, and in fact has prompted reflection on my available timetable for this coming year.

The quality of tutoring is good
Strongly Agree - 100%
The quality of tutoring is good

I am delighted that my students have wholeheartedly told me that they found the quality of my tutoring was good, but I want it to be great! In order for this to happen, what I am going to focus on this year is creating a balance. In 2018/19 a full time teacher with a full timetable will be in the classroom for 27 hours per week – this allows for planning, and marking etc. Towards the end of this academic year, I was teaching upwards of 35 lessons per week whilst also writing and developing the website. Next year, I have allocated a maximum of 27 hours per week until Easter to allow me time to breathe. In order to accomodate this, I have set a target of taking on an additional Computer Science tutor to work with us this year.

Targets

Goodness! That was quite the essay. But nevertheless, a useful reflective task for me personally, for us as a business, and hopefully gives you a transparent insight into where we are right now and how we intend to improve next year.

So, in summary our targets for the coming academic year are:

  • Complete the summer website upgrade
  • Publish the revision guides for GCSE Computer Science (September)
  • Set up physical revision resources through Tutor In A Box
  • Develop exam-based learning resources to improve student confidence
  • Holly to commence Masters unit of study
  • Continue work with NCCE (TeachComputing) to offer in person teacher CPD
  • Expansion to allow a second Computer Science Tutor to work with us

Holly