At the University of Cambridge Faculty of Education none of the four assignments written by student teachers on the Secondary English PGCE Course has an explicit focus on behaviour. However, each assignment invites student teachers to reflect critically on their observation and practice in schools, in the light of their reading about key issues in English teaching, and to make connections between their reading and their experience. It is inevitable, therefore, that student teachers will develop their thinking about behaviour for learning through their reading, thinking and writing for these assignments. How this might work in practice can be seen in the example below, where it’s possible to see from the extracts from markers’ comments how student teachers’ thinking about behaviour for learning has developed through their work on this assignment.
Assignment 1a: Monitoring and assessment of speaking and listening
Review a lesson which you observe in which oracy is the focus. Analyse how the lesson provided opportunities for monitoring and assessment of speaking and listening, exploring some of the key issues in this area. Your assignment should refer explicitly to, and be informed by, relevant critical literature about oracy, assessment and research.
Extracts from markers’ comments on Assignment 1a:
Student teacher 1:
At the beginning of the assignment you describe the context of the school and class and the nature of the task very clearly. This sets the tone for an essay in which you make it very easy for the reader to follow exactly what happened and how it has influenced your thinking about speaking and listening. Your observations about how the teacher enabled the pupils to feel involved in the assessment of their speaking and listening, rather than feeling as if it was something that was being done ‘to’ them, are perceptive and thoughtful.
Student teacher 2:
A great strength of this assignment is your identification of three very interesting and diverse pupils to focus on. Each case study is explored sensitively, and your use of direct quotations from and about these pupils helps to bring the lesson alive for the reader. These examples have enabled you to reflect critically on precisely what pupils learned through this activity, as well as on important issues of classroom dynamics. The success of this approach to research is something to bear in mind for future assignments. One way in which you might have developed this would have been to have asked each of these pupils what they thought they had learned through the activity. The next assignment should provide the opportunity to do this.
Student teacher 3:
I also found it interesting to read later on about the way in which, despite the early focus on speaking and listening assessment criteria in this lesson, the pupils focused much more on the aspect of preparing for their written coursework. They seemed to place a much greater value on written work than they did on oral work. This is an occasion where it would have been useful to have discovered pupils’ perspectives directly – for example by asking one or two of them about what they were doing in the lesson, what they thought they were learning, and how important they felt speaking and listening was in English. Bear this in mind in future assignments, trying, wherever possible, to capture pupils’ precise words.
Student teacher 4:
I found it particularly interesting to read your reflections on the benefits of mixed ability teaching, on peer assessment and on the issues surrounding the expectation that pupils use Standard English for this task. All of these show a thoughtful, reflective approach to teaching, and a genuine engagement with some of the key issues involved in speaking and listening. It was also good to see such an analytical approach to the practicalities of classroom organisation when you were discussing the position of the teacher in the room, for example, and the issues involved in pupils’ use of ICT.