Sometimes I start something and it gets stuck, but eventually I figure out how to move it on rather than abandoning it. This time trying to do the same thing from a different direction seems to have unstuck it (along with accepting that it is too big to ‘finish’ and present but needs to become an ongoing task that may never finish, but is better done in bits than not at all).
The task ?
What should be where in which Delta Module and how to work that out and make it clear in a way that everyone (tutors, teachers, me) can access and contribute to ? Most people do all three Modules with ITI, but some don’t (timing and location often being important for people in Module Two). When we first rebuilt the course to be Modular, I mapped what we had/did in the old style Delta against the syllabus document for the three different Modules and then looked at what else we could do / what else I thought we should do / what Cambridge said we had to do and added to each Module till it looked like a workable whole (and have kept on adding, particularly in the case of Modules One and Three once we saw that we could provide fully online options with some additions).
Why does this matter ? Because while the initial build of the three Modules was proactive and incorporated much that was good, since then we have been nailing bits on to meet immediate perceived demand / need / interests and those come from a whole range of different sources. In one way, great – that’s organic and needs driven … sounds like emergent language and there are many who would champion that as a good thing (though even this morning I was reading someone saying that you need constraints for emergent learning to occur – constraints are structure, aren’t they ?). But five years of naling bits on is a surprising realisation (in the how ever did it get to five years sort of sense) and what has started to become an concern is how to show the underlying structure clearly – what is in a Module and how it relates to other Modules – to myself, to course participants and to tutors. Why ?
All are busy, all have ideas about what could be done where, all have personal interests they pursue. So initially I tried to set out what would be ‘in’ sessions via titles, but some threads/subjects are much more the domain / favourites of some people. I tried to combat the possibility of repetition and uncomfortable overlap by setting schedules up so if someone does receptive skills input sessions in M1 then they do them in M2 as well. This should mean they are aware of what people who have done Module One with us covered and can recap and build rather than repeating. But not all sessions map across like that and there will always be a few teachers in a Module Two who haven’t done a Module One yet (or did it with a different centre, so while there will be overlap, they may well know rather more or less than we anticipate). Also there are often other ‘bits’ from syllabus requirements or just from background knowledge that need to be in place that don’t map quite so neatly across Modules. I might have a big picture in my head of how I think it all fits together and why different sessions are called what they are or are included – but how far does it resemble the picture in the heads of other tutors ? Over the past year also, I’ve managed to build a lot into the tutor Moodle (which I only thought of last summer – as a reaction to not being able to have a common tutor file area in individual moodles in Moodle2.0, but what seemed like a problem at first has proved to be a blessing – the tutor Moodle works well I think), so anyone working on any Module can access examples of marking, syllabus, schedule, instructions, input session plans etc), though so far it is largely for Modules One and Three (where the tutors are more on-line oriented as M1 and M3 tutors work largely through that medium with exam practice and draft marking).
In Module One again and again I have queries about which bits a person needs to learn and why and occasional people who seem to get stuck in the exam practice side of it, doing tasks over and over again without realising that they need to change the body of knowledge in their own heads that they are drawing on to do the task (so need to be much better at language analysis or know rather more about what listening is made up of), rather than the exam strategy they are using or the specificity of the answer they provide for that task (‘can I always say that the materials show the author believes in collaborative learning ?’, ‘no, it depends on what the materials are and how they work as a whole’, ‘but how will I know what Cambridge expect for the answer ?’). So maybe if I could make it clearer where things fit into the big picture somehow, this would help more people make more sense of it.
I broke it all up in the first place, mapped across to syllabus documents. But in some ways my understanding of how closely we have to stick to things, what has to be where, what people need when and how much flexibility there is overall has changed substantially in five years. But I worry about changing one bit without working out the bigger plan. so having used the session on EAP to revisit skills, if I drop it where else should they come in etc etc ? Is it better to tinker or should I sort the vision out more firmly first.
After a couple of dialogues in the summer with people about what should be in which session and why, I decided I ought to map our sessions to the syllabus again, but also across the three Modules. If I could lay out what needed to be where, what we had and then even go on to connect that to session notes, people could add and change without me worrying as they could see whether they were overlapping into something else or missing out something (which might be the right thing to do, but we should be doing it consciously not accidentally). It would also mean we could use feedback from CPs more directly and crowd source both tutor and teacher voices to focus on more of what people feel they need in a greater variety of ways. If it is all accessible on-line, people (tutors and teachers) can give immediate feedback on bits (you don’t have to react to all of it, but the more you can get, surely the better you are able to meet needs in general).
So I started several times in the summer to work out how to do that (I started in draw trying to make spider diagrams that could link through and expand, moved into Excel, but it is currently stuck as I want to figure out a way to link cells so when you click on (for example) phonology in a syllabus document, it offers you not only the information in that cell, but links to any other cells in the syllabus for other Modules that are a direct connection, the sessions on page two that support it (in all three Modules) and the actual session notes (or at least an outline of them) so tutors could see what was included (and ultimately to reading and notes that help teachers see what the area includes in more general terms, to make more sense of it for Module One people). And now it is slightly stuck because of technology (it is harder to achieve than I expected, to work out how to put those links in if I stick to something I can publish openly) and partly stuck because as I slowly worked out what I wanted to do I also slowly realised how big what I wanted to do was. The excel sheet so far languished here unloved, but today I discovered how to put links into Gdrive spreadsheets. If you click on sheet two and scroll down to topic six, you can see what I mean. So I have a way to make some of it link together. So maybe the project is back on.
And I actually started writing this to work through what I had or had not achieved in that session, but then that was how I found the technical information on how to link it into the spreadsheet … I guess thinking about the session itself will have to wait a bit.