I teach Painting and Decorating at Keighley College on a part-time basis. The students I have chosen for my report are undertaking a two-year OCNW (Open College of the North West) decorating course. The completion of this certificated course will enable them to progress onto the next level, which is intermediate NVQ level 2. Depending on work commitments (some students are employed by local tradesmen decorators) or personal reasons, my group will vary in size from week to week. On a good week twelve or perhaps fourteen students will attend and, on a poor one, sometimes as low as four or five. On average a class of ten can be in attendance.
Planning for teaching this group requires a great deal of careful consideration. The range of ability shown by individuals varies enormously. Those students who are employed will be more experienced in the practical side of the course. The training given by their employers is of great help to them, so therefore the basic skill level is already in place. Students who are not employed are relying solely on College practice or past experience to achieve credit.
The age of students can also play an important part in lesson planning. My group’s age range is mainly between 16-25 years, but there are also two mature students of 40+ so planning for group work must take into consideration this broad band of age difference. The pre-nineteens students can be boisterous, aggressive in their manner and full of sexual innuendos. The slightly older students will wind them up no end then sit back and wait for the flare up, which invariably happens. The mature students tend to be more independent in their learning, only asking for help if I am not otherwise engaged.
Peer and parent expectancy can put unnecessary pressure on teenagers that sometimes can be too much for them to handle. Invariably outbursts of anger can occur. This teenage angst can also be caused by a wide variety of personal problems, be it emotional, psychological or social deprivation. These problems become barriers to learning and are extremely difficult in my experience to overcome. If we are to use Maslow, (Hierarchy of Needs. 1960) as a measure, some of these students would certainly not be at the level of ‘self esteem’, a level that Maslow believed was necessary for a person to feel self confident and valuable.
Certainly, some of the students I have in my group are not having their love, affection and belongingness needs met so, as a result of this, coming to College to learn to decorate is low on their list of priorities. To recap, my students are of various ages, from pre-nineteen’s to 40+. All have different levels of practical abilities and intelligence. Some of them are employed and some are not. Emotional and psychological problems exist within the group, as does social deprivation, so how do I ensure that in any one session each student’s learning style is met?
Most, if not all, of my lessons begin with a talk around the table to try and discover what mood the group is in. From this I can then get an idea of how the session will be received. The attention span of the younger students can sometimes be only minutes, so continuous tutor attention and support is necessary. Through discussion with the group and one to one tutorials I have found out that, if we are doing practical work, it is best divided into different segments. This allows each individual the feeling of accomplishment, even if they have only finished the first part. For those who can’t concentrate for longer than a few seconds the sectioning of the task will allow them the short exits they need.
To sit around a table and discuss with my students their perception of college, and how I can discover each individual’s preferred learning style, is almost an impossible task. To understand why this is so, let’s look at the school records of the students coming into college to learn painting and decorating. Some of them come from Pupil Referral Units, with a history of disruptive behaviour, etc. They are below average academically, and used to sitting at the back of the class just waiting for the bell to ring. Others are of similar intelligence, with varying degrees of learning difficulties / disabilities.
Working with a partner also helps the learning process. On a practical piece of work one will hold the string line, whilst the other ‘pings’ the chalk. This invariably leads to one student being slightly more adept at a particular skill than the other, but with thoughtful tutor intervention, on the lines of “Joe if Adam needs a hand with that, will you help him please”. Everyone likes to show their skills off, and students are just as proud as the next man when it comes to showing someone how it’s done.