Towards the end of last year I spent time reflecting on my progress and my teaching of the new Junior Cycle Business Studies specification. While generally satisfied with our work as a class, my big worry was that our efforts might not withstand the test...and time.
I began to realise just how much was involved in working through all of the learning outcomes. As an author team we had already spent close on time ‘unpacking’ them; trying to work out the knowledge, understanding, skills and values associated with each and every one. Our textbook (as is the case with every other textbook) represents one particular interpretation of what is required. We were extremely happy with our work and very confident it provides teachers and students with an excellent resource to assist their learning journey.
Having said that, the journey looks a little different as we progress with it. The perspective is altered at each point on the road. It is certainly the case that my own view of the journey was different at the outset than it was when I glanced in the rear view mirror last June. At that point I was further along the road, a year closer to completion and a whole lot wiser. I suppose the specification and the textbook related to the ‘planning’ while the teaching was very much about the ‘doing’.
Reflection was a necessary part of the process but it also created doubts. As with all change, it can be difficult to manage. It takes us out of our comfort zone and makes us question our ability at times.
At the end of first year I knew plenty of progress had been made and the roadmap said ‘you are here!’ I was happy to be on the right track. The students were equally were happy, enthusiastic and better informed. In terms of the distance travelled, all was good.
I switched my focus to the road ahead. Looking at the distance still to travel I wondered if it would be possible to cover it all in the time available. This is where the challenge lies and it takes a lot of self-belief to overcome. I suppose it’s a lot like running your first long distance race…you plan for it and train for it, but until you cross the finish line you don’t have the reassurance of knowing it’s within your capability.
An added problem this time is that I was not entirely certain where the end line was, let alone what awaited me and my students when we got there. To some extent we just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other and continue running with the new material day after day. We also need to trust that all the preparation will pay off…and understand that our second race is likely to be easier.
As business teachers running a brand new course, it’s important to be as prepared as possible (and I realise there are elements of personal and collective professional responsibility in that). I am now more confident that the journey will be completed on time, albeit that the final destination still remains just beyond sight. Perhaps the arrival of sample papers will help clarify this aspect and provide further reassurance and confidence.
I have come to realise the absolute value and importance of the Business Studies Specification and the Learning Outcomes within it. The assessment guidelines are also incredibly valuable and insightful. Collectively, and when used effectively these really are a route map for teachers and their students. They are my ‘go-to’ documents which set out what I need to teach and indicate what my students will be assessed on. As a teacher this really helps alleviate some of my concerns about ‘the test’ and ‘the time’
Whenever I am uncertain about what to teach, or the level of detail required, I look to the specification for guidance. While there may still be the occasional doubt about scope and depth when it comes to teaching content, a glance at the action verbs associated with each learning outcome usually help clarify the requirement. I am also cognisant of the need to teach material which is age and stage appropriate and which suits the context of MY students.
Having said all that I’m very happy our textbook. While not without the odd detour or minor misdirection I’m satisfied it reflects the specification very closely in terms of both content and spirit. In future blog posts I will offer specific suggestions about ways of working which may assist teachers to navigate the content and make optimal use of the time available to them.
Co-author of Time for Business, Joe Stafford has previously written about teaching learning outcome 1.1. In this latest blog post he discusses assessment and reflection.
Assessment and Reflection.
As already indicated in a previous blog post I made use of the traffic light self-assessment activity at the end of the Student Activity Book chapter and it was a useful and worthwhile exercise for both myself and the students. Many students were familiar with this type of formative assessment and they had no difficulty carrying out the task. There were no red lights amongst the group, which was pleasing! The most common orange lights related to Statement 7: I am able to make choices to make the best use of resources, and also Statement 9: I am able to understand the effect of my use of resources on other people’s lives.
Based on the feedback I briefly revisited these issues and was able to clarify most of the misunderstanding through the use of further examples. I am also conscious that future chapters should improve understanding and abilities in these areas. Yet more layering!
Students also reviewed the questions in the anticipation guide and there were some changes of opinion which reflected increased knowledge and understanding. Since this was my first interaction with the new teaching resources I felt it was necessary to try everything out. This was especially true of the mind map for which an exemplar is provided on page 7 of the activity book. For subsequent chapters, students are encouraged to create their own mind maps, so I think it’s a good idea to look at the exemplar in this chapter. My co-author, Siobhan O'Sullivan has previously written a blog post which shows the evolution of the mind-map for Chapter 1. This would be really useful to demonstrate to students how a mind map can be constructed.
Mind maps can be drawn by hand or by making use of the websites listed on pg. xix of the Teacher Resource Book (TRB). Creating effective mind maps is a skill and takes time to develop and perfect; it won’t necessarily suit all students or teachers but some will find it very beneficial. At least half of my students had created mind maps in primary school and were familiar with the process.
I also utilised the 'end of chapter reflection' on P9 of the Activity Book. If you intend to use this regularly there is a photocopiable template in Appendix 2 of the TRB. The only formative assessment tool which I didn’t make use of on this occasion was the exit ticket. That I will happily save for a rainy day!
All in all I spent 7 class periods on the chapter and maybe that was a little too long. Perhaps it could have been quicker if we had textbooks available from the outset and I hadn't been so willing to listen to students…. but I assumed that this was necessary if honouring my commitment to student-centred lessons. Perhaps only time will tell if this was the right thing to do.
Co-author of Time for Business Joe Stafford teaches Junior Cycle Business Studies in a mixed ability setting in a co-educational school with four 40 minute classes per week.
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